A surprise appearance on the Eagles injury report yesterday, things rapidly began to escalate for Carson Wentz. After Doug Pederson told reporters that his quarterback would be missing practice with some back soreness, reports started to swirl that he was indeed battling back spasms and could miss this weekend’s clash against the Rams. In the blink of an eye later, those reports turned into Wentz potentially missing the remainder of the season. But doesn’t it all feel a little…odd?
With an ACL/LCL recovery behind him, Wentz has been completing passes at a career-high 69% this season. Despite his improvements however, he’s still had the occasional showing on the injury report and it’s not the first time he’s suffered with back issues. But back spasms are typically a temporary injury at most and would not correlate to Wentz suddenly missing the final four games of the season.
Doug Pederson kept details minimal after stating that Wentz would miss Wednesday’s practice.
“Sometimes he just gets a little sore, a little tight.” The Eagles Head Coach explained. “Just going to rest him today and evaluate him further.”
There’s a tremendous difference between ‘a little sore’ and missing the final four games of a regular season and a potential playoff berth. This only raises more questions, especially considering that the Eagles medical staff haven’t exactly earned a glowing reputation this season…
The first dots to connect are between the problems Wentz has faced this year and the injury. If we strip everything back to basics and look at how Wentz is throwing the ball in comparison to last season, there are some fundamental differences. I broke these down in a 15 minute video that details why these changes have taken place.
Essentially, it all starts with his footwork. Wentz is notably more conservative this year when inside the pocket and his feet are a lot heavier, meaning that he’ll often sit in one spot after his drop back when progressing through his reads. In 2017, he was much lighter and would almost bounce on his toes, with his feet an even width apart, creating a strong base that would follow his head through his reads. That’s not happening in 2018. Wentz will go through his progressions but rarely move his lower body, meaning that he has to generate more power with his torso to drive the ball to its target as his feet may not be aligned properly. This, understandably, is going to create some aggressive movements to his back muscles as he over-exerts through throws, which also explains why so many passes are coming out lower or being uncharacteristically overthrown.
There is a very good chance that Wentz has strained his back in the process of the regular season by constantly having to generate more power than usual. There’s also a natural reluctance to plant his front leg (in which the ACL was torn), which means Wentz often throws off-balance or has to load up the pressure on his back leg, which has scarily wobbled during his ‘follow through’ on a couple of occasions.
If we’re to zoom out a little, there’s the fact that the Eagles have allowed 89 QB hits this season, which correlates to Wentz being unusually static in the pocket, creating an easier path for pass-rushers to get to him. But that’s a staggeringly high number for an elite offensive line and it’s not out of the question that Wentz has taken some big knocks along the way.
It’s also likely that the coaching/training staff have picked up on all of this and while there may not be a substantial injury just yet, they realize that this is something that won’t change overnight because of the nature of his ACL recovery. Wentz needs a full offseason of work with the team and potential another visit to 3DQB, who helped correct the ‘stuck in the mud’ footwork from his rookie season. There are certainly enough warning signs there to raise extreme caution among coaches and even a simple back pain could be massively damaging given how much Wentz is relying on that upper-body strength.
Maybe we’re overblowing this, maybe it’s a smokescreen, maybe Wentz genuinely has back spasms and the team just want to be conservative. But context is extremely important and when you take it all into account, it’s hard not to imagine the Eagles coaching staff wanting to protect their franchise quarterback at all costs and if he isn’t right just yet, then forcing him into action against a series of rampant pass rushes doesn’t seem like the world’s best plan.
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports