Contextualizing the struggles of Carson Wentz raises even more questions

NFL: DEC 29 Eagles at Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 29: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) warms up prior to the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles on December 29, 2019 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

In 2019, Carson Wentz became the first-ever Eagles QB to pass for 4,000 yards in a single season. With an army of practice squad heroes, he marched into the playoffs with the aim of proving everybody wrong. In 2020, he’s simply a shadow of his former self and it’s costing the team dearly. But just how much of the sporadic play is on the QB himself?

How bad is Carson Wentz playing?

The first thing we have to do is look at how bad Wentz has been this season. With 12 touchdowns and 12 picks in 8 games, the former second-overall pick is struggling. 58.4% of his passes have been completed, ranking him 31st in the NFL, while he’s also made 23 turnover worthy plays – 10 more than any other QB in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

He’s now fumbled 55 times in 64 games, more than any other QB since he’s entered the NFL and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon.

Whether you want to look at passer rating (30th), PFF (33rd), yards per attempt (29th) or near enough any other metric, the play of Carson Wentz has been atrocious.

The immediate response here by those who wish to defend Carson Wentz is an understandable one…but does it hold weight?

The bigger picture

The Eagles offensive line has looked different in 6 of 8 weeks this season, with the group largely being made up of third-stringers and young players with limited experience. As a result, they have not been able to ‘pave the lane’ in the run game as they usually do so effortlessly, and pass-protection has been abysmal. Wentz has been sacked 32 times in 8 games. He’s on pace to be sacked 64 if this current rate continues, which would be an NFL record. Ouch.

He’s also been without his top receiving weapons (including both tight ends) and his star sophomore running back. It’s safe to say any quarterback would struggle in these conditions, but would they struggle this much?

Is it really all on Carson Wentz?

Before I get to previous examples of quarterbacks being obliterated every single week, there’s one thing we have to keep in mind. The Eagles brought in Rich Scangarello and Marty Mornhinweg this offseason. Scangarello had implemented a lot of play-action in his offense in order to help Drew lock thrive, and Marty was last employed by the Ravens, helping to facilitate the rookie breakout of Lamar Jackson.

As a result, the Eagles offense was always going to see a lot of play-action looks in an attempt to get Carson Wentz outside of the pocket and help give him more opportunities to make plays with his legs, just as he did to negate the loss of playmakers at the end of 2019.

This is still absolutely the case, even with the offensive line injuries. Wentz is probably on the move a lot more because of the intense pressure faced inside the pocket, but the designed rollouts and bootlegs are still a heavy feature of the offense.

Even if Wentz had an offensive line full of starters and they would undoubtedly reduce the exposure to pressure, he’d still be outside the pocket and face the same issues with touch, accuracy, decision-making, and recklessness.

The Eagles are also still passing 63% of the time, which ranks third in the NFL. This is deeply concerning given the struggles Wentz is facing and the fact that they’ve actually (somehow) had moderate success running the ball.

It’s just worth keeping in mind that the Eagles went through a slight offensive identity change this offseason and all the help in the world wouldn’t suddenly see Wentz surge back to top-10 form. He might not have turned it over 4 times against Dallas, but would likely have still played with the same level of recklessness.

Accuracy has plagued Carson Wentz all year long. He’s missing high, low, far, short, everywhere. On intermediate throws, he’s missing his targets and has really struggled to hit screen passes consistently. This is a mechanical issue stemming from weight transfer, not injuries or a lack of talent around him.

The other thing to note is that many are quick to defend Wentz and his story so far by saying he’s never had a true #1 receiver or a wideout reach 1,000 yards. It might be unconventional, but Travis Fulgham has that potential and leads the NFL in receiving since his debut in week 4. Wentz has his go-to target who can turn a misplaced pass into a moment of magic, but as we’re seeing, it’s not enough to magically mask his deficiencies.

Continued on the page below.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire