Carson Wentz is beginning to look like struggling rookie

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz got off to a blazing start, but he, and the Eagles, are starting to look more human these days.

The Eagles began the season at 3-0, becoming the talk of a football nation. Since, Philadelphia has fallen to 4-4 and last place in the NFC East. The team’s rise and fall has been mirrored by the play of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who has seen his play drop off since September.

In the season’s first month, Wentz threw five touchdowns without an interception. He completed 64.7 percent of his throws on 7.54 yards per attempt. In October and November, Wentz has combined for just four touchdowns against five picks. This combines with a completion rate of 64.1 percent and 6.48 yards per throw. This tells us that while the completion rate is the same, Wentz is failing to go downfield.

In Week 9 against the New York Giants, Wentz threw a pair of first-quarter interceptions. Let’s take a look at those throws and see what went wrong.

Play #1

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It’s 2nd and 3 on the Eagles’ 35-yard line, on their first drive of the game. Philadelphia is in “12” personnel with two receivers stacked to the right and a lone receiver to the left. New York is in its base defense with safety Landon Collins (#21) dropping down to play man coverage. The Giants are playing man across the board with a single-high safety. Middle linebacker Kelvin Sheepard is dropping into zone coverage.

From this alignment, Wentz should know where to go. Nelson Agholor (wide left) is running a shallow cross. Look how far corner Janoris Jenkins (#20) is off the line of scrimmage. This is easy money, the perfect look for a nice completion.

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Look at Agholor coming wide open across the formation. Jenkins (far arrow) has no chance of getting to him before a completion and a first down. All of the other options are well-covered.

However, Wentz doesn’t see Agholor because he’s bailing from a clean pocket. Wentz begins to roll right for no reason, abandoning the integrity of the pocket.

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By scrambling out of the pocket, Wentz seees his protection collapse. The Giants rush him into an off-balance throw to tight end Trey Burton. The rookie should simply throw underneath to Agholor (arrowed) for a minimal gain or go out of bounds with the pass. Instead, he tries to force it into an impossible spot against Collins, who is watching Wentz. It’s all but a turnover already.

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Here’s the end result. Collins gets the easy pick at the 39-yard line. It leads to a Giants touchdown, putting Big Blue up 7-0.

Play #2

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Philadelphia is facing a 3rd and 5 on its next possession, trailing 7-0. From their own 30-yard line, the Eagles come out in “11” personnel with trips to the left. New York is in its nickel personnel with man coverage across the board, save for the MIKE linebacker dropping into underneath zone. It’s Cover 1 over the top.

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This is what Wentz sees at the top of his drop. The Giants are in excellent coverage across the board. The pocket is collapsing up the middle, with New York getting ample push. Wentz’s time to find an open receiver is dwindling. He needs to get rid of the ball.

While it’s third down, this is a time to throw the ball away. The Eagles are down 7-0 in the first quarter. Only a turnover here really hurts. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens.

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All of the receivers are covered as Wentz starts his throwing motion. He’s looking down the seam for the crosser, which is also well-covered. The pass ends up being high and directly into the path of safety Andrew Adams, who secures the ball in Philadelphia territory.

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Once again, the interception is converted into a New York touchdown. The Giants won 28-23, with half their points coming off Wentz interceptions.

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