Carson Wentz has had a roller coaster rookie season but, let’s not forget how structure benefits a rookie quarterback.
Carson Wentz set the NFLon fire during his first three starts as a professional, and led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 3-0 mark. The best victory in that time had to be the upset of the then 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers. During those first three games, Wentz tossed five touchdown passes and threw zero interceptions. Similarly, the rushing attack of the Eagles was more efficient and took pressure off the rookie quarterback. Also, right tackle Lane Johnson played the best football of his career prior to being suspended for 10 weeks.
Fans and beat writers have been clamoring for the Eagles to run the ball more recently. The Ryan Mathews‘ knee injury and Darren Sproles’ rib injury threw a wrench in that plan. “The Birds” have also had to shuffle the offensive line to accommodate the injury to rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Vaitai, had been progressing after an anemic debut against Ryan Kerrigan and the Washington Redskins. He was, however, able to turn things around, and his development was promising until his injury. That forced Philadelphia to move left guard Allen Barbre over to right tackle.
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What does it mean for the Eagles?
The Eagles need to create a better situation for their franchise quarterback. Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Since the Eagles haven’t been able to establish the run recently, they’ve thrown the ball more. That’s put all of the pressure on Wentz, who is struggling, because of inconsistent line play and poor play from the receivers. Last week, against the Cincinnati Bengals, Wentz threw three interceptions. What the statistics won’t tell you, is one of those interceptions happened because Wentz’s arm was hit, and it altered the throw. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was then able to snag the interception.
What do the numbers say?
The Eagles win more games when they run the football effectively. Now, Philly may be in a position where they can’t take the ball out of Wentz’s hands. With their upset-victory over the Atlanta Falcons, they controlled time of possession. In each of the team’s wins, Wentz has averaged 33.2 pass attempts. In each of the Eagles’ losses, the rookie averages 47.7 passes. These stats are also the product of game-flow and the fact that the team has normally been trailing in those games, but they’re also representative of a manufactured rushing attack. Mathews’ absence has hurt the team, and with Sproles being less than 100%, the Eagles have had to struggle to create better opportunities.
For the Eagles to win games now, they can’t put Wentz in a position where he’s predictable. Against the Bengals, he threw the ball 60 times. Yes, Philly was down two scores before they knew what hit them, but the issue brought several issue to light, particularly running back. Hopefully, those issues will be address in next year’s NFL Draft.
Rookie Wendell Smallwood has shown flashes, returning a kickoff for a touchdown and occasionally gashing defenses. The rookie has had his shortcomings as well. He’s had fumbling issues and has shown an inability to take advantage of an increased role during Mathews’ time out. Philadelphia has also seen enough to know what they’ll need to bolster their depth on the offensive line.
Injuries happen, and every team has to prepare for them. The Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings are prime examples of being handicapped by lack of depth on the offensive line. Essentially, Wentz needs the structure of a game plan that’s built on being able to at least threaten defenses with the run. He’ll also need enough pass protection to get the ball down the field to receivers that can make catches (if they can make catches).