Wentz takes hit for Eagles’ struggles, but others to blame
Wentz hasn’t lived up to expectations after signing the richest contract in franchise history and he certainly needs to be better for the Eagles to win. But he hasn’t had much help.
The Eagles (5-6) were missing their top three wide receivers, leading rusher and two Pro Bowl offensive linemen in a 17-9 loss to Seattle last Sunday. Wentz had four turnovers, missed a couple of open receivers and misfired on other throws. Some were horrible passes but others were a result of terrible blocking and poor route-running. Still, frustrated fans unloaded on the franchise quarterback.
“They have a right to be frustrated,” Wentz said Wednesday. “They pay money to sit in those seats. They pay money to cheer us on and they’re so passionate about it and I’m the same way. When they’re frustrated, I’m frustrated, too.”
Wentz hasn’t been the same player since returning from surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments in 2017 when he finished third in NFL MVP voting. Nick Foles stepped in and led Philadelphia to its first Super Bowl title that season. He filled in again last year after a back injury sidelined Wentz and guided the Eagles to a playoff win.
But those who are writing Wentz off as overrated are too foolish to understand there are many factors that have contributed to his struggles.
It’s not Wentz’s fault that he has one of the worst groups of wide receivers in the league. The Eagles counted heavily on the return of DeSean Jackson to upgrade the passing attack. Jackson has played a full season only twice in his 12-year career and appeared in three games this season before having abdominal surgery.
In the only full game Jackson played, Wentz was 28 of 39 for 313 yards, three touchdowns and a 121 passer rating in a 32-27 win over Washington in Week 1. He threw TD passes of 51 and 53 yards to Jackson.
Alshon Jeffery has been mediocre and missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Nelson Agholor is having a horrendous season and missed the last game with a knee injury. Rookie second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has only five catches though he has played 249 snaps. Mack Hollins has 10 catches while playing 390 snaps.
Both Agholor and Arcega-Whiteside dropped what could’ve been game-winning TD passes in the final minutes of two losses.
“It’s not always about the quarterback,” coach Doug Pederson said. “We can coach that up, obviously, and we will, but we also have to get the other guys in the right spots as well.”
Another major problem for the offense besides lack of talent is the scheme. Wentz and former offensive coordinator Frank Reich were in sync with the game plan and the offense was dynamic in their last year together. But Reich became the head coach in Indianapolis after the Eagles won the Super Bowl and was replaced by Mike Groh. Pederson calls the plays, but Groh helps with play design and installs the game plan for each opponent.
Their system doesn’t take advantage of Wentz’s strengths, his ability to move outside the pocket and throw on the run going either to his left or right. The Eagles too often abandon the run early and become one-dimensional, allowing the defense to focus on stopping Wentz and inadequate receivers.
“We’re in this together,” Groh said. “It’s not anybody’s fault. Not one individual’s fault. It’s all of us. I’m accountable for it all. So we all have to do better. We’re certainly not happy with the results that we’ve gotten, and we’ve put a lot of work into achieving and playing at a higher standard than that.”
Quarterbacks get much of the credit when teams are winning and most of the blame when they’re losing. It’s the nature of the position. The Eagles have scored only two touchdowns in the past two losses while allowing only 17 points in each game. They could’ve defeated the Patriots (10-1) and Seahawks (9-2) if the offense did its part.
It didn’t, so Wentz takes the heat and willingly accepts it.
“I have to be better,” he said several times since the last loss.
So does everyone else around him.