Carson Wentz stood at the podium in the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday and said he still has confidence in the offensive weapons at his disposal. He said it several times, in fact, but he never said why.
It’s not hard to figure out the first part. Wentz wants to be a good leader. He wants to keep his teammates upbeat, and believing the season can be salvaged. It’s all right there in the quarterback manual.
But, shoot, as Wentz likes to say, where in the world would that confidence come from?
“We have to forget what’s behind us. We’re 5-5. It’s a new season. We have six games left. Hopefully, we’ll go on a run,” Wentz said. “It starts this week and we want to go 1-0. That’s always our goal. I’m confident guys are going to learn from our mistakes.”
Well, good for him, and good for saying the right stuff, but the only thing being learned right now is that the group around Wentz isn’t up to the task. Between the lines of the transcripts of Wednesday’s interviews with Wentz and coach Doug Pederson, there is plenty of reading room on that subject.
“It’s a bummer,” Wentz said, asked about not always being on the “same page” with his receivers. “You try to correct things in hindsight, and there are some things you want to get corrected in practice. Shoot, we talk on the sideline after the play, just making sure we’re all on the same page of how we’re seeing coverages and what we’re seeing out there. I have a lot of confidence going forward that stuff won’t happen.”
By the eye test, the wide receivers are unable, as a collection, to run past defenders, or to get open underneath with regularity or to – here’s a big ask – make a difficult catch every now and then. Everyone can see those things. According to Wentz, they also are apparently unable to read coverages and run the proper routes on occasion. Without the playbook in our hands, we’ll have to take his word for it.
As for oft-maligned Nelson Agholor (in whom Wentz has, wait for it, “a lot of confidence”), the quarterback shrugged off a question about the receiver’s inability to pull in a tough catch last Sunday. “We all leave plays out there,” Wentz said.
That’s not exactly an exoneration of Agholor. It is more like letting him off the hook for being human.
Pederson was asked about the performance of Jordan Matthews, who is back for his third stint with the Eagles. Matthews practiced last week, then played 64 snaps, was targeted six times, and caught one pass for six yards.
“He did some good things and he did some not-so-good things,” Pederson said. “When he looks at the tape, too, he knows he has to play better. Listen, he’s only been here for a week, so he’ll make the corrections and he’ll be better this week for it.”
This is about as close as Doug Pederson ever comes to outright public criticism of a player, so you can believe Matthews had a stinker.
Right now, as long as Alshon Jeffery remains on the sideline – not that he’s been terrific, either – those are Wentz’s two best wide receivers. Behind Agholor and Matthews are only Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Agholor and Matthews combined for 130 snaps against the Patriots. Hollins and Arcega-Whiteside combined for 32.
That’s the best Wentz has. He’s got Miles Sanders out of the backfield, and he’s got two good tight ends, but opposing defenses have figured out where to put the emphasis against the Eagles. It certainly isn’t on the guys who can’t run, can’t catch, and aren’t always aware of their assignments.
Despite all that, Wentz is bearing the brunt of criticism for the offense’s issues. A good deal of that comes with the position. He’s been a quarterback a long time and knows that.
Still, it is unfair. Wentz isn’t perfect, either. He has missed on some passes. He has made some bad reads. Like Agholor and the rest of us, he is human.
Tell you what else. Wentz has also thrown 112 consecutive passes without an interception, a span that stretches back a month. He has kept functioning despite working behind an aging offensive line that is wearing down and coming apart. Here are the sack totals in the last seven games, starting with the win in Green Bay: 0, 1, 2, 3, 3, 4, and 5.
Wentz has a higher completion percentage and a lower interception percentage this season than he did in 2017 when he wasn’t just being lauded as the best quarterback in the NFL, but the best player in the NFL.