Vicious cycle: The more Carson Wentz tries to do something special, the more ordinary the Eagles look
The Eagles lack explosiveness, but can make things worse by trying to force some into their attack.
The more the Eagles’ offense struggles, the heavier the weight grows on Carson Wentz’s shoulders -- to do something special, to somehow fix this, because he’s the guy with the $128 million contract.
If you listened to Eagles coach Doug Pederson on Monday, you heard Pederson explain how Wentz’s attempts to satisfy those expectations are just making things worse.
“When he looks at this game, and I'm sure he already has, there were opportunities in the passing game to make some plays. I think that he would agree with that, and just, really, he doesn't have to feel like he has to make all the plays,” Pederson said at his day-after news conference.
“Even though he touches the ball [every play], and he is the quarterback, and we ask him to do a lot, just let the offense kind of work and let the guys around you make the plays,” Pederson said. “I think that’s a takeaway.”
What was Pederson talking about? The same thing Tony Romo referenced during Sunday’s broadcast when Wentz tried to find a window to complete a difficult sideline pass to Jordan Matthews. Matthews was well-covered, so Wentz had to throw it high and Matthews couldn’t bring it down.
Romo, the CBS analyst, showed on replay how Zach Ertz was open underneath, for something that would not have been a big play but would have been a first down.
“You can just simply take what they give you and move on,” Romo said, as the Eagles lined up for what would become a Dont’a Hightower sack against overmatched, hapless Halapoulivaati Vaitai. “Move on. It’s a skill they need you to [develop] to be great.”
The New England Patriots slogged through a painful-to-watch 17-10 victory over Wentz and the Eagles Sunday, a game that left both quarterbacks embarrassed and groping for answers. Tom Brady, with his six Super Bowl rings, will probably get over it, though we might be getting close to the time when all those panegyrics to his supposed agelessness run up against the reality that he is, in fact, a 42-year-old human being, and not a cyborg.
It isn’t so clear that Wentz will get over it, that he will internalize Pederson’s message, because nearly everywhere else Wentz looks this week, he will encounter imploring looks and questions that contain the letters W, T, and F, generally in that order.
In fact, public sentiment seems to be running pretty much 180 degrees from what Pederson preached:
So he doesn’t have good receivers – other quarterbacks lack tremendous weapons and still make it work.
You talk about the receivers but there were those two plays on the drive in the final two minutes where he just missed Ertz, therefore proving that Wentz has always been a terrible quarterback and always will be.
Wentz used to brush pass rushers aside, scramble around and make plays. He did that a couple of times Sunday but he should be able to do it a lot more, like he did before the ACL tear and the broken bone in his back. Of course, if he gets hurt again we’ll ask why he takes these stupid risks, but until then he should morph into Lamar Jackson, so the Eagles can win.
Wentz played the way Pederson was talking about in the Buffalo and Chicago games. The Eagles won, but Wentz critics explained that it was because of the run game, that he was little more than a game manager in those victories, was not doing anything special, and was overrated.
The run game stopped working Sunday after right tackle Lane Johnson went down in the second quarter, replaced by Vaitai, and the Patriots grabbed the early third-quarter lead for their No. 1-ranked defense to work with, something neither Buffalo nor Chicago ever managed.
“I think maybe as the game progressed, we all maybe felt like there was a little bit of a ‘pressing’ going on. We were trying to make ‘that’ play against that great defense, and you really don't have to do that,” said Pederson, who included himself, as the play-caller, in that criticism. “Just let things unfold. I can do a better job as far as maybe being a little more patient in the run game and helping him out that way.”
If you rewatch the game and study the New England pass rush, there weren’t that many chances for Wentz to move around and extend plays. Without Jordan Howard or Darren Sproles, Miles Sanders had some bad moments in blitz pickup. Jason Kelce and Isaac Seumalo spent time in Wentz’s lap. Vaitai was kind of a mess, to the extent that Pederson indicated rookie Andre Dillard could move to the right side this week, should Johnson not emerge from the concussion protocol.
The criticisms being voiced at Wentz sound a lot like what was being said in Dallas about Dak Prescott before the Cowboys got Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, or even what was being said a few years back about Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, when the Colts’ offensive line was a joke. Wentz’s contract ties him to the Eagles through 2023, at least. Complaining that he can’t move mountains might be less productive than buying him some bulldozers.
The Patriots did not add to their league-leading total of 19 interceptions on Sunday. So there is that.
Jason Peters has a right to feel ill-used on both of those early penalties he took Sunday. He false-started, but if you freeze the replay, two Patriots were in the neutral zone at that time. Then, as Tony Romo explained, Peters assumed the “run” part of an RPO was happening, because so much time had elapsed; the pass is supposed to happen right away on those. Peters was romping through the second level when Carson Wentz made a belated throw, with Peters illegally downfield.
Nate Gerry played 73 of a possible 74 snaps and had the Eagles’ only sack of Tom Brady. But Gerry also whiffed, with Pats running back Rex Burkhead dead to rights behind the line of scrimmage, leading to a 30-yard gain on a shovel screen that was the longest play of the day by either team.
Kamu Grugier-Hill notched three tackles for a loss. Afterward he noted that he has finally shed his knee brace, and feels he is back to where he should be physically.
With the corner triumvirate of Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, and Avonte Maddox back in place, fans didn’t see the egregious coverage breakdowns that have plagued the team at times this season.
That the Patriots could win with Tom Brady compiling a 67.3 passer rating, throwing for no touchdowns, and never completing a pass to a wide receiver longer than 14 yards?
Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who visits the Linc this Sunday, came out of his bye weekend still leading the league in touchdown passes, with 23, against only two interceptions.
The Eagles’ defense, as well as it played against New England, failed to create a turnover, despite a few really good chances.
The best of those might have come when Tom Brady overthrew a screen pass and hit Eagles corner Jalen Mills on the right forearm with the ball, which Mills couldn’t corral.
“The ball was dropping on me, and I don’t know if the wind took it and picked it back up or whatever,” said Mills, who played outside in base and inside in special packages. He said afterward he hadn’t worked much inside since his rookie season of 2016.
Of course, the Eagles also lost a turnover chance when the forward progress of Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse was ruled to have been stopped before Malcolm Jenkins ripped out what would have been a fumble, recovered by Vinny Curry. Doug Pederson, standing near the official who stopped the play, said the whistle did indeed blow.