INDIANAPOLIS – Carson Wentz had what even his most-ardent supporters would agree was an uneven season in 2019.
Seven games with two touchdowns or more, nine with one. Only 17 touchdown passes in the Eagles’ first 11 games, but 10 in the last five.
Five games with a passer rating above 100, four with a rating below 81.
He had a plus-20 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential, but finished 14th in passing (93.1), 17th in completion percentage (63.9), and 26th in yards per attempt (26th). His completion percentage was almost six points lower than the year before. His yards-per-attempt average was his lowest since his rookie season.
Yeah, the Eagles had some significant issues at wide receiver. But they also had one of the league’s top pass-catching tight-end tandems and a rookie running back – Miles Sanders -- who had the third highest yards-per-catch average (10.2) of any player at his position last season.
“Unbelievable playmaker,’’ NFL Network analyst and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner said Thursday, when asked to assess Wentz’s play last season. “The way he carried his team down the stretch with all the issues they had, that speaks volumes about what he can do and what he can be.’’
Wait for the but.
“But,’’ Warner said, “the bottom line is I don’t think he’s consistent enough as an every-down passer to get to where his talent level can be.’’
Warner echoed the sentiments of his NFL Network colleague, Brian Baldinger, who earlier this month said Wentz’s throwing mechanics were a mess last season. Baldinger said Wentz too often was throwing mainly with his upper body, which was causing passes to sail on him. Case in point was that one over the middle to his buddy, Zach Ertz, in the Dallas game in Week 16 that resulted in the Pro Bowl tight end suffering a fractured rib and a lacerated kidney.
“It starts with technique,’’ said Warner, whose 65.5 career completion percentage is the fifth highest in NFL history. “His technique gets away from him so often that he relies too much on his arm. And that’s why you see him [being] wickedly inconsistent.
“I know he can make those throws. And there are times where his technique actually is really good. But it gets away from him way too often. And that leads to inconsistencies.’’
Head coach Doug Pederson is well aware of Wentz’s mechanical issues. It’s a big reason that, as part of the restructuring of his offensive coaching staff, he brought in Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant. Scangarello was Kyle Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in San Francisco two years ago and also worked for him in Atlanta.
“He’s been around Kyle and his offenses in Atlanta and San Francisco and been around quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and [Jimmy] Garoppolo,’’ Pederson said this week. “It’s very intriguing to bring in a guy who is going to help Carson be No. 1 and is going to help our offense.’’
But Warner said technique is only one of the areas in which Wentz needs to improve.
“It’s just the processing and understanding,’’ he said. “Knowing where to go with the football right now and making what we call the layups. Making the layups is vital for an NFL quarterback. Just knowing where that easy throw is. Getting the ball out on time. Because he’s been so good with the special plays.’’
Much has been made about the Eagles’ lack of speed last season after losing DeSean Jackson to a core injury. But the fact of the matter is, Wentz still managed to complete a career-high 37.7 percent of his throws that traveled 20 or more yards in the air. It’s the shorter ones he had trouble with.
Wentz completed just 77.1 percent of his throws of 10 yards or less, which was 2.6 percent lower than 2018. In the Eagles’ 5-5 start, he completed just 73.8 percent of his throws of 10 yards or less. In their 4-2 finish that got them into the playoffs, he completed 81.8 percent of those shorter balls.
“Even the year he would’ve been the league MVP , he wasn’t overly consistent that year,’’ Warner said. “But he was consistent in making crazy plays when things broke down.
“But I just don’t think you can live in that world, no matter how talented you are. Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, any of those guys. You can’t live in the world of trying to make special plays every week and think that’s going to carry your team.
“You gotta do what you’re supposed to do. You gotta read it. You gotta make the layups. Then, if you do that and give me four or five of those crazy plays, well, now we’ve got something.
“That to me is where Carson is missing a little bit," Warner said. "The consistency to make those every-down, every-game plays that I know he can make, but that he’s not making consistently enough. When that happens, you get an offense that’s all over the place, that’s up and down.