Carson Wentz believes the Eagles are on familiar ground through three games this season.
Statistically, the Eagles quarterback is in uncharted territory. He’s never had a three-week stretch this bad, riddled with uncharacteristically bad decisions, missed throws, and turnovers.
Wentz conceded his individual start, along with the team’s 0-2-1 record, hasn’t met expectations. It doesn’t appear help is on the way anytime soon, either, as injuries leave the team with few healthy pass-catchers.
But there’s a silver lining, Wentz says. The Eagles, a team that’s found success in each of the last few years despite mounting injuries and improbable circumstances, know how to handle a situation like this.
“We face adversity really in some way shape or form every year,” Wentz said. “Whether it’s a slow start, whether it’s injuries or just different forms of adversity that you just learn from and grow from and things that make you stronger.”
Starting this week, Wentz will draw from his experience of leading the Eagles to a four-game winning streak to close the 2019 season in order to clinch a playoff berth. The Eagles finished last year with an obvious objective to improve the wide receiver position, which had become a cast of practice-squad call-ups carried by Wentz at the end of the year as injuries ravaged the group.
As the team prepares for its Week 4 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers on the road this Sunday, there’s not much to show for those efforts. The wide receiver carousel that defined the final stretch of last season has returned, leaving Wentz with a hobbled group similar to last year’s unproductive receiving corps.
Jalen Reagor, the team’s first-round pick last April, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday morning with a thumb injury he suffered in Week 2. Tight end Dallas Goedert is also out for several weeks with an ankle injury. There’s uncertainty surrounding the statuses of Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who are all dealing with injuries. Jeffery, who has missed more than nine months with a Lisfranc foot injury suffered last season, was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice. Jackson (hamstring) and Arcega-Whiteside (calf) both missed the session.
The only completely healthy receivers on the 53-man roster going into Wednesday are Greg Ward and John Hightower. The team has Deontay Burnett on the practice squad and could call him up if needed, and sixth-round pick Quez Watkins is a candidate to come off injured reserve after the Eagles opened the 21-day practice window for him earlier this week. The Eagles also added tight end Hakeem Butler off the Carolina Panthers' practice squad on Tuesday, and could play him at wide receiver if necessary.
Last year’s experience getting receivers like Burnett and Ward up to speed on short notice is something Wentz thinks will help him turn things around even though he’s losing so many offensive weapons.
“Without a doubt it can be a resource,” Wentz said. “I think it’s something to look back on and say ‘How did I get on the same page with some of these guys?’ Even though it was a short week or a short amount of time and building that chemistry quickly."
Other than the timing of this year’s rash of injuries, the main difference between this season compared to 2019 is Wentz’s level of play. He struggled at times midway through last season, but nothing like this year. Wentz has six interceptions this season, tied for the league lead and one off of his total all of last year. If you count fumbles, Wentz leads the NFL in turnovers this season.
The turnovers are part of it, but Wentz’s accuracy is equally concerning this season. According to NextGenStats, he’s completing 6.4% less passes than expected, which is the third-lowest percentage in the league behind only Washington’s Dwayne Haskins and Denver’s Jeff Driskel.
Wentz said he noticed some mechanical issues on missed throws last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but said he doesn’t like to get too deep in the rabbit hole of those things.
“As far as the mechanics and everything, I don’t want to overanalyze any of it,” Wentz said. “I thought there were some little things with footwork here and there. Some of it, it’s timing, it’s chemistry, there’s other things involved. Some of it’s just me. I have to be better, I have to be cleaner with everything. We’re still growing and trying to mesh as an offense, with receivers and everything, by no means is that an excuse, but there’s levels to it that we have to keep working through and get on the same page.”
Even with the struggles, Eagles coach Doug Pederson gave Wentz a vote of confidence on Wednesday.
“I want to put the ball in his hands,” Pederson said. “It’s a great opportunity for us when the ball is in Carson Wentz’s hands because anything and everything can happen. And listen, I can’t speak for the outside world. I can see the, I guess I can sort of visualize, okay your quarterback don’t play well, so let’s speculate that the confidence has got to be low. ... But I just know who Carson is. I just know the guys around him. I know this team. They’re excited about this week to get back out on the practice field and prepare for San Francisco.”