Carson Wentz has been criticized before. He quarterbacks the Philadelphia Eagles, after all. But this week’s backlash against the leader of a supremely disappointing 5-6 team has been visceral, sustained, and withering — the sort of thing that could blow a man all the way back to the North Dakota prairie, if he let it.
That isn’t going to happen, Wentz said Wednesday.
“There’s always stress, there’s always pressure, there’s always that stuff, and for me, just to be confident in who I am, in the good, the bad, and the ugly, I don’t really get caught up in what people say [or] think, whether it’s good, whether it’s bad. I’m confident in who I am as a player,” Wentz said, in the wake of Sunday’s 17-9 loss to Seattle, in which he figured in four of the Eagles’ five turnovers.
“You’re going to go through highs and lows …. Just being confident in who I am as a person, as a player and as a man of God, that’s really all that matters. I have so much confidence in my ability to turn this around and do my best and get these things fixed, I don’t get too high or too low going through these [struggles].”
Fans can boo, Wentz said, as they certainly did on Sunday. He said that won’t change the feeling he has had ever since arriving in 2016 that he connects well with the fan base and its expectations.
“They have a right to be frustrated, they pay money to sit in those seats, they pay money to cheer us on, they’re so passionate about it, and I’m the same way,” Wentz said. “When they’re frustrated, I’m frustrated too.”
Wentz might have become even more frustrated after he went home Sunday and rewatched the game, as is his custom. But by Wednesday, Wentz said he was thinking about this weekend’s game at Miami and how he can turn around an offense that has generated one touchdown each of the last two weeks.
“Sunday night after a game, I watch the tape before I go to bed, and for me, that’s kind of where I reflect and kind of see where I can do better, and Monday, you kind of do the same thing, and then you turn the page,” he said. “I try to be the same whether we’re undefeated or completely defeated, it doesn’t really matter, I try to stay the same with my approach, my routine.”
What he saw on that tape was turnovers — two interceptions and three fumbles, two of the fumbles charged to Wentz. Every Eagles turnover occurred on a possession that had produced a first down. Three occurred in Seahawks territory.
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh mentioned Tuesday reminding Wentz to keep two hands on the ball in the pocket. Wentz brought up that as well.
“You got to protect the football, you can’t put it on the ground, and that starts with me,” he said. “When I turn on the tape, I get frustrated with myself, because instincts take over. My instincts need to be to put two hands on the ball.”
Of course, there are times when Wentz needs to move around to make a play, maybe carry the ball on his hip for a while, but he said that even so, fumbles aren’t inevitable.
“You’ve got to know when you’re in the pocket, when you’re clean and when you’re not,” he said. “When there are guys around, you got to put two hands on it. Once you get out and you’re able to make something happen, things kind of change. But it’s always a fine line, and those are plays I have to clean up.”
Against Seattle, Wentz was missing right tackle Lane Johnson (concussion), right guard Brandon Brooks (anxiety disorder), wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (ankle) and Nelson Agholor (knee), and running back Jordan Howard (shoulder). He looked awful and could only generate a touchdown in the final minute, with victory out of reach.
The hot takes were scalding, but the next day, ex-players weighed in on Wentz’s behalf, pointing out that some of his terrible-looking throws were really just fine; receivers didn’t do what they were supposed to do.
Wentz said he hadn’t seen former quarterback Dan Orlovsky’s critique of the depleted receiving corps, which became a prominent part of the Twitter discussion.
“Anytime there’s a miscommunication, I fault myself,” Wentz said. “Just because those are things that, as a quarterback and a leader, especially when you have young receivers and different things, then I’ve got to be, in advance, making sure we’re on the same page. I’ve got to be more proactive. Those are things I’ve got to clean up, I gotta do better and lead those guys better. Those are things we’ve talked about and gotten corrected.
“I’ve got to be clearer with what we’re expecting and what we’re seeing and just be more decisive. There’s no excuses with that.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson indicated Wednesday that second-round rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who has five catches for 86 yards, will move into the starting lineup, alongside Jeffery outside, and that Greg Ward, finally given a chance against Seattle, will assume a greater role, in the wake of his six catches on seven targets.
Wentz seemed to approve.