QB coach DeFilippo says Wentz improving every day
IT'S EASY to look at Carson Wentz's rookie passing numbers right now and come to the conclusion that he is not playing nearly as well as he was earlier in the season when POTUS was talking about him and Eagles fans were taking bets on whether he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
It's easy to look at Carson Wentz's rookie passing numbers right now and come to the conclusion that he is not playing nearly as well as he was earlier in the season when the president of the United States was talking about him and Eagles fans were taking bets on whether he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
That 103.5 passer rating with the seven touchdown passes and one interception in his first four starts and the Week 3 NFC Offensive Player of the Week award are distant memories.
Over the last seven games, he has a more rookie-like 72.9 passer rating with just four touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He has failed to throw a touchdown pass in three of the last four games. He has averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt over the last six games.
But John DeFilippo said anyone who thinks that Wentz has leveled off or regressed or hit a rookie wall are sorely mistaken.
"I don't even know what his numbers are, to be honest with you," said the Eagles quarterbacks coach. "I don't get caught up in those things.
"But I thought Carson played as good a half of football in the first half of the game the other night as he's played all season. It wasn't just from a completion percentage standpoint. It was from the standpoint of his comfort in the pocket, his finish, his eyes.
"He took off and ran on a few plays and showed the kind of athleticism we want him to show. All those things put together is why I thought he played as good a half as I've seen him play."
Wentz had a terrific first half in the 27-13 loss. Completed 13 of 17 passes for 147 yards. Scored his first NFL rushing touchdown. Had a 17-yard run on a third-and-6 that kept a scoring drive alive.
But the second half wasn't quite as terrific. He was 11-for-19 with 107 yards and had an ugly drive-killing interception when a pass intended for tight end Zach Ertz sailed on him. But hey, Peyton Manning threw 28 picks his rookie season. Wentz only has eight.
"I see him every day," DeFilippo said. "I see the improvement every day. I probably have a different perspective than most people."
This season isn't about numbers for Wentz. This season is about learning and growing and improving and gaining valuable playing experience that is going to help him next year and the year after and the year after that.
"I feel confident with where I'm at," Wentz said this week. "Mentally, things are slowing down. A lot of (the improvement) is probably things you don't see. Mentally grasping the concepts and progressions and protections and things like that. It's just a matter of playing faster and faster each week."
Wentz, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards at North Dakota State, has been reluctant to take off and run this season. Until Monday when he rushed for 33 yards and a touchdown against the Packers.
"I still want to be a passer first in this league," Wentz said. "But it's always good to extend plays and make plays (with your feet) when it's there."
DeFilippo was pleased to see him run.
"Our goal as a quarterback room is to get one first down a game with our feet," he said. "We've said that since the day I got here. We want to get at least one third-down conversion with our feet a game. If that happens, that moves the chains and helps our third-down percentage."
DeFilippo has been pleased with the improvement Wentz has shown in the pocket.
"He's not getting as wide with his base," he said. "When he has to move in the pocket, his base is staying much more compact.
"When you see him moving in the pocket, his shoulders used to be teetering back and forth. We like to tell our quarterbacks you should be able to balance two Coke cans on your shoulders without moving the pocket. You're seeing a lot more of that with him.
"When you keep your head still, your eyes are disciplined. And when your eyes are disciplined, your shoulders stay still and you become a more accurate quarterback."
The early-September trade of Sam Bradford cleared the way for Wentz to become the starter. If Teddy Bridgewater hadn't gotten hurt, he'd likely have spent this entire season doing the watch-and-learn thing.
"(Getting the chance to start as a rookie) has been huge," DeFilippo said. "I think as we go along here in these final five games, you're going to start seeing what you saw in the first half Monday night.
"You're going to see his comfort level continue to improve. You're going to see his lower-body mechanics improve. His eyes. Taking off and feeling more confident about running with the football and getting down.
"I just think his overall play will continue to improve. It may not show on the stat sheet every week. But the guys who see him every day, they know what it should look like, know that he is getting better."
Bradford's departure may have cost the Eagles two or three wins and a possible playoff invite this season. But it accelerated Wentz's development.
When the Eagles return next April to begin preparing for the 2017 season, Wentz won't be an untested second-year player. He will be a battle-hardened quarterback with 16 starts under his belt.
"His approach to next season when he gets back in this building (next spring) is going to be he's got be a leader on offense, a major player in this offense," DeFilippo said. "He needs to play a major role in the development of some leadership on this offense. He's not going to be a rookie anymore. He's going to hopefully have 16 games as a rookie under his belt. He'll be ready to go.
"Coming into the same offensive system, not having to learn snap count, not having to learn formations, not having to learn protection calls. When you get that installed for a second full go-round, I think just the finer detail of things begin to stick and you see those guys take off."
This and that
* It's not surprising that the Eagles weren't able to sack Aaron Rodgers Monday night. Nineteen of his 39 passes, including 13 of 21 in the first half, were out of his hand in 1.8 seconds or less "As soon as I would touch the (offensive) tackle, the ball would be gone," defensive end Marcus Smith said. "But you can't really get frustrated, because when he does hold the ball, you need to be able to get to him and take advantage of those opportunities. And we didn't do that."
The Eagles also had to be disciplined and say in their lanes when they rushed Rodgers because of his running ability. He rushed for three first downs in the first half, including two on third down.
"The last couple of weeks we've faced offenses that had quick throws in their offense, but also had quarterbacks who could extend plays," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said.
"Even if you won in the pass rush, you really couldn't - winning in the pass rush didn't mean you were going to sack the quarterback. Because not only would you have to defeat a blocker, but you also had to be able to get the quarterback on the ground."
* Like just about every other team, the Eagles try to call plays that will give their quarterback an opportunity to have some early success and gain confidence.
Carson Wentz has completed at least five of his first seven passes in seven of his 11 starts this season. He completed his first seven passes against the Packers on Monday night and did the same thing two weeks earlier against the Falcons.
"You try to do that with any quarterback, whether he's a rookie or a veteran," quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said. "You just try to get him going and feeling confident. Even Michael Jordan liked a few layups every once in a while.
"I'm pleased with the way Carson has started football games. When we give him those opening 15 plays, he's really studying those and going through in his mind the different looks, the possible blitzes he could see, the types of coverages he could see against this route or that route. You can tell he's putting the time in off the field and playing those plays in his mind."
From the lip
* "Being 0-12 is probably the hardest thing ever. I think some days you question whether you're going to get through the next day because things seem to mount and pile on you."
- Bengals coach Marvin Lewis on the struggles of his friend, Browns coach Hue Jackson
* "It's definitely tough, especially coming from Denver, being spoiled with the playoffs every year and a first-round bye. It's kind of sobering because you realize every team isn't winning 12 games a year. It brought me back down to earth."
- DT Malik Jackson, who left the Broncos in free agency and signed with 2-9 Jacksonville
* "I'm not in favor of a developmental league. I think you're going to see an increased number of practice squad players instead. A developmental league, I think, is just a way for more network programming."
- Saints coach Sean Payton
By the numbers
* Each of the Patriots' last seven games against the Jets has been decided by seven points or less.
* Colin Kaepernick became just the fifth player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to rush for 100 yards and throw three touchdowns in the same game. The other four: former Eagles Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota.
* Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has hit his last 34 field-goal attempts, dating back to last season. That's the sixth longest streak in league history. Tucker is the only kicker in the league to make all of his field-goal attempts this season (27-for-27).
* Packers QB Aaron Rodgers completed 76.9 percent of his passes (30-for-39) against the Eagles last week. It was the 15th time in his career that he's completed 75 percent of his throws in a game in which he's attempted at least 30 passes. The only four players who've done it more: Drew Brees (40), Peyton Manning (26), Brett Favre (17) and Matt Ryan (16).
Figuring the Eagles
* In the Eagles' last two games against the Seahawks and Packers, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers had a combined 115.9 passer rating when the Eagles used a four-man rush. They completed 68.3 percent of their passes and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt. Wilson was sacked once. Rodgers wasn't sacked at all. Each of them threw two touchdown passes with no interceptions against a four-man rush. In the Eagles' first nine games, it was a much different story. Opposing quarterbacks had a collective 77.9 passer rating when the Eagles' rushed four. They completed just 57.4 percent of their passes, averaged 6.3 yards per attempt, threw 10 touchdown passes and seven interceptions and were sacked 19 times on 256 pass plays.
* The Eagles have not converted a third down of 10 yards or fewer in the last six games and just one in the last eight games. They are 0-for-their-last 25 on third-and-10 or more and have converted just three of 48 the entire season. Their 6.3 conversion rate on third-and-10 or more is the lowest in the league. The six teams directly above them:
* In their first nine games, the Eagles' average drive start was their 32.2-yard line, which was the best in the league. Twenty-six of their 103 possessions started at the 40-yard line or better. In the last two games, the Eagles' average drive start has been the 21.3. None of their 20 possessions against Seattle or Green Bay started at the 40 or better.
* Carson Wentz averaged 6.5 yards per pass attempt distance-wise Monday night against the Packers. For the season, the average distance of his throws has been 7.6 yards. Of his 372 attempts that weren't throwaways or deflections, 261, or 70.2 percent have been throws of 10 yards or fewer. That's pretty similar to Sam Bradford's distance numbers last year, when 68.4 percent of his attempts traveled 10 yards or less. A game-by-game look at the average distance of Wentz's throws this season:
* The Eagles have collected 18 false start penalties this season. That ties them with the Raiders, Rams and Colts for the third-most in the NFL. Andy Reid's Chiefs are first with 21. The Redskins are second with 19. Eight of the Eagles' 18 false starts belong to eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters. That's the most he's had in a single season since being traded to the Eagles in 2009. His previous high: six in '09. He's had five three times.
* The Eagles have used three-tight end sets on 80 of their 713 offensive plays this season. Seventy-two of them have been with "13" personnel (1RB, 3TEs, 1WR). The other eight have been with "23" personnel (2 RBs, 3TEs, no WRs). They've used "23" strictly in goal line situations with an offensive lineman lining up as a fullback. They have yet to throw out of 23 personnel this season. Twenty-four of their 72 plays with 13 personnel, however, have been pass plays. Wentz has completed 17 of 23 passes for 186 yards, three touchdowns and one interception (one sack) out of 13 personnel. Rookie Bryce Treggs' 58-yard catch against the Giants was with 13 personnel.
* Aaron Rodgers had a 149.8 first-down passer rating against the Eagles. He completed 11 of 13 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns on first down. For the season, opposing quarterbacks have a 98.1 first-down passer rating against the Eagles. They've completed 66.2 percent of their first-down attempts and have averaged 8.9 yards per attempt.
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