McLane: Is Wentz's supporting cast stunting his growth?
After a blistering three-game start, Carson Wentz has reverted into a more predictable pattern for a rookie quarterback. One week he's up, the next he's down. The only constant has been the subpar play of his receivers. It is why any assessment of Wentz has to come with an asterisk. Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott, by comparison, has a supporting cast that is better at every offensive position.
After a blistering three-game start, Carson Wentz has reverted into a more predictable pattern for a rookie quarterback.
One week he's up, the next he's down. The only constant has been the subpar play of his receivers. It is why any assessment of Wentz has to come with an asterisk. Cowboys rookie Dak Prescott, by comparison, has a supporting cast that is better at every offensive position.
Doug Pederson was asked if Wentz's forced passes downfield against the Seahawks were thrown out of frustration.
"There is a little bit of that," Pederson said Monday, a day after the Eagles were outclassed in Seattle, 26-15.
Wentz completed only one of his first five passes, but he rebounded and connected on all of his next seven attempts as the Eagles offense drove midway through the second quarter. But a beautifully executed screen pass to Zach Ertz that turned into a 57-yard touchdown was nullified by Nelson Agholor's illegal formation penalty.
Over the next quarter and a half, Wentz completed only three of 12 passes for 10 yards. He tossed two interceptions and was sacked once. But he received little help from his teammates. Agholor had a terrible drop on a 20-yard-plus crosser, and receiver Jordan Matthews and running back Kenjon Barner were also unable to pull in passes.
If Wentz was frustrated, he didn't voice it after the game.
"Mistakes are going to happen," Wentz said. "We've just got to stay together. People might start getting on guys and this and that, but we stay together."
It's fair to question, however, how much the dropped passes, poorly run routes and penalties are affecting his development. Are the compounding mistakes taking a toll on his psyche? Or will Wentz benefit in some way from enduring so much during his first season?
"I keep saying they're learning experiences, and they are," Pederson said. "Any time you go against a fine defense like Seattle, it's OK sometimes to check the ball down."
Wentz threw to Dorial Green-Beckham on an intermediate crosser late in the second quarter and didn't see safety Kam Chancellor, who intercepted the pass from underneath. Early in the third, Wentz heaved a deep ball to a double-covered Bryce Treggs. His receiver eased up off his route and Richard Sherman easily picked off the pass.
"I just forced it," Wentz said. "We called the shot. It wasn't there and I should have just checked it down."
Sherman, outspoken and often brutally honest, was asked after the game to evaluate Wentz, who completed 23 of 45 passes for 218 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"He was poised. He wasn't shook. He's a rook. That's what he is," the all-pro cornerback said. "He's been kind of getting an easy walk through this league and then he ran into some peope that we've been there before. We've seen your looks. We know your plays.
"So, he's going to learn from it and he's going to work hard and come back."
Through the first four games of the season, Wentz had a fourth-best-in-the-league 103.5 passer rating. In six games since, he has a 72.4 rating - the worst in the NFL over that span.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are 0-3 when he has had to throw more than 40 times.
"I've got to do a better job with the run game," Pederson said. "I've said all along, you can't put 45 pass attempts on a young quarterback."
The Eagles were actually fairly balanced in the first half - 19-16 in favor of the pass. They hung with the Seahawks until the Agholor penalty. The heavy reliance on the pass only came in the second half when the Eagles were far behind.
But Agholor shouldn't be the scapegoat. Maybe he took some air out of the balloon, but the Eagles simply didn't have enough mismatches that were to their advantage, especially after running back Darren Sproles left with a fractured rib.
The message from Pederson, Wentz and many of the players after the game was that they shot themselves in the collective foot with mistakes. There were certainly miscues, and the Eagles had an expected response after being thoroughly beaten, but the larger issue is one of talent. The team simply doesn't have enough right now, especially enough to complement Wentz.
"They're a really good team, and that defense made it tough for us. They sure did," Wentz said of the Seahawks. "But I think just some of these things, these mistakes that for me, they're just eating away just because they're every week."
The last quarter - with the Seahawks comfortably nursing a 26-7 lead - would only pad Wentz and his receivers' stats. The receivers group alone had only two catches for 15 yards through the first three quarters as Wentz completed only 11 of 24 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
He hit on 12 of 21 throws for 132 yards and a score in the final quarter, which came against mostly backups in the secondary.
The Seahawks sent extra rushers at Wentz on only 10 of 47 drops. He completed 5 of 10 passes for 42 yards when blitzed. He was sacked once and had two passes batted down on blitzes. Overall, three of his throws were knocked down at the line.
Wentz mostly struggled on third down. The Eagles were able to convert only 5 of 14 when he had to throw. Pederson did finally call for Wentz to sneak on third and short, and the run was successful.
But there was only so much the rookie could be expected to do. Pederson actually assigned some blame on Wentz for not getting Agholor lined up correctly. A timeout from the coach would have saved a lot of people grief.
Wentz has performed more like a rookie over the last two months, but how much can be attributed to the rookie coach?
Time will tell.