The Eagles, like many NFL teams, identified a few mechanical flaws in Carson Wentz's delivery during their predraft evaluations. They were considered minor. Almost every quarterback who has made the jump from the collegiate ranks to the pros has had his throwing motion adjusted.
Doug Pederson and company went to work on Wentz immediately in May and began shortening his base and changing how he unloaded the ball. The changes to his feet were designed to make the 6-foot-5, 237-pound quarterback more compact in the pocket, and having him hold the ball an inch or two higher was so that he could get the ball out quicker.
Wentz had what many scouts considered to be a long windup. The extra movement meant that there was a greater chance of mechanical failure and the additional time meant that passes could be thrown a tick late. Repetitive accuracy is paramount at the NFL level.
Ideally, Wentz would have had a year to work on his new delivery. A season in the wings was the Eagles' plan until Teddy Bridgewater injured his leg. At the time, few argued against the logic of trading Sam Bradford to the Vikings for a first-round draft pick and more. Looking back, it's still difficult to make a case against the move.
But the Eagles are now starting to see why they had initially wanted to sit Wentz for a year. The rookie's recent problems certainly aren't all related to his mechanics. But if the team had known all along that it didn't have a playoff-caliber roster, might it have made sense to start backup Chase Daniel as Wentz fleshed out his throwing motion, even if it took a season?
"You would have time to work on this," Pederson said Monday. "These are some of the decisions that I made back when the trade was made, that if there was going to be some growing pains . . . and just him understanding and him learning and us growing together as an offense . . . it's all part of the process."
In other words, if Wentz's mechanics were going to become erratic, there would be little the Eagles could do in-season to completely correct them. Like many golfers, Wentz would pick up bad habits to compensate for even the slightest difference in his swing.
For the most part, when he has missed, he has missed high. It's been that way since the spring. There was, of course, the four-game stretch at the start of the season when Wentz could seemingly do no wrong. But as the Eagles' fortunes have declined, so too has his precision.
In Sunday's debilitating loss to the Bengals, Wentz struggled to hit his targets throughout. In the first half alone, he tossed three passes that hit defenders in the hands and should have been intercepted, had two throws batted at the line, and overshot three open receivers.
He was better in the second half but still tossed three interceptions - one came after he was hit from behind - and had three more batted at the line. He threw his last pick with less than four minutes to play and completed 28 of 48 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown - along with the three turnovers - before a meaningless final drive. His passer rating for the game was 52.9.
After the game, Pederson said that faulty mechanics were behind some of Wentz's errant throws. The quarterback disagreed.
"I don't think so," Wentz said. "You throw the ball 60 times, you're going to miss some. That kind of happens."
Pederson changed his tune after watching the game film on Monday.
"There's times when there's pressure in his face, so the ball is going to tend to sail high," he said. "There's also times where he's still back on his back foot and the ball sails high. It's a combination of both."
But pressure up the middle is something every quarterback must handle on a weekly basis. Pederson said that Wentz needed to make more "subtle movements in the pocket" to avoid defenders coming at him. The same could be applied to avoiding batted passes.
"The biggest thing," Pederson said, "is we want to make sure that he's on time and in rhythm with the throw."
Wentz declined to go into detail, as he did last week, about why his passes have continued to sail. "Bad throw" was his response each time. Wentz recently spoke about how he has increasingly been under a microscope, but his postgame news conference might have been the first time he repeatedly bristled when questioned.
He not only has had to cope with an inferior supporting cast on offense, but as the quarterback, he often has had to answer for its increasing inefficiency. Wentz has shown that he is poised enough to handle the Philadelphia glare, but he has never dealt with as much losing.
"I see him handling it well," Pederson said. "It's our job to help him and make sure that he stays on track and stays focused and he doesn't get derailed by anything that's coming from the outside."
The Eagles hyped the hiring of three former quarterbacks when they added Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and quarterbacks assistant John DeFilippo to their offensive staff. They would be the teachers who would mentor and develop Wentz.
They got him ready for the start of the season, but there hasn't been as much time to work on mechanics as there is in the offseason or if Wentz had been a backup. The Eagles have four games to get him healthy to the finish line.
And then they'll have a full offseason. There is no substitute for playing, but Wentz will never get a chance to redshirt again.