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Hayes: Nothing about Wentz you wouldn't expect from a rookie QB

THE WENTZ WAGON has a broken axle and a bent wheel. Right? The rookie is regressing, so all of that maneuvering to get the No. 2 pick was wasted. Right?

THE WENTZ WAGON has a broken axle and a bent wheel. Right? The rookie is regressing, so all of that maneuvering to get the No. 2 pick was wasted. Right?

Frankly, Frank Reich finds the alarm amusing.

Carson Wentz, his pet project as the Eagles' offensive coordinator, won five of his 12 NFL starts, including his first three. Wentz has since lost seven of the last nine games; and, so, the cognoscenti surmised that Wentz is sliding backward. Defenses are confusing him, his mechanics are deteriorating, and he's making poor decisions in an effort to win.

Reich agrees with all of that . . . right up to the part about Wentz regressing.

Because Wentz is not regressing. He is, in fact, playing as should be expected; better, perhaps.

"Carson is still doing a lot of really good things, still a lot of positive (things), even in a bad stretch," Reich said. "Two people can look at the same thing and see different results, and we have to own the negative results. But I still feel good about a lot of the things that he's doing, even in the adversity of the bad stretch we're in."

Note that Reich said the bad stretch we're in, not the bad stretch he's in. When Wentz seemed great, he was just pretty good. He's still pretty good. This is an Eagles problem, not a Wentz problem.

He initially succeeded by throwing short, safe passes against bad teams. Defenses quickly took those throws away and forced Wentz to throw deeper, riskier passes.

On any given series, half of his offense might be composed of replacements. On half of his pass attempts he has a defensive end, a linebacker or Jason Kelce in his lap. The defense is slumping, the special teams have become pedestrian and rookie head coach Doug Pederson has fourth-down and challenge-flag issues.

"The quarterback position is such a unique position in that you're so dependent on the play of everybody else," Reich stressed.

OK, let's consider the play of everybody else.

At the start of this eight-game skid, Wentz lost right tackle Lane Johnson, the best player on offense, to a 10-game PED suspension. He then lost backup right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a knee injury for the previous two games. He lost receiver Jordan Matthews, the second-best offensive player, to an ankle injury that cost Matthews the last game and a half. He lost running back Ryan Mathews, perhaps the third-best offensive player, to a knee injury for the last 2 1/2 games. Starting right guard Brandon Brooks was sick and missed Game 10. Starting wideout Nelson Agholor was benched for Game 10. Specialty receiver Josh Huff was cut five games ago after an arrest.

Rookie quarterbacks who succeed are afforded continuity and surrounded by talent. Wentz has suffered continuous turmoil and is surrounded by Paul Turner and Bryce Treggs.

In his first NFL month, Wentz faced inferior defenses with decent weapons at his disposal and a superior defense to support him. He lost only once, by one point, to the Lions, who are the No. 3 team in the NFC. Really, the mistake is not assuming Wentz has regressed; rather, the mistake is to assume he'd performed brilliantly to begin with. His 103.5 passer rating through his first four games was always a mirage. He didn't throw an interception until the end of his fourth NFL start, but he also didn't throw a ball 40 yards or more until that interception.

Wentz simply managed a team whose defense and special teams compensated for his deficiencies. He has always had these deficiencies.

Like most big, strong-armed young passers, he sometimes throws off his back foot, and his passes sail into the arms of waiting defensive backs. As with most rookies, his release is a smidge too slow, he hangs his deep passes too high, he does not anticipate receivers' breaks and he does not correctly read every defense. For anyone who wasn't simply fawning over Wentz's stature and talent, these deficiencies were obvious in preseason workouts and in training camp. They are entirely predictable.

Carson Wentz didn't need polished footwork to dominate in his 23 starts at FCS (I-AA) North Dakota State, where he averaged fewer than 25 pass attempts per game. He has now played 12 games in 13 weeks, averaged more than 37 passes per game and, while the Chicago Bears aren't a very good NFL team, they're a lot better than the Incarnate Word Cardinals.

A year ago, Wentz was facing such players as Montana defensive end Tyrone Holmes, the FCS Defensive Player of the Year . . . who was a sixth-round pick of the Jags, who cut him, and who now plays for the Browns, who are winless. In the past month, Wentz faced Vontaze Burfict, Clay Matthews and the Legion of Boom.

Things went badly.

What, exactly, did you expect?

"Carson's vision, his coverage recognition, is way beyond his years," Reich insisted. "There are very few plays where he's fooled in coverage. You see that time and time again - quarterbacks get fooled by disguise. I think he has really good vision; he's shown good vision. Every quarterback is going to make a bad decision every now and then."

And, being human, those decisions will cause any player to press.

"For a while, I thought he seemed totally unflappable," Reich said. "But it wears on you. Has it happened? Yeah. But I don't think it's happened as much as it could have, to be honest with you."

The numbers - always, the numbers - prove, if you wish, that Wentz is getting worse. Then again, if you ignore realities and dismiss variables, then numbers say whatever you want them to say.

For instance, Wentz compiled a 103.5 passer rating in his first four starts. He's at 70.1 in his eight starts since.

That's about where Troy Aikman stood after his first three seasons.

No one would complain if Wentz one day stands where Aikman stands today.