After 16 seasons, Jason Peters doesn’t bother to lie. You ask him something, he’ll pretty much tell you the truth, because, no matter what he says, one day he’s going to have a bust and gold jacket in Canton, Ohio.
So, when you ask him why franchise quarterback Carson Wentz has been nearly mistake-free for the 3-2 Eagles — a sacred and delicate topic — Peters is honest.
“He’s gotten to where he’s going through his reads faster and finds the right receiver,” Peters said after Sunday’s win. “He’s getting the ball out, and that makes our job easier.”
Wentz’s average time to throw stands at 2.58 seconds, seventh among passers with at least 100 attempts. That’s an improvement over last season, when it took him 2.66 seconds to pull the trigger, 10th-best among passers with 400 attempts, and his mark of 2.72 in 2017, which would have ranked him 17th among passers with at least 400 attempts. His current time to throw would have ranked him fourth last season and fifth in 2017.
Carson Wentz 4.0 is processing information like a Terminator.
This implies that Wentz has, in the very recent past, struggled with his progressions. But then, that makes sense, since Wentz doesn’t have much of an NFL past; just 40 starts in his three seasons before this one.
Most of his statistics this season might not reflect great progress: a passer rating of 94.3, almost eight points lower than his combined rating in 2017-18; 10 passing touchdowns and one rushing TD; a 60.3 completion percentage; a career-low 230.4 passing yards per game; and 59 total rushing yards, with a healthy knee and a healthy back.
But one statistic stands out:
Wentz threw two interceptions at Atlanta in Game Two, and the first one wasn’t all that bad: on third-and-long near midfield, he threw deep, saved a sack, and effectively served as a punt. The second one was awful, but after 174 passing attempts, two interceptions equals a 1.1 interception percentage.
That’s even better than his sparking 1.8% career rate, which is tied for second place all time — with Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, in fact. They all trail Aaron Rodgers (1.4%), but then, Rodgers is the greatest quarterback who ever lived. Rodgers holds the record for the lowest single-season interception rate, at 0.3% last season, and Wentz’s 1.1% would be tied for 16th all-time, and five other passers who have started five games have better interception rates, but the fact that Wentz has thrown zero interceptions in four of five games is remarkable.
And, incredibly, Wentz has yet to fumble, much less lose a fumble. He fumbled 32 times in his first three seasons — almost once per game.
It helps that he has been sacked just eight times, and just twice in the last two games, both wins. That’s a rate of 1.6 times per game this season, a 30% decrease from his first three seasons.
“You want to take care of the football,” Wentz said. “I think we’ve been smarter with it offensively — play-calling, and just trusting the receivers, and everything that we’ve put in a lot of work through this offseason. I feel pretty good and pretty confident with what I’m seeing, with decisions I’m making, and guys making plays.”
The difference, of course, is not trying too hard to make plays that aren’t there.
“I think he’s doing a great job of taking care of the ball, of not forcing the issue, and being smart,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said Tuesday.
He’s constantly urging Wentz to temper the temptation to show off his strong arm.
“It’s not always the most fun when you can stick one of those balls in there — those are the kind of balls that can get you really excited, get the juices flowing a little bit,” Groh said. “But, understanding when to take those shots and when to dump it off, I think, says a lot about where he is at with his game.”
Wentz’s ultraconservative play clearly is influenced by where his team is at in relation to its talent pool. The Eagles lost deep threat DeSean Jackson and No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery early at Atlanta, after losing backup tight end Dallas Goedert in pregame warm-ups. Jackson remains sidelined by a strained abdominal muscle. Jeffery missed two games and has nine catches in two games since his return. Goedert has three catches in three games since his injury. Second-round rookie receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has two catches this season. Mack Hollis has 26 catches since being drafted in 2017.
Carson’s being careful.
“I think it’s probably his experience level, obviously, in this system, and understanding exactly what we want to get done and where guys are,” Groh said. “It’s his comfort level with the guys in the huddle with him and being where they are supposed to be, knowing where his outlets are.”
So, first, Wentz does no harm.