Eagles

Carson Wentz's stats don't tell the whole story

Carson Wentz isn't putting up huge numbers, he isn't carrying the Eagles on his back, he isn't showing monumental statistical improvement over last year.

What he is doing is winning. And there's something to be said for that.

Wentz has made strides since last year and shown growth in Year 2 in the offense, it's just that so far that growth and evolution has been subtle and not really reflected in his stats.

You see it in his pocket awareness when the protection breaks down. You see it when he throws the football away instead of trying to force it into too tight a window. You see it in his ability to make big plays late in games when he absolutely has to.

Have we seen the monumental evolution that many of us anticipated in Wentz's game from Year 1 to Year 2? Nope.

But a few subtle things stand out that when taken together show that Wentz quietly has improved in several really important areas. And without those subtle improvements, the Eagles wouldn't be sitting here 3-1 a month into the season.  

• Wentz is throwing far fewer interceptions than last year. He averaged one every 38 passes last year and he's at one every 74 this year. He's not coming out early in games and trying too hard to make something happen. Last year, Wentz had six first-quarter INTs, second-most in the NFL. They often put the Eagles in early holes, and they just didn't have the firepower to climb out. This year, Wentz hasn't thrown a single first-quarter interception. Huge difference. Important difference.

• Even without Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery clicking yet, Wentz is averaging a full yard more per pass attempt than last year. He's gone from 6.2 to 7.2 — an increase of about 16 percent. Wentz ranked 29th of 30 qualifying QBs in yards per attempt last year (ahead of only Brock Osweiler). So far this year, he's in the middle of the pack — 16th out of 32 qualifiers and ahead of people like Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Stafford and Dak Prescott.

• Wentz is making plays with his legs far more than last year, a real sign of court awareness. He's finding the sticks and moving the chains. Last year, Wentz averaged 9.4 rushing yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry. This year, those figures are up to 24.3 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. He ranked 16th among QBs in yards per carry and 14th in yards per game last year and he's 10th and 6th so far this year. (Adjusting those rushing figures to exclude kneel-downs leaves Wentz was at 4.7 last year and 6.3 this year, so the margin is the same). Wentz hasn't been super accurate, but he's made up for some of that with his growing ability to scramble for positive yards.

• Wentz rushed for 17 first downs last year, or just over one per game. Which was actually ninth-most among all quarterbacks. He already has almost half that many this year — eight in four games. That's only one fewer than Tyrod Taylor and Cam Newton, who lead NFL QBs in first down runs this year with nine. 

Add it all up and Wentz is doing what he has to do to help the Eagles win football games. Last year there were times where it seemed Wentz felt like he had to carry the Eagles. That if he didn't play like a superstar, they had no chance to win.

Now, Wentz seems to be comfortable simply managing operations, doing just what he has to do to help the team win and not forcing anything. "Game manager" is generally perceived as an insult to quarterbacks, but if it means avoiding mistakes and leading your team to wins, you take it.

"He's learned to understand the situation, what we're trying to get, what we're trying to gain, pulling the ball down, running if he needs to, finding a back or a tight end check down situation, [finding] guys in the flat," Doug Pederson said Monday.

"And as far as just keeping him (on point) with the things we do offensively, with the checks and getting us in and out of protections and runs to pass, pass to runs, we continue to grow that area. And it all comes down to his study and preparation."

The stats? They're OK. Nothing special.

Wentz ranks 26th out of 32 quarterbacks in completion percentage, 13th in touchdowns, 15th in yards per attempt and 16th in passer rating.

But the Eagles are 3-1, four of their next five games are at the Linc, they've already surpassed their 2016 road win total, and the rest of the division is just 4-7 going into the Monday night Chiefs-Redskins game at Arrowhead.

There isn't a team in the NFC with a better record than the Eagles, and Wentz is one of the biggest reasons why.

The gaudy stats will come. The three-touchdown games, the 400-yard passing games, the 70 percent completion games. They'll all come.

Wentz isn't quite there yet, but he's still just 20 games into his NFL career.

And most importantly he's winning games as he learns. And those W's are all that matters.