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Eagles film review: Carson Wentz fakes and freezes Denver's D

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Eagles film review: Carson Wentz fakes and freezes Denver's D

A few weeks ago, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Carson Wentz carried out fakes better than any quarterback he's ever been around. 

Carrying out a fake is certainly a skill but more than anything it's effort and timing. 

On Sunday against the Broncos, you might have heard cornerback Chris Harris Jr. say that the Eagles run a college offense. That probably sounded a little salty after his team lost 51-23, but he also said the Eagles had the best offense they have seen this year. And there's nothing wrong with college concepts in the pro game. 

That's where we'll start: 

The zone-read play everyone remembers from Sunday's game was the touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery and we'll get to that one next. But this play came earlier on the same drive. 

The Eagles are in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) with Brent Celek (circled) on the left side of the line of scrimmage. Wentz is in shotgun with Jay Ajayi lined up to his left. 


 

At the mesh point, Wentz has both linebackers pushing hard toward where the run would go. Celek (still circled in red) has engaged Shaquil Barrett and is just waiting to release. 

After Celek releases his block, Barrett sees an open lane to the quarterback, so he takes it. The problem is, Wentz is going to find Celek with a nice touch pass that goes for nine yards. 

There's an art to this for Wentz. He has to sell run and then stare down a defender to deliver a touch throw. 

•••

OK, the play you'll remember. This is the one that goes for a touchdown. The Eagles are still in 11 personnel and Jeffery (circled) is on the near side of the field. Wentz is in shotgun with Ajayi to his right. The Broncos have a single-high safety. 

Here we are at the mesh point and the Eagles have allowed Von Miller to come free. In a weird way, this is one way to neutralize him on the play. A little risky but Wentz knows what he's doing. 

The single-high safety is about to drive toward the run and the corner on Jeffery, Aqib Talib, is watching closely too. 

Got them. That safety's momentum is coming forward. Miler has an open lane to Wentz but he's not going to get there in time. And, most importantly, check out Talib (circled in green near sideline). He's stuck right here and Jeffery is about to blow past him. 

None of that would have mattered without the throw. Wentz nonchalantly tosses a beautiful ball off his back foot that hits Jeffery in stride. 

•••

The last play we'll look at happened in the second quarter from the Denver 27-yard line. The Eagles are in 12 personnel (two tight ends), so the Broncos stay in their base defense. But the Eagles split out Celek and Trey Burton. Burton (circled) is on the near side of the field and is covered by Brandon Marshall, who is a good linebacker but doesn't have a chance to cover Burton 1-on-1, even with an eight-yard cushion. 

There was no question Wentz wanted to go Burton's way on this play; there was a clear mismatch. But first, he has to make sure that safety isn't able to get there. He takes care of that with the first part of this sluggo (slant-go) route from Burton. 

It wasn't a dramatic pump fake from Wentz. Heck, it wasn't even really a pump fake. It was more of a shoulder fake (you'll see the video below), but it was enough. Burton is about to break back outside toward the end zone, but that little fake slows up the safety just enough. The safety is the only player Wentz has to be worried about; he knows Burton will beat the linebacker. 

The throw from Wentz is great. It looks underthrown but it's almost a back-shoulder throw. Marshall has no chance and the safety is just arriving too late to make a play. Had Wentz not used that little pump fake, he doesn't buy that extra split-second. Burton catches the ball and falls backward into the end zone for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 24-6. 

•••

Wentz is the favorite to win MVP this season and his league-high 23 touchdown passes obviously stand out. He's been incredible through nine games. But there's so much more to him than just the stat sheet. How he picks up some of those numbers has been incredible. His ability to freeze defenders and fake them out has really been on display.

Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

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Carson Wentz leading all NFL players in Pro Bowl fan voting

Carson Wentz doesn't care about accolades. 

He just better get used to them. 

The NFL announced Wednesday afternoon the Eagles' quarterback is leading all players in Pro Bowl fan voting. 

"I honestly didn't even know that," Wentz said to NBC Sports Philadelphia while sitting at his locker after Wednesday's practice. "I guess that's cool and all but you know how I am about that stuff. At the end of the day, we're 9-1 and that's what we like. You know me, I don't get caught up in that stuff."

Wentz has 273,367 votes, well ahead of the second-place player, Tom Brady (239,989). He has over 30,000 more votes than perhaps the best quarterback of all time. 

Fan voting is open until Dec. 14 and the Pro Bowl teams will be announced on Dec. 19.  

This season, Wentz has thrown for 2,430 yards and leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 25. He has just five interceptions. Wentz, in his second pro season, is a big reason why the Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 9-1. 

If Wentz makes the Pro Bowl this season, it would be the first of his career. He admitted it would mean something to be named to the team. 

"I mean, obviously, that's recognition and that's something cool," he said. "But that's for down the road. We still have six games here to take care of business. We'll see what happens." 

In addition to Wentz, his favorite target Zach Ertz is closing in on his first Pro Bowl appearance. Ertz leads all NFC tight ends with 156,183 votes. In nine games this season, Ertz has 536 yards receiving and a career-high six touchdown catches. 

The Eagles are hoping neither of these two will be able to play in this year's Pro Bowl even if they make it. They're hoping both will be preparing for the Super Bowl that week. 

Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

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Carson Wentz's numbers have dipped, but Eagles keep winning

Carson Wentz's declining production probably isn't a sign of trouble on the horizon for the Eagles. Quite the contrary, the quarterback's down numbers may be at least in part a reflection of the scheme and how well the team is playing.

With 2,430 yards passing and 25 touchdowns, Wentz might be the front-runner to be named the NFL's Most Valuable Player at season's end. He's among the top two or three candidates, anyway. But the second-year player's once eye-popping statistics have notably dropped off in recent weeks, begging some question as to whether the magic is wearing off.

Over the Eagles' last three games, Wentz has completed 47 of 86 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for 192.7 yards per game (6.7 average) with eight touchdowns — far from MVP-caliber.

Perhaps the most concerning of those numbers is Wentz's completion percentage. At 59.7 percent for the season, he's fallen well below his mark of 62.4 as a rookie.

Wentz concedes he could be more accurate. The 24-year-old signal caller also believes some of the dropoff in his completion percentage is due to the offense pushing the ball vertically with more frequency in 2017.

That, and stats are meaningless as long as the Eagles are winning.

"That's definitely a number that I'd like to get higher again," Wentz said before Wednesday's practice. "I'm not crazy about stats. What really matters is wins and losses, but I'd like that to get higher.

“I do think it's a product of taking more chances down the field, taking more shots, being aggressive. I'm not going to get too hung up on that.”

There is certainly something to what Wentz is saying. While his completion rate is sub-optimal, his yards per attempt are over a yard higher compared to last season — 7.6 to 6.2. That's good for ninth in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks.

More incompletions or not, Wentz has still managed to play more efficient.

The Eagles are also 3-0 during Wentz's ongoing funk, so to speak, and he's only turned the football over once. He's obviously doing something right.

In fact, Wentz and the Eagles have been so successful in the last three games, that's actually had a negative impact on his individual numbers as well. The team jumped out to big second-half leads in contests against the 49ers, Broncos and Cowboys, reducing the need to put the ball in the air. Wentz even sat out portions of the fourth quarter twice.

Those types of game scripts will obviously put a damper on volume totals such as yards and touchdowns, and possibly Wentz's MVP chances along with them. From the team's vantage point, they're overwhelmingly positive.

With the Eagles chugging right along at 9-1, there doesn't seem much need to perform an autopsy on Wentz's season at this point. But if critics are searching for holes in the ship, the quarterback doesn't appear to be the place where this squad is going to spring a leak.