Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's pocket awareness is special


Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's pocket awareness is special

Carson Wentz had another one of his "How did he do that?" plays on Sunday afternoon against the Bears. 

Maybe it wasn't as shocking as the time he somehow emerged from a pile against Washington, but this one was actually more impressive. 

It came early in the second quarter, when the game was still close. The Eagles had a 7-0 lead. 

Without this play, the Eagles' drive stops and they don't go down to field to extend the lead to 14-0. Do they still win the game? Probably. But Wentz didn't leave anything to chance. He scrambled away from the Bears' defense to pick up 16 yards and a first down. 

His awareness on the play was off the charts. 

"I think it's pretty rare," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "I think everybody has that instinct and you can feel it. You can definitely feel it. But it's one thing to be able to feel it and know it's coming and it's another thing to escape from it a very high percentage of the time. I'm not going to say he's going to get away from every one of those. But what you see over the film, consistency. And this is what we talk about all the time. The consistency of his evadability just continues to show up again and again and again. 

"And so there's obviously a special quality that he has, not only physically, but also that sixth sense to know where it's coming from. It's that combination that I think is working so well for him."

Let's take a closer look at the play from Sunday:  

It's 3rd-and-9 and the Eagles clearly see a blitz is coming. They expect it. That's why they dial up a play that included a screen pass to Corey Clement, who is in the backfield with Wentz. The Eagles need to get to the 25-yard line for a first down. 

“I knew it was a cover zero and an all-out blitz," Wentz said. "I thought our screen would be open, but the guy peeled off with him. From there, instincts just took over and I was fortunate enough to make a play.”

The screen is designed to go to the left, while on the right side of the field, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz are running outs and Mack Hollins runs a go. This is important because it will create space on that side of the field. 

Wentz does a good job of using his eyes at first, which should help set up the screen. He gets the safety on the play to drive toward Ertz. Wentz decided the screen was the way to go, especially with the Bears' blitzing. Meanwhile, Lane Johnson has two guys to block, so he eventually has to let the cornerback come free. 

Now, Wentz turns his body to deliver the screen pass, but the Chicago defender on that side of the field did a great job dissecting the play and rolls out with the running back. Clement isn't open and if Wentz holds the ball, he is a second away from taking a big hit. 

Plenty of quarterbacks in this situation would throw the ball at Clement's feet or sail it over his head and be happy avoiding disaster and getting to fourth down. 

Really, it's the blitzing cornerback's job to keep contain on this play. He should have probably come wider, but he thinks he's about to have a straight and clear shot on Wentz. There's no reason to think he won't. Except Wentz feels the pressure coming the entire time and shows his unique awareness. 

Wentz spins back around so quickly, the cornerback can only throw out his left arm as Wentz whizzes around him. 

Then, give credit to Johnson, who realizes what happened and starts to run with Wentz. And Agholor and Ertz, who probably expected to be out of the play, turn into downfield blockers. They give Wentz enough room to barrel ahead for a first down. 

Here's a full look at the play: 

"There was definitely a mental aspect (to the play)," Reich said. "We had a couple things built into that play. What you saw happen was he knew he had a front-side answer in the passing game. He also had a backside answer. He decided to go with the backside answer. When he looked over there, he quickly identified that wasn't going to be there. Then knowing the blitz that was coming to the front side, having the instincts to spin out was pretty impressive." 

Eagles agree to deal with WR Mike Wallace

Eagles agree to deal with WR Mike Wallace

The Eagles have found their replacement for Torrey Smith. 

Heck, they found an upgrade. 

On Thursday, the Birds agreed to terms with veteran speedy receiver Mike Wallace on a one-year deal. The deal is worth $2.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. 

This signing makes a ton of sense for the Eagles, especially if they weren’t ready to hand Mack Hollins the starting spot Smith left. Hollins can now split time with Wallace. Even if the Eagles didn’t trade Smith, they weren’t going to keep him at his price tag, so adding Wallace gives the Eagles a veteran with speed at a cheaper cost. 

Wallace, 31, is coming off a season in which he caught 52 passes for 748 yards (14.4 yards per reception) and four touchdowns. For comparison, in 2017, Smith caught 36 passes for 430 yards (11.9) and two touchdowns. And Smith dropped seven passes, while Wallace dropped just three, according to ProFootballFocus. In fact, Wallace's numbers weren't far off from Alshon Jeffery's stats last year (57 receptions, 789 yards, 9 touchdowns). 

While Wallace isn’t coming off his best season in 2017, he went over 1,000 yards in 2016 and has averaged 15.0 yards per reception during his nine-year NFL career. The Eagles hope he'll be the deep threat they thought they were getting in Smith. 

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Wallace is second in the league in 40-yard receptions and in 50-yard receptions. He has 43 receptions of 40-plus yards (behind DeSean Jackson's 56) and 26 receptions of 50-plus yards (behind Jackson's 36). 

If that's not recent enough for you, the Eagles had seven pass plays of 50-plus yards in 2017; Wallace had three on his own. He can still stretch the field. 

The Eagles can now start Alshon Jeffery and Wallace on the outside, which will allow them to keep Nelson Agholor in the slot, where he was great last season. Then they’ll still have Hollins and Shelton Gibson (both draft picks from 2017) off the bench. Not bad. 

Wallace will turn 32 before the season starts, so the Eagles have added another veteran player, something they’ve done plenty this season. They already added Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata. It’s pretty clear the Eagles see the need to maximize their window of opportunity and getting players to join them is probably easier coming off a Super Bowl win. 

Signing veterans on one-year deals certainly worked well for the Eagles last season and if this one works out too, they will have found a good fit for the 2018 season.  

Eagles' Super Bowl odds changed by free agency

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Eagles' Super Bowl odds changed by free agency

The Eagles pulled off trades and signed a few free agents after the new league year began on March 14 ... and it's shortened their Super Bowl odds. 

The Eagles' odds to win Super Bowl LIII improved from 9/1 to 17/2 between Feb. 5 and March 22, according to Bovada. Despite beating them in Super Bowl LII less than two months ago, the Eagles still trail the Patriots, who stood pat at 5/1. 

Here's the full top 10: 

1. Patriots: 5/1
2. Eagles: 17/2
3. Vikings: 9/1
4. Steelers: 12/1
5. Packers: 14/1
5. Rams: 14/1
7. Saints: 18/1
8. Falcons: 20/1
9. Texans: 22/1
9. Jaguars: 22/1
9. Raiders: 22/1

As for the rest of the teams in the NFC East, the next closest to the Eagles are the Cowboys, but their inactivity this offseason gave them longer odds, going from 18/1 to 28/1. The Giants' odds stayed at 50/1, while the Redskins' odds went from 50/1 to 66/1. 

And here's a fun prop bet: The over/under for Michael Bennett sacks in 2018 is set at 8. Last season, he had 8½ with the Seahawks. Now, he's playing on a dynamic defensive line but also figures to play less because of the Eagles' rotation.