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." 

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

USA Today Images

Quite a Christmas present coming for Jordan Hicks

It won't be a surprise, but Jordan Hicks is going to get a pretty great Christmas present this year. 

He won't find it under his tree either. 

Hicks, who has been recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and surgery, will hit another big milestone in his recovery on Dec. 25. That's the day the walking boot comes off of his right foot. 

"Real good present, right?" Hicks said. 

Hicks, 25, tore his right Achilles on the second play from scrimmage against Washington on Oct. 23. Having already torn his left Achilles in college, Hicks knew immediately that his season was over and a long recovery was ahead of him. 

But Hicks has no doubt he'll return to being the same player he was before. He thinks he'll be even better. 

"Oh there's no question about that," Hicks said on Friday, speaking to a group of reporters in the Eagles' locker room for the first time since the injury. "There's no question about that. I'll be fine. I did my left Achilles in college and came back better. I know more, the advancements are better. There's no doubt in my mind I'll be a better player when I come back."

Hicks said the normal recovery time from an Achilles rupture is six to nine months. The six-month mark will be April. He expects to be back for training camp and be completely ready for next season. 

Before suffering this Achilles tear, Hicks had been dealing with an ankle injury on his left leg. Hicks, who has been labeled as an injury-prone player since college, was very proud of playing all 16 games in 2016. So when that ankle injury popped up earlier this season, he tried to play through it. That ankle injury led to a calf injury in his right leg and then the Achilles popped. Hicks thinks overcompensating for the initial injury led to a more serious one. 

"I think a couple weeks could have helped me, but it's always easy to look back," Hicks said. "Hindsight is 20/20. I wouldn't change anything just because it's my personality. It's who I am. All I want to do is be there for my teammates. Every time I step out there, the biggest goal for me is to have my teammates know that I'm their leader and I can be accountable. For me to sit here and say I shouldn't have been out there those weeks, it's hard for me to say that because all I want to do is be out there."

Hicks lasted just a couple plays in that Washington game before his Achilles popped, which put him right back on that road to recovery. And initially, it wasn't easy. Jason Peters joined him in the locker room a quarter later with his own season-ending injury and tried to raise his spirits, but that didn't change the fact that Hicks' season was over.

And for the second time in his three-year career, he knew he would end the season on injured reserve. 

"The grief set in," he said. "For the first week or so, it was tough, but man, there's no time for that. There's no time to sit here and sulk. There's no time to think about what could have been. ... All I'm focusing on is making sure I'm better and ready next year for my guys. That's all it is. For me, it's about accountability."

While Hicks made a rare appearance in the Eagles' locker room during media time on Friday, he's been around the building plenty. He and the Eagles' other injured players have remained involved despite their injuries. In fact, every week, Hicks studies opponent film to see how they handle blitzes. And every Friday, he gets in front of the defense to present it. 

After the injury, Jim Schwartz came to him and asked him to do this. 

"It's easy to isolate yourself in situations like this," Hicks said. "For him to come up to me and ask me to do that was big. I try to keep guys' spirits up and share my perspective." 

For the last month and a half, Hicks has been around the team but has been forced to watch games on TV, which he said is really tough. He hopes that's about to end. He'll be in North Jersey this weekend for the Giants game and hopes he'll be back on the sideline. 

"It's tough," Hicks said. "It's never easy to go through something like this. It tests your patience, this tests your character. You learn a lot through these times because it is so difficult. You have to really grind through some hard times. Put your head down and I think your character is really shown through this."

Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants


Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

The Eagles will have a new quarterback this weekend, but they might not be able to protect him as well as they hope. 

Starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski will officially be listed as questionable for Sunday's game because of an ankle injury. 

Wiz had to leave the Rams game in the first half and did not return. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. 

"We'll see where he's at today," head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday. 

After Wisniewski came out of the Rams game, he was replaced by Chance Warmack, who was then replaced by Isaac Seumalo. 

It sounds like Warmack will have the first chance to play this weekend if Wisniewski can't go. 

"We've worked Chance at that position this week," Pederson said. "Isaac has obviously gotten some reps really at all the positions but that would be the most logical."

Seumalo actually began the season as the team's starting left guard after he won the position in the offseason. From there, Warmack got the first crack at replacing him when he was benched, but Warmack couldn't keep the job, eventually giving way to a rotation before Wisniewski simply took over. The line has been much better since Wiz took over the starting job in Week 3. 

Alshon Jeffery and Steven Means, who both missed Thursday's practice with illnesses, will be back on the practice field on Friday. Both should be fine for this weekend's game. 

The Eagles will practice outside in 28-degree weather on Friday as they prepare for Sunday's outdoor game at MetLife Stadium. 

No word on the condition of the recycling can Jason Kelce kicked inside the bubble after getting cleated on Thursday. At least the outdoor practice will give it another day of rest.