There’s perhaps no bigger Carson Wentz supporter in the country than ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky.
The former NFL quarterback has consistently called Wentz one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and has defended him against anyone who slighted him. Before this season, Orlovsky ranked Wentz as the fifth-best quarterback in the NFL and went on a rant when Wentz wasn’t named in the NFL Network top 100 list.
So it’s safe to say that Orlovsky has been surprised by Wentz’s struggles through two games in 2020.
“Is it cause for concern? It’s causing me to bite my nails,” Orlovsky said on a national conference call Wednesday afternoon. “I’m not in a panic mode but, ‘Why are you here when I saw last year what I saw, given worse circumstances? You can control those things, you can fix those things.’
“I think he needs some really good individual work at practice. But those are fixable things. It needs to get better yesterday, when it comes to when will it get better, but I’m not in panic mode yet."
Through two games — the Eagles are 0-2 — Wentz has completed just 58.8 percent of his passes for 512 yards with 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. His passer rating is 64.4.
Not only is Wentz one of the worst-ranked QBs in the league, according to ProFootballFocus, but he’s also among the league leaders in bad throws.
The two biggest problems with Wentz right now are interceptions and accuracy and they might be working together. Orlovsky thinks Wentz is trying to force plays and his mechanics issues aren’t helping.
“Why has he had the accuracy misses?” Orlovsky said. “There’s a lot of reasons why quarterbacks miss but with Carson on tape, there’s a very recurring theme with his misses and the misses are high. That forces me to look mechanically, ‘OK, what’s going on?’
“Carson’s a big guy, he’s 6-foot-5-plus, when big quarterbacks strain, when they try so hard throwing the football, they often become over-extended. That forces the left leg to become straight. If you could think of an upside down V. That’s what it looks like when he’s throwing the football right now. When that leg straightens out, that ball’s gonna go high. It’s just physics.”
A quick dive into the film from Sunday’s game shows this pretty clearly. Here are a few snapshots of Wentz’s misses from Sunday.
This play was a 2nd-6 from the Rams’ 22-yard line in the first quarter. Wentz misses high to Dallas Goedert. This play would have gone for a first down but the Eagles were forced to settle for a field goal instead of tying the game at 7-7. You can see his left leg lock before he throws high.
This play comes right after the two-minute warning in the first half. Instead of hitting Miles Sanders for a first down, Wentz sails another pass. The Eagles ended up converting on the next play but this is a throw he needs to make. With some pressure coming on this one, Wentz doesn’t follow through, which is another reason for high passes.
This is Wentz on that INT in the third quarter. As Doug Pederson already said, the decision here is unacceptable, but so is the throw. Wentz is such a long guy like Orlovsky said, but look at how wide his base is. On this one, he didn’t sail the throw but it didn’t have nearly enough mustard on it. That’s because of that super wide base.
This last play came in the fourth quarter. So we’ve now highlighted one poor mechanics throw in all four quarters. This one has to frustrate coaches. Because in addition to the upside down V that Orlovsky mentioned, Wentz also planted his feet and had a pretty lazy motion. Instead of hitting Sanders in stride for what could have been a huge play — check out all the space in front of him! — this pass falls incomplete and eventually the Eagles turn the ball over on downs.
So … how the heck does this happen?
It’s not like Wentz is new in the NFL or with the Eagles. So how, in Year 5, have his mechanics slipped like this?
“I don’t care what age you are at quarterback in the NFL,” Orlovsky said. “It always starts with mechanics and fundamentals at that position. That’s why when Peyton Manning went to Denver, he demanded that he have a quarterbacks coach. Because he wanted a guy to push him to make sure that stuff never slipped off. So why does it happen? You get what you emphasize. I don’t know if it’s been emphasized in Philly."
The Eagles’ quarterbacks coach for the past several seasons has been Press Taylor, who was also promoted to pass game coordinator for this season. Orlovsky wondered if Taylor has too much on his plate and hasn’t been able to focus on these things.
For what it’s worth, overthrowing targets has always been a theme with Wentz. It’s something we’ve noticed watching practices since his rookie season back in 2016. He’s like the opposite of Donovan McNabb, who used to throw those worm-burners.
While there’s some obvious concern, Orlovsky has some faith that Wentz will be able to turn things around.
“With Carson, with that straining, when you’re trying so hard, that didn’t show itself in the first half against Washington,” Orlovksy said. “That’s why I tie it to more of a trying so hard thing rather than, ‘oh my goodness, this is a mechanical flaw that is unfixable.’”