Eagles

Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

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Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

He was among the NFL’s best in virtually every category. Fourth in passer rating. First in touchdown percentage. Eighth in interception percentage. Second in TD-to-INT ratio. He was even third in wins despite missing the last three regular-season games.

So what’s Carson Wentz’s approach going into 2018?

“I think we can improve everywhere,” he said. “Overall, I think we can keep making strides and keep our foot on the gas.”

And that starts with completion percentage.

Wentz completed just 60.2 percent of his passes last year, which ranked 23rd of 30 quarterbacks who threw at least 400 passes. 

Ahead of only Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, Jacoby Brissett and DeShone Kizer.

Not the kind of company he wants to keep.

Wentz was so good in every other area he still fashioned a passer rating over 100. In fact, his 101.9 rating was the highest in NFL history by a quarterback completing 60.2 percent of his passes (minimum 400 attempts).

The league average last year was 62 percent. And for the sake of comparison, Nick Foles completed 64.7 percent of his passes if you combine the regular season and postseason.

Wentz dropped from 62.4 percent as a rookie to 60.2 percent last year.

Among 36 active NFL quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 1,000 passes, Wentz’s 61.5 completion percentage ranks 21st.

 “I know I’d like to see my completions go higher,” Wentz said last week. “I think I was right around 60 percent and I expect more out of myself in that area.”

After 2016, Wentz identified red zone and third down as two areas he hoped to improve on. 

And he wound up leading the NFL in both red zone efficiency (NFL-best 116.3 passer rating) and third-down efficiency (NFL-best 123.7 rating).

“Third down, red zone, we were really good,” he said. “That’s something we really focused on from Year 1 to Year 2, but we (still) all feel we can definitely improve in those areas.”

Wentz also committed nine fumbles in 13 games, and only Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson had more.

“I think we had too many fumbles,” he said. “Balls on the ground too many times.”

Wentz, now nearly five months out from his knee injury, said he’s used a lot of his extra time at the NovaCare Complex this offseason focusing on what he can improve on in 2018, and one of those things is his upper-body strength.

“With all the extra rehab and not being able to run and do a lot of things early on you’ve really just got to focus on some different things and I got to do a lot of seated throwing and trying to build my arm strength and really take care of my upper body more than I have in the past,” he said.

“It’s been an interesting process not being able to get that true conditioning and that rehab in, but it’s exciting to start easing into the running and conditioning stuff. … 

“I feel good. I definitely feel working with the strength guys, we had some friendly competition stuff with the other (injured) guys in there rehabbing and I definitely feel like I’m making some strides in there.”

Looking back, benching was good for Eagles’ Isaac Seumalo

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Looking back, benching was good for Eagles’ Isaac Seumalo

This time last season, Isaac Seumalo was watching most of the Eagles’ games from the bench. 

Even though the 2016 third-round pick was handed the starting left guard job before training camp, it took just two games before the Eagles realized he was overmatched. He was benched for Week 3 last year and spent the rest of the Super Bowl season and the beginning of this season as a backup. 

But two weeks ago, Seumalo took back his starting left guard spot and has played fairly well since then. He’s hoping to hang on to the job this time around. 

On Wednesday, he called last year’s benching “one of the best things that could have happened.”

“It happened and I’m thankful for it and it kind of changed my mentality of how I play,” Seumalo said. “It kind of set me on the path of where I am today. 

How did last year’s benching change his mentality? 

“Having a lot more fun and playing a lot looser and letting the game come to me,” said Seumalo, speaking for the first time publicly since taking back the starting job. “Really, just taking it one play at a time. I know it’s really cheesy and corny, but, man, you really cannot focus on what’s already happened, you can’t focus on what’s about to happen. You gotta be in the moment.”

Seumalo, 24, explained that last season he was letting the pressure and little mistakes bog him down. Instead of immediately forgetting a mistake, he was allowing himself to think about it even after the play was over. He was losing focus and it showed up on the field. 

One of the biggest realizations he had was that there is always time to correct mistakes in the days after the game. While he’s still on the field, he needs to move on to the next play. 

“Game day’s not a time to think,” he said. 

Aside from the mental aspect of the game, Seumalo also realized he needed to get bigger and stronger if he wanted to play offensive guard in the NFL. It’s the part of his improvement that offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has lauded the most. 

This offseason, Seumalo put on about 20 pounds, going from around 300 all the way up to 320. And it wasn’t easy. 

“If you’re working out a ton, you have to eat a ton,” he said. 

That meant more meals. That meant bigger meals. That meant eating in the morning, after workouts and before bed, all to keep up with how many calories he was losing when he worked out. 

In order for Seumalo to earn his starting job, someone had to lose it first. That happened when the Eagles benched Stefen Wisniewski. After he was benched, Wiz said he thought he was playing well and told reporters he had “some theories” as to why he was benched. Seumalo declined to comment about that but did say Wiz is a good teammate and the two are friends.

The Eagles have always valued Seumalo’s versatility. He can play all five spots on the offensive line and even swung out to right tackle during last Thursday’s game. He thinks his time learning the center position in the offense this offseason really helped him better understand every position on the offensive line. 

Getting reps as the second-team center simply wouldn’t have happened if Seumalo was still the starter at left guard coming out of last year. 

Maybe he’s right. Maybe getting benched was the best thing to happen to him.

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Alshon Jeffery, 3rd-down defense and Wentz in this week's Roob Stats

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Alshon Jeffery, 3rd-down defense and Wentz in this week's Roob Stats

Alshon Jeffery's touchdown catches, third-down defense and high-scoring games against the Giants highlight this week's edition of Roob Stats.

And maybe a Carson Wentz stat or two!

1. Wentz has gone 19 straight games with at least one touchdown pass and one or fewer interceptions. That's the second-longest streak in NFL history, two behind Matt Ryan's 21-game streak over the 2015 through 2017 seasons. 

2. As a group, Eagles quarterbacks have gone 29 straight games without throwing more than one interception. That's the fifth-longest streak in NFL history. The next-longest current streak belongs to the Falcons at 11 games.

3. Wentz's 57 touchdowns are fourth-most in NFL history by a quarterback after 33 games, behind only Dan Marino (76), Kurt Warner (73) and Matt Stafford (63). Of the 23 QBs in NFL history who've thrown at least 48 TD passes in their first 33 games, only three have thrown fewer than 25 interceptions: Wentz (22), Nick Foles (22) and Russell Wilson (19).

4. One more on Wentz: With his three TDs Thursday night, he moved all the way from a tie for 10th in Eagles history to a tie for 6th, passing Adrian Burke (55) and Norm Van Brocklin (55) and moving into a tie with Michael Vick and Bobby Thomason (57). Next on that list is Sonny Jurgensen (76).

5. Zach Ertz had seven more catches, giving him 48, most in NFL history by a tight end after six games. The previous high was Eric Johnson's 45 for the 49ers in 2004. Overall, his 48 catches are 13th-most by any player after six games.

6. With 11 games to play this year, Ertz already has the eighth-most catches ever by a tight end in his first six seasons at 369. Next on the list is Jeremy Shockey at 371. Ertz needs 66 catches to pass Antonio Gates, whose 434 catches from 2010 through 2015 are most ever by a tight end in his first six seasons.

7. With his third catch Thursday night, Ertz passed Mike Quick and moved into seventh place in Eagles history in receptions. He's only two behind Keith Byars and four behind Pete Pihos so he could move into fifth as soon as Sunday. Also within reach this year: former teammate and close friend Brent Celek (398) and Brian Westbrook (426). That would leave only Harold Carmichael (589) and Pete Retzlaff (452).

8. The Eagles have held all six opponents this year to 40 percent or lower on third down. It's the first time in franchise history they've held their first six opponents to 40 percent or lower on third down.

9. Including the postseason, Jeffery has 13 touchdown catches in his last 16 games going back to Week 7 last year. Only Antonio Brown (17) has more during the same span.  

10. Finally … and this is amazing: The Eagles' 34-13 win over the Giants was their fifth game in the last six years scoring 34 or more points against the Giants at the Meadowlands. During the same span, the Giants have allowed 34 points only three other times.

The last eight times an NFC East team has scored 34 points against the Giants, it's been the Eagles.

During the 55 years from 1950 through 2005, the Eagles scored 34 points against the Giants on the road just four times. In the last 13 years, they've done it eight times. The last seven times the Eagles have scored 34 or more points against the Giants, it's been in East Rutherford.

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