Eagles film review: Carson Wentz reminds us of his most special skill

Eagles film review: Carson Wentz reminds us of his most special skill

For much of the summer, we watched Carson Wentz throw pass after pass from the pocket and we heard so much about the importance of letting the offense work for him. 

And then Week 1 came and we all remembered what makes Wentz so special in the first place: His ability to create with his legs while looking to throw downfield. 

That’s what makes him special. 

There are really only a few players in the world who could have made some of the plays Wentz made on Sunday against Washington the the Eagles’ Week 1 win. 

We would never put the reins on him, so to speak,” Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “That's who he is. That's in his DNA, it's in his bloodstream. He has the ability to extend plays, and we saw that come to life on Sunday.

Boy, did we ever. Let’s take a look:  

The first play we’re going to look at came in the third quarter with the Eagles down 20-7. This was the 5-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to Alshon Jeffery. It comes on 3rd-and-goal in a crucial moment of the game. The Eagles need to get in the end zone here on their first drive of the second half. 

At the snap, Jeffery is lined up against a cornerback, but there’s going to be a switch and a linebacker is going to pick him up once he starts his route. That’s important to remember. 

The switch has happened and Jeffery is now going against a linebacker. But a more pressing matter is that Ryan Kerrigan is getting pressure working against Lane Johnson. Johnson does the right thing and gets his man wide, and Wentz sees and feels the pressure coming so he’s going to step up into the pocket and duck Kerrigan to buy some time. 

As Wentz steps up in the pocket and gets low to avoid Kerrigan, Dallas Goedert finds himself wide open in the end zone, but Wentz has no way to get him the ball. But even as he avoids the rush, Wentz keeps his eyes downfield and sees Jeffery getting a little step on the linebacker in coverage. 

With his entire momentum going right, Wentz is about to throw the ball across his body. Because of that momentum, he’s able to freeze the safety (who takes a step toward Zach Ertz outside) long enough to thread the needle into tight coverage. As he throws the ball, there are going to be four Redskins defenders next closest to Jeffery and the football. There’s not much room for error. 

Take a close look at how perfect Wentz needed to be with this throw across his body. Jeffery had a step on the ‘backer but it was still tight coverage. 

This isn’t just throwing across his body to a stationary receiver, this is throwing on the run, across his body, hitting his receiver in stride in a tight window. This is an elite throw and his best of the afternoon. 

The next play comes on 3rd-and-15 from the Eagles’ own 17-yard line. This is just the third play of that 19-play drive. If they don’t convert this, they’ll have to punt and give the Redskins life with plenty of time (11:21) left to play in the fourth quarter. Zach Ertz is circled at the top of the screen. 

The pocket collapses quickly. Wentz could dump this ball off to Miles Sanders in the flat, but that ain’t picking up the first down. And Ertz hasn’t even gotten to the top of his route, so Wentz is gonna buy some time. 

Wentz is now directing traffic and sees that there’s room for Ertz to get back outside to make a catch. Once Ertz makes the turn and Wentz sees him do it, he delivers a ball on the money to pick up 16 yards and a huge first down. 

This is the type of off-schedule play that only happens when QB and receiver (in this case TE) are on the same page. They have to feel this together and know what to do. Years with one another aid in plays like this and the next one: 

This last play we’ll dive into comes later in that drive, another third down. This time, it’s 3rd-and-7. The Eagles have an empty backfield with Sanders to Jeffery’s left. Jeffery is circled a the top of the screen. The Eagles need to get to the Washington 30-yard line for a first down, but you see how deep that single-high safety is playing. This is going to be a 1-on-1 for Jeffery against Josh Norman with a lot of space to work with. 

Wentz uses two pump fakes on this play. The first comes to the right side to Zach Ertz. That gets that single-high safety to take a step in that direction.

Right after this, he looks at Jeffery, pumps and signals his receiver to take off. See all the room to the outside? Wentz rolls to his left and Jeffery does the same. 

Once Wentz rolls to his left, he delivers a perfect ball across his body to Jeffery in stride. From the snap until the time the ball left his hand, Wentz bought 4.82 seconds. That’s an eternity in the NFL. 

This was a 16-yard pickup in the middle of that 19-play drive that was basically the final blow delivered to the Redskins. 

These three plays were all on third downs — 3rd-and-goal from the 5, 3rd-and-15, 3rd-and-7 — and all demonstrated Wentz’s unique ability to move out of the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield, not to mention his arm strength to actually make the passes. They also demonstrated the rapport he’s built with two targets he’s had with him for a few years now. 

Throwing from the pocket is great, but this is the stuff that makes Wentz special. 

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Personnel disasters and more in Roob's random Eagles points

Personnel disasters and more in Roob's random Eagles points

Taking stock of Derek Barnett, the Eagles’ MVP, a long-range prediction and lots more in this weekend’s edition of Roob’s random Eagles points! 

1. When the Eagles needed defensive end depth, they didn’t hesitate to sign Vinny Curry, who had 11½ sacks in his previous four seasons. When they needed a running back, they signed Jay Ajayi off a one-year layoff. When they needed a wide receiver, it was 32-year-old DeSean Jackson and then when they needed another one, it was Jordan Matthews, who had been released three times in the past year.

Maybe this isn’t entirely true, but the impression these moves give is that the Eagles’ scouting department is bringing back guys it’s familiar with — guys the team has already cut ties with at least once — instead of really doing its due diligence to find the most talented and most promising players available at those positions. Need an Eagle? Find an old Eagle!

Jackson got hurt. Curry’s done nothing. Ajayi’s been here only a couple weeks but looks slow. Matthews lasted two weeks. There’ve been several other lesser guys they’ve recycled. I can’t help but wonder if the Eagles’ scouting department is basing way too much on familiarity and not enough on ability.

2. Barnett hasn’t been awful this year. He’s shown some flashes. Plays hard. But 4½ sacks is 4½ sacks. And 12 sacks in 33 NFL games is mediocre production. Barnett’s only 23 so there’s still time for him to figure it out, but he’s in Year 3 now, and I don’t see signs of him becoming a special player. He’s still trailing Mike Mamula’s pace (13½ sacks in his first 33 games). Not good enough.

3. Incredible that Miles Sanders already has the fourth-most scrimmage yards ever by a Penn State player in his rookie year: Saquon Barkley (2,028), Curt Warner (1,774), Franco Harris (1,235), Miles Sanders (879). Pretty good company. 

4. With Jordan Howard out (as well as Corey Clement and Darren Sproles), Doug Pederson can’t be afraid to give Sanders 22 or 23 carries in a game. He’s by far the most productive running back available right now, and the Eagles can’t simply go 69-31 pass-run ratio like they have the last three weeks just to protect Sanders. If the other backs on the roster aren’t good enough to produce, go find better running backs.

5. I’m not sure how this is possible, but Sanders has only six third-down carries all year. He’s averaging 5.8 yards on third down.

6. This is fascinating: The average third down Eagles opponents are facing is a 3rd-and-8, which is the fifth-longest third-down average by any defense this year. That’s really good. But opposing teams are converting 37 percent on third down, which is 13th best. The second figure should be much lower based on the first figure. Why the discrepency? Because the Eagles are allowing opposing teams to convert an incredible 25.5 percent on 3rd-and-10 or longer. That’s fourth worst in the league. 

7. My colleague Dave Zangaro and I were trying to figure out who the Eagles’ 2019 MVP is, and we were kind of stumped. Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson have been really good for the most part. Fletcher Cox has been his usual self after a slow start. Zach Ertz has big numbers again. Jake Elliott and Cameron Johnston have been terrific. Rodney McLeod has been the most consistent guy on defense. Sanders keeps getting better. But do any of them deserve the title of MVP? Nope. The reality is with four games to go? This team doesn’t doesn’t have one.

8. Ertz has 507 career catches. He needs 17 in the last four games for the most ever by a tight end in his first seven seasons. Jason Witten caught 523 from 2003 through 2009.

9. Ajayi is only 26, but he looks like he’s 36. That’s understandable to an extent. He didn’t have OTAs, didn’t have a training camp. Didn’t practice in over a year before Seattle week. He’s going to look rusty. But that raises the question … if you knew Ajayi had missed a year and wasn’t immediately going to be the same guy he used to be and you needed a running back to contribute now, why did you sign him?

10. Crazy prediction: If the Eagles find a way to beat the Cowboys and if they win the NFC East and if they host a wild-card weekend game, they’re not losing that game.

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Eagles-Giants NFL Week 14 predictions 2019

Eagles-Giants NFL Week 14 predictions 2019

The Eagles (5-7) host the Giants (2-10) at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night. 

To the predictions: 

Reuben Frank (5-7) 
I’m really reluctant to pick the Eagles to beat anybody right now. I have no reason to have faith in this coach, these players, this staff. But then I look at the Giants and they’re way worse than the Dolphins. I don’t think it helps the Eagles that Eli Manning is back, even though he’s been brutal for years against the Eagles. But he's got a better chance to come into the Linc and win a game than a 22-year-old kid who has two career wins.

What Monday night will show all of us is whether the Eagles have mailed it in or if they still have a shred of fight in them. We know the Cowboys have mailed it in. Somebody has to win the NFC East, unless commisioner Roger Goodell just decides to vacate it and add another wild-card team. Probably won’t happen, although if I were the commish I would.

So against my better judgment I’ll pick the Eagles. But at this point, nothing would surprise me.

Eagles 27, Giants 26

Dave Zangaro (6-6) 
Let’s start by making this clear: The Eagles could lose any remaining game on their schedule. I just don’t think they’re gonna lose this one. The Giants are a mess and even with Manning, I’m not expecting that to change. And then there’s the fact that the Eagles have owned Manning and the Giants over the last few years. In fact, the Eagles are 9-1 against the Giants in the last five years. They’ve even won the last five games between the two teams. But four of those five wins have been close games, so I’m not about to predict a blowout. Still, I expect the Eagles to be tied with the Cowboys atop the NFC East on Tuesday morning. 

Eagles 24, Giants 20 

Derrick Gunn (5-7) 
Shocked is the best way to describe what happened to the Eagles down in Miami. The offense came to life, moved the ball effectively and put up 31 points. Then there’s the defense that we had applauded for holding four previous opponents to 17 points or fewer having a complete meltdown and giving up 37 points to one of the worst offenses in the league. If losing wasn’t bad enough, players and the head coach Doug Pederson said in unison “they wanted it more than we did.” So here they stand two games below sea level and fighting for their playoff lives.

The Giants are just as bad as the Dolphins on both sides of the ball. The Eagles’ defense was planning on getting an up-close-and-personal look at Daniel Jones, but he’s injured which means Manning has been dusted off and called into active duty. But wait there’s more: both TE Evan Engram and WR Golden Tate are expected to be healthy enough to return as well. If that happens, Tate, Engram, Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley would all be on the field together for the first time this season.

The Birds have owned Manning in recent years (Manning 1-9 in last 10 meetings with Eagles). This matchup makes me nervous. Manning could want to make a strong showing for a future employer. Will the Giants rally around their former leader? Which Eagles defense will show up? Despite the records, it’s a division battle, but at least the Birds have this one at home. 

Eagles 28, Giants 21

Ray Didinger (4-8) 
It was interesting that the point spread went up when it was announced that Manning would be starting for the Giants on Monday. Has it reached the point where bettors think a rookie, Jones, gives the Giants a better chance to win than a two-time Super Bowl MVP? Wow. 

Anyway, the Eagles were favored by eight but it went up to nine when the Giants announced Manning would start. I think the Giants saw Jones throw three picks Sunday against Green Bay (that's 21 turnovers for him this season) and decided the kid needed to sit for a week or so just to clear his head. Eight straight losses can wreck a young quarterback's confidence. They probably wanted to give Manning a chance at a curtain call anyway.

With Manning at quarterback, there will be a lot of dump offs to Barkley. He caught 91 of them last season when Manning was checking it down all the time. This year with Jones taking over Barkley has just 38 receptions. It is a dramatic difference. So Barkley will get a big work load, rushing and receiving, but it won't spell the difference. Big day for Carson Wentz against a woeful Giants defense.

Eagles 28, Giants 14

Andrew Kulp (6-6) 
I said it last week (while wrongly picking the Eagles), but it's not a given they will win this or any other game for the remainder of the season. That's just the reality of the situation.

That being said, while I might've been tempted to pick the Giants with Jones under center, picking the Giants led by Manning is a different story. Don't get me wrong, I can totally imagine a scenario in which Manning torches the dynamic duo of Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby — I just don't find it incredibly likely.

Manning stinks against the Eagles, stinks at Lincoln Financial Field, and really stinks against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in primetime. I'll take my chances on the Birds here.

Eagles 34, Giants 15

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