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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