Eagles

How Carson Wentz’s mind has become a weapon for Eagles’ run game

How Carson Wentz’s mind has become a weapon for Eagles’ run game

Carson Wentz first said it after the win over the Bills and it definitely piqued my interest.

After the Eagles’ 31-13 win in Buffalo, Wentz stated that running the ball was the “recipe” for his team. He spoke about the importance of controlling the line of scrimmage. And he mentioned it again after the win over the Bears.

It seemed like a strange thing for a 26-year-old franchise quarterback to say.

That is, until you realize just how involved and invested Wentz is in the Eagles’ run game.

“That’s what he’s embraced, the power of the five guys in front of him and the abilities of the backs,” 40-year-old backup quarterback Josh McCown said. “When you have those weapons, you have to use them and he’s not afraid to use it.

“And his mind. His mind is a weapon. When you can identify fronts and realize this is a good run vs. that, it’s rare and it’s hard for quarterbacks. When you get a guy that can do that and you got the guys up front who can pull it off, it can be a weapon. He’s certainly helped us with that.”

That’s something very similar to what quarterbacks coach Press Taylor said earlier in the week, that Wentz’s mind is “one of the strengths” of the Eagles’ rushing attack.

You’ve probably seen it several times this year. Wentz will be at the line of scrimmage and check to a run play based on what the opposing defense is showing. But it’s a more detailed process than that.

And Wentz is heavily involved.

“Carson, since Day 1, has been very involved in the run game,” center Jason Kelce said. “Probably a little different than a lot of other quarterbacks. He really wants to know what the checks are for, why they want to do them. With some guys, I’m really the one who’s taking control of it and that’s not the way he is. He’s a guy that wants to know why we’re doing everything. He’s a very cerebral guy. He’s very knowledgeable when it comes to the run game, really any facet.”

Likewise, McCown is impressed that a “rather young” quarterback has the awareness and control over games that Wentz does.

So just know when Wentz makes a check, there’s a whole long process behind it.

Really, it starts with film study during the week as the Eagles work to create their game plans. It continues on the sideline during games, based on the actions of the opposing defense. These are conversations between Wentz, Kelce and offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland.

Sometimes, there are glaring reasons for a check. Other times, there’s a more back-and-forth discussion between the group about what might work and where there might be a flaw in their thinking.

Wentz, as you might imagine, downplayed his involvement in the run game. “Not a ton,” he said, before crediting Stoutland and Kelce.

Don’t buy it.

“He’s involved in all of it,” Kelce said.

It’s not like Wentz is Peyton Manning up there with the full playbook at his disposal. There are “tight parameters,” as Taylor put it. If the defense shows this, check to that. But with all their prep work, the Eagles feel confident that Wentz and Kelce will get them into successful plays.

Recently, that has meant a whole bunch of runs. With their receivers struggling this season and with DeSean Jackson out, the Eagles have kind of become a run-first team. While Wentz thinks chunk pass plays will come, he also thinks the Eagles can win like this.

And that’s all he cares about.

“I think he wants to win,” Taylor said. “So I think he will do whatever it takes for us to win the game.”

For now, that means running the football. And Wentz will be involved every step of the way.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

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.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

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

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles