Eagles

What's missing from Carson Wentz's game

What's missing from Carson Wentz's game

He says he’s the same guy. 

The eye test begs to differ.
 
So do the facts.
 
It’ll be a year Tuesday since Carson Wentz tore up his knee in L.A., and while it’s clear that he’s had a very good year following a 9 ½-month rehab, it’s becoming just as clear that he’s not the same guy he was before.
 
Nine games into his comeback, Wentz is not using his legs like he did before he got hurt, and it’s eliminated a real dimension of production and unpredictability in the Eagles’ offense.
 
• A year ago, Wentz had 14 scrambles of 10 yards or more. This year he has two.
 
• A year ago, Wentz averaged 5.9 yards per carry (after eliminating kneel-downs). This year that figure is down more than a yard per run to 4.7 this year.
 
• A year ago, Wentz ran for 28 first downs. This year that figure is down to nine.
 
There are other factors involved in sacks — the offensive line has been banged up and certainly hasn’t played as well as last year — but Wentz this year has been sacked once every 11.4 drop-backs after once every 16 drop-backs last year.
 
His lack of elusiveness in the pocket is at least one of the reasons why.
 
Wentz’s ability to take off in the pocket, elude defenders and extend plays was one of the biggest reasons for his success last year.
 
It wasn’t so much that he ran for a ton of yards, but he was brilliant at escaping trouble, making plays on the move and keeping plays going when protection broke down.

His ability to move around made him unpredictable and kept defenses off balance. 
 
Wentz acknowledged that he’s used his legs less than last year, but he doesn’t think it has anything to do with his ACL surgery.

Probably last year I used (his legs) more. I don’t think it’s injury related, it’s just kind of the way the plays in the games have been this year.

But the numbers are pretty overwhelming. And so is the eye test.
 
Wentz just looks slower.
 
The good news is the differences we’re seeing in Wentz most likely aren’t permanent.
 
And think about this: The original prognosis for Wentz’s return was nine to 12 months, and he’s not even 12 months out from the surgery.
 
What he’s doing really is remarkable, playing football at a high level just 11 ½ months after surgery to repair a torn ACL, a partially torn IT band and meniscus damage.
 
Wentz was asked this week if he needs to use his legs more, and he said scrambling doesn’t work that way:

I never want to say I want to do more. I never want to force the issue, because then bad things can happen. It’s really just case by case and the way teams are playing, the way teams are rushing. I never go looking for it, but I realize there are a lot of big plays to be made when you can extend the play outside the pocket.

It’s just that so far we haven’t seen very many of them.
 
There are a lot of reasons the Eagles’ offense has been only a shell of last year.
 
Points are down (25.6 to 20.9), third-down is down (42 percent to 39 percent), red zone is down (TDs on 71 percent of red-zone drives last year, 55 percent this year).
 
Because of all that, the Eagles are one of just three NFL teams to score 27 points just once. The others are the Redskins, who come to the Linc Monday night, and the Cards.
 
Really, what Wentz is doing is remarkable considering everything. 
 
Safe to say he’s not who he was last year. But equally safe to say that with another offseason of preparing and strengthening and rehabbing and recovering he will be again.

Click here to download the new 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

What has Miles Sanders done to turn his season around?

What has Miles Sanders done to turn his season around?

Remember how overmatched Miles Sanders looked after gaining just 25 yards on 11 carries in the opener against the Redskins? Remember how lost he looked a week later when he was just 10-for-28 in Atlanta?

Three weeks into his rookie season, Sanders was averaging 3.1 yards per carry and ranked 28th out of 33 qualifying running backs.

Six from the bottom.

Since then?

Sanders has blossomed.

In the Eagles’ last nine games, Sanders is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, 7th-best in the league of 53 backs during that span.

Six from the top.

In a season with very few positives, Sanders’ development has been fun to watch.

What’s been the difference?

Sanders is just seeing things better, he’s running more decisively and he's moving the chains forward.

Nothing demonstrates that better than his percentage of carries that have gone for one or fewer yards.

In his first game, more than half his carries went for one or fewer yards (6 of 10). Through five games he was still at 35 percent, with 19 of 53 runs that went less than two yards.

In the last seven games, that number has dropped precipitously. Of his 62 carries since the Vikings game, only nine — nine of 62 — have been one or fewer yards. 

“I feel like I’ve been getting better and better each week,” the second-round pick from Penn State said. “Everybody’s been telling me that, but most importantly, I’ve been noticing it myself, just trying to get better and do it each week. I feel more confident just as far as reading where I’m supposed to be, getting my eyes in the right place and just playing ball out there.”

Sanders has 520 rushing yards and needs 118 to break LeSean McCoy’s franchise rookie rushing record of 637, set in 2009.

He has 879 scrimmage yards and needs 130 to break DeSean Jackson’s franchise rookie scrimmage yards record of 1,008, set in 2008.

Going into this weekend, he was second to Raiders 1st-round pick Josh Jacobs among rookies with 879 scrimmage yards and fourth in rushing (behind Jacobs, David Montgomery and Devin Singletary).

Is Doug Pederson using Sanders enough?

That’s a different question. 

Sanders is averaging 4.5 yards per carry overall but still has only the 30th-most carries in the league and the 25th-most touches among running backs. 

“I think you're seeing the patience in the running game,” Doug Pederson said. “His vision is better, it's improved from Week 1 to Week 13. The more he gets time, the more he gets snaps, the better he'll get.”

Sanders has taken care of the production. Now it’s up to Pederson to take care of getting him more snaps.

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 vs. Giants live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 14 game

Eagles vs. Giants live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 14 game

9:57 a.m.: Good morning, everyone! 

We have waited a long time for tonight, but the Eagles will host Eli Manning and the Giants tonight at the Linc. Here are five matchups to watch.

If you’re heading to the game, bring your rain gear. 

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