Mark Schofield’s RSP NFL Lens: Framing Expectations of Eagles QB Carson Wentz


RSP contributor Mark Schofield explains why it was smart for the Eagles to bet on its injury-riddled starting quarterback Carson Wentz

One of the bigger storylines to come out of the NFL offseason this summer has been the decision made by Philadelphia Eagles’ General Manager Howie Roseman to sign quarterback Carson Wentz to a contract extension. The parties agreed on a four-year extension (through the 2024 season) even though Wentz had two years remaining on his current deal (the franchise picked up his fifth-year option previously) and the quarterback was coming off a second-straight year that was cut short due to injury.

Wentz’s deal is worth $128 million and can escalate to $144 million if the quarterback hits certain bonus thresholds. In addition, the contract contains $66 million fully guaranteed at signing, and over $107 million in total guarantees.

Was Roseman smart to bet on a quarterback with Wentz’s injury history and on-the-field play?

Yes.

Let’s try and frame the discussion around Wentz’s production the past two seasons. We all remember that prior to his knee injury in 2017, Wentz was playing at an MVP level. He finished the season with 33 touchdown passes, one behind league-leader Russell Wilson, despite playing in just 13 games.

His touchdown percentage of 7.5 percent led the league. His Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt of 7.43 was sixth-best in the league, just behind Tom Brady and ahead of quarterbacks like Wilson, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers.

Part of the reason for his success was Philadelphia’s incredible production in the red zone. Wentz was 37 of 57 for 277 yards and 23 touchdowns in the red zone, without an interception. This gave him a quarterback rating of 116.0, and an Adjusted Yards per Attempt of 12.93.

Last season, coming off of his ACL injury, Wentz’s numbers dipped slightly. The touchdowns, touchdown percentage and the ANY/A all decreased. Wentz and the Eagles were not perfect in the red zone like they were in 2017. A year ago, Wentz completed 33 of 55 passes in the red zone for 221 yards, 18 touchdowns, and an interception—it dropped his QB rating in the red zone from 116 in 2017 to 100.8, and his AY/A from 12.93 to 9.75.

The dip explains some of the hesitancy regarding his on-the-field play. But there is another factor to consider. Wentz, like Deshaun Watson, began his 2018 campaign recovering from a knee.

Both quarterbacks performed with hesitancy, unsure of lower-body stability and strength. For a quarterback, especially athletic ones like Wentz and Watson, a lack of confidence in his lower body can be a severe detriment.

As the season progressed, Wentz became more confident in his lower body, and started to create more off structure and outside of the pocket. That led to perhaps some of his best football, right before the back injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

After a nationally-televised loss to the New Orleans Saints, when Wentz threw three interceptions in what was a must-win game for the team, he came back and played very well in three-straight divisional games. What we can see from those three outings is what Wentz can truly be as a passer. Here is a look at what Wentz was able to do in those contests:

As we see from Wentz over these few plays, by the end of the year Wentz was more confident in his lower body and it translated to success on the field. He was able to create outside of the pocket, he was able to move around with ease and confidence, and it led to big plays in the passing game. With yet more recovery time and some weapons added around him, Wentz is in for a big year in the season ahead.

Follow Mark on Twitter at @MarkSchofield. 

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Categories: Analysis, Mark Schofield, Players, Quarterback, The NFL LensTags: , , , , , ,

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