When Carson Wentz was drafted #2 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles, there was little to question about his physical attributes and skillset. It seems the biggest question was whether he could transition from FCS to the NFL, adjust to the speed of the game and eventually handle the mental adjustments that are required of top NFL QBs. From the Senior Bowl, to the Combine to private workouts; news started to leak about how impressed organizations were with Wentz's football IQ. For all the positive endorsements Pederson, Reich and DeFillipo have given Wentz since he joined the Eagles, I don't think anyone was anticipating the kind of results we've seen on the field through the first 2 weeks. Before we get to that, let's start with a quick note on the physical attributes. Folks like the irreplaceable Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) have done an amazing job of highlighting some of the jaw-dropping throws Carson has made through weeks 1 & 2. Below is just another example of why Carson Wentz belongs on NFL turf on Sundays. Not every NFL QB can make a throw like this:
Generally when a QB gets picked in the top 5, he has off the charts physical attributes. However the phrase "how does he project" often gets thrown around and is ultimately what makes or breaks a lot of GM and coaches tenures. As we've all witnessed over and over again, there is so much more to a star NFL QB than physical attributes (see Vick, Russell, Griffin III, etc.) As fun as it is to have a QB who makes throws like the one above, by far the most promising thing about Carson Wentz's game is how well he's handled the mental responsibilities of the position. Let's have a look at a few plays.
In the red zone, Wentz is lined up under center with 12 personnel and an extra OL with one deep safety lined up inside the 5 yard line. Watch Wentz at his drop look off the deep safety, work to the other side of the field and throw a nice ball over the middle. The DB has good coverage on Celek and just gets his hand up to prevent a surefire TD:
In 2 weeks, I feel like we've already seen more checks at the line from Wentz than we saw in all of Bradford's starts last year. Sometimes these "checks" can be overrated. Most offense have a "kill" call for every play where if the QB or C see something from the defense, they can quickly kill and check to another pre-defined play. It's clear Wentz is showing good command over the offense and making adjustments at the line. Here's a really interesting example. Watch the two LBs highlighted in red below. Something pre-snap tips them off and they step to the right suggesting they are expecting a run to the right. Wentz notices the slight shuffle in their step and immediately kills the play and motions the back from an offset position to the pistol. The pistol formation helps neutralize the defenses knowledge of the direction of the play. Notice those LBs shifting back after Wentz kills the play. That said, post snap, the Eagles still run a stretch play to the right and it's worth noting the initial hesitation off the snap from #59 and he gets caught inside and out of the play for a nice gain:
This next play was my favorite of the game for a couple of reasons. First, it's a beautifully designed play. This is an RPO wth zone stretch run action to the top of the screen making it look like a running play all the way. However you'll note as the play progresses that Matthews, Celek and Burton are all running routes that represent a 3-level stretch concept. At the mesh point, Carson is going to read the LB lined up over Brent Celek. If that LB, drops into coverage, Carson can hand the ball off. However, in this case the LB reacts to the run game so Carson keeps and rolls. However, note that the deep safety picks up Celek in coverage. Wentz sees this and holds the ball and extends the play rolling out. He then calmly checks down to Jordan Matthews who sneaks behind the LBs who have bitten on the run. Beautifully designed route combination and a great series of reads from Wentz:
A couple of other plays that caught my eye. This next play is a little puzzling from a schematic point of view. The Eagles will call Jet sweep action to the right and run a trap call. Note Jason Peters and how he immediately releases to the second level and leaves #97 unblocked and unaccounted for. Generally a play design like this would call for misdirection on the backside. I would have expected to see the Jet Sweep action to the opposite direction to freeze that unblocked defender. Another option would have been a naked bootleg from Wentz. Instead, it is a simple inside handoff and this play has no chance:
Later in the game, Pederson goes back to jet sweep motion on the goalline. This time, it's a great call. This play is jet sweep right, but with a sweep play designed to the left. Peters and Kelce release to pull and watch the 4 Bears defenders get caught going the wrong way. Wentz pitches and it's an easy run to the corner of the end zone.
If you count the preseason, that marks the 3rd time Pederson has used jet sweep motion in the red zone, each play with a different component used. This really highlights the diversity we've seen in Pederson's offense. As I highlighted in last week's post, for the second straight week, it's hard not to be impressed with the scheme that Pederson has brought to Philly.