Why you shouldn’t be blinded by Wentz’s fourth-quarter drive originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Oh my goodness, the Eagles just tied the Bengals at home.
It’s fair to say no one saw a Week 3 tie to rookie quarterback Joe Burrow coming, but here we are. The Eagles are 0-2-1, and this season is completely off the rails.
Let’s talk about it with some instant overreactions… except they might not be overreactions.
1. Carson Wentz was still extremely bad on Sunday
I know Carson Wentz led the Eagles to a game-tying touchdown in the dying seconds of regulation. It was a penalty-aided drive and he ran the tying score in. It doesn’t change what happened on Sunday: Carson Wentz was bad, again, and we can’t keep burying our heads in the sand about his play.
It might be time to start discussing where the Eagles stand at the most important position in football.
Through three weeks, the Eagles are getting subpar play from their franchise quarterback, and I’d say Carson Wentz’s performance on Sunday was the most concerning one yet, game-tying drive be darned.
His final stat line – 29 of 47 for one touchdown and two interceptions, with 65 yards and a touchdown on the ground – told just part of the story against a Bengals defense that would struggle to handle any adequate quarterback play. Wentz threw two more interceptions on objectively bad throws, bringing his yearly total to six, a startling number. He threw 21 INTs over his last three seasons. Right now he’s on pace to throw 32 INTs in a single season, a truly Jameis Winston-like figure without Winston’s game-breaking deep passes and touchdowns.
He’s missing open throws. He’s making bad throws in important spots. He averaged 4.8 yards per attempt on Sunday.
This is flat-out bad quarterback play from Wentz.
Even the successes Wentz had on Sunday were suspect. Wentz’s lone touchdown pass was a legitimate gift, a wide open throw to Greg Ward thanks to a broken coverage. If he hadn’t made that throw, he wouldn’t even belong in the NFL as a backup. And Wentz’s first throw in overtime… was nearly a third interception, on another miserable throw.
Jalen Hurts took his first snap from under center at the Linc on Sunday. It was a designed run, and Hurts has yet to throw the ball this year, but it was his first touch of his young NFL career, and after three truly awful games from Wentz, the idea of giving Hurts a shot isn’t as crazy as it was after Week 1. (Yes, Hurts nearly fumbled away his third touch. The Eagles’ starting QB already does that.)
Injuries to players like Alshon Jeffery, Dallas Goedert, and Jalen Reagor have once again hamstrung Wentz and the Eagles’ offense, but Wentz has looked demonstrably worse through three weeks compared to how he looked down the stretch last season, with an equally rough supporting cast.
Wentz is the face of the franchise. But he needs to be way, way, way better – and Sunday didn’t change the fact that Wentz shouldn’t feel safe as QB1.
2. Doug Pederson has lost his play-calling touch
In the first quarter on Sunday, the Eagles were running the ball with little resistance against a run defense that allowed 370 yards on the ground through two weeks. Miles Sanders, after dusting off the rust in Week 2, was gashing the Bengals every time he touched the ball. He had nine carries for 61 yards.
And then… Pederson stopped running the ball on consecutive drives, apparently forgetting Sanders existed, resulting in two straight three-and-outs.
Later, midway through the third quarter, Pederson’s offense strung together four straight gain plays, including an intriguing Jalen Hurts direct snap, to reach Cincinatti’s 30-yard line… and then Pederson called an inscrutable end-around hand-off to Greg Ward that lost six yards on second down and stalled an Eagles drive that had momentum, eventually settling for a 54-yard field goal.
Pederson and his coaching collective were hailed time and time again during the Super Bowl run for their creativity, their “feel for the game”, and rightly so. That Eagles offense was unique, played to Carson Wentz’s strengths, and never felt stagnant.
Right now, it feels like Pederson is out of ideas. It’s not helpful when you’re being bogged down by bad quarterback play, but it’s up to a coach like Pederson to elevate Wentz, not bury him deeper. The entire offense is trending in the wrong direction.
3. Bringing back Jason Peters was a mistake
Eagles fans spent most of the first half making jokes about Jason Peters returning his much-talked-about pay raise to Howie Roseman and moving back to guard, because the Hall of Fame left tackle was abysmal against Cincinnati’s defensive line.
Through two weeks, Peters had a lowly 55.5 grade from Pro Football Focus, and he did nothing to change that trend against the Bengals, repeatedly getting beat off the ball and failing to protect Carson Wentz’s blindside.
Then at the end of the second quarter Peters was torched again, and his man forced the ball out of Wentz’s hands – the Birds recovered the fumble and eventually scored a clutch touchdown before halftime, but that fumble could’ve been a real momentum-killer.
And then he went down with what appeared to be a leg injury with a minute left in overtime.
At 38 years old, Peters shouldn’t be a starting left tackle in the NFL, but his struggles are more of an indictment of Howie Roseman and the organization’s stagnation along the offensive line. Andre Dillard’s injury is unhelpful, but the rookie wasn’t inspiring confidence before he went down. They’ve invested time in Jordan Mailata, a player without any clear path to contribution in the NFL.
Relying on Peters, which also cost them extra money, is the result of poor planning and poor drafting, and the Eagles are paying for it in real time.