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November 24, 2019

Is Carson Wentz the problem? He was in Eagles' ugly loss to Seahawks

Eagles NFL
Carson-Wentz_112419_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz walks off the field on fourth down.

Carson Wentz has shown he can play like an elite MVP quarterback in the NFL. However, he's been anything but in recent weeks.

Let's get the excuses out of the way.

He has been playing without some extremely key players, be they wide receivers, offensive linemen or running backs. A seemingly endless stream of dropped passes have stopped Wentz dead in his tracks. He's also, on occasion, not had a lot of help defensively (though the D has been much better lately).

But a franchise quarterback is supposed to be consistent, reliable and productive. For some reason, Wentz has seemingly regressed even though he's been purportedly as healthy as he's ever been this year.

Sunday's 17-9 loss to the Seahawks served to highlight Wentz' recent ineptitude. By halftime, fans were yelling for Josh McCown. 

In contrast to the unforced errors from Eagles skill players costing the team games early in the season, the Seahawks game can be pretty easily pinned on Wentz' mistakes, despite the continued absence of guys like Alshon Jeffery, Jordan Howard and DeSean Jackson, who is done for at least the rest of the regular season. In other words, it might not have made a difference even if those guys were healthy.

First, he threw behind Zach Ertz on an opening drive that led to a punt. Then he, well, overthrew Miles Sanders in the red zone with Philly settling for a field goal:

Next, with a collapsing pocket around him, he fumbled the ball, and a possession later — after seeing a fumble called back by a penalty — Wentz threw an ugly interception:

After taking the field to some pretty heavy boos in the second quarter, Wentz took a third-down sack leading to a punt, and a possession later he missed a wide open Greg Ward in the middle of the field with a pass that landed at his feet.

In case it wasn't clear, all five of those plays ended a drive and forced the Eagles offense off the field. 

The first half was... awful (as was his performance against the Patriots last week).

Somehow, it got worse in the second half. Take a look at this absolutely ridiculous fumble from Wentz on what appears to be a bad handoff, kind of, in the third quarter:

Fast forward to midway through the fourth with the Eagles down two scores. A Chris Carson fumble set the Eagles up in Seattle territory, and on a key fourth and short, Wentz badly missed a throw on yet another could-be conversion. Throw in another random interception in garbage time to cap off a fully forgettable day (it's worth mentioning Wentz' final stats in the game were bolstered by some late game garbage time offense, including a long pass to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and a touchdown throw to Zach Ertz).

So to recap: missed throw, missed throw, fumble, interception, missed throw, bad sack, ridiculous fumble, fourth down bad throw and interception. This from a guy who just signed one of the richest deals in NFL history and has fumbled 40 times in 51 career NFL games.

Wentz isn't the Eagles' only problem. But when the team's defense not only keeps the struggling offense in the game but also makes Tom Brady and Russell Wilson look like average run-of-the-mill quarterbacks, the Birds need to capitalize. 

Yes, we know, it's one game and everyone can have a bad game. But he's been particularly prone to poor outings in 2019. Not including his rookie year, which is understandably sort of an outlier as Wentz had a much worse team and the obvious rookie growing pains, here is a look at how inconsistent he's been compared to his top of the league form in 2018 and 2019:

Games with QB rating under 90

YearGamesTotal Rate
20173/13101.9 
20182/11102.2
20195/1194.1*

*Through 10 games

With 23 drops heading into Sunday's game against Seattle, Wentz has seen his numbers effected by his teammates' mistakes to be sure. But his completion percentage this season is a career-low 61.2, lower than even his rookie year. 

Games with completion below 60%

YearGamesTotal %
20167/1662.4
20177/1360.2
20181/1169.6
20195/1161.2*

*Through 10 games

Even with slightly smaller sample sizes during injury shortened seasons in 2017 (13 games) and 2018 (11 games), Wentz' accuracy has been noticeably worse this year. 

And overall, he's just been less productive. Here's a look at his passing yards overall throughout his career:

Passing yards

YearYards per gameGames over 250 yards
2016236.46/16
2017253.56/13
2018279.58/11
2019227.43/11


We won't include a table, but Wentz has been sacked 28 times this season — a rate on pace to eclipse his career high of 33 if he plays the rest of the season.

The true measure of Wentz' 2019 may still be to come. Against superior defenses like New England and Seattle, with backups at nearly every offensive position around him, he struggled — albeit much more than you'd expect. If he continues to play this badly, there will be legitimate cause for concern. 

Why? Well after playing 11 teams with a combined win percentage of 52%, the final five games of the season are against teams with a combined 34% win percentage. This is, by a wide margin, the worst opposing win percentage of any remaining NFL team. 

If Wentz can turn it around against the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins, there may be hope for this team yet. And if he can play like 2017-18 Wentz against the Cowboys at home in a few weeks, this team could still make the playoffs.

That's a lot of "ifs." 

Missed opportunities may be the biggest storyline when the 2019 season is over, but the decline of Carson Wentz from franchise cornerstone to question mark is one that will follow this team into the 2020 offseason.


Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy

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