October 09, 2017
In the Philadelphia Eagles' win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Carson Wentz was outstanding on third down throughout the entire day, going 11 of 12 for 225 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs.
He also picked up additional first downs on third down by drawing the Cardinals offsides with hard counts, and a pass to Kenjon Barner in which the Cards committed pass interference.
"That’s something I personally, from coaches, and from the whole offense we went in and we said situational football is huge," said Wentz. "That’s what separates good teams. To be effective on third down and staying on the field, that helps time possession and that helps the defense. It’s a big part of the game. Call it the money down. So to be that efficient on third downs is big."
Let's take a look at the Eagles' third-down plays on Sunday, in gif form.
Carson Wentz draws the Cardinals into the neutral zone, and Jason Peters reacts accordingly. Obviously, you can't hear Wentz barking out the signals here, but drawing offsides and getting free yards (or free plays) a la Aaron Rodgers is something that Wentz is clearly trying to make a bigger part of his game.
Wentz hits Zach Ertz just before the sticks in the middle of the field with all of Ertz's momentum heading forward. Throwing short of the sticks can be pointless on curl routes or sideline routes, where the receiver is going to be easily tackled as he's making the catch, but on this type of play, you're putting your receiver in a position to more easily pick up a few extra yards after the catch for the first down.
I love the subtlety of this play. Wentz tries a hard count but is unable to draw the Cardinals offsides. What he did do, however, was get Patrick Peterson to show that he was planning on jamming Alshon Jeffery a the line of scrimmage. At the beginning of this gif, you can see that Peterson (the CB at the bottom of the screen) is pretending like he is playing off coverage and giving Jeffery a free release. Instead, on Wentz's hard count, he attacks the line of scrimmage to press Jeffery, but then has to reset when the ball isn't snapped.
At this point, Jeffery knows a jam is coming. As a result, when the ball is snapped, Jeffery is able to beat Peterson's press coverage and get wide open for an easy pitch and catch. This is outstanding mental football:
Ertz (6'5, 250) is matched up against Tyvon Branch (5'11, 205), and Ertz is able to beat him with his size. There's no reason Ertz shouldn't be scoring 8 TDs per year, because linebackers can't cover him, and safeties are simply much smaller than him. This is what Zach Ertz should be. Wentz hits him in stride for the TD.
Wentz checked to a different play pre-snap, got good protection and delivered an accurate throw on more of a bullet deep down the field than the classic rainbow deep ball. Result: TD.
Wentz has nothing down the field, he muscles through one defender's arm tackle, slips out of the pocket, and is barely tripped up before he is able to pick up the first down with his legs.
Wentz trusts No. 5 wide receiver Marcus Johnson to make a play on 3rd and 1, and Johnson comes through.
Because of the size of the gif files, we'll continue on with the second half third downs in a separate post.
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