By ROB MAADDI
Doug Pederson should’ve pulled an Andy Reid and told everyone he needs to do a better job right from the start Monday.
Instead, it took him 11 questions to finally utter those words.
Wentz has struggled but the Eagles have done little to help their franchise quarterback after giving him a $128 million contract extension last year.
There’s plenty of blame to spread around so let’s examine why Wentz and the offense are out of sync through two games:
The offensive scheme has been predictable, lacking creativity and isn’t putting Wentz in the best position to succeed. Sean McVay designed plays that gave Jared Goff an opportunity to make easy throws to wide-open receivers. Wentz often has to fit passes into tight windows with no margin for error. Yes, he misses some open throws. Everybody quarterback does. But Wentz is playing in an offensive system that relies too much on inexperienced receivers having to win one-on-one battles that they rarely win. Pederson also hasn’t set up defenses by scheming plays with multiple variations from the same formation. Opponents seem far more comfortable than confused.
The system simply isn’t maximizing Wentz’s strengths. He excels on rollouts but Pederson has hardly called plays that move Wentz out of the pocket. The Eagles need to run more bootlegs, counters, misdirection plays to isolate defenders, provide more space and time for Wentz to survey the field and give their young receivers opportunities to be more open.
And, what happened to the deep pass against the Rams? The offseason emphasis on adding speedy receivers was evident in Week 1 at Washington when Wentz threw long several times. He hit Jalen Reagor for a 55-yard gain and took more shots that missed. Of course, the Eagles were concerned about Aaron Donald and the Rams’ pass rush after surrendering eight sacks in the first game so they opted for shorter dropbacks. But Reagor and DeSean Jackson are fast enough to at least warrant a couple home-run shots. The Eagles ran on second-and-1 from the Rams 41 and from the Rams 39 on separate drives in the third
quarter. Those were ideal opportunities to look for big plays. Even if they don’t connect, it would’ve loosened the safeties and opened up throwing lanes underneath for Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and others. They managed only a field goal out of those two drives.
Looking only at three of Wentz’s four interceptions and no other plays, it’s clear his receivers aren’t good enough right now. Each one of the throws could’ve been better but the two rookies _ Reagor and John Hightower _ needed to be more aggressive playing the ball against Washington. They have to learn that they need to play defensive back sometimes and prevent a pick. They also have to run sharper routes and quickly come back for the ball instead of rolling their pattern cuts. They gave the defenders an opportunity to undercut the route without having to go through them to get to the ball.
The interception to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside from the Rams 21 was a killer because the Eagles had an opportunity to take the lead on that possession after rallying from an 18-point deficit. It’s easy to pin the blame on Wentz. Arcega-Whiteside had a step on the defender and the ball was thrown behind him. But, looking at the film, Arcega-Whiteside needed to sell going to the corner better and get the cornerback’s hips turned before he cut to the post. That would’ve created more separation and wouldn’t have allowed Darious Williams to make a beeline for the ball again without having to go through the receiver’s body.
Pederson even admitted as much while throwing Wentz under the bus for the pick.
“On that particular play, that one’s unacceptable. That one is not part of the play. It’s a backside progression, obviously, and it’s unfortunate,” Pederson said. “I’ve got to do a better job, offensively we have to do a better job with plays of that nature; that we coach those a little bit better and the details of that particular route. It was a little bit of a new concept for us in the game plan this week and we’ve got to do a better job, but that one’s unacceptable. Carson would say the same thing and we’ve got to own that one.”
What Carson would never say is he’s only played with one Pro Bowl wide receiver _ an aging Jackson _ in his five seasons in Philadelphia. That’s on Howie Roseman. Next.
Van Jefferson had four catches for 45 yards against the Eagles, including a sliding 21-yard grab near the left sideline on the Rams’ second TD drive. He was selected four picks after Roseman drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round. J.K. Dobbins also was on the board when the Eagles decided building a “quarterback factory” is more important than surrounding the franchise AB they have with more talent. Dobbins has 70 yards rushing and two TDs on nine carries for Baltimore. Meanwhile, Hurts was inactive Week 1 and was used as a decoy on three plays against the Rams.
Did Roseman give Pederson any input or pressure him to use Hurts because he’s a second-round pick?
“No and no,” Pederson said.
Hmmmm. That curt reply spoke volumes.
Everyone has exhausted the fact D.K. Metcalf was available when Roseman took Arcega-Whiteside. That one will likely be an all-time blunder. Six of the eight players the Eagles drafted in 2017 are already gone and two of the five players picked just last year aren’t here plus first-round pick Andre Dillard will go into his third year as a major question mark and Arcega-Whiteside still seems lost in the NFL.
So while Wentz takes most of the heat because that’s the nature of the quarterback position, poor coaching, terrible drafts and lack of talent around him are major factors why a guy who was third in NFL MVP his sophomore season suddenly seems to have regressed.