Quarterback Carson Wentz showed a number of veteran attributes during the Eagles’ opening-game victory against the Browns.
Here is my All-22 Film Study:
Command of the offense
Given that Wentz was taken with the No. 2 overall pick out of North Dakota State, he hasn’t played much football. He missed three preseason games for the Eagles after fracturing a rib. In college, he was a two-year starter, but missed significant time in his senior year due to a broken thumb. And back in high school, he played his senior year at quarterback, but also split time as a defensive back.
In Week 1, Wentz demonstrated a command of the Eagles offense. He set and reset protections, made checks at the line of scrimmage, utilized audibles and full- and multi-field progressions.
For Wentz, it wasn’t anything particularly special. At North Dakota State, he ran a pro-style offense and had total pre-snap control. However, for someone making his NFL debut as a starter, it was impressive.
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich raved about Wentz’s intellect to Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice “He is off the charts smart. I can’t emphasize how smart this guy is. I mean he is off-the-charts-smart, just plain smart. I mean, you know like smart smart. But then on top of that, the football IQ, and the acumen, is just way, way high. Way high.”
From the neck up, Wentz was terrific; making smart decisions, checking into the right plays and running complex concepts.
Special throws/ball placement
There are some throws that are innate to the best quarterbacks. Either they can make them, or they can’t. Wentz had three to four special throws that were innate.
His first touchdown pass is a great example:
At the snap, Wentz immediately diagnosed the coverage and identified a mismatch – Jordan Matthews matched up in the slot against a smaller nickel back. Wentz does a good job with his eyes of holding the safety in the middle of the field and eliminating him from the play.
The throw may look like a pitch and catch, from a quarterback to a taller receiver. But look at the point at which he releases the ball.
It is out while Matthews is still a couple of strides behind the cornerback.
Wentz anticipates the coverage and the matchup, and puts the ball in a perfect spot where only his receiver can make a play on the ball.
Every part of this throw is special; the pre-snap read, anticipation and ball placement. What makes it even more impressive is the speed at which it occurs. Part of Wentz’s flaw as a prospect was that everything needed to be sped up; mental processing, decision-making and even his motion. On that touchdown throw, he shows the rare ability to speed everything up – including his arm angle – to get the ball where it needs to be, without losing accuracy.
This second throw is equally impressive:
It’s third-and-9 at the start of the third quarter. The Browns show a two-deep safety look, and Jordan Matthews is running a deep in-breaking route.
Philadelphia’s pass protection holds up long enough for Wentz to survey the defense. As he makes the decision to release the ball, he feel pressure from the backside and delivers a 23-yard pass to Matthews with outstanding ball placement, despite being hit by a defender.
It’s a big-time throw, while facing pressure, that moved the chains and extended the drive.
He may have been facing poor competition, but Wentz showed he can make any throw necessary. Throws that few in the league are able to make with the same kind of velocity and accuracy.
Feel for pressure/picking up blitzes
The last thing that stood out from Wentz’s opener was how he performed when blitzed or put under pressure. A high percentage of NFL throws come when a quarterback is “off platform,” throwing without a clean pocket and having to throw from awkward body positions or from different arm angles.
Wentz did good job against Cleveland of identifying blitzes and getting the ball out.
Here, on a fourth down, he faces a six-man pressure with just five offensive linemen left in to block. The Browns bring a double A-gap blitz right in Wentz’s face. He hangs in and delivers the ball to Zach Ertz.
That blitz pickup extended the drive and the Eagles scored a touchdown on the next play.
This last play may have been the most impressive.
It’s first-and-10. The Browns bring a Cross Dog Blitz – a blitz in which linebackers cross and both attack the A-gaps. Wentz identifies the blitz pre-snap and changes the play. He starts under center then shifts to the shotgun and switches the play call.
Browns show blitz
The Browns still show their blitz and reveal their man-coverage with press-coverage on the boundary receiver, leaving soft coverage on Jordan Matthews in the slot.
Matthews runs a banana route, beating the slot cornerback, and Wentz throws an easy completion for a 28-yard gain.
Wentz’s debut was as impressive as any recent rookie quarterback. Credit must be given to his coaching staff who developed a terrific game plan for their young quarterback and teammates who made big plays.
It also must be pointed out the Browns are a weak team. Forty-six percent of the Browns’ snaps on Sunday were played by first or second-year players. Moving forward he will face tougher tests.
With that said, what Wentz showed were the distinctive traits and makeup of a star.