By Ben Sullivan
In case you hadn’t noticed, the bubble on the Carson Wentz market has crashed.
Three turnover-free weeks into the 2016 NFL season, the Wentz-led Eagles offense had already scored 92 points, the team was 3-0 and the rookie quarterback had the league’s fifth-highest rating among passers with three starts.
But coming out of their Week 4 bye, Wentz and the offense have gone cold. In back-to-back road losses to the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, they’ve produced just two touchdowns and 29 total points. Wentz’s passer rating has dropped by 11 points. And after being sacked just four times during those first three weeks, the No. 2 overall pick out of North Dakota State was taken down eight times by the Lions and Redskins.
Opposing defenses and defensive coordinators have gathered enough tape on Wentz to exploit him and his offense. No rookie quarterback in the last decade has started Week 1 with less preseason work than Wentz, who threw just 24 preseason passes before suffering a broken rib, and who had started about 30 games at quarterback in his competitive football life (high school, college, pro) prior to September.
He was an enigma early on, and the understandably underprepared Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t know what to expect. Wentz’s lack of experience worked to his advantage, and it helped that he and the Eagles were facing less than stellar defenses.
“I think a little bit has to do with, No. 1, there’s more film out there for teams to take a look at you,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson admitted to reporters after Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the Redskins.
During the first three weeks of the season, Wentz was pressured on only 24.3 percent of his dropbacks, which, according to Pro Football Focus, was the fourth-lowest rate in the league among qualified passers. But when pressured, his completion percentage was a mediocre 47.4.
Since then, he’s been pressured 42 percent more frequently, with the11th-highest pressure rate in the league over the last two weeks.
|Category||First 3 games||Last 2 games|
|Pass play %||55||62|
Wentz still had strong numbers against the blitz during that three-week run to start the season, and thus the Lions and Redskins sent extra rushers at him just 13 total times the last two weeks. But they found ways to generate more pressure without sacrificing defenders, and Wentz paid the price.
Opposing coordinators might be aware that Wentz has consistently been holding on to the ball too long. Per PFF, during the last two weeks he’s held on for 2.6 seconds or longer on 53.1 percent of his dropbacks, which is the fourth-highest rate among qualified quarterbacks during that stretch.
When that’s the case, you don’t necessarily have to throw the kitchen sink at a guy. Instead, you can allow your edge-rushers to pin their ears back and leave extra guys in coverage while still getting pressure.
That’s exactly what Washington—and to a lesser extent, Detroit—did.
“I think, No. 1, you change up the coverage a little bit,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said in his postgame press conference in regard to that approach. “You play some man-to-man and cover his first and second progressions. If he tries to get off to his third, you have to get pressure on him. I think that’s what happened.”
Wentz took two coverage sacks late in Sunday’s loss, and in both cases he spent far too long sitting in the pocket and waiting for his early