The offensive line has been decimated with injuries, first-round draft pick Jalen Reagor needs thumb surgery, defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Javon Hargrave aren’t playing up to their mega-bucks contracts and the quarterback the Eagles mortgaged their future for, the guy who’s supposed to give them a chance to win on any given Sunday is not only off to the worst start in his career, but one of the worst in the NFL.
The Eagles are an NFLhigh minus-five in turnover ratio thanks to five turnovers by Wentz, the fifth a fumble. His 6.02 average yards per pass attempt is better than only Joe Burrow (5.25) of the Cincinnati Bengals, who the Eagles entertain Sunday, and Sam Darnold (5.88) of the hapless Jets.
Among qualifying quarterbacks, only Teddy Bridgewater of the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton of the New England Patriots have thrown fewer TD passes than Wentz, who has connected with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Newton has four rushing TDs.
Wentz has had five passes dropped, seven broken up and a whopping 19 poor throws according to Stats LLC. The latter figure accounts for 22.4 percent of his attempts.
Call them short throws, call them layups. Something is disturbing Wentz. He’s not rolling out like he used to. He can’t outrun opponents when he gets outside the pocket. He insists there’s nothing to worry about.
“It’s OK to be frustrated, it’s OK to be a little ticked off,” Wentz said Wednesday. “But you watch the tape and you move on. For me it’s another week. It’s on to the next one. I’m as confident in myself and this team as I’ve ever been. I don’t waver and I don’t see this team, this locker room waver when we go through rough patches like this.
“We’re excited for another opportunity. We know 0-2 is not where we want to be, or not where we envisioned being. It’s a long season. We’re excited to get back to it.”
There are several theories behind the regression of Wentz. There’s speculation that the concussive hit from Jadeveon Clowney that ended his first appearance in the playoffs still is in his head.
The reorganization of the offensive coaching staff hasn’t helped, as the coaches still don’t seem to have realized how to shape the right game plan to the strengths of their quarterback and players. Make no mistake, Pederson was a fan of Mike Groh, the offensive coordinator fired a few days after the head coach thought he would be back.
“Can I do a better job of putting our team in better position? Certainly,” Pederson said. “This is why I evaluate myself every Monday to see if I’m doing that and how can I help the team? And really how can I help the quarterback? The ball runs through the quarterback every snap so I’ve got to do a better job there.”
Pederson then spoke about the communication needed to make in-game adjustments among himself, quarterbacks coach Press Taylor, senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello and run game coordinator-offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. The stunning selection of mobile quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of the spring draft was a wake-up call for Wentz, who physically has been unable to finish three straight seasons.
Hurts getting on the field last weekend as a running back, slot receiver and wide receiver combined with Pederson’s vague answer about how the decision was reached fueled speculation the call to activate him came from somebody else.
Make no mistake, Wentz isn’t the only reason the Eagles are 0-2.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the best game for the offense,” tight end Dallas Goedert said of the 37-19 loss last Sunday to the Rams. “It definitely wasn’t just Carson. There’s a lot of things I could have done better. There were plays where the primary wasn’t open, the check down wasn’t open. Sometimes they just covered us. We’ve got to be better. The receivers, the tight ends, we’ve just got to be better. We’ve got to help him out.”
Unlike Wentz, Burrow gave the Bengals a chance to win both of their games. His kicker missed a field goal that would have sent the opener into overtime. Last week Burrow rallied the Bengals within an onside kick of an upset, the Browns hanging on for a 35-30 decision.
The Bengals and head coach Zac Taylor, the older brother of Press Taylor, played last Thursday. They’ve been game-planning for the Eagles since last Friday.
The last thing Wentz, Pederson and the Eagles want to do is give them a layup this weekend.