Ea­gles

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - SPORTS -

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.

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