Ea­gles’ Wentz knows fum­bling doesn’t fly

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - ZACH BERMAN

PHILADEL­PHIA— Be­fore Car­son Wentz flew back from Lon­don and read­ied for a bye week of re­lax­ation and hunt­ing, he vowed that he would “look in the mir­ror and say, ‘How can I pro­tect the ball a lit­tle bit bet­ter?’ ”

For as well as Wentz has played since re­turn­ing from his torn ACL — sta­tis­ti­cally, he’s su­pe­rior to his MVP-cal­iber 2017 cam­paign — his fum­bling has been a no­tice­able blem­ish. Wentz has seven fum­bles in six games, in­clud­ing five lost fum­bles. He’s fum­bled in ev­ery game this sea­son and has the third-most fum­bles in the NFL de­spite miss­ing the first two games and hav­ing a bye week. Wentz has car­ried the Ea­gles of­fence this sea­son ex­cept when he hasn’t been able to carry the ball.

“It’s part of the game,” Wentz said this week. “Ev­ery one is kind of its own thing. I never want to say, ‘it’s part of the game, it hap­pens’ — I want to clean it up. But at the same time, each is such an in­di­vid­u­al­ized play and case. Over­all, just have to be bet­ter with that and get the ball out quicker in some of those sit­u­a­tions.”

Wentz is cor­rect in that they’ve hap­pened for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, so it’s not as if there’s one com­mon thread. There’s been blind­side hits. He’s been hit while in the throw­ing mo­tion. He’s had the pocket col­lapse on him. He’s been hit while mov­ing up the pocket. There’s been a faulty ex­change with a run­ning back. He’s even had the ball slip out of

his hands while throw­ing — an in­no­cent and un­com­mon er­ror. The fum­bles have hap­pened of­ten enough that they’ve be­come a trend, but it’s not to the point where there’s one coach­ing mes­sage will fix it.

Wentz is not a one-read passer. He’s un­afraid to stay in the pocket and let a play de­velop, and some of his best plays come when he can be creative and im­pro­vise. The coach­ing staff does not want Wentz to keep his eyes down and worry about where the rush is, but they also don’t want to lose pos­ses­sions, ei­ther.

“We don’t want to take his stinger away,” quar­ter­backs coach Press Tay­lor said. “We want him to con­tinue to be ag­gres­sive, push the ball down the

field at the right times. That’s an­other thing — un­der­stand­ing maybe a first- and sec­ond-down call is not a time to hold the ball and ex­tend. Third down, he kind of does what he does some­times, and makes a play. But just go­ing through all those sit­u­a­tions, be­ing con­scious of it, be­ing aware of it. We’re not go­ing to get him hit in prac­tice, so it’s not some­thing we can con­tinue to work on.

“But just be­ing aware where he is in the pocket, what the sit­u­a­tion of the game is, and then ul­ti­mately, ball se­cu­rity is the No. 1 thing so we’re go­ing to con­tinue to harp on that.”

Wentz has been fum­ble-prone in past sea­sons, too. His 30 fum­bles since 2016 are tied with Seat­tle quar­ter­back Rus­sell Wil­son

and Min­nesota quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins for the most in the NFL, al­though Wentz’s fum­bles have come in fewer games. (Wil­son is a Su­per Bowl-win­ning quar­ter­back and Cousins has been a Pro Bowler, so Wentz shares good com­pany.) Dur­ing the off-sea­son, when Wentz dis­cussed what he can im­prove in 2018, he men­tioned com­ple­tion per­cent­age and fum­bles as ar­eas to im­prove. His com­ple­tion im­prove­ment has taken a no­tice­able jump, but the fum­bles have be­come more of an is­sue.

Wentz had only seven in­ter­cep­tions on 440 pass at­tempts last sea­son and has only two on 225 pass at­tempts this sea­son, or fewer than one per cent of his at­tempts.

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Philadel­phia Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz, cen­tre, has one of the low­est in­ter­cep­tion rates in the NFL, but hav­ing seven fum­bles in six games this sea­son could hurt the Ea­gles’ play­off hopes.

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