FOR CARSON WENTZ, IT'S ALL ABOUT FUNDAMENTALS
In a much anticipated start to the NFL season in the midst of a raging pandemic, the Eagles have started slowly.
Much too slow.
As much as all 32 teams were challenged by COVID-19 concerns and questions were difficult to answer in how ready teams would be to begin playing.
After two dismal performances heading into a home game vs Cincinnati, it's safe to say that the Birds were one team that really needed a preseason.
In fact, the two performances so far would have been met by boos if they were only preseason games and if fans were allowed to attend.
And as expected the talk is about the quarterback, Carson Wentz, who enters his fifth year and had a healthy off-season.
But he has not played well or with any consistency. As strange as this sounds, he is the No.33-ranked QB in a 32 team league.
But I don't need to rip off a bunch of stats to determine what's wrong with Carson. You just need to watch him play and know that he is struggling.
That's what this column will address.
Let me try make a few analogies to help with his issues. Steph Curry became one the the NBA's best shooters because he has great shooting fundamentals.
His feet are almost always set and square to the basket before he releases the ball. Joe Thomas, the famed left tackle for the Browns, who played every snap in his first 10 years in the NFL always punched his pass rusher with one hand into the rushers chest and the other hitting his bicep.
I could go through the list of great players in different sports and their greatness was tied to their attention to detail of their fundamentals.
Carson's fundamentals need work.
A couple of things to point out. His feet need to get set and pointed in the direction that he is throwing. Watch and study Tom Brady and Drew Brees when they throw. The feet always get set first and then they transfer their weight from the back foot to the front foot.
This allows them to throw with their lower body and to follow through properly, driving the ball to their target. Carson is throwing using his upper body strength, but when he doesn't transfer his weight properly, the ball simply doesn't go where he wants it to go.
He is missing too many open receivers.
Those are mechanics. They can be taught and worked on everyday, while drilled into his subconscious. But he is also guilty of playing "hero ball" sometimes. Trying to air the ball out this season has ended up either intercepted or incomplete.
Take the layup, take the check-down. Let his surrounding cast make some plays. Work on completions. Completions build up your confidence. Gardener Minshew completed his final 15 passes in a row in their Week one upset of the Colts. They were fairly easy completions, but his core made a number of big plays after the catch.
I will be the first to scratch my head sometimes on what exactly the offense is supposed to be. It seems like Doug Pedersen is just calling plays sometimes without rhyme or reason.
Is it that he is just trying to find throws that can lead to completions to try and get his quarterback into a flow? Maybe. I think Carson needs to have a firm plan each play. If the initial target slips, can't get off press coverage, his view gets obstructed by a blitzing linebacker, have a plan of where to go next.
Think quick, to play quick, to win quick.
I also would use Carson as a runner. The good quarterbacks who do run have all figured out how to protect themselves. Lamar is even running out of bounds this year.
In his MVP caliber season in 2017 he ran for 27 first downs in 13 games. So far this season he has rushed a grand total of three times for nine yards.
Whether its designed runs or scrambles, he is a good runner, and the offense will be more difficult to defend. Plus I think it gets him going
My last observation is he is playing too tight. The best throwers do just that. They just cut it loose. Not carelessly, but its a nice whip motion. Carson appears to be aiming his throws trying to be too perfect. He needs to anticipate a little sooner and just throw it like you are in the backyard throwing the ball through a tire for a quarter a throw with your brother.
The Eagles problems are far from just Carson. But the fact is they have had great opportunities to win both games but have managed to score three points total in four second-half quarters.
Even with the accumulation of injuries, they are better than this. I think if Carson can take better fundamentals to the game Sunday against the Bengals, get some early success vs a suspect defense, Carson can begin to get some swag back and the team will feed off of that.
After a shaky start vs the Redskins where Carson was sacked 8X and hit 14 times total, the offensive line and backs and tight ends all did their jobs well so that Carson was barely touched in his 43 drop back attempts.
Getting Lane Johnson back really helped and they had a great game plan for Aaron Donald. He should feel better about the group in front of him this week and now its time for Carson after two poor performances to end preseason and bounce back to get their first win.
They need to get one win before they can get two wins.
At some point the team that wins the NFC East will stack a bunch of wins together and become a confident team. The Birds did that in December stacking four wins together and looking better each week.
This Sunday would be a good time to get their first win and let each other know that its a long season and the Birds will be contenders and not pretenders. *