PHILADELPHIA -- Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo analyzes every throw his Philadelphia Eagles QBs make, every day. Has for many years in this league. He says it has gotten to a point where, like a golf instructor knowing whether or not a quality shot is coming based on club positioning in the backswing, he can tell whether it’s going to be a good or bad throw before the ball even leaves their hands.
A big part of his job is to refine the mechanics that he studies so intently to ensure the stroke is consistently pure. In that vein, he met with Carson Wentz at the end of his rookie year and gave him several things to work on over the course of the offseason to become a more sound passer.
“I never thought Carson had bad mechanics,” DeFilippo said on Monday, a day before the start of the Eagles’ mandatory minicamp. “There were certain things that we need to just tighten up a little bit.”
DeFilippo wants Wentz to eliminate the wasted movement in his throwing motion. That means holding the ball higher and bringing it straight back into a throwing position as opposed to dropping it toward his lower body first. The idea isn’t necessarily to improve Wentz’s release time -- both DeFilippo and Wentz argue that his release is pretty quick -- but to make it more efficient.
That, in theory, should improve his accuracy.
It would be a stretch to say Wentz struggled in that department in 2016 -- he finished middle of the pack with a 62.4 percent completion rate while working with a receiving corps that led the NFL in drop percentage -- but he had a tendency to sail balls at times and had stretches of erratic play. His completion percentage dropped to 46.3 percent on passes that traveled 10-plus yards, per ESPN Stats & Information research, which ranked 23rd in the NFL.
Wentz downplays it any time his mechanics are brought up, but it was clearly a point of emphasis during the transition from Year 1 to Year 2. He spent time in Irvine, California, training with motion mechanics instructor Adam Dedeaux. A colleague of well-known QB instructor Tom House, Dedeaux has worked with Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Tim Tebow, among others.
When he returned for the start of the offseason training program, it was clear to DeFilippo that Wentz had successfully completed his homework assignment.
“I saw a quarterback that had really taken some things to heart that he and I talked about and really worked hard on those things,” DeFilippo said.
More comfortable and in command in his second season, Wentz has had some "wow" throws on the practice field this spring, according to DeFilippo. There have also been some rough patches -- Wentz had periods of inaccuracy during the portion of organized team activities open to the media -- which can likely be attributed in part to both the mechanical adjustments he’s working on and the number of new skill-position players he’s working with.
While there are things to iron out, the belief still very much exists in the building that the Eagles have a potential franchise quarterback in Wentz. DeFilippo spoke of the confidence that Wentz carries and how he sees that rubbing off on the rest of the offense and even the team as a whole.
That part he has down. Improved mechanics, meanwhile, is something that quarterbacks often chase for the entirety of their career.
“Case in point: 2012, I am the quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders and I have Carson Palmer, who threw for [more than 4,000] yards for us in 15 games,” DeFilippo said. “He would always say, ‘Flip, watch my feet on this play.’ ‘Watch my right step on this play.’ ‘Watch my arm slot on this play.’
“If you just watched somebody throw the football in the NFL Carson Palmer probably has the best mechanics in the league of any quarterback in the NFL, and even he would be like, ‘Flip, watch me on this, watch me on this.’ So the great ones -- and we think [Wentz] is going to be that way -- the guys that want to be good are constantly working on their mechanics to make it better.”