<
>

A closer look at Carson Wentz, by the numbers

play
Berry cautious of Wentz's production against Redskins (1:30)

After Carson Wentz's low Week 12 performance, Matthew Berry remains cautious about Wentz performing well in Week 13 vs. the Redskins. (1:30)

PHILADELPHIA -- This time last year, there wasn't a hotter name in football than that of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

His team was 10-1 and in the midst of a nine-game win streak in which they were clobbering opponents by an average of 17 points per outing. Wentz was already nearing 30 touchdown passes and was in the driver's seat for league MVP.

What happened next is well-documented: Wentz blew out his knee in Los Angeles in mid-December and was lost for the season. The Eagles, set up well by the Wentz-driven start to the season, went on to win the Super Bowl with Nick Foles under center.

After a long rehab, Wentz returned in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts. The results have been mixed, both for Wentz and the team. Wentz has performed pretty well overall -- 69.7 completion percentage, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions -- but the offense has sagged, the team is 5-6, and the fireworks Wentz provided with startling regularity last season have not been as frequent this time around.

Has his trajectory as a no-doubt-about-it superstar changed?

To get an understanding of the circumstances he is dealing with, where he is in his development and what to expect now, let's look at some key numbers that tell the tale:

26: Total number of Wentz rushes -- for 100 yards -- in nine games, compared with 44 rushes for 211 yards through nine games in 2017.

The output on the ground has just about been cut in half. That's understandable given what Wentz suffered last season, though the QB contends that the decision to run less is not injury-related but simply a matter of the way plays have unfolded this season. New quarterbacks coach Press Taylor added that Wentz is doing a better job of going through his progressions and finding the outlet receiver, rather than taking off when his primary is blanketed.

No matter where you come down on the reasoning, it's clear that Wentz's legs are a big part of what's missing from this offense.

The most impactful change has been on third down. Wentz averaged 7.6 yards per carry and picked up 13 first downs on the ground in '17, compared with a 3.8 average and three first downs this season. That has to be considered when searching for reasons the Eagles dipped from second in the NFL in third-down conversion rate (45 percent) to 15th (39 percent) this season.

More than that, the threat of Wentz using his feet drew defenders in, and his ability to extend plays opened up opportunities for his teammates all over the field.

“I never want to force the issue because bad things can happen, but it’s really just case by case and the way teams are playing, the way teams are rushing," Wentz said. "I never go looking for it, but I realize there are a lot of big plays to be made when you can extend the play outside the pocket."

Wentz established career highs in carries (eight) and yards (63) the last time he faced the Washington Redskins, on Monday night in October 2017.

25.7: Wentz's "aggressiveness" rate -- defined as making throws into tight coverage -- last season, per NFL Next Gen Stats, which was tops in the league. This season, he is 19th (15.8).

Besides the way Wentz used his feet, the thing that stands out from that game against Washington is the touchdown throw Wentz made to running back Corey Clement in the corner of the end zone. Maybe you remember it: The Eagles were facing a third-and-goal from the 9-yard line in the third quarter. The walls collapsed the moment the ball was snapped, but Wentz slipped past the initial rush and, with two defenders draped on him, tossed a pass into the corner of the end zone that dropped just over the well-positioned Washington defender and into the arms of Clement for the score.

"Carson Wentz," Jon Gruden proclaimed during the broadcast in the wake of that play, "is unbelievable."

It was that type of improbable quarterbacking that separated Philly from the pack.

Now, being less "aggressive" could speak to a couple things, including the fact that Wentz is making smarter decisions. Zach Ertz is getting a lopsided number of targets this season (111, 40 more than the next receiver, Nelson Agholor), but Ertz is springing open with regularity, so maybe that's just good football. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger have lower aggressiveness numbers than Wentz through 12 weeks.

But for as intelligent of a football mind as Wentz has, his game has a pretty big "feel" component to it. He's at his best when he is trusting both his intuition and his playmakers and ripping it. Things feel a half-beat off in that respect this season, even more so since the Golden Tate acquisition.

69.7: Wentz's completion percentage, up nearly 10 points from last season (60.2). It's among the biggest accuracy jumps in the league.

This is one of the greatest reasons for optimism. Now in his third season, the 25-year-old Wentz is developing into a more pure passer, which will be scary once his athleticism is reintroduced into the equation a bit more as he gets further and further from the injury.

"I think he's good enough to play as if he was not a mobile quarterback. I see it right now with Andrew Luck," former QB/ESPN analyst Matt Hasselbeck said. "When we were teammates, [Luck] wanted to do it the hard way, like, 'I'm going to will this thing to happen. I'm going to take a beating. I'm going to have an adventure on every throw-away. I'm going to have adventure on every big play.' It's OK to just let the offense work for you.

"That's probably one of the lessons that I would have hoped Carson learned from Nick Foles. I thought Nick Foles did a really nice job of, hey, let the offense work. You don't have to try so hard. And I think it's tough for guys who are really strong, really athletic, bigger than the guys trying to come and tackle for you."

0: Number of go-ahead passing touchdowns Wentz has thrown in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career, per ESPN Stats & Information. Forty QBs have thrown a go-ahead passing TD in the fourth quarter or overtime since 2016. Wentz has thrown 96 passes with the Eagles tied or trailing by six or fewer points in his career, but none has resulted in a score. His QBR in those situations is 38.4, 32nd in the NFL.

Some of this has to do with opportunity. The Eagles smoked many of their opponents in '17, so we're still talking about a relatively small sample. But this is an area to improve on. Wentz certainly doesn't shrink from the moment, but it is probably fair to say that he sometimes tries to do too much in these circumstances -- like in the closing moments of the loss to the Carolina Panthers earlier in the season, when he went for the knockout blow instead of settling for a clean jab.

Wentz has four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or OT in his career, tied for 21st in the NFL since 2016. One of those came against the New York Giants last week, when he helped rally the team from a 19-3 deficit.

“Anytime we can get a victory in come-from-behind fashion, it speaks volumes about the team and the resiliency of the guys on both sides of the ball," Wentz said. "Personally, it was big to get it done [Sunday] for me, and I know that everyone feels the same.”

2: Members of the quarterback coaching triumvirate that left last offseason.

The loss of assistant coaches is a tough thing to quantify when it comes to quality of play. How much did Frank Reich and John DeFilippo mean to the success of Wentz and the team relative to what Mike Groh and Taylor are providing?

It's at least reasonable to say that Reich and DeFilippo helped both Wentz and Foles play at an exceptionally high level during the Super Bowl run, and the results just haven't been there in the same fashion this season.

That shouldn't be considered a knock on the replacements; there was a level of experience and chemistry there that is really tough to replicate. Plus, everyone has a different coaching style. DeFilippo, as an example, has a reputation of being a bit combative at times and donning the black hat willingly in the name of convincing a signal-caller to concede and play within the framework of the offense. That might have led to some friction with the equally strong-willed Wentz, but there's no denying the results.

Taylor is 10 years DeFilippo's junior and does not have the same type of résumé as DeFilippo, now the offensive coordinator in Minnesota. He has a friendlier relationship with Wentz. Spend some time around Taylor, and you realize that he's likely destined for big things in this league. He is growing into the role and believes his strong connection with Wentz helps when hard conversations come up.

"I feel like I kind of know what buttons to push with Carson and what he wants out of this thing, ultimately, so you can always kind of draw back on, ‘Well, here’s what you’ve told me about yourself.' And if there’s a time to challenge him, he knows where I’m coming from because of the relationship we have together,” Taylor said.

Bottom line

Wentz has endured quite a bit over the past year from a football perspective. He sustained a major injury. He had to watch the Super Bowl from the sideline. Two of his primary coaches left. He didn't have the benefit of training camp or the preseason to reacclimate.

When you also factor in the injuries to the offensive line, running back and receiver this season, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that Wentz hasn't been off-the-charts to this point.

It might not materialize fully until 2019, but Wentz will eventually re-establish himself as a running threat. The further surgery gets in the rearview mirror, the more his confidence should grow. In the meantime, he has learned how to operate in the pocket better. That should spell big things for his game.