In this series of articles, our resident tape wizard Greg Cosell will take an in-depth look at some of the more interesting fantasy players for the 2020 NFL season. It’s a peek behind the curtain of the film room, as these are Greg’s raw, unfiltered notes he takes as he watches a player.
It seems like Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz has had to pay some sort of tax for his near-MVP season in 2017. He wasn’t able to finish that campaign because of a torn ACL in Week 14, had a back injury in 2018, and then was taken out on a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jadeveon Clowney in his first-ever playoff game in 2019, after dragging a shell of an offense into the playoffs in the first place.
But Wentz’s successes don’t mean he’s perfect. He has plenty to work on — but also plenty to love about him. Let’s get to what the film shows.
Wentz has a strong, powerful arm. The ball comes out with juice — Wentz can easily drive the ball with velocity to all levels of the field.
Wentz exhibits special traits, both with his ability to throw from the pocket and make plays outside of structure.
Wentz showed the willingness and the confidence to be aggressive turning it loose in the middle of the field, both on primary reads and progression reads.
At times Wentz is not as precise with his ball placement as he needs to be — he missed a few too many routine NFL throws. Even on some completions, the ball placement was not where it needed to be, limiting run-after-catch for his receivers.
There were snaps in which Wentz held the ball too long in the pocket, with the result being throws left on the field or a sack – Wentz walked that fine line between pocket patience (good) and waiting too long (often not good).
Wentz also walked the fine line between throwing with precise timing on short and intermediate routes and breaking down in the pocket.
My sense was there were snaps in which Wentz broke down in the pocket prematurely and left some throws on the field, and other snaps in which he came off intermediate/vertical route concepts too early.
Overall Wentz needs to become a little quicker with his elimination and isolation, but he also played in a pass offense that featured a lot of quick game/one-read concepts.
At times, Wentz had issues with his footwork and lower-body mechanics in the quick game and RPO concepts. That resulted in some of his ball placement problems.
Wentz has high-level second reaction ability both throwing and running for first downs – there is a dynamic playmaking dimension to his game with the ability to make special “wow” plays.
Wentz is capable of big-time NFL throws from both the pocket and on the move. He can drive the ball off his back foot with bodies around him, and make tight-window throws with precise ball placement.
The Eagles’ lack of speed and lack of quality WRs for much of the 2019 season took away much of what Wentz is — an aggressive intermediate and vertical thrower who can make special throws.
Wentz worked within the context of a limited pass offense both in terms of weapons and scheme/design (with some well-designed exceptions) – the limited scheme/design could well have been the product of the lack of quality WR. The bottom line was the Eagles’ pass game was highly condensed with no vertical dimension.
What stood out with Wentz was he played the same way all the time mentally. The magnitude of the moment did not change his approach.
At this point in his career Wentz is not a subtle, nuanced, “disciplined craft” style of QB, at least not consistently. He must continue to work to reach that consistency level.
Overall, Wentz is much more of a “playmaker” type of QB — both throwing from the pocket and with his second-reaction ability — than a nuanced subtle pocket passer playing with precision snap-after-snap. You can see watching the tape Wentz has a playmaking mindset.
Week 3 vs. Lions
- Wentz stats: 19/36, 259 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
- The Eagles’ first possession featured empty sets out of 11 personnel – they came back to empty throughout the game, both in 11 and 12 personnel.
- Mesh, dagger, and flood were foundational pass game concepts for the Eagles. TE Zach Ertz’s 23-yard reception on the second possession came on flood, with Ertz running the intermediate route with the Lions in Cover 1. WR Nelson Agholor’s 20-yard TD in the third quarter came on mesh.
- Ertz played in multiple alignments with different splits, including boundary X in 1x3 sets – he was a movable chess piece in the Eagles’ passing game.
- Eagles also featured hi-low concepts – Wentz has always been aggressive throwing in the middle of the field.
- What immediately stood out was Wentz has a strong power arm. He can drive the ball with velocity.
- RB Miles Sanders’ 33-yard reception in the fourth quarter came on another Eagles staple concept: “All Go H Seam,”with Sanders running the seam from the offset backfield alignment – Wentz underthrew it significantly, limiting run-after-catch.
- Wentz missed a few too many throws in this game with less-than-precise ball placement.
Week 6 at Vikings
- Wentz stats: 26/40, 306 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
- Ertz again played the boundary X in 11 personnel 1x3 sets, with the back offset to the same side.
- Wentz missed some throws in this game with lack of coverage clarity and with poor ball placement.
- Eagles played more snaps of 12 personnel in this game, with Ertz and TE Dallas Goedert on the field. Goedert also played snaps at boundary X
- Sanders 32-yard TD reception in the second quarter came on “All Go H Seam,” the same concept run vs. Lions. This time, the Eagles ran it out of 12 personnel closed to the boundary.
- Agholor 23-yard reception in the third quarter came on a double post-cross concept. This play showcased Wentz’s arm strength, as he was forced to throw with no weight transfer, falling back due to pressure.
- Sanders 45-yard reception in the third quarter came on a well-designed two-man boundary concept with Sanders running the wheel from the offset backfield alignment, off X receiver Ertz’s vertical stem providing a natural pick.
- Sanders is a valuable receiving weapon when offset in the backfield to the boundary — he can provide a vertical dimension with seams and wheels.
- Wentz showcased high-level second-reaction ability on WR Alshon Jeffery’s 3-yard TD in the third quarter – this ability makes Wentz a big-time weapon in the red zone.
Week 7 at Cowboys
- Wentz stats: 16/26, 191 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Eagles first possession featured 12 personnel, with Goedert as the boundary X with Ertz the #3 to trips.
- His fumble on the second possession was a good example of Wentz holding the ball too long in the pocket based on the timing of his drop in relation to the route concept. The ball either had to come out or Wentz had to move – RT Lane Johnson was beaten by EDGE DeMarcus Lawrence.
- Goedert 28-yard TD was another big play from “All Go H Seam,” this time out of 21 personnel. Sanders ran the seam from the offset backfield alignment, but Wentz hit Goedert on the over route on top of carrying LB Leighton Vander Esch.
- 12 personnel was the featured personnel grouping for the Eagles – Ertz played 48 of 60 offensive snaps, Goedert played 35 snaps.
- Jeffery was almost always the boundary X when the Eagles went 3x1 out of 11 personnel.
- CB Jourdan Lewis’ third-down sack late in the second quarter was well-schemed and well-designed. The Cowboys showed pressure from the left side of the offensive formation, dictating an OL slide left, then Lewis blitzed from distance off the edge from the opposite side. He was unaccounted for in the protection.
- Jeffery 30-yard reception in the third quarter was another example of a big-time throw by Wentz. It was a far-hash hole shot versus Cover 2, and Wentz drove the ball off his back foot with no weight transfer.
- As good as Ertz is as a route runner, especially working the middle of the field, one area he limits the Eagles’ pass game is with his lack of run-after-catch ability.
Week 12 vs. Seahawks
- Wentz stats: 33/45, 256 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
- The Eagles continued to feature a lot of quick game concepts, with Wentz on a three-step drop timing with the ball coming out quickly. If the defense takes away those throws (and that increasingly happened given the Eagles’ lack of any vertical dimension whatsoever) it puts tremendous stress on Wentz.
- Again the Eagles were in high-percentage 12 personnel, with Ertz playing 64 of 74 offensive snaps and Goedert playing 65 – the Eagles top three WRs in this game were Jordan Matthews, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Greg Ward.
- Wentz again had some issues with precise ball placement, It showed up on the first third down: Ertz was open on an in-breaking route from the boundary X alignment on the back side of trips, and Wentz left it behind him.
- This was another game in which Wentz missed some routine throws with poor ball placement – these issues were exacerbated, since the Eagles lacked any big play dimension to compensate/make up for missed throws.
- Not only did the Eagles pass game have to compensate for lack of any speed and explosiveness at WR, they had to camouflage spotty pass protection in this game.
- The Eagles continued to run their staple pass game concepts. Dagger was one concept they ran to try to attack at the intermediate and vertical levels of the defense.
- Rookie Andre Dillard started at RT with Johnson out — Dillard struggled in one-on-one pass protection, he lacked strength to sit and anchor. Dillard was benched at halftime.
- With the extensive use of 12 personnel, the Eagles featured 1x3 sets with both Ertz and Goedert at boundary X
- The Eagles’ pass game was very condensed due to lack of weapons and speed. They rarely attacked the intermediate or deeper levels of the defense.
- The Eagles continued to work hi-low concepts, both in the middle of the field and outside, especially to the boundary.
Week 14 vs. Giants
- Wentz stats: 33/50, 325 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
- Eagles continued playing a ton of 2-TE personnel. They even featured snaps out of 13 personnel – that’s because their two top WR snap counts were Arcega-Whiteside (79 of 88 snaps) and Ward (76). Jeffery was injured in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the season.
- The Giants (like most defenses) played a lot of man coverage versus the Eagles. The Eagles receivers struggled to create separation and win.
- Ertz 30-yard reception in the second quarter came on a flood concept to the field — it was a double post with Ertz off motion across the formation running the intermediate corner route: a well-designed vertical route concept by Doug Pederson.
- Eagles showcased a multiple and effective screen game — it’s a low-risk concept with good rewards.
- Goedert 28-yard reception in the fourth quarter came off the same TE motion across the formation as Ertz’s 30-yarder in the second quarter, with the Giants again playing zone. The switch release with Goedert and Ward created a void in the single-high coverage, and Goedert was wide open on the seam route.
- Ertz 2-yard TD in the fourth quarter came on an Eagles staple tight red-zone route concept that resulted in Ertz one-on-one with a defender. It’s a three-man concept that the Eagles have been running for years – great ball placement throw by Wentz.
- Wentz was efficient on the Eagles final two TD drives, the second of which won the game in overtime. He played with a better sense of timing than in previous weeks and his ball placement was more precise.
Week 15 at Washington
- Wentz stats: 30/43, 266 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
- The Eagles continued to be a high percentage 12 personnel team with snaps of 13 personnel – their two top WRs in snap counts were Arcega-Whiteside and Ward, with Robert Davis getting some snaps as the third WR.
- Ward played significant snaps on the outside, including some at boundary X, given the Eagles high percentage 12 personnel
- Wentz developed a better sense of timing and rhythm as the season progressed – the Eagles passing game was high percentage quick and five-step timing drops in normal down-and-distance situations.
- The Eagles continued to feature 1x3 sets, with Ertz predominantly the boundary X, but also snaps with Goedert at boundary X.
- The Eagles continued to feature multiple screen concepts – low-risk/good reward, getting the ball to their best players while at the same time compensating for lack of weapons and speed at WR.
- Arcega-Whiteside is a one-speed WR. He did not show much route quickness or separation quickness.
- The Eagles showed some empty sets, predominantly out of 12 personnel. They featured motion to a 4x1 set.
- Sanders 15-yard TD reception in the third quarter was an example of Wentz’s high-level second reaction playmaking ability. It was a throw few QBs would attempt, much less complete. Wentz made the throw with velocity and precise ball placement into a very small window.
- The Eagles’ game-winning TD drive featured some special throws by Wentz, including Ward’s 4-yard TD. Wentz beat pressure with pocket movement, timing, and precise ball placement. The Ward TD was a big-time touch throw with pinpoint accuracy.
Week 16 vs. Cowboys
- Wentz stats: 31/40, 319 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
- Yet again the Eagles’ personnel foundation was 12, with Arcega-Whiteside and Ward the top two WRs and Davis the #3.
- On the Eagles’ first possession, they featured two of their staple concepts: Flood and All Go H Seam. They ran “All Go H Seam” out of different personnel (13) and a different formation, Ertz was the seam runner – Ertz was open but Wentz threw it too high (the play on which Ertz hurt his ribs).
- Goedert 6-yard TD to end the second possession was a well-designed tight red zone concept to control the post safety – precise ball placement throw by Wentz at the back of the end zone.
- One thing that consistently stood out during the season was that the Eagles’ OL was uneven in pass protection.
- Ward 38-yard reception in the third quarter came on a well-designed two-through-zone concept out of twins versus Cover 3, with Ward running the wheel underneath the Arcega-Whiteside post.
- Wentz was sharp in this game, he played with good timing and was consistent with his ball placement.
- Goedert was a big factor in this game – he is a big, athletic TE who can line up in multiple positions, including boundary X, and win one-one-one versus safeties.
Week 17 at Giants
- Wentz stats: 23/40, 289 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
- Ertz was inactive (ribs), but the Eagles stayed with 12 personnel as the foundation of their offense, with Goedert playing all 74 snaps and TE Joshua Perkins playing 58 snaps – Davis was the WR in this game who played the most snaps (58).
- Perkins played significant snaps at boundary X in this game – that shows you where the Eagles were with their receiving corps.
- RBs Sanders and Boston Scott continued to play snaps together – the Eagles were obviously looking to get some explosiveness on the field.
- One thing that was evident in both games versus the Giants was that the Giants defense struggled in their matchup zone concepts with motion across the formation to make it trips – big issues Week 14 and again in this game: an example was Ward 15-yard reception in the second quarter.
- Eagles continue to feature a well-designed and multiple screen game. Scott’s 29-yard reception in the second quarter was a good example. Scott was in an offset alignment to the field, with Ward in orbit reverse action from the boundary to the field. Scott ran the screen across the formation to the boundary.
- Perkins 24-yard TD came out of 13 personnel closed to the field with Wentz on a designed boot to the field. Perkins adjusted his route based on Cover 4 (he initially was running a seam with the coverage anticipated to be Cover 3, but he adjusted to a deep crosser). It was a big-time throw by Wentz across the field. The ball likely traveled about 50 yards in the air.
- Wentz with another big-time throw to Goedert for 14 yards on third-and-8 on the third-quarter TD drive — outstanding timing and anticipation under pressure and precise ball placement.
- Wentz is the kind of QB who will miss some easy throws (by NFL standards), and you have to live with that given his special traits.
- WR Deontay Burnett 41-yard reception to start the fourth quarter was yet another outstanding throw by Wentz, this time off designed boot action — precise ball placement 45 yards down the field.
- The Eagles are effective in the screen game with the offset back crossing the formation, both to the passing strength and the passing weakness depending on the formation and the concept.