How much blame does Carson Wentz deserve for Eagles' struggles?


How's Carson Wentz playing?

It's a fascinating question with no easy answer. 

His receivers seem to drop as many passes as they catch. The offensive line hasn't played like the top-five line it was supposed to be. Doug Pederson's play-calling magic seems to have dried up at the moment. The running game has been shaky.

With a catch here and another catch there, the Eagles would be 5-2, Wentz's numbers would look much better, and nobody would be whispering about how Wentz "just doesn't look right."

But he actually doesn't look quite right. He's not playing awful, but he's not playing like the top-five quarterback the Eagles are paying him to be.

How much responsibility does Wentz take for the Eagles' offensive woes?

I take a lot of it," he said Wednesday. "There's lots of plays in these losses that I'd love to have back and I think everyone would say the same thing. There's a lot of execution, a lot of good plays that we leave out there. I know personally as a quarterback, as a leader, there's things I have to do to get better and to get this team in the right position to win these ballgames.

It's not all bad.

Wentz and Russell Wilson are the only quarterbacks to throw a touchdown in every game. Wentz's 104.3 third-down passer rating is fifth highest in the league. He's fifth in the NFL in TD passes.

He was fine in the opener against the Redskins, brilliant against the Packers, did what he had to do against the Jets.

But in the Eagles' three road losses, Wentz committed six turnovers and had as many INTs as TDs (four).

In six games without DeSean Jackson, his passer rating is a pedestrian 87.4 — 20th out of 30 quarterbacks during that span.

Wentz has had a passer rating over 100 in just one of his last six games after going over 100 in 14 of his previous 19.

The tricky thing is figuring out exactly why. 

Yeah, injuries. Yeah, play-calling. Yeah, dropped passes. Yeah, pass protection. All that is true.

But Wentz has had his share of plays where he's underthrown guys, thrown behind guys and just flat-out missed guys. He and Nelson Agholor, the Eagles' only remaining deep threat, have been unable to connect. At times, he's held onto the ball too long.

Here we are seven games into the season, and Lamar Jackson has been more accurate, Kyler Murray is throwing for more yards per game and Gardner Minshew has a better TD-to-INT ratio than Wentz.

Every week is something different," Wentz said. "There were definitely times last week that gotta get the ball out, gotta make a play, gotta do something different.

None of this was supposed to happen.

Wentz's 102.0 passer rating over the 2017 and 2018 seasons was fourth best in the NFL, behind only Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson and Wilson.

With Wentz healthy and in his fourth year in Pederson's system and with the security of a massive new contract, we were supposed to see the QB at his best.

I am pleased with where Carson is at," Pederson said. "At the same time, I would tell you there is some room for improvement.

In the big picture, Wentz remains one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.

Even including his up-and-down 2019, he still has the third-highest passer rating in football since opening day 2017, behind only Brees and Wilson (and tied with Matt Ryan).

And despite missing eight games, Wentz has the seventh-most TD passes during that span.

So when you criticize Wentz, you're criticizing a quarterback whose passer rating over the last three years is higher than Tom Brady's.

But the reality remains the Eagles are not playing up to their capabilities or expectations, and the same holds true of their quarterback.

We've all got to play better," Wentz said. "The biggest thing is execution. There's a lot of plays I want back and I want to get back. Hit some of these, obviously protect the football. Last week, that was a big one, we can't turn the ball over. But I think if we're able to just execute and do our thing, we'll be just fine. … The world isn't ending. The sky isn't falling. We have a lot of confidence in here and we're going to go out Sunday and make it happen.

It's important to note that the Eagles' last two losses have come against the NFL's No. 6 and No. 7 defenses. 

On Sunday, the Eagles travel to Orchard Park, New York, to face the Bills, who have the No. 3 defense. Then it's the Bears and their No. 4 defense and two weeks later the Patriots, with the No. 1 defense.

It's a brutal stretch. But if you're one of the best in the business, you should be up for it.

Wentz said he believes quarterbacks should ultimately be judged by their won-loss record:

Absolutely. In this league, we're striving to win every week and I think as a quarterback that is how you should be judged, for sure.

Since getting hurt in L.A. in December of 2017, Wentz is 8-10.

Among 27 quarterbacks who've started at least 16 games during that span, that .444 winning percentage puts him 16th. 

Just ahead of Baker Mayfield.

It's clear this mess isn't Wentz's fault. But it's equally clear the Eagles need him to be better.

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