Every week, Doug Pederson says Carson Wentz is throwing too much. Every week, Doug Pederson says the Eagles need to run the ball more.
And every week Wentz throws a ridiculous number of passes.
Wentz is on a record pace throwing the football, and it’s not an ideal situation for a rookie quarterback behind a shaky offensive line, but this is the reality of the Eagles’ 2016 offense. They fall behind frequently and have to abandon the run. And even in close games, Pederson often gets away from the run early.
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The rookie quarterback from North Dakota State has thrown 498 passes in 13 games, which puts him on pace for 613 this year. That would be the second-most passes in NFL history by a rookie behind only Andrew Luck’s 627 in 2012 and the most in Eagles history, breaking the franchise record of 571 set by Donovan McNabb in 2008.
But the numbers have increased dramatically. Wentz averaged 30.8 passes the first six games, when the Eagles were 4-2.
The last seven games, he’s averaged an astonishing 44.7 passes per game – the most in NFL history over any seven-game stretch by a rookie, according to figures from Pro Football Reference and the most in any seven-game stretch by any Eagle quarterback.
And the Eagles are 1-6 in those games.
So Wentz has thrown more passes the last seven weeks than Donovan McNabb ever threw in any seven-game stretch in his career.
In fact, only nine quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown more passes in any seven-game stretch than Wentz since the Dallas game – Matt Stafford, Drew Bledsoe, Warren Moon, Philip Rivers, Erik Kramer, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Rich Gannon.
So Pederson has called more pass plays the last seven weeks than Andy Reid - owner of the highest pass-run ratio by any NFL head coach in history -- ever called in any seven-week span in his 18 seasons as an NFL head coach.
Wentz has had games with 43, 45, 46, 47 and 60 attempts in the last seven weeks. He’s the 18th quarterback in NFL history to throw 36 or more passes seven straight weeks and the first rookie. Only Luck has had more games as a rookie with at least 43 passes.
Overall this year, the Eagles are throwing 61 percent of the time and running 39 percent of the time, which isn’t that out of whack.
But these last seven games, Pederson has gotten more and more away from the run, Wentz has absorbed more and more hits and the losses have piled up.
During that span, the Eagles have thrown more passes than any NFL team – nearly 45 per game – and they have the 21st-most rushing attempts (25.1 per game).
It’s a fact of NFL life that when you run the ball, even when you’re down by a touchdown or two, it keeps defenses from teeing off on the quarterback. When a defense knows you’re throwing all the time, the quarterback becomes a sitting duck.
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said he wants to run the football 30 to 35 times per game.
The Eagles have done that once the last 10 games.
“I know when (Pederson) and I are sitting up there talking about the plan, and the plan of attack in the game, you go in with the idea that we’re going to run it 30 to 35 times a game,” Reich said Tuesday. “That's what you want to do. But you have to make the calls at the time that you think are necessary to win the game.
“Everybody has a plan, as they say, until they get in a fight and get hit around a few times. In the perfect scenario, do you want to throw that many passes at the end of the year? No. Are there silver linings in it in other ways? I'm sure there are.
“There’s no doubt that Carson is seeing a lot. He’s seeing a lot. He's seeing every kind of pressure, every kind of coverage. He’s figuring out what throws he can make, what throws he can't make, how he can improve here. Those are all good things that I think are going to help him in the long run.”
So he’s learning but at what cost?
Wentz has been hit close to 50 times and sacked 18 times during this seven-game stretch that has seen the Eagles tumble from a 4-2 team that had a 70 percent chance to reach the playoffs to a 5-8 team playing out the string.
With 43.3 passes per game against the Ravens, Giants and Cowboys, Wentz will break Luck’s rookie record for pass attempts. Considering he’s averaging about 45 the last 2 ½ months, he’s got a real shot.
And the notion that the Eagles only air it out when they’re down big just isn’t true.
The Giants game was close throughout and the Eagles ran 51 pass plays and 21 running plays.
The Packers game was a one-possession game until a few minutes into the fourth quarter and the pass-run ratio was 42 to 13.
Sunday’s loss to the Redskins was a one-possession game throughout and Pederson called 51 pass plays and 23 runs.
And the Eagles have four capable running backs -- all averaging at least 4.1 yards per carry, although Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood both got hurt on Sunday.
Despite all of this, despite the fact that Wentz has thrown more than any NFL quarterback since Week 7 and has the sixth-most passes among any QB all year, Reich said he thinks the Eagles are still in an acceptable range in terms of run-pass ratio.
“I think we’re OK,” he said. “I think we're in an acceptable range considering the circumstances that we've had, considering a young quarterback.
“He's done a great job. I think the line's done a good job. You're going to take hits if you throw it 40, 50 times in the game. Yeah, there is a correlation. We want to minimize that as much as we can.
"It's one of the hazards of playing the position, playing in a game where you get behind a little bit and have to play to win, because that's what we're doing each week.”