Carson Wentz's First-quarter Woes Contributing to Eagles' Slow Starts

There are two different Carson Wentzes.

There’s the one that starts games. And then there's the one plays the next three and a half quarters.

The Carson Wentz who plays the first 10 minutes of games is having an awful year. The Carson Wentz who plays the last 50 minutes of games has been brilliant.

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Wentz has thrown five interceptions this year, and four of them have come in the first 10 minutes of the first quarter – two each against the Vikings and Giants.

He’s averaging an interception every 12.3 pass attempts the first 10 minutes of games and an interception every 226 pass attempts the last 50 minutes of games.

He’s averaging a touchdown pass every 49 attempts the first 10 minutes of games and a TD every 28 attempts the last 50 minutes of games. 

Passer rating the first 10 minutes of games: 55.7.

Passer rating the last 10 minutes of games: 94.7.

It sure seems like there’s something going on early in games with Wentz.

Even when he's not throwing early interceptions, he hasn't been able to put points up.

Wentz's only first-quarter touchdown pass came on opening day against the Browns. It actually came on the Eagles’ first offensive drive of the year.

Since then, the Eagles have just 12 first-quarter points – four field goals. Only the Broncos, Jaguars and Cards have scored fewer first-quarter points than the Eagles.

Is he pressing early in games? Is he trying to do too much? Is he too amped up?

It looks that way. The numbers say yes. But head coach Doug Pederson says no.

“I don't think so,” he said. “I don't think that's the case. I go back to the Minnesota game, the two picks there – reference those real quick. 

“One, he was trying to throw a quick little out-breaking route to (Brent) Celek and was just wide of the mark and got picked. The second one in that game felt like he might have forced the ball, actually just forced it down the field. He threw it into coverage and it got intercepted.

“The ones (Sunday), he had opportunities, whether the progression of the play, to go other places with the ball. I think sometimes, especially with young quarterbacks, these are the things we're working and dealing with with Carson, is making sure he understands … the whole contour of the play, and what the initial play is designed to do. What is the coverage beater that it's best against and if it's not that coverage, where do I go with the football?”

Overall, Wentz has been very good.

His 64.4 percent completion percentage is sixth highest in NFL history by a quarterback eight weeks into his rookie year. His 1,890 yards are also sixth most. His 87.7 passer rating is seventh highest ever by a rookie. His interception ratio (one every 55 attempts) is sixth highest ever. And his four wins are tied for ninth most.

But his sluggish starts are a contributing factor in the Eagles’ slow starts. 

Overall, the Eagles have outscored their opponents by 57 points – the third-largest margin in the NFL.

In the first quarter, they’ve been outscored by 23 points – the fourth-largest margin in the NFL.

Pederson said the one area he’s most concerned about with Wentz is locking in on a receiver instead of going through his progression to have a better chance of finding somebody who’s open.

“These are the things that we constantly keep talking with and working through,” Pederson said. “This is all part of the growth process that he's going through, and the two [interceptions Sunday] were kind of that, just the fact that [he] gets a little tunnel vision sometimes, focused in or locked in on one receiver when there are other opportunities to go somewhere with the football. 

“You just can’t have obviously the interceptions … five plays in the game and two of them are [passes] to the other team.”

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