Is Carson Wentz in a slump?
Maybe the stats say so. Maybe the numbers are down. Maybe he hasn’t been as magical the last month and a half as he was the first month of the season.
But considering that three months ago he was a third-stringer, and he’s still only the 13th rookie quarterback in NFL to win five of his first 10 career starts, and he just faced seven straight teams with winning records and he’s not getting a whole lot of help from the people around him, it’s hard to call this a slump at all.
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Wentz is still enjoying one of the finest years in NFL history by a rookie. Only nine quarterbacks have ever won more games through 10 games of their rookie year. He projects to the ninth-highest passer rating by a rookie (84.2), sixth-highest completion percentage (63.2), third-best interception percentage (1.97 per 100 passes) and 11th-most wins.
Wentz is on pace to throw the third-most passes by a rookie in NFL history and also on pace for the fourth-most passing yards in a season in Eagles history.
The Eagles have one serviceable wide receiver, a tight end who only recently began developing some chemistry with Wentz, an inconsistent running game and an up-and-down offensive line.
Despite all this, the Eagles are 5-5 and still battling for a wild-card. Considering that only 16 rookies have ever led a team to the playoffs – and only six have won a playoff game – it’s hard to complain about Wentz.
Even though his numbers have steadily dipped throughout the season.
The first four games of the season, Wentz was completing 67.4 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns, one interception, 252 yards per game and a 103.5 passer rating – third-highest in the league. The Eagles were 3-1.
In six games since, Wentz has completed 60.6 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and six interceptions, 222 yards per game and a 72.4 passer rating – worst in the NFL since Week 5. The Eagles are 2-4.
Wentz hasn’t been bad at all. Because of the limitations of the Eagles’ wide receivers, he’s often forced to take underneath throws instead of mid-range and deep balls. But he has tended to let his frustration show by forcing throws that aren’t there, several times leading to interceptions.
Consider this: Wentz has the 16th-most completions among NFL quarterbacks but has the 23rd-most completions of at least 30 yards.
He ranks 29th in yards per attempt at 6.57, which would be the lowest by an Eagles quarterback with double-digit starts since Donovan McNabb’s 6.34 mark in 2002.
Head coach Doug Pederson said Monday he thinks the Eagles’ inconsistency running the ball has contributed to Wentz’s decrease in production.
Pederson has said he doesn’t want Wentz throwing more than 30 to 35 passes per game, but Wentz has thrown 43 or more in three of the Eagles’ last four games, including 45 in the loss in Seattle Sunday.
“Well, the way to get him back on track is I've got to do a better job with the run game,” Pederson said. “We’ve got to handle the run a little bit better and manage it like we did in the Atlanta game.
“That's obviously for a young quarterback. I've said all along, you can't put 45 pass attempts on a young quarterback in this league against that defense in that stadium. You're doing him a disservice.”
It’s important when looking at Wentz’s last chunk of games to take into account that the Eagles’ last seven opponents – the Lions, Redskins, Vikings, Cowboys, Giants, Falcons and Seahawks – have a combined 47-21-2 record.
All seven have winning records and, in fact, they are the only NFC teams with winning records.
Of the Eagles’ next four opponents – the Packers, Bengals, Redskins and Ravens – only the Redskins have a winning record.
Pederson conceded that Wentz has let his frustration get to him, leading to mistakes.
“There is a little bit of that, and those are all things that we work with, and those are game-management situations,” he said.
“And again, with myself, who played in this league, and (offensive coordinator) Frank Reich played in this league a long time, we keep constantly talking about those situations with him.
“I keep saying they're learning experiences, and they are. Any time you go against a fine defense like Seattle, it's OK sometimes to check the ball down, and we've just got to continue to talk and work through those situations with (him).”