Carson Wentz's Sneaky Skill Is Quite a Weapon for Eagles

There's something Carson Wentz does better than almost anybody else in the NFL.

And it has nothing to do with throwing a football.

And it's something he could barely even do last year.

Wentz is one of the best in the NFL on keepers.

He's now 21-for-23 in his career on 3rd and 4th and 1, including three big conversions on Sunday.

Those three conversions matched his ENTIRE TOTAL from last year.

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Which tells you how much those injuries really were affecting him.

Wentz was 2-for-3 on keepers as a rookie, then a perfect 13-for-13 in his injury-shortened Pro Bowl season in 2017, then last year – still dealing with lingering knee issues and a worsening back injury -- attempted just four keepers, converting three.

Now Wentz is healthy and this is a weapon that is back in the playbook for Pederson.

With (Jason) Kelce and (Brook) Brooks and Isaac (Seumalo) – and obviously over the years those have been different guys – but those three and then the surge from really everybody, that makes my job easy," Wentz said. "I've just got to fall forward.

With Pederson reluctant to use Wentz on keepers last year, the Eagles ranked 18th in the NFL on 3rd- or 4th-and-1 at 57 percent.

Compare that to the Super Bowl season, when Wentz was 13-for-13 and the Eagles converted 85 percent of the time – 6th-best in the NFL.

It might just look like he's falling forward, but this is a very effective play that Pederson can dial up in crucial situations – like 4th-and-1 on the Eagles' own 34-yard-line Sunday.

It's not a very complex play," Kelce said. "I guess in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty simple. Everybody just dives forward, but there's some nuance to it. As long as everybody's going in the right direction, it can be very difficult to stop. In general if we can stay low and all work together on that play, it's going to be very difficult to stop.

Wentz was 3-for-3 on keepers Sunday, and every other quarterback in the NFL was 4-for-4.

Pederson does this with his quarterback more than any coach in the NFL other than Ron Rivera with Cam Newton.

Coach trusts me with that, coach trusts the O-line to get a surge no matter what the front is, and we've been able to stay on the field in a lot of those," Wentz said. "I like staying on the field. I don't really care how we do it, as long as we convert, I love it. We believe our guys are going to win this surge.

The only concern of course is getting Carson hurt.

With three attempts Sunday in his first game back after dealing with lingering knee issues and a broken bone in his back, it's clearly not a concern of Pederson.

We have a lot of confidence in it and hopefully he can get up from the pile each and every time," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "We have a lot of confidence in that play and trying not to put him in any undue risk.

We have stats, of course!

The league average on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 running plays since 2016 is 72 percent. Carson's at 91 percent.

Here are the top five quarterbacks on keepers since 2016, with information culled from Pro Football Reference:

100% … Drew Brees [19-for-19]

94.1% … Marcus Mariota [16-for-17]

93.6% … Cam Newton [29-for-31]

91.3% … Carson Wentz [21-for-23]

87.5% … Kirk Cousins [14-for-16]

Only one running back during that span is even over 82 percent – Jonathan Stewart, who retired after last season, is 94.4 percent on 17-for-18.

And here are numbers for all Eagles with 10 or more attempts on short-yardage runs since 1994 (as far back as the PFR play stats go):

91.3% … Carson Wentz [21-for-23]

84.6% … Nick Foles [11-for-13]

84.4% … Donovan McNabb [38-for-45]

83.3% … Charlie Garner [15-for-18]

76.1% … LeSean McCoy [54-for-71]

72.5% … Duce Staley [29-for-40]

63.4% … Brian Westbrook [26-for-41]

78.1% … Ricky Watters [43-55]

66.7% … Michael Vick [12-for-18]

75.0% … Darren Sproles [9-for-12]

42.3% … Correll Buckhalter [11-for-26]

87.5% … Rodney Peete [14-16]

Just another thing Carson does as well as anybody.

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