Eagles Chalking Up Carson Wentz's Deep-ball Struggles to Small Sample Size

Three weeks into the season, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is still struggling to connect on his deep ball.

Some of Wentz's deep shots have just missed - slightly overthrown or underthrown or plays the receiver just couldn't quite come up with. However, the second-year passer looked especially inaccurate on long balls against the Giants Sunday, the most egregious miss involving Alshon Jeffery on what would have been a sure touchdown.

If Wentz puts that second-quarter attempt anywhere remotely in the vicinity of Jeffery, who was wide open on the play, it's a 45-yard touchdown. Instead, the throw sailed several yards over the receiver's head and landed harmlessly out of bounds.

It wasn't even close - and Wentz knows it.

"Have to hit those," Wentz said this week. "I just missed him. I didn't just miss. I really missed it. That was one, we were moving the ball effectively, then coach called a shot, and I got really excited. He got open, and I just missed it.

"Those things happen. Don't want them to happen. Those are big plays that you don't want to leave out there."

The Eagles were able to draw pass interference penalties on two more deep attempts, but neither one was a great toss. Wentz underthrew Jeffery while on the run in the third quarter, then missed Torrey Smith badly in the fourth, only to be bailed out by the defender and/or officials, depending on your vantage point.

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Even though those shots were inaccurate, the Eagles still viewed the results as positive.

"When I look back to this last game, we threw it deep three times and were successful two out of the three," Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "That's the way we look at it because we got a 40-yard pass interference call and a 30-yard pass interference call and one incompletion.

"We're going to keep throwing it and have a lot of confidence in Carson throwing it and then our guys running it."

True, pass interference is as good as a completion, and it's clear opponents respect the ability of the Eagles to push the ball vertically. At the same time, defenders aren't going to continue doing Wentz all these favors, especially if he's wildly off the mark.

According to Pro Football Focus, Wentz has completed just 4 of 16 pass attempts over 20 yards this season. Even accounting for a dropped pass, his adjusted 31.3 completion percentage is tied for 22nd out of 28 qualifying quarterbacks.

It's curious because while Wentz's deep ball is certainly a work in progress, it looked vastly improved in practice.

"I haven't seen a common thread," Reich said. "When I look over the whole offseason and the way he's thrown the ball the whole offseason, particularly the deep ball in OTAs and training camp, to me he threw it exceedingly well, not just good. I thought he threw it exceedingly well all through OTAs and training camp."

Reich chalked up Wentz's struggles to a "small sample size," which is a perfectly valid observation. Regardless, it's an area the Eagles' offense could stand to improve.

"It's something that we're always cognizant of, we're always working on," Wentz said. "We realize when you throw the ball down the field, you're not going to hit all the time, but it's definitely something I like to take pride in. I want to hit those, so looking back, there's always things to clean up."

The question is how? Wentz completely dismissed the notion his issues are mechanical, while also insisting he's on the same page with his weapons - including Jeffery and Smith, who were signed as free agents in March.

"I've felt great all year with Torrey, with Alshon, with (Nelson Agholor), with (Zach Ertz), with (Trey Burton), (Brent Celek), you name it," Wentz said. "I've felt great with timing.

"Again, you just miss some. You're going to miss some throughout the game, and every game I come back, watch the film, and there's a handful of plays I want back. Those happen to deep balls - especially the one I missed last week."

Wentz's inability to hit these big plays has been a theme, but the Eagles believe they are close. Even without those connections, the offense ranks 10th in the NFL in passing.

If and when Wentz starts dropping bombs on opponents, just imagine how much more dangerous the Eagles are going to be.

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