The NFL Quarterback Class of 2016 is an enigma.
The general consensus is that the class does not compare to the class from the previous year (specifically Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota), but a few draft analysts have suggested otherwise, calling rookies Jared Goff and Carson Wentz future Hall of Famers or “the next Andrew Luck.”
While Goff does not play until Saturday, I was able to catch Wentz’s preseason debut. A much hyped prospect, the Eagles quarterback completed 12 of 24 passes for 89 yards and an interception. Many attributed this to the Eagles receivers dropping passes, and NFL.com’s Gregg Roesenthal wrote on Wentz’s performance saying it was better than the stats claim.
Analysts all have different views on the same tape, so it should not surprise you that my side of the matter is different from Roesenthal’s. While Wentz flashed some impressive moments, I thought he was underwhelming overall.
The Eagles’ receiving core is one of the most offensive in dropping passes, and Thursday Night was no exception. However, Wentz did not help matters by throwing consistently inaccurate.
On Wentz’s first pass attempt, Nelson Agholor saw the ball slip through his hands, but the pass was delivered far too high. Looking closely at the coverage, the receiver was lucky to escape without getting drilled by the defensive back covering him.
Later in the 2nd quarter, Wentz’s pass is dropped by the tight end Zach Ertz, but again the placement is too high. Bucs cornerback Josh Robinson also had a good angle at a possible interception, but slipped when covering Ertz.
This pass was dropped by T.J. Graham, but the placement, again, was not spot on. This one was wide, and while it was catchable, should have been delivered better.
On this play, Wentz impressively delivers the throw while being hit, but again, the pass is dropped by Denzel Rice on an inaccurate pass, delivered high above Rice’s head.
Accuracy was one of the issues people had with Wentz coming out of college, and it especially came out during the short passing game Thursday Night. On this play, this time, the pass is actually caught (by Xavier Rush), but the placement is behind the receiver, forcing him to adjust and miss out on more yards after the catch.
Still, on a couple of occasions Wentz flashed his athleticism and extended the play. On the first play below, Wentz’s first pass completion, he found a gap to climb up to deliver a strike to Ertz. The 2nd play did not gain a first down on 3rd and long, but Wentz still showed impressive movement while throwing under pressure.
It’s this kind of play that makes Wentz a favorite among fans and select analysts, but his play under pressure is not as polished as some make it out to be.
On the first play, Wentz does a nice job of stepping up in the pocket, but his throw is nowhere near the intended receiver. Sure, this seems more of a growing pains issue, but the pass didn’t seem that difficult to make, as the receiver was open. Perhaps Wentz panicked, but he relied too much on his arm strength to make that throw.
On the 2nd play, Wentz shakily throws an interception that’s also not near his receiver. The quarterback should’ve seen the defender reading his eyes on that play, though it seems there was a miscommunication with his intended target.
This last play is one that even a few veteran quarterbacks can’t get right, but something still seems off with it. Wentz is actually offered good protection on this play, but for inexplicable reasons, runs out of it without staying patient and moving with his feet. This is a trait I’ve stress so many quarterbacks to have, and yet some of the young ones have trouble feeling the pressure around them. It’s important to stay calm in these situations long enough for a receiver to get open, but because Wentz runs out of the pocket, the pressure chases after him and he’s forced to throw the ball away.
Making matters worse, If Wentz had stayed, he would have noticed his checkdown option at the top left of the screen was open, but alas, he did not see it. This is one of those plays where pressure was created by the quarterback, not the pass protection.
Wentz is a quarterback that is able to stand tall and take hits, and that’s a good thing, because behind that line, he’ll get hit a significant amount if he ever gets a starting role. That is also good for his development because it’ll encourage him to continue taking hits whether the ball is out of his hands or not. The Eagles offensive line will set any QB up to fail regardless of what their quality, so it’s nice to see Wentz show some awareness in this regard.
Wentz also has the ability to run on read option, similar to Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, as he had done many times in college at NDSU. On the above play, Wentz does so and shows he is not scared to get extra yards at his body’s own risk. Like his ability to take a hit, this trait will help his progression provided that that happens.
Overall, Wentz showed some impressive traits, but lacked in the accuracy department. It’s way too early to form any opinions on the 2nd overall pick in the 2016 draft as of this writing, but like all rookies, he has a long, long, long way to go.