It’s already been said a million times this season, but Carson Wentz hasn’t been playing up to par. He’s struggled immensely, especially in the turnover category. He’s on pace to surpass his career high for interceptions in a year and he’s fumbled the ball four times in five weeks.
But despite his rough start, Wentz and the Eagles offense has looked better the past two weeks against the 49ers and Steelers. In San Francisco, Wentz put up season highs in completion percentage (64.3%) and QB rating (81.4). This past week, he posted a season high in passing yards (258) and he ended the day with his highest Pro Football Focus grade of the season (81.9). Wentz’s overall PFF grade has gone up with each week, which is also an encouraging sign.
Those still aren’t elite numbers by any stretch, but it’s a clear improvement over what we saw through the first three weeks.
The offense is coming off their best game of the season, throwing up 29 points on the board against the No. 3 defense in the league. Most importantly, it was largely because of Wentz’s arm. Although Miles Sanders broke off that 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Pittsburgh completely shut down the Eagles rushing attack from that point on, allowing just 20 yards on 15 carries for the rest of the game.
Fun fact: Pittsburgh has only allowed 29 or more points at home three times over the past 20 years.
One thing that many fans, including myself, have said about Wentz over the past few seasons is that he needs an effective run game behind him in order to succeed. That clearly wasn’t the case on Sunday, as Wentz was throwing it all over the yard against Pittsburgh despite the lacking run game. He did still have two interceptions on the stat sheet, but neither of them were really his fault. The first pick that setup Pittsburgh in Eagles territory should’ve been negated by an illegal contact penalty, and the second pick was essentially a hail mary attempt on fourth down.
Wentz also finally found a reliable target to throw to in Travis Fulgham. Fulgham had a monstrous game and finished the day as the highest graded wideout on Sunday per PFF.
When Wentz has confidence in his guys to make the difficult catches, he lets it rip. Far too often this season we’ve seen Wentz elect to tuck and run rather than trying to throw into tight windows. Sometimes it’s for the better because the wideouts he has to throw just aren’t capable of going up to get the ball, but it also leads to a lot of unnecessary hits.
Having a guy like Fulgham — if he can sustain this success now that defense are going to key on him — will be invaluable to Wentz moving forward.
So the big question is, can Wentz continue improving this season and help this team turn things around, or will the inconsistencies continue to pop up throughout the year? It’s really hard to say definitively. We’ve seen Wentz have great showings, just to revert back to bad habits the next week. It’s up to Wentz to continue focusing on the areas he’s been weak in this season.
Getting some of his weapons back from injury should certainly help as well. Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson should be back in some capacity in the next week or so, and Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor will likely be back after the bye week in a few weeks. And like I said earlier, continuing to build a rapport with Fulgham will only help this offense.
If Wentz and this offense can continue having outings like the one we saw against Pittsburgh, the Eagles will win the NFC East, there’s no question about it.