Carson Wentz doesn’t believe he has issues with his throwing mechanics. Some NFL evaluators disagree.
That was the takeaway after the Philadelphia Eagles’ 32-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, which featured a three-interception outing from Wentz and one of his worst performances of his rookie season. The quarterback has come back to earth after a stunning 3-0 start to the season. Now several personnel evaluators familiar with the Eagles and Wentz are pointing to a common thread, one that the quarterback and coaching staff may not share agreement.
The Eagles have some work to do on Wentz’s throwing motion.
That’s the common theme in the assessments of multiple NFL personnel evaluators who say Wentz is exhibiting some of the mechanical flaws that he illustrated prior to the NFL draft. And evaluators say they are manifesting in accuracy issues and the length of time it takes for Wentz to deliver the ball after making a decision.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) December 5, 2016
Wentz didn’t seem to agree with such an assessment on Sunday, when he said his mistakes were garden-variety errors that are prone to happen when throwing the football frequently. Wentz made 60 attempts on Sunday and completed 36 passes.
“I don’t think it’s the mechanics,” Wentz said after Sunday’s loss. “You make mistakes. Things happen.”
But a handful of personnel evaluators who spoke to Yahoo Sports over the past week about Wentz’s mechanics said his throwing motion is showing up prominently on film. They also believe it’s leading to some accuracy issues and mistakes. Two issues in particular are sticking out to those who have viewed the rookie quarterback: a long-armed looping windup that needs to be more compact; and an awkward arm position in the middle of his throwing motion that is slowing down his delivery.
One NFC East source likened Wentz’s arm positioning to something from a baseball pitcher. Another evaluator said the rookie displayed “bountiful bad arm angles” during his throwing motion.
“[The] ball is dropped down, turned out, then looped back around,” one evaluator said. “With his long arms and that motion, [it’s] very hard to be accurate. Especially on the move. … [The] inability to get the ball out quick and on time is key.”
The motion was also something that concerned the Cleveland Browns in their scouting evaluations of Wentz, prior to their trading of the No. 2 overall pick to the Eagles. A Browns source told Yahoo Sports Wentz’s motion was noted in draft evaluations – though he also maintained trading the No. 2 pick was more about netting draft picks than not liking Wentz.
Interestingly, a league source told Yahoo Sports that restyling Wentz’s throwing motion was an important bullet point on the Eagles’ offseason docket, but that the team was able to make only marginal progress before the start of the regular season. According to the source, those efforts were spearheaded by Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich, both former NFL quarterbacks.
As the process moved along, there was a hope to continue developing Wentz during a “redshirt” rookie season. However, that timeline changed when Wentz was elevated from No. 3 quarterback to starter following the Eagles’ trade of Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings. The source said the Eagles realized at that point that any serious strides to refine Wentz’s motion were likely going to have to wait until next offseason.
In essence, this was supposed to be the season when the Eagles drilled down on his mechanics and worked the kinks out. That was taken off the table, and now evaluators are attributing some of his struggles to that reality.
Some of that has also become a more pressing topic in Philadelphia, as the Eagles have stumbled to 5-7 and last in the NFC East – with Wentz being a part of those struggles. During that 3-0 start, Wentz threw five touchdowns and no interceptions. In the 2-7 stretch that has ensued, Wentz’s touchdown-to-interception ratio has been 7-to-11. While the mistakes and losses have come from a variety of issues, the work needed for Wentz has been showcased in some of his individual miscues.
This could be seen in the loss to the Bengals, when his long, looped throwing motion was particularly evident in at least two of his interceptions. In them, Wentz’s windup was so pronounced that he dropped the ball to (or below) his waist – something that was a notable trait in some of his college film. It’s a flaw considered fixable (or at least improvable) and it’s most commonly addressed by teams in the offseason.
“Augmenting [a throwing motion] is a lot of process, process, process. A lot of repetition. And it can be incremental – maybe even several years,” one evaluator said. “There is some elimination involved that can wreak havoc with a quarterback mentally. So you have to be careful with it – try some things and if the changes start making problems worse, you move on to something else. That’s why it’s an offseason thing because you need the time to be deliberate. … It’s not easy. You can tinker and get really bad [results].”
The Eagles may not be at that point with Wentz, but it appears the offseason bullet point is still there. That 3-0 start is in the rear-view mirror. Now it’s the 2-7 fall speaking most loudly. There is plenty of work left for Wentz and his throwing motion. And Philadelphia can probably see it more clearly than anyone.