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Analysis: Carson Wentz shows the traits that could soon have the Eagles flying high

Steve O’Rourke takes a closer look at the number two overall pick’s first NFL touchdown.

Carson Wentz looked every inch the NFL quarterback on his first professional touchdown.
Carson Wentz looked every inch the NFL quarterback on his first professional touchdown.

THE FOLLOWING ANALYSIS comes with the massive caveat that yes, it was only the Browns, who could quite possibly be the worst team in football.

However, that doesn’t mean Carson Wentz’s performance against them on Sunday evening — while not perfect — can’t offer a glimpse into what Philadelphia fans can expect from the former number two overall pick.

All told, Wentz completed 22 of 37 passs for 278 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

His first NFL touchdown was a combination of excellent play-calling from his coaches, controlling the defence post-snap and then executing an inch-perfect pass to his receiver.

If you didn’t see it, here’s how it looked on TV:

Source: NFL Gamepass

Pre-snap read: Offence

It is the very first visit to the redzone of Wentz’s fledgling NFL career and it’s clear that head coach Doug Pederson — the former offensive coach of the Chiefs — wants to give him a shot at the endzone.

For the first time in the game, the Eagles line up in what is called an empty-set. This means there is no running back in the backfield. Instead, Philly are using a five-receiver spread.

With one receiver being a running back, Darren Sproles (red), and the other being a tight end, Zach Ertz (blue), this is what is known as the 11 personnel grouping.

Source: NFL Gamepass

The other receivers on the play are Nelson Agholor (green), Dorial Green-Beckham (white) and Jordan Matthews (yellow) who makes the touchdown grab.

Pre-snap read: defence

The Browns are in Cover 1 with Ibraheim Campbell (orange) the single high safety in zone coverage and everyone else in a mix of zone and man-to-man coverage.

Cleveland are obviously expecting the Eagles to pass the ball in this situation (second and nine yards to go) but still only rush four men, dropping the other seven back into coverage.

Source: NFL Gamepass

Pre-snap, Campbell is shading Matthews’ side of the field as protection for Tramon Williams (pink) who is in man coverage on the Eagles’ number one receiver.

At the snap

The Eagles are using mirrored routes on this play to again assist in creating one-on-one match-ups for the receivers.

Matthews and Green-Beckham are on mirrored slot fade routes (where you run straight for the back of the endzone but fade towards the sideline), while Agholor and Sproles are on mirrored hitch routes (where a receiver appears to be running deep only to stop and turn around after a certain number of steps looking for the pass).

Source: NFL Gamepass

The key to this play, however, is the route run by Zach Ertz the tight end. Ertz had 75 receptions for 853 yards last year and contributed no fewer than 39 first downs for his team. 

His sit route (where it initially looks like he’s running a slant across the line of scrimmage before sitting in the middle of the field) takes two Cleveland defenders completely out of the game.

As you can see above, Wentz takes advantage of this as, just after he snaps the ball, he uses his eyes to move Campbell closer to the middle of the field by staring down the Ertz route.

What happens next?

The quality of the throw here cannot be overstated.

The former North Dakota state quarterback shows excellent touch and ball placement; lofting the pass perfectly over Williams and putting it on the outside shoulder of Matthews, a spot where only he can make the play.

Source: NFL Gamepass


Tramon Williams is no slouch, though, at 33, the former Packers player is probably past his prime. He has, however, a Super Bowl ring and a Pro Bowl appearance to his name and this play was not his fault.

Instead, credit must go to Peterson and offensive co-ordinator Frank Reich for the play design, Matthews for his smooth route-running and Wentz for the perfect execution.

Tougher tests will await the 23-year-old but as starts go, this one was more than decent.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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