All 22: Looking At Run Game Developments, Wentz's Field Vision
The All-22 of the Eagles' offense from the team's 23-23 tie Sunday against the Bengals revealed plenty of missed opportunities. But they weren't all from Carson Wentz, although many were. Protection breakdowns were costly. Run blocking wasn't always crisp. And there were plenty of snaps in which receivers couldn't get open. One of the lone bright spots was Doug Pederson's commitment to eye candy in his rushing attack, which has been accused of being stale in the past. The ideas from new senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello, a Kyle Shanahan disciple who was hired to spice up the ground game with Shanahan-style run concepts involving misdirection and motion, surfaced early against the Bengals. Here's the Eagles' second play from scrimmage, a backside draw from Miles Sanders who benefitted from a wide running lane made possible by both guards and a tight end pulling to the right, forcing the defense to flow in the opposite direction of the run.
Both Bengals interior defensive linemen and linebackers bit on misdirection, leaving only Jason Peters to seal off Carl Lawson with a down block on the backside to help spring Sanders for an easy 11-yard gain. On the very next snap, misdirection again took the Bengals defense in the opposite direction of the run design.
On this play, center Jason Kelce and left guard Nate Herbig pull to their left side, giving the appearance of an outside zone run to the left. Except it's not.
By the time Sanders receives the handoff, he has one edge defender to beat – defensive end Sam Hubbard, whose momentum was also flowing in the opposite direction. Sanders had no problem breezing past Hubbard for 17 on this run. Sanders averaged 5.3 yards per carry, rushing for 95 yards on 17 carries. In general, the Eagles gained 110 yards on 27 carries, not counting Wentz's scrambles. Also, Pederson used jet motion on nearly every running play, which gave the defense something to think about. My issue is that these misdirection runs involving multiple pullers and misdirection seemed to disappear after the first quarter. The run offense reverted back to simpler schemes involving one guard or tackle trapping, or a tight end wham block (which Zach Ertz isn't good at), the types of run designs we typically see in Pederson's offense. It's almost as if the creativity was built into the scripted first 15 plays but not part of the overall blueprint, which was surprising given the early success. Let's get to Wentz, whose struggles with inaccuracy have been well-chronicled. But it's not just sailed passes, interceptions and misfires to receivers' wrong shoulder hurting Wentz, although those are dogging him plenty. Seeing the field clearly has also become problematic, like in the clip below on the Eagles' second possession.
Wentz has a gift-wrapped opportunity to hit DeSean Jackson around the goal line but never pulls the trigger. Watch how open Jackson gets from the left slot after he makes a sharp cut inside while the corner plays off.
The deep safety rolled toward Dallas Goedert, leaving the middle open for Jackson, who either scores a touchdown or is tackled at the goal line if Wentz had made the throw. Wentz was already looking in that direction before he decided to tuck and run. In the second quarter, Wentz drove the offense downfield again but missed open receivers on back-to-back plays because he either didn't see or didn't trust the throw.
The first came on 2nd-and-9 at the Cincy 27. The Bengals are playing man and the Eagles give the appearance of run, with tight ends Zach Ertz and Richard Rodgers positioned as in-line blockers on the left side.
Play action gives Wentz enough time to scan the field, but he doesn't see his favorite target, Ertz, get open around the 10-yard line with an inside cut.
Wentz instead tried to hit Miles Sanders coming out of the backfield, but couldn't connect. Ertz had Bengals corner William Jackson III turned around at the 11, but Wentz just didn't see him. If Wentz had hit Ertz, the Eagles would've had first down inside the Cincy 10. On the very next snap, Wentz misses a potential touchdown. Check the top of the screen, where Greg Ward gets two steps on a Bengals corner, who got caught looking into the Eagles' backfield as Wentz dropped back.
Ward had the corner easily beaten before Wentz had released his pass, but Wentz appeared locked into Ertz on that play.
In the third, Wentz again doesn't see – or just doesn't throw to – an open receiver downfield. This time, it comes on a play-action rollout to the left side. Rookie John Hightower crosses from right to left and sits down in Cincy's zone.
From this view, it seems as if Wentz saw Hightower but was reluctant to throw the ball with Bengals linebackers standing between him and the rookie receiver. But the linebackers are almost 10 yards away from Hightower and their momentums are flowing laterally, not vertically. This miss really stung because Wentz threw a terrible interception on the next snap, heaving a pass behind Ertz and to the tight end's inside shoulder instead of leading Ertz toward the sideline on an out route. These issues are correctable and seen easily on tape. Wentz might be stubborn about his mechanics, but he likes to drive the ball downfield. You'd have to imagine that he'll work on trusting his receivers when they're downfield and trusting his own ability to drive the ball. – Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the Inside the Birds podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com. Listen to the latest "Inside The Birds" podcast with Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher here: