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Carson Wentz, Eagles' passing game must improve

Eliot Shorr-Parks
October 08, 2019 - 7:41 am
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From the top down, the Eagles as an organization believe in throwing the ball to win. Owner Jeffrey Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman, head coach Doug Pederson — they know that to win consistently in the NFL you have to be able to pass the ball. 

The issue? The Eagles’ passing attack has been almost non-existent this season, a concerning trend as they are set to go on a three-game road trip against three quality teams and defenses. 

Since receiver DeSean Jackson walked off the field against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, the Eagles’ passing attack has been a mess. They have yet to top 300 yards through the air since Week 1. They have not topped 200 yards in either of the last two weeks. To put that in perspective, the Eagles have not gone under 200 yards passing in back-to-back meaningful games since 2016. 

Entering Week 6, the Eagles are 21st in the league in passing yards per game, behind teams like Buffalo, Arizona, Cincinnati and the New York Giants. 

A large portion of the blame falls on quarterback Carson Wentz and his receivers. There have been plenty of drops that could have both changed the game and got the passing attack going. Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside have had moments, but overall have not been very productive in Jackson’s absence. The 10 drops the Eagles have this season lead the league. 

Drops aside, however, the reality is that Wentz’s accuracy is becoming an issue.

Wentz has not completed over 60% of his passes since Week 1, a streak of four-straight games. Wentz has never gone four-straight games with a completion percentage under 60% in his career, even including his rookie season where he played with far less talented receivers than he is now. His completion percentage of 60.3% is close to 10% lower than it was in 2018. His completion percentage is second-to-last in the league among quarterbacks that have been full-time starters. Even if you add in the 10 dropped passes by Wentz’s skill position players, he would only jump to 26th in the NFL — and that is without adding in drops for other quarterback. 

For all of the talk about the offense being quicker this season, and the ball coming out of Wentz's hand quicker than it did last season, his average time to throw is actually slower than it was last season. 

Stats aside, anyone who has watched Wentz this season can see that there have been plays to be made that he has left on the field either with overthrows, poorly placed passes or holding onto the ball too long. 

Part of the reason for the struggled overall could be the loss of Jackson, who has now missed essentially four of the team’s five games with an abdomen issue. 

In one game with DeSean Jackson on the field for the Eagles this season, the passing attack was every bit the big-play, dynamic offense many predicted. Jackson, in is only action of the season, totaled 8 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. The offense had a season-high 313 passing yards, a season high 436 total yards and finished with 32 points. 

Sure, it was the Washington Redskins, but there is no doubt Jackson changed that game and the offense. There is also no doubt how much the offense has missed him since he left early on against the Atlanta Falcons with an abdomen injury. With Jackson on the field, the entire way the opposing defense plays the Eagles’ offense changes. They have to play the entire field, something they haven’t had to do with him on the sideline. 

The Eagles have been able to win back-to-back games with a strong running game and strong red-zone defense, but that isn’t a sustainable way to win in the NFL — especially if the team still has their eyes set on a top-two seed in the NFC. They won’t be running their way to the Super Bowl. 

To turn into the offense they were supposed to be this season, they need Jackson back, but they also need Wentz’s accuracy to improve. 

If it doesn’t, the Eagles are in trouble — and this upcoming road trip could get ugly quickly. 

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at esp@94wip.com!

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