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Carson Wentz Breakdown Series: Strong Beginnings (Part 1)

NFL: Indianapolis Colts OTA Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

This three part series will look at everything regarding Carson Wentz, breaking down his strong early years, his bad recent form and then his new start in Indianapolis.

In Wentz’ first two seasons in Philadelphia and with Frank Reich as his offensive coordinator, he amassed an 18-11 record. He put up strong numbers, with a 49:21 TD to INT ratio, 6.8 yards per attempt, 244 yards per game, a 61.5% completion percentage and an 88.8 passer rating. For his first two seasons in the NFL, those were great numbers and he was leading the MVP race in his 2nd season in the league before he tore his ACL. What went well for him? A few things:

Very Good Receivers

Zach Ertz

Ertz was one of the three best tight ends in the NFL back then, thanks to his fantastic route running, receiving ability and great blocking. He was a catch machine and clutch on third downs. In 2018 (when Pro Football Reference first started tracking the data), Ertz finished in the top 8 in first downs gained from receptions. He is a reliable security blanket and helped Wentz a lot, especially on those crucial third downs.

Alshon Jeffery

Jeffery wasn’t battling injuries back then and was making big plays on an almost weekly basis in his first two seasons in Philadelphia. In those two yeaars He averaged nearly 60 yards a game, 15 touchdowns (one every two game average), and over 4 receptions a game. Jeffery was used differently in Philadelphia than he was in Chicago, so his numbers weren’t as impressive in Phily, but he was still a top 20 receiver in the NFL who made big plays in big moments.

Nelson Agholor

Agholor gets a bad rap because of the memes and some bad drops in big moments, but he was a 60+ catch receiver with a higher catch rate than Julio Jones (in 2017) and constantly moved the chains. He was run out of town and ended up becoming a good receiver in Las Vegas. He was a good secondary receiving option for the Eagles.

To put things in perspective, those three players combined for 19 catches for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns in their Super Bowl win in February 2018 (Super Bowl 52). They had talent and they performed well together as a trio.

Strong Offensive Line Play

Wentz’s 2017 offensive line featured 3 Pro Bowlers in Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks (who was also an All Pro) and Lane Johnson. He also got half a season from one of the greatest left tackles of this generation in Jason Peters. He was well protected and his offensive line ranked in the top 10 for run efficiency and sacks allowed. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, when Wentz was at his best, Pro Football Focus had the Eagles as a top 10 offensive line.

Great Running Game

The Philadelphia Eagles ranked third in the NFL in both yards per carry and total rushing yards in 2017. Rushers LaGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement formed a formidable backfield by committee and moved the ball efficiently. With a running game working, the Eagles were able to use play action more often; they used play action 27% of the time (on passing plays), which ranked as the 4th most in the NFL in 2017. With the Eagles having a strong offensive line, the running game rolling, the play action game working effectively, and Wentz having good receivers (in their primes), it was a perfect combination for success.

Quarterbacks are Products of their Environments

There is no quarterback in NFL history that can consistently win football games without an offensive line, good receivers and a running game. They can do so without one of those three listed, but without two or three of them, it’s brutal. Patrick Mahomes, today’s best player, was completely shut down in the Super Bowl thanks to no offensive line and running game. He had no time to breathe, let alone time to throw. Wentz was given a great situation in Philadelphia in his early years.