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Carson Wentz Breakdown Series: The Rough Patch (Part 2)

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-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.

After a strong few years to start his career, Wentz suffered a serious downfall finishing the 2019 season with a bad concussion and going the entire 2020 season looking like a completely different quarterback. As you’ll come to see, many factors were at play, some in his control and many others out of his control.

Offensive Line Regression

In 2020, the Eagles’ offensive line was marred with injuries and their level of play dropped because of it. They dropped outside the top 10 in terms of production and efficiency and led to both quarterbacks on the Eagles getting hit a ton. Brandon Brooks missed all of 2020, which was a huge loss as he’s one of the best guards in football. Jason Kelce had his worst season with the Eagles last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Injuries and poor play from backups killed their offensive line last season.

When the quarterback doesn’t have as long as usual to throw or he’s constantly pressured, the numbers and quality of play drops. We’ve seen this countless numbers of times over the years. Patrick Mahomes looked like a pedestrian quarterback in the Super Bowl (save for the odd superhuman play) because his offensive line acted as turnstiles and let defenders through with very little resistance. If the quarterback doesn’t have proper protection, he can’t function.

Lack of Receiver Talent

The Eagles did not have a 600+ yard receiver in 2020 and their 5 leading receivers have never had more than 60 catches or 650 yards in a given season. Wentz was dealing with a lot of inexperience and young faces, many of whom, he had no prior chemistry with. His old security blanket, Zach Ertz, battled injuries and regressed significantly when on the field. Alshon Jeffery started in only 2 games. He didn’t have a star receiver to bail him out or a security blanket to throw to on third downs.

He was working with young, inexperienced guys he didn’t have a great chemistry with. Usually quarterbacks train with their top receivers in the offseason, like we’ve seen with Wentz, Hilton and Pittman this offseason in Indy. Brady has been famous for the beach throwing sessions with his guys; they do this to create a strong connection with their guys. Wentz didn’t do this because he never thought that 3rd stringers would become the starters.

Mechanics Breakdown

  • Hips opening up too quickly & sequencing disconnect
  • Over-striding with the front foot
  • Alignment issues

The mechanics breakdown information in this section was compiled from many different sources, including Zach Hicks’ great mechanics breakdown series, Dan Orlovsky’s breakdown on NBC, the First Down Training youtube video breakdowns on top of my years of experience training high-level quarterbacks in Canada (shameless plug).

In order to understand the three points, we need to understand what kinetic sequencing is. Kinetic energy happens when there is a movement or motion of sorts. Sequencing refers to the order, so we can call kinetic sequencing the energy order. The energy starts in the foot, moves through the legs, up through the glutes through the hips then up to the shoulder and then out through the arm. The body must work with the energy in that order otherwise it will lead to serious accuracy and power issues.

When a quarterback throws, the power comes from the lower body and the mechanics, technique and footwork help more for accuracy. Wentz’ issue is not with his arm strength, his issues lie with his accuracy, so we can pinpoint this down to a pure mechanics issue.

Sequencing disconnect and hips opening up too quickly are in the same mold. When the hips opening up too quickly, it gets everything out of whack. The energy transfer is messed up and it leads to passes sailing or one hopping, but more often than not if the hips are open then it will lead to sailing. Open means he’s opened too much to his left (if the quarterback is a righty). If the hips are closed, it will lead to passes falling short.

The quarterback should take his lead hand (his left hand if he’s a righty) off the ball when he’s starting to open up his hips. This helps keep the sequence in order.

Over-striding is when the quarterback steps too far forward on his passes. When the quarterback makes his throw, he is stepping forward with his front foot, ideally in line with where he is trying to throw. Ideally, quarterbacks are taught to step 6-8 inches out towards their target as they “step into the throw”. Too little and the weight isn’t transferred properly and too much will result in the passes sailing.

So through two of the points, we’ve seen that both issues will result in the passes sailing over the receivers heads.

Alignment issues will happen because of the hips being open too early. As stated earlier, we want the quarterback to step with his front foot towards his target (if we’re being very specific then slightly to the left of the target is the teaching point, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll just say towards the target). This screenshot of one of Wentz’s overthrows helps paint the picture:

In this photo, Wentz’s hips are way too open to the point that his front foot is aimed towards the sideline. Wentz’ foot needs to be aimed towards the target is going to be, so in this case it should be aimed more towards the beginning of the number 0 in “10”.

So, if I were the quarterback coach of the Colts and my task was to fix Wentz’ mechanics, I would go to him and work on:

  • Proper foot and body alignment
  • Ensuring that:
  1. His foot FIRST steps out 6-8 inches out towards his target
  2. His hips openly squarely towards the target as the foot comes down
  3. Shoulders and upper body start the rotation
  4. Hand comes off ball as the hips finish rotating and just as the shoulder/upper body rotation begins and the throwing motion starts

Repping these two major things will be crucial. They should start out with a towel or a tennis ball and walk through each of the motions. Then you get stationary targets and have aiming points (as Jordan Palmer calls it, flashing signs). Wentz needs to be worked on aiming points and ensuring proper form throughout the entire offseason.

Poor Coaching

Doug Pederson didn’t do Wentz any favours with his public comments and that surely affected Wentz’ confidence. There were reports that the relationship was fractured beyond repair. It’s extremely difficult when your most important figure and your most important player don’t get along. There are only a couple of instances in NFL history where they have made it work. When the coach doesn’t have the quarterback’s back, publicly or privately, it leads to trust and loyalty issues which just mess with a quarterback’s head. Pederson just added fuel to this bad fire and made things worse.