Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft Carson Wentz was taking the league by storm. Through three games, he had led the team to three-straight victories, tossed five touchdowns with no interceptions, and was fresh off a 34-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers before the Eagles’ bye week.
The team was flying high and were the favorites to win the NFC East, but then the hype began to slow down just a bit. While the 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions wasn’t brutally bad, the Wentz Wagon slowed down a whole lot when the Eagles lost in Week 6 27-20 to the Washington Redskins.
The losses themselves really aren’t bad, and Wentz was actually pretty good against the Lions. In that game, he completed 25-of-33 passes for 238 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. While his interception all but sealed the loss, he still posted a 102.8 quarterback rating. It was the following weekend that left the remaining critics ready to pounce on the rookie, though.
During the game against the Redskins, Wentz completed just 11-of-22 passes for 179 yards and couldn’t find the end zone. In total, the Eagles had just 239 yards in the loss, and their offense seemed to take a major step backward.
To be fair, very few people expected Wentz to have the red-hot start that he had after being named the starter for the Eagles. A few weeks before the season, it seemed more likely that Wentz would be inactive all year long, compared to starting any games at all. Then, the Eagles chose to trade Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings and quickly named Wentz the starter.
On that same note, the blame for the ‘Wentz Wagon’ slowing down can’t all go on the former North Dakota State product. Over the first three games of the season, the Eagles quarterback was sacked a grand total of just four times, in the two games out of the bye week, he was sacked eight times. The offensive line, specifically without Lane Johnson, obviously took a step back, as ESPN’s Tim McManus pointed out.
To go along with that notion, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden sounded off on the gameplan when it came to stopping Wentz, and apparently what he planned worked perfectly. Per John Smallwood of Philly.com:
“I think, No. 1, you change up the coverage a little bit,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said in his postgame press conference. “You play some man-to-man and cover his first and second progressions. If he tries to get off to his third, you have to get pressure on him. I think that’s what happened.”
While Wentz still has all the potential in the world and should wind up being a strong NFL quarterback, there’s a good chance that he may have hit a rookie wall on some levels. Expect the rookie to bounce back, but it won’t be easy sledding over the next few weeks with games against the Minnesota Vikings, then rivalry games against the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants on the horizon.