With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.
-Robert Lewis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
It seems every week in National Football League there are constant reminders that we in the media just have absolutely no godly idea what we are talking about.
Take this week alone. After dispatching the New England Patriots at home, the Houston Texans are perhaps a rising power in the AFC, right? Well, they just laid an egg against the Denver Broncos ... at home.
Those Patriots? Forget the early-season designs of 16-0 and the greatest defense ever. Now they’re holding on for dear life in the AFC East.
Four weeks ago Mitchell Trubisky was done in Chicago. Now he’s riding high after two-straight solid performances, including last week against the Dallas Cowboys.
Oh, and speaking of the Cowboys, look at the NFC East. Back in the summer the Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles were largely the talk of the NFC. Many considered those teams to be perhaps the most talented in the conference. Now there is a chance 7-9 wins the division.
The New York Giants are done with the Cowboys for 2019, but they get two cracks at the Eagles before December 2019 turns into January 2020. What version of the Eagles will the Giants stumble upon? The version that looked impressive in wins over the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills? Or the version that has lost three straight games coming off their bye week, including a loss to the Miami Dolphins a week ago?
Part of the answer to that question might lie in which version of Carson Wentz they see.
A week ago against the Dolphins Wentz was largely impressive, despite the bottom line. In studying his game you saw glimpses of what Eagles fans have been clamoring for, at least in terms of pocket movement:
This is just a 5-yard gain to Greg Ward (84) on a crossing route, but this subtle pocket manipulation is what Philadelphia fans have been waiting to see with bated breath. Wentz faces interior pressure and his first instinct is to flush himself wide outside to his right. But when he feels the interior defender start to track outside in an attempt to mirror him, Wentz deftly slides back to the inside of the pocket and towards safety:
This gives him the opportunity to drop the arm angle and make a solid throw on the crossing route to pick up the five yards.
Why have Eagles fans been looking for plays like this? Because far too often Wentz failed to manipulate the pocket well, leading to plays that look more like this one from the loss to New England:
Rather than flushing out of the pocket, or subtly maneuvering in the pocket, or at least feeling the impending pressure, Wentz is far too statuesque here, and it gets him into trouble. The Patriots’ pressure gets home and gives their offense a short field right before halftime.
Last week against the Dolphins, Eagles fans were treated to a much more decisive quarterback, as Wentz displayed on throws like this one:
Here Wentz executes a play-action boot concept to his left, but he recognizes the numbers towards the side of the field he is rotating towards, and immediately flips his hips back towards the middle of the field. This enables him to find Alshon Jeffery (17) open on a dig route. This is a very decisive read and throw from the quarterback.
Which is something Wentz has been struggling with:
On this play against the Patriots, Philadelphia actually catches New ENgland in a two-high coverage. Wentz has an opportunity to hit Jordan Matthews (80) on a corner route along the right sideline, but the QB cannot make up his mind in time. Wentz double-clutches on the throw, and it allows Stephon Gilmore (24) to constrict the throwing window and make a play on the pass.
Making matters worse was the fact the throw from Wentz was somewhat off-target. This is also an issue for the quarterback right now, as this pass from Philadelphia’s Week 12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks indicates:
Wentz steps wildly in the bucket here and does not even give Miles Sanders (26) a chance on this swing route.
But last week against the Dolphins…
Yes, the quarterback double-clutches again here on this comeback route to Jeffery against a soft zone look, but you cannot throw a comeback route better than that. Wentz puts this on his receiver with perfect placement and velocity.
The NFL is tough to figure out. We thought the Patriots were good, perhaps they are not. We thought Trubisky was done, maybe he isn’t. We wrote the Pittsburgh Steelers off, and they are right in the playoff hunt.
We thought the Eagles were going to be good, and we just do not know about them right now.
Which version of Wentz shows up Monday night remains to be seen.