The Eagles hit their bye week at the midway point of the season, so this is a perfect time to go through some of the numbers and see what we can find to help us understand this 4-4 squad ahead of the Dallas game next Sunday.
I was originally gonna do a look at the entire team, but found some interesting stuff regarding Carson Wentz, so the entire story is now about the Birds’ starting quarterback instead.
The numbers say he’s playing really well coming off the ACL injury; it’s just the fumbles that are killing him.
Through six games, his completion percentage, average yards, and QB rating are all at career highs:
Thirteen touchdowns to two interceptions is a phenomenal rate, while the fumbles extrapolate to a career-worst number over a full season.
The math looks like this:
- 13 touchdowns over 6 games = 2.16 TDs per game
- 2 interceptions over 6 games = 0.33 INTs per game
- 7 fumbles over 6 games = 1.16 FUMB per game
Multiply each of those numbers by 16 and you’d get a season of 34.5 touchdowns, 5.2 interceptions, and 18.6 fumbles.
So if you sense a negative narrative surrounding Wentz at all, it’s strictly because of a couple of those drive-killing turnovers and the fourth quarter failure in the Carolina game. Otherwise he’s been playing like an elite quarterback for the past few weeks.
League-wide, that completion percentage is a top-five number and even his QB rating ranks in the top eight. The only area where he lags behind compared to his peers is yards per pass, since the Eagles aren’t ripping off a bunch of explosive plays 20 and 30 yards down the field, namely because they don’t have a deep threat:
You know what else favors Carson Wentz?
The analytics! The advanced stats like Carson.
Over at the NFL’s Next Gen stats page, they log numbers such as air yards and aggressiveness, which don’t necessarily trend into Sabermetric territory, but scratch the surface a bit more than your average ESPN stat page.
One of those metrics is called “time to throw,” or TT, which is exactly what it sounds like – you measure the time between the snap and passing attempt.
Carson ranks 19th in the NFL in “time to throw” at 2.7 seconds. Nick Foles is actually fourth at 2.98 seconds.
That can be interpreted in one of two ways:
- the offensive line isn’t giving him a ton of time to get rid of the ball
- the quarterback is holding on to the ball for too long and/or using his legs to extend plays
Sitting in the middle of the pack is generally ideal in a category like this, because it means you aren’t trying to do too much, but you’re also not being forced to get rid of the ball with a linebacker bearing down on you, unblocked. Carson has really improved in getting his passes out in recent weeks while also being able to extend plays as necessary with evasive pocket moves.
Another area where he’s performing above average is in completion probability, which is defined like this:
The probability of a pass completion, based on numerous factors such as receiver separation from the nearest defender, where the receiver is on the field, the separation the passer had at time of throw from the nearest pass rusher, and more.
So I mentioned above that Carson has that top five completion percentage of 70.7, but based on advanced metrics, the NFL logs his expected completion percentage way down at 65.5.
When you run that against every other quarterback, Carson is fourth-best, over-performing that expected number by 5.2 percentage points:
One of the reasons for this is that his primary targets don’t get a ton of separation. Zach Ertz, his top target, is outside of the top 25 with 3.3 average yards of SEP. Alshon Jeffery is waaaay down the list, something like 75th overall it looks like with a 2.4 number. Nelson Agholor is 14th overall with a 3.7 number, which is the highest among Eagle pass catchers.
The point is that receivers aren’t exactly getting wide open, which is why Wentz is significantly overachieving against his xCOMP%. The receiving corps is also not being given a ton of cushion, with lower numbers in that department as well, meaning that there’s just more jam and disruption on the line of scrimmage.
Here’s a chart from Sunday that helps explain that a bit, with the separation each receiver and tight end was getting vs. the league average of 2.79 yards:
You see that only Nelson Agholor was beating that league average. Everybody else was limited in SEP, yet Wentz completed 21 of 30 passes for 286 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
That’s a credit to Wentz, but also shows that the Eagles receivers, Ertz and Jeffery specifically, are pretty good at hauling in passes thrown into tight windows.
The Washington Post also keeps a nice database of stats, and they’ve got Carson listed as 12th in the NFL at percentage of third down passes that moved the sticks:
That’s just outside of the top ten and will continue to improve.
While it may not seem obvious on the surface, there’s a ton to like about Carson Wentz, now six games back from the injury. Adding Golden Tate to the mix should improve that further, and we’ll see if the line can stay healthy through the end of the season, but right now he’s on pace to finish with career high numbers in completion percentage, yards per pass, and QB rating.
He just has to take care of the football.