McMullen: No Matter the Label Wentz Regression is Real
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There was a boatload of ready-made excuses for Carson Wentz.
He was without his top three receivers -- Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor -- in Sunday's ugly 17-9 loss to Seattle.
The QB 1 didn't have his top rusher in Jordan Howard and All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, who was dealing with the after-effects of a concussion suffered against New England last week, was quickly joined on the sideline by his partner in crime, Brandon Brooks, who was shut down early Sunday with an illness.
The deck chairs on this Titanic of an offense were further shuffled when Andre Dillard was benched at halftime and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, originally inserted for Brooks at right guard, kicked out to right tackle with Matt Pryor taking over inside, meaning the Seahawks defensive front, which was minus its own star in Jadeveon Clowney, saw three different right guards over 60 minutes of football.
If you were forced to give out designations Jordan Matthews started as the WR1 despite being unemployed two weeks ago and the force-feeding of rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and practice-squad promotee Greg Ward was only sped up out of necessity. Meanwhile, Mack Hollins is still 0-for-October/November and Jay Ajayi, who has less service time in his latest run as an Eagle than Matthews, was a big part of the game plan.
"I have to be better," Wentz acknowledged. "I have to lead this team better. ... It starts with me. It starts with me and I am frustrated. I know everyone is frustrated with this loss offensively."
Nonetheless, that's three paragraphs of legitimate excuses for Wentz but none of it serves as an explanation for his regression when it comes to the short and intermediate passing game, which featured at least a half-dozen erratic throws against the Seahawks.
Unless you start talking about the intangibles, of course.
Think Sam Darnold's ghosts.
"I don't know," Wentz admitted when discussing some easy misses. "I'm not going to stand up here and make excuses for missed throws. That's not what I am going to do. I have to make those throws and I will next time."
It's clear Wentz does not trust that his receivers are going to get open which manifests itself when he holds onto the football too long, something resulting in three fumbles against Seattle, two that were lost, and yet another erased by a penalty.
The offensive line attrition explains some of the three sacks, the inability to get a consistent running game going, drive-killing mistakes like a key holding penalty on Pryor, the desperation of Jason Peters offering to play right tackle if Johnson's absence continues, and the oversized baseball-like wrap of ice Wentz had affixed to his throwing hand leaving the training room after the loss.
Wentz is either pressing because of the lack of playmakers or spooked with his lack of blocking and he's getting booed for the first time.
"I mean you never want to hear it but it is what it is," Wentz said. "That's this city. That's the fan base. I'm frustrated too when we're playing like that, so they have every right how when we are playing poorly, to let us know."
Labeling all of that it is an exercise in futility, though, because the result is all that counts and that is a top-tier quarterback turned into a middling one as Philadelphia heads toward the stretch of what is looking more and more like a lost season.
"Our issues today were not about Carson Wentz," Pederson insisted. "Obviously, he's part of it. This is an offensive issue so it starts with me. I've got to look at it."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen