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How much will Carson Wentz's return help the Eagles?

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 Just a few minutes after Eagles head coach Doug Pederson announced that Carson Wentz was cleared and would be back in the starting role for Philadelphia , Pederson was asked about how much can realistically be expected from the QB his first week back. The question was based off of comments made by tight end Zach Ertz, who tried to tame teammate and fan expectations. Ertz noted that Wentz isn’t Superman, and there are still things that he will need to work on and that the team will need to improve, even after the QB is back on the field. Pederson echoed Ertz, stating that Wentz’s return is exciting for everyone, but he’s not going to come back and look like he did last year, or that all of a sudden they aren’t going to have issues with open targets downfield or with the offensive line letting defenders through. Those things will still be there until they as a team work to eliminate the mistakes and be more productive.So, at the end of the day — and following the team’s first loss since the Super Bowl win — how much will Carson Wentz’s return help the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles?Still, a lot.Aggressive play styleSome incredible things happen in football when a quarterback has confidence in his receivers to make contested catches. It’s rare that you’re going to have guys a few steps ahead of the secondary, or completely open mid-field, but having the confidence that the target will run his route correctly and end up where he should, is much easier said than done for quarterbacks.Wentz has always had a good relationship with his receivers, and trusts them to make big plays. He may not have hosted his offensive weapons in North Dakota this offseason, but a lot of time was spent rehabbing in Philly and relationships developed and grew in his time in the locker room and in film sessions.He might not have Alshon Jeffery downfield (yet) but he is incredibly familiar with Nelson Agholor, and has that kind of trust to just let the ball loose downfield. He also has a great relationship with Ertz, which should really help build the tight ends game, which has started fairly slow this season.Preparedness pre-snapIf it felt like an eternity between when the ball was snapped and when Nick Foles made the decision to throw it these past two games, you are not alone. Sure, Foles split reps during training camp with Wentz, but it seemed like he wasn’t quite prepared to make quick decisions after the snap. Carson Wentz is not that guy. Credit to his preparedness, or just his personality, Wentz trusts his targets and knows where the ball should go early on in plays. Alluding to his penchant to be aggressive (above), he carries that same type of confidence from the huddle to the snap Authentic DeAndre Carter Jersey , and then in each second off the clock after that.The X-factorPart of the reason we all missed Carson Wentz so much at the end of last season, were those random, non-designed moments when a play seemed dead, and then out pops the QB from a pile of defenders to move the chains and keep the Eagles in contention.It wasn’t just once or twice that Wentz delivered these highlight-worthy moments, he does so regularly, and it’s that x-factor that is desperately needed to bring to life a seriously deflated offense. From injuries to just downright being ineffective, the list of grievances thus far by the Eagles’ offense is long; Wentz won’t be the end all cure to these issues, but he will go a long way in righting the ship.Crunching The Numbers: Week 5 Welcome to the first post in the 2018 edition of Crunching The Numbers! This is a weekly game preview where I play “armchair coach” based on certain statistics. I start in Week 5 because making predictions and judgments based off of small sample sizes is what you might call “misguided.” I only compile four statistics for insight: yards per pass attempt, sack percentage, time of possession, and yards per point. For more information on why I chose these metrics, and for background on my methodology in general, check out an archive of past Crunching The Numbers posts in this hub.Week 4 In Hindsight (and a plug) Before getting to the actual preview of the game, there are two topics I want to cover quickly. The first is a shameless self-promotion. Astute readers may have noticed my Twitter handle on this article has changed. That’s because that I’ve finally come to admit that as much as I would love contributing more to this site, life simply gets in the way too often. But I still want to share my thoughts with the community, so I’m making a more concerted effort to be active on Twitter, hence the rebranding of the handle to something less “AOL Instant Messenger.” For the past few years, my Twitter has been objectively “not lit,” and I want to change that. Starting with this week’s game, you’ll see me retweeting news and articles with my own commentary, offering small bites on the upcoming matchups, and live-tweeting the game action. Instead of getting my crazy commentary in the form of a ranting 1400+ word article here, you’ll see a steady stream of it throughout the week in small Womens Fletcher Cox Jersey , digestible nuggets that are 280 characters or fewer. A lot of you already follow me (thanks!), but if you don’t, please allow me to shout football-related opinions through your computer screen via my new handle, @Harkenfootball.Enough about me. Onto the Eagles. Namely, what’s going on with them? They don’t look great. At the moment, I’m not hitting the panic button - the Patriots seemingly start 2-2 every season before hitting high gear - but I am concerned. Thankfully, I think their three biggest problems (pass protection, secondary play, and penalties) are all correctable.Penalties are self-explanatory: they just need more discipline. I’m not sure if you can really bench anyone along the offensive line at this point, but maybe some jumbo package plays (or at least some chips) until they get out of their funk can do them some good. They have two great pass-catching tight ends. It might be time to draw up plays where they’re in-line instead of out wide. Yes, this does limit your offense a bit, but running spread doesn’t work either if your quarterback is being crushed every play.The secondary is a different beast altogether. Schwartz might be stubborn at times, but I’m confident he will find a way to adjust for the devastating loss of McCleod. It seems fairly obvious that he assumed Corey Graham and Avonte Maddox would just split McCleod’s duties and at least provide an adequate level of play, but after one game it is clear that is not the case. Mills is also now a regular liability with the defense, but Schwartz loves him, and I’m not sure exactly what you do with him. Would he really be that much better inside against today’s slot receivers? I couldn’t imagine him effectively covering a receiver like Agholor all game. And are the players off the bench all that much better? One thing I would like to see is for Rasul Douglas to rotate in for red zone subpackages. He is notoriously slow, but that weakness is mitigated when there’s only thirty yards and a safety over the top behind you. Plus, the dude is the best pure ball hawk in the secondary and has great hands. If the Eagles can’t stop their opponents from marching down the field without McCleod, they can at least do what they can to force turnovers near the goal line.Okay I’m 650 words in and haven’t even talked about the upcoming game. Let’s take a look! For reference, statistics in bold indicate that team has the advantage, while the number in parenthesis is the league rank, for reference.Game Preview: Minnesota VikingsOn paper, the Vikings have simply been executing better than the Eagles , Bills game aside. Overall, though, these teams are not really that much different. They’re both struggling to score efficiently on offense (though the Vikings have a higher variance with this) and haven’t really been able to push the ball down the field, with the caveat that the Eagles’ YPA is tainted by that first week of Nick Foles. But apart from that, what specifically should we be keep in mind when watching the game Sunday?Eagles OffenseAs the Talking Heads sang in their song Psycho Killer, “run run run run, run run run away.” The Vikings may only have an average pass rush right now, but with the Eagles’ pass blocking as poor as it’s been, that might be enough to murder Carson. They can neutralize this by running a lot of stretch, sweep, and wham plays, with some traps sprinkled in too. These are run plays designed to get the ball carrier out towards the perimeter and stretch the defense. Their interior run blocking hasn’t been awful, so these calls would be most effective when the Vikings show blitz. Additionally, running the ball helps the Eagles play keep away (something they’ve always been good at under Doug), which could be necessary if Minnesota’s offense truly hit its stride last week and the Eagles’ pass defense does not improve.Additionally, they should incorporate more screen passes, and maybe some tight end throwbacks and quick slants. Again, this will help neutralize the rush, and it might honestly be more effective than asking Smallwood to pass block. It cannot be stressed enough how much the pass blocking is the linchpin of the offense’s struggles, and so the Eagles should spend the early part of the game focusing on fast-developing rhythm passes, much like what the Giants did last year against the Eagles. Getting the tight ends involved early will be crucial, especially since Anthony Barr is a massive liability in pass coverage. Once the defense starts to cheat (or the offensive line shows signs of life), then you open up the downfield passing game by play-action Authentic Destiny Vaeao Jersey , or even faking the screen.Eagles DefenseKurt Croutons eviscerated a Rams defense missing Aqib Talib last week and will be facing an Eagles secondary that has similarly struggled after losing a key player to injury. Their 17.3 Y/PT tells me that the Vikings have difficulty punching the ball in, meaning that if I’m Schwartz I’m doing whatever I can to avoid long scores and force the Vikings to overcome the Eagles red zone defense. My two suggestions for this both involve abandoning the Cover 3 Schwartz loves so much, which is a bit unfortunate since that’s the best way to deploy Malcolm Jenkins. Cover 3 also makes Mills into a liability, which through four games has more or less offset Jenkins’ impact. Since they have two great coverage linebackers, my suggestion is to either at least show Cover 2 prior to the snap, or actually run it, to take away the deep ball regardless of where it comes from. If you don’t want to move Jenkins out of the box, then go with something of a hybrid man-zone scheme where you ask Darby to play man on the outside and shade the single-high safety over to whomever Mills is covering. Darby, in theory, should have the speed to keep up with his guy, but he has also struggled to play well this season, so that strategy might (admittedly) be ill-advised.Closing ThoughtsWe’re five weeks into the season and both teams find themselves in what are essentially “must win games,” especially with the Rams cruising to a 4-0 start. On the whole, the Vikings have looked better than the Eagles this year, but have the disadvantage of playing on the road. Regardless, it has become clear that Philadelphia needs to significantly adjust what they’re doing on both offense and defense in order to remain competitive, whether it’s through screen passes, outside runs, or mixed coverages. I still believe that this is a good football team, and that Doug is one of the best coaches in the league, but now is the time to shut down any creeping narratives that they may have been a one-year wonder.
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