Diving Into Why Carson Wentz Was Sacked So Often in 2020
Carson Wentz was sacked a league-high 50 times in 2020. While the Eagles were not great, I dive into why Wentz deserves some blame for the issues.
4 hours ago
The 2020 Philadelphia Eagles were a complete mess. They had injuries across their offensive line, a terrible wide receiver core, and a scheme that did the offense no favors.
One of the biggest issues with the Eagles last year was the high sack rate, as Wentz was sacked a league high 50 times in just 11.5 games played. While a lot of Indianapolis Colts' fans and analysts want to chalk most of those sacks up to the environment around Wentz, I saw it a bit differently when watching film.
Yes, the Eagles were a mess and Wentz was put into a bad situation. However, Wentz deserves as much blame for the high sack rate as those other factors do.
In today's film room, we are going to look at a few advanced stats regarding the Eagles' sack problem while I show the results of my own personal charting of every sack allowed with Wentz under center in 2020.
Advanced Stats + Results of My Charting
I know that talking negative about Wentz is off-limits to a lot of Colts' fans this offseason so I wanted to thoroughly do my own research before diving into this piece.
What I decided to do was to go back and chart every single sack allowed by the Eagles with Wentz under center in 2020. I charted each sack by time until the sack, who I believe is at fault, and how many pass rushers the defense brought. Here are the results of my charting:
The average time from snap until sack was 3.65 seconds from my charting. This number is far from official but it provides a baseline that there was decent time to throw on most of these plays.
97.8% of the sacks I charted had the defense bringing five or fewer pass rushers.
I credited Carson Wentz with being at fault for 12 of the 50 sacks last season (24% of the sacks). This is fairly close to the numbers Pro Football Focus (11 sacks credited to Wentz) and Michigan Football Analytics (17 sacks over expected) had him at.
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What Went Wrong for Wentz
The two biggest concerns I saw on film were his inability to pull the trigger/playing hero ball and poor pocket management.
We were a bit spoiled with Philip Rivers in 2020, as he was a top six passer in the NFL in completion percentage, passer rating, and yards per attempt while under pressure. Rivers was masterful with diagnosing pressure pre-snap and understanding how to attack defenses with anticipation throws underneath.
Wentz struggles mightily with this and it is a reason why he had a passer rating of 48.3 while under pressure in 2020. He doesn't throw the checkdown and underneath pass, and opts to play hero ball more often than not.
While the downfield hero ball is great for highlights, sometimes the simply play is all that is needed. This play against the Pittsburgh Steelers is a great example of this. The Eagles drew up a simple pass to the running back on second and long to make it a more manageable third down. Wentz doesn't throw to the open back though and holds the ball for the sack.
Anticipation throws were also a struggle for Wentz in 2020. This is a third and short and Wentz is given two great options to convert on the play. He has pressure closing in but he has to be able to hit one of these routes to give his team a chance at the first down. Instead, he tucks the ball and takes the sack.
There is a jarring stat from last year that Wentz only threw eight drag routes on the entire season. For perspective, Michael Pittman Jr caught more drag routes last year than Wentz even threw. The issue with this is they were a heavy part of the Eagles' playbook. Wentz just didn't throw them, even when they were open.
This play is just tough to watch. Third and eight against a blitz heavy team and Wentz has to get this pass to his receiver, who has room to run, on the drag route. Just a bad misread on a simple play.
An even bigger concern than misreads was how poorly Wentz navigated the pocket. These issues mostly came up after week six so the idea that Wentz just didn't trust his offensive line could certainly be thrown out there.
However, this is a play that your franchise quarterback has to make. Easy lane to step up and deliver this pass over the middle and he opts to roll out and take the sack instead. Good blocking up front with open receivers down the field, Wentz just isn't able to make the play.
The quick trigger just wasn't there for most of the season. A lot of the sacks I credited to him were plays where I felt like he saw the correct receiver to throw to but he just didn't throw the ball. It felt very similar to watching Jacoby Brissett in 2019 in that regard.
He sees the broken coverage on this fourth and three and has a second to get this ball out. He just hesitates and the result is a sack and a fumble.
I want to state for the record that I am not trying to nitpick Wentz in this article or call him an awful quarterback by any means. This is a legit concern, however. Wentz had a lot of issues in the pocket last year and thinking that those issues all go away with a better offensive line and scheme is just wrong.
The promising part about all this, though, is that it is fixable. I'm not saying that it is an easy fix but it is more of a mental limitation rather than a physical one. The key for Wentz is trusting in this staff, offensive line, and receiving group and cutting a lot of the hero ball out of his game.
Carson Wentz can find success in Indianapolis. It won't be easy by any means and he is coming off of a season where he was as much of an issue on the field as the rest of that Eagles' offense was. While I am focusing on a negative in this piece, these issues are correctable. If anyone can help him figure out these concerns, it's Frank Reich and the Colts.