Why didn't Wentz roll out more in Eagles' loss to Washington? Will that change against Rams?
PHILADELPHIA – On the one hand, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday that quarterback Carson Wentz is "dynamic" when he's throwing on the run, rolling out and improvising to find an open receiver.
On the other hand, Pederson gave a curious answer as to why Wentz barely did that Sunday in the Eagles' 27-17 loss to Washington – especially when Wentz was pressured on 34% of his dropbacks, according to the NFL's Next Gen stats, sacked 8 times, and hit a total of 14 times.
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Pederson was asked if Wentz didn't run because he was being cautious after the starting quarterback missed the last week of August with a groin injury. Wentz practiced fully leading into the opener, and was not listed on the injury report.
Pederson responded tersely: "No."
Then about the lack of running, Pederson said: "Carson is a great out-of-the-pocket thrower. We understand that. But when we have 13 snaps that are 2nd down-and-7-plus (yards to go), we didn't do a very good job on first down whether we're running or passing the football.
"And so, utilizing an out-of-the-pocket throw, or movement-type throw, when it's 2nd-and-13, I don't know, maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. But I think you have to push the ball differently down the field – drop back, play-action, whatever it might be, screen."
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Pederson went on to say that the Eagles didn't do well enough on first down to make those rollouts effective on second and third down. But that seems curious based on what Pederson said next:
"I would love to have Carson out of the pocket more," Pederson said. "He is dynamic outside the pocket, great vision and all that. But again, we've got to do a better job on first down in order for a lot of those plays to take place."
It just so happens that the Eagles face the Los Angeles Rams next, on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. The Rams are led by perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who terrorized the Dallas Cowboys' offensive line – considered one of the best in the NFL – last Sunday in the Rams' 20-17 win.
There were videos on social media of Donald tossing aside two Dallas linemen at the same time. Donald only had one sack in the game, but he hit quarterback Dak Prescott four times, and Prescott does move around the pocket.
The Eagles, keep in mind, had a makeshift offensive line against Washington, with Nate Herbig and Jack Driscoll making their first NFL starts at right guard and right tackle, respectively.
It's possible that right tackle Lane Johnson will return after missing the Washington game with an ankle injury.
Wentz, of course, saw those videos of Donald – and likely much more – this week in preparing for the Rams.
"Aaron Donald is a monster. Everyone knows it," Wentz said. "Everyone around the league knows the type of player he is and how he can really disrupt an offensive game plan ... He’s a game-wrecker if you let it happen. We have to be smart how we handle that."
So, what about rolling out more?
"I just think it was kind of the flow of the game," Wentz said. "I think they made a good play earlier on one of them. We didn’t stay ahead of the chains like we really should have to be conditioned to those types of plays. It’s always one of those things where you come out of the game and you wish you might have done this differently or whatever.
"But as players, we gotta execute the play when it’s called. If it’s not executed properly, or well, sometimes you get away from those things ... I don’t know fully the right answer."
The Eagles will try to find that answer this week in practice.
Hargrave practices, Graham doesn't
The most encouraging news for the Eagles was that DT Javon Hargrave, who hadn't practiced at all since training camp started on Aug. 17, practiced in pads Wednesday for the first time. He was a limited participant. It's not known if he'll be able to play against the Rams just yet.
In addition, Johnson (ankle), RB Miles Sanders (hamstring) and DE Derek Barnett (hamstring) all were full participants in practice, a good sign that they will be able to play Sunday against the Rams. All three were limited in practice last week and did not play against Washington.
LT Jason Peters was also limited with a knee injury.
The only players who didn't practice because of injury were DE Brandon Graham (concussion) and WR Alshon Jeffery (foot). WR DeSean Jackson and DT Fletcher Cox had a planned day off.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.