Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz gave everyone a glimpse back at his 2017 season, when his ability to run the ball put added pressure on defenses, during Sunday’s 31-13 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Two years ago, Wentz ran for 299 yards in 13 games as he led the Eagles to the number one seed in the playoffs before tearing ligaments in his knee. It appeared that his ability to run the ball would become a big part of his game.
It never manifested itself much since then, with Sunday being the exception. Wentz had 35 yards on eight carries, including two critical third-down conversions in the fourth quarter to engineer a drive that put the game out of reach for the Bills.
The knee injury and a stress fracture in his back last year certainly played a part in the reduction of Wentz’s runs.
There’s another reason now, too. Four years into his pro career, Wentz has come to another realization.
“Everyone’s a lot faster than me on defense first and foremost, so why would I try?” said Wentz on Wednesday. “At the same time, when it’s there, I’m willing to take off. It’s definitely something that will just naturally come within a game.”
Most of Wentz’s 35 yards against the Bills came off scrambles and extending plays, so to expect Wentz to suddenly become the 2017 running version isn’t realistic.
“It’s not something we’re going to design, it’s not something where I’m scrambling to run the ball, but when things break down or there’s good coverage and I’m able to extend it, I’m more than willing to go get a first down and move the chains,” said Wentz. “But I don’t go seeking it.”
While Wentz will pick his spots to run, there is no denying that he hasn’t lost his ability to scramble and keep plays alive, from the completion he threw in Atlanta to Mack Hollins while be dragged down and with one knee about an inch from the ground to the duck-or-be-decapitated play against the Jets to buy time for a completion to Zach Ertz, Wentz has the best completion percentage among all quarterbacks while scrambling, according to Next Gen Stats.
Wentz is 15-for-23 while scrambling this season.
“I give credit to the receivers, backs, tight ends, everyone getting open,” said Wentz. “We talk (together) about the scramble drill, we say let’s rewind the tape. What could we have done differently here? What are we expecting from guys when we are able to extend a play like that? I feel I have good chemistry with those guys, they know what I’m thinking, I know what they’re thinking when a play does break down so that’s helpful to us.”
Even more helpful to the Eagles is Wentz's good health, which makes more selective running of the ball a very good thing for both quarterback and team.