Carson Wentz is off to the best start by a rookie QB in the PFF era

Eagles QB's 90.2 is the highest grade PFF has recorded through three weeks of a quarterback's career in 11 years of grading.

| 2 months ago
(Rich Schultz, Getty Images)

(Rich Schultz, Getty Images)

Carson Wentz is off to the best start by a rookie QB in the PFF era


Through three weeks of the 2016 NFL season, Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz isn’t just the highest-graded rookie QB in the league, but he’s the best-rated QB period, with a PFF grade of 90.2 on our 0-100 scale.

That is the best grade we have ever recorded for a rookie quarterback, dating back to the start of our grading system in 2006.

Carson Wentz PFF grade

Until this week’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, that came with something of a caveat. Yes, Wentz was 2-0 with nice stats, but they came against Cleveland and Chicago. Those two teams are likely to make a lot of QBs look better than they really are, and neither defense was able to put Wentz in the kind of tough spot that might highlight his weaknesses.

Pittsburgh is a different animal, however, and Wentz once again looked assured, comfortable and effective.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Eagles fans from this week was how the game plan changed heading into the Pittsburgh game. Wentz had been given pretty much full control of an expansive offense against Cleveland and Chicago, but the Steelers game saw the team focus much more on generating him free yardage and quick, easy throws to keep him out of trouble against a defense that can get pressure and disguise its coverages.

Over the first two weeks Wentz had an average depth of target of 8.8, but that dropped by more than three and a half yards to 5.1 this week. Screens accounted for 34 percent of his pass attempts, compared to just 16 percent in the first two weeks of the season.

Those manufactured yards flattered Wentz a little this week, allowing him to rack up big stats without making big-time throws, like he did on this big gain to running back Darren Sproles:

wentz-free-yards

It’s not a knock on Wentz, and he does nothing wrong on this play – selling the fake well and delivering an accurate pass to Sproles – but this is a pass you expect every NFL QB to make 100 percent of the time, and it turns into a huge play for the offense.

The reason why that’s a positive sign, however, is that the Eagles coaches are clearly in tune with how best to help out their rookie QB, and he has shown through the first two weeks of the season that he is very capable of helping the team out himself. That kind of in-tune partnership can only mean good things for this team in the future.

Wentz was pressured on just eight dropbacks against the Steelers, in part because of these manufactured plays designed to get the ball out of his hands quickly. On those eight pressured plays he was 4-for-7 for 77 yards and a score, plus he took off scrambling to pick up 10 yards on the other dropback. Against the blitz Wentz had a passer rating of 136.8, and four of his eight incomplete passes were either dropped, thrown away or as a result of being hit as he threw.

wentzweek3pressure

Wentz has a PFF grade far better than what we’ve recorded from most rookie QBs after three weeks of play, even ones who had success early in their careers. After three weeks in the league during his 2012 rookie season, Andrew Luck’s PFF grade was 66.8. Russell Wilson’s was 73.1, and Robert Griffin III – the previous owner of the best mark – earned a grade of 89.4.

RG III, of course, remains the great cautionary tale for fast starts by a quarterback. His rookie season in Washington was genuinely outstanding, and the team did a lot to help him out schematically, but of course between injury and attitude things unraveled over the subsequent seasons.

Right now, Wentz may be the best-performing rookie QB of the past decade, but greater tests lie ahead, not the least of which is the ability to simply stay on the field and in one piece. If there’s a critique to find in his game so far it’s that he’s taken quite a few hits, and despite the fact that he has a much sturdier frame than the frequently injured Griffin, it’s an area for him to work on as the season progresses.

But regardless, Wentz couldn’t have had a much better start to his NFL career than what he’s done these first three weeks.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • LostAlone

    I agree Wentz looked absolutely stellar last night and I think at this point we can say that he’s likely to excel in the league. But honestly I think it says more about a still work in progress PIT defense. Certainly Wentz made them look worse than they are, but I wouldn’t want to say that he faced a real challenge this week. CIN and WAS both were able to move the ball on their CBs too. I don’t think the secondary is quite the dumpster fire seen in Chicago but I doubt the Steelers D will rank in the top half at the end of the season.

    • shmf

      “But honestly I think it says more about a still work in progress PIT
      defense. Certainly Wentz made them look worse than they are, but I
      wouldn’t want to say that he faced a real challenge this week.”

      And there it is… the excuse of the week. There’s one every week it seems.

      Can’t wait until the year 2021 when Wentz finally faces a team with no excuses.

      • A Limousine And A Pizza

        Wentz will win the Super Bowl, and people will still say that it doesn’t mean he’s a great QB because he faced a team on a neutral site, as opposed to being on the road, the team was missing it’s backup CB, thus lacking depth, and the wind was blowing from the east, as opposed to the west, making it easier for him somehow.

        • eYeDEF

          That’s par for the course for any quarterback earning their stripes. There will always be detractors until they consistently perform at an elite level year after year, Super Bowl or not. Brady faced the game manager label early in his career in spite of winning Super Bowls until his statistically historic 2007 season silenced all doubters once and for all. Rothlisberger had his doubters despite winning a Super Bowl after his second season. Same with Russell Wilson. In spite of breaking regular season passing records Peyton’s criticism was that he couldn’t win a Super Bowl until he did in ’07. It’ll happen with Wentz too, get used to it. There will always be something until he consistently performs at a level that removes all doubt.

      • Wontime

        Haha, right

    • Vitor

      Yeah, the way Wentz is playing I was kind of expecting him to have a good game again. This Steelers defense really doesn’t have a lot of good players (Heyward and Tuitt, and that’s it). Again, not taking away the credit of Wentz playing and Pederson playcalling. It’s really an outstanding accomplishment for a rookie coming from an university outside of the FBS to perform with the poise he’s having (not only avoiding mistakes, but also making big plays) against a defense that schematically uses a lot of disguises with such few weapons to help him. But Pittsburgh really lacks good players. The linebackers tackling yesterday, for example, were just awful.

    • Wontime

      After the bears win the talk was about how the steelers would be a true test, but now it’s not.
      Classic moving the goal post right there

    • Travis Reinhart

      Not taking anything away from Wentz i love everything he’s doing and what he’s done, but that Steelers defense was only ranked high based off their offense’s ability to win the time of possession for their games.. The Steelers D don’t get after the Qb much (if at all), and they wear down way to fast during the game, allowing a team like the Eagles who do the same thing with time of possession, to finally start hammering home the run game, in the 2nd half.. Again, that wasn’t said to take anything away from Wentz or our Coaching Staff, from the minute we hired Pederson i was on board, and trusted every move Pederson and Roseman made, and i firmly believe the division title is right there for the taking!

  • SpringsGal

    One thing I want to add. I watched portions of the Eagles games the past three weeks and the Philadelphia coaching staff has helped Wentz by putting him in great situations. Imaginative play calling that is helping the offense pick up chunks of yards. Pederson has found a way to get the best out of all his offensive weapons.

    That does not take away from Wentz’s performance. All I want to say is Wentz numbers so far are a product of his play and the Eagles creative play calling. And the defense under Jim Schwartz has been lights out.

    I would like to see how Wentz performs in a close game in the 4th quarter under pressure playing against a good defense – like the Vikings or Broncos defense.

    • James

      I want to see Wentz against the 2 best defenses in the NFL that’s your standard of just a good defense now? Every week the team wasn’t good enough you need more more more from the kid. All the defenses he’s faced have turned out to be around middle of the pack so far and he’s dominated them.

      • SpringsGal

        So far Wentz has performed in a controlled environment. By that I mean that the coaching staff has been able to dictate play calling – since they are playing with a big lead in the 2nd half. I would like to see how Wentz performs in clutch 4th quarter situations – even against middle tier NFL defenses.

        So far based on a 3 game sample, he is in the right trajectory and should succeed. But until he actually is put in those type of situations, we do not know. I am rooting for the kid.

    • Ron

      And you think Wentz is going to fold in a come from behind situation? Think again dude this kid is built for come backs.

      • SpringsGal

        Nope. I never said he is going to fold. I just want to see him perform in a clutch situation to win games consistently in the 4th quarter. Until that happens, it is just conjecture.

      • Wontime

        Its gonna be fun to watch that scenario play out

  • JudoPrince

    I attribute most of Wentz’ success to the Eagles being able to run a downhill and controlled offense. Building early leads allows the entire playbook to be used to keep the defense on their heels: creative screen passes, a variety of runs and passes off play action. It’s much easier to operate an offense when the opposing teams offense can’t sustain drives as we saw in the Pittsburgh game.

    Wentz has passed the test so far…but then again he hasn’t been tested much at all. I’m curious to see what he looks like running an offense when the team is down by two scores, forced to throw downfield on virtually every play.

    • Wentzylvania

      You do realize the Eagles have started the last two games throwing much more than running right? In fact, they started the Steelers game with 14 passes to 4 runs.

      • JudoPrince

        The point I am making is the situational passing. Many of those attempts were short throws and misdirection screen passes, which essentially serves the same purpose as a run game. Smart game planning by the Eagles. The bigger story in Philly could be that they found the right head coach to go along with the QB. I’m also curious as to how the defense will hold during the rest of the season.

    • crosseyedlemon

      Nobody expects a rookie QB to sail through a season and not have some setbacks. His play has pumped up the confidence level of the OL and that in itself is a valuable gain.

    • Wontime

      It’s always gonna be something….

  • Sidewinder

    Wentz is doing this with very few weapons. Last year the Bradford supporters kept blaming the people around him. Wentz is winning with the same crew. What weapons scare teams on offense? Ertz is a top 10 TE, but has missed 2/3 games. Jordan Matthews is their top receiver but he is at best a #2 who drops a few too many balls. What else at receiver? For RB Ryan Mathews is good when he is healthy, which is rare and he is hurt again. Whats left is Sproles, who is talented but on a part time basis, Barner who has been a practice squad/4th RB most of his career and 5th round pick Smallwood.

    • Wontime

      Not 100% accurate. I’m a lifelong eagles fan fyi.
      Last yr we had those mutts riled Cooper and miles Austin.
      I am a supporter of Bradford , not gonna lie. He’s looking good in MN so far.
      But anyway, yes I’m loving the way the birds are looking

      • Sidewinder

        Last year, as bad as it was Cooper was their second best receiver, Huff third, Agholar 4th (looking at yards). Taking him out (although a right move) does not make them better. Nothing against Bradford I just don’t think he is that good and it seems people line up to make excuses for him based upon where he was drafted 6 years ago. He has had a good start but his last game was very typical of what we saw last year, high percentage short yardage throws, with a low YPA. He won’t make many mistakes though which paired with that defense is a very strong combo.

  • Ron

    He wasn’t touched yesterday and the one time he ran he got out of bounds. Enough with the hits already. He mad a few bad decisions in the first two games but This kid doesn’t repeat mistakes. It’s a contact sport and if you watched other games yesterday a bunch of veteran QB’s took beatings. Wentz is also 6’5″ and goes about 240 unlike RG 3 who was slight of frame and built more like a track star. He ‘s only going to get better.

    • shmf

      The one thing that has been so impressive is how quickly he corrects flaws in his game.

      – Preseason = throwing too high, holding the ball too long, taking too many hits
      – Game 1 = holding the ball too long, taking too many hits
      – Game 2 = taking too many hits
      – Game 3 = ????

      • Ron

        Exactly. If you break down Wentz’s numbers he is better when pressured and blitzed which is basically unheard of. How do you stop a guy like that? He just carves you up no matter what defense a team is in.

        • eYeDEF

          Yeah that’s a stat that’s unlikely to hold all season, the sample size right now is just too small. It’s still very impressive for a rookie QB regardless.

          • Wontime

            Thx for the imput

          • eYeDEF

            np

      • Wontime

        Haha, remember when one of the secondary from the Browns said he has a slightly long release and they were gonna exploit it?! Lmao

    • Wontime

      Yessir!

  • Norm Frink

    I hope it’s not a Rick Mirer situation.

  • Eugene Santhin

    Is everybody looking at the same Eagles quarterback that I am? Almost every pass is on the money. No forced passes. His release is so fast it is uncanny. Discount throwaways and drops and he is phenomenal. Big, tough and smart he is the future elite quarterback of professional football and I have watched them all from John Unitis on.

    • Wontime

      Preach brother

  • Blaze Gunn

    How did you go from grading Carson Wentz, 79.7 last night on twitter to 90 today?

  • Wontime

    Yessir baby! Lifelong eagles fan here and I’m currently floating on a cloud!

  • Johnny U.

    rg3 did that with a coach who didnt want him.. wentz is lucky

    • Eagles all day

      Wentz is not lucky he is pretty good you hating bum. Rg3 lost his job to a bum in Mccown FoH lol.

  • Johnny U.

    funny how every other metric sees wentz as just middle of the pack or average..

    jameis winston is 1st in td passes, and 4th in yards.. but because he is outplaying mariota nobody says nothing

    • Sidewinder

      Wentz’s QB rating is 26 points higher than Winston. Winston has 6 interceptions.

      • Johnny U.

        wentz is also playing with the number 1 defense in the league

        • PhillyLanc

          Wentz is helping the Eagles defense by efficiently scoring points and controlling the clock.
          The Eagles defense is helping Wentz by not giving up points to where the offense has to come from behind and be one dimensional.
          Compared to Winston at this point Wentz has been much more efficient. Winston’s 1st in TD’s and 4th in yards is offset quite a bit by the fact that he has thrown 40 additional passes. Winston is averaging 6.54 YPA versus 7.54 YPA for Wentz and I think anyone would take a 5-0 TD-INT ratio over 8-6.
          It’s a small sample size and Winston may end up being the better player over time but through the first three games this year Wentz has been better.

    • Jetsfan94

      James Winston is trash man bum threw like 4 int against the bum ass cardinals and then gets wrecked by the broncos defense. His only good game was against the pathetic falcons defense and had mediocre game against the rams.