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Missed Connections: Carson Wentz and Torrey Smith

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When WR Torrey Smith signed a 3 year 15-million-dollar contract with the Eagles in the offseason, as part of the “Weapons for Wentz” haul, there were certain expectations. Smith, who has 4.41 speed, was expected to be a field stretcher for the offense. This would allow new addition WR Alshon Jeffery and TE Zach Ertz to work the intermediate areas more freely.

To date, the relationship between QB Carson Wentz and Torrey Smith has yet to materialize. In fact, their stat line on deep passing looks more like a Missed Connections post on Craigslist.

Let’s first look at Wentz’s production on passes beyond 20 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Wentz is 6 of 22 for 231 yards with 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions while falling victim to 2 drops. 15% of his passes travel more than 20 yards (tied for 8th with Ben Roethlisberger). His 36.4% accuracy is ranked 21st among qualifying Quarterbacks.

Wentz targeted Smith deep twice in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins. On the first throw, Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson said that Wentz’s foot slipped, causing on underthrow that was nearly intercepted.

On the second throw, Wentz overcompensated and sailed an uncatchable ball. On both plays, the Eagles got what they wanted, but failed to execute.

In Week 2 against the Chiefs, Smith uncovered on a scramble drill and Wentz threw a catchable ball that was dropped by Smith.

According to PFF, 8 of Smith’s 18 targets have been beyond 20 yards, which is the most on the team. Of those 8, he’s only hauled in 2 receptions for 46 yards on 4 catchable throws. So why did I consider Smith for my Weekly Eagles DFS Play for Week 5?

Let’s start with the matchups the Eagles will have to deal with against the Arizona Cardinals. WR Jeffery will likely draw coverage from shutdown CB Patrick Peterson. Peterson has shadowed Marvin Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Dez Bryant and Pierre Garcon. In those games, he’s allowing an average 3/33.5/.25 stat line. The Eagles will have to look elsewhere for production.

Enter Cardinals CB Justin Bethel. Known more as a special teams ace, Bethel was pressed into a larger role on the defense in 2016 with injuries to defensive backs Tony Jefferson, Tyvon Branch, and Tyrann Mathieu all missing time. He started on the outside, where he struggled mightily, before settling down in the nickel role and becoming steadier.

Here are some notes from my scouting report on Justin Bethel:

“Adequate mental processing; struggles to process pre-snap coverage adjustments and was often out of position after coverage shifts…

Inconsistent leverage in off coverage, gets sucked inside while shuffling, labors to move hips independent from his body and widen out to mirror route. Has trouble staying with stutter releases from quicker WRs due to hip tightness…

Occasionally false steps in press, losing route early. Adequate in man coverage; turns early or gets back on heels when faster wide receivers attack him in off coverage and is easy to manipulate with nods at the breakpoint…

Gives large cushions in off coverage and struggles to flip hips and quickly break laterally to make up ground…

Shaky balance when coming forward out of high backpedal and gets feet crossed when turning to run with vertical routes with extra steps needed to accelerate…

Liability against speedy wide receivers on vertical routes; consistently loses a step as vertical routes progress…

Adequate ball skills; struggles to locate ball when out of phase, panics when beat and will turn early when not in phase…

Limited against quicker WRs and in outside off coverage.”

According to PFF, Bethel has conceded 3 TDs in 4 games and is responsible for giving up 253 yards, 7th most among 110 qualified cornerbacks. Playing primarily on the outside this year, Smith’s matchup with Bethel is boom-bust regarding fantasy projection, but this has all the makings of a situation the Eagles will want to exploit.

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He hosts Locked On Eagles and writes for Inside the Pylon & Breaking Football.

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