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Pederson, Eagles working to fix Wentz's mechanics

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What's wrong with September sensation Carson Wentz?

After roaring out to a passer rating over 100 in three of his first four NFL games, Philadelphia's rookie quarterback is the league's lowest-rated passer since Week 6.

The Eagles' offense has gone in the tank, failing to reach 20 points in each of the last three weeks after scoring at least 20 in each of the season's first nine games.

After Wentz's regression reached its apogee in Sunday's ugly loss at Cincinnati, coach Doug Pederson attributed the slump to mechanical flaws that NFL evaluators noted during the North Dakota State star's college career.

"Strictly mechanics," Pederson said Sunday night, via NJ.com. "... Young quarterback, missed quite a bit of time in the preseason, but now we have to keep cleaning this thing up."

Wentz, on the other hand, is either in denial or unaware of the extent to which his mechanics have devolved over the course of the season.

"I don't think it's the mechanics. You make mistakes. Things happen," Wentz offered. "If you throw the ball 60 times, you are going to miss some of them."

Quarterbacks with long deliveries tend to absorb more hits, throw more passes that are batted or deflected and lapse into extended periods of scattershot ball placement. Against Cincinnati, a staggering six of Wentz's throws were batted at the line, three were intercepted and three more were dropped by Bengals defenders.

Wentz works daily on his mechanics with offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. Pederson conceded at Monday's news conference that the overhaul would be more complete if his rookie was still sitting behind a veteran quarterback such as Sam Bradford.

"These are some of the decisions that I made back when the (Bradford) trade was made," Pederson said. "These were going to be some of the pains we were going to have to go through, and just him understanding and him learning and us growing together as an offense, he and I growing as coach and quarterback together, it's all part of the process."

Although the issues with Wentz's delivery are coming to a head in early December, they have been latent since the draft's No. 2 overall pick arrived in Philadelphia. After his rather uneven preseason debut in early August, the Around The NFL Podcast put Wentz's sloppy mechanics under the microscope.

Entering the season opener, rookie defensive end Carl Nassib boasted to reporters that Cleveland planned to take advantage of Wentz's slow release. It was the quarterback-needy Browns who passed on the opportunity to draft Wentz, believing he wouldn't develop into a top NFL quarterback.

"We've worked on his feet, we've worked on a little bit of the upper body mechanics, we don't feel like it's a slow release," Pederson explained in response to the criticism. "It can be long at times because he's such a long guy. It can be Colin Kaepernick-long at times."

It's a testament to Pederson and his assistants that Wentz's delivery was shortened and his footwork streamlined between the preseason opener and his spectacular regular-season debut. Wentz checked all of the requisite boxes during his September run: The ability to throw with power as well as touch, high-end athleticism to make plays on the move, pocket toughness to stand in against pressure, audibling to the run in advantageous situations and recognizing the blitz to hit his hot read.

By month's end, he was almost universally hailed as the franchise savior -- even drawing comparisons to Peyton Manning pre-snap and Aaron Rodgers post-snap.

Wentz was cruising behind a rock-solid offensive line, leading the league in time of possession while directing a balanced offensive attack.

Whereas Cowboys rookie sensation Dak Prescott has been incubated in an experienced, talent-rich offense with the highest run-pass ratio in the league, Wentz's back is starting to break under the weight of responsibility for carrying a mistake-prone supporting cast.

The mid-October loss of stalwart right tackle Lane Johnson to suspension has been especially damaging, as the offensive line has killed drives with untimely penalties and poor pass protection over the past six weeks. To make matters worse, Ryan Mathews has been waylaid by injuries, removing Philadelphia's power running attack from the equation. An overburdened rookie signal-caller is now on pace to shatter the franchise single-season record for pass attempts while throwing to an unreliable, inexperienced wide receiver corps.

Like Todd Gurley bottled up behind an anemic offensive line or Aaron Rodgers waiting for slow receivers to separate from coverage, Wentz's overcompensation has led to bad habits. The repetitive accuracy of September has backslid to an inconsistent throwing motion with extra movement and a greater chance of mechanical failure.

Similar to Blake Bortles in Jacksonville, Wentz is flashing a long-armed looping windup in which the ball often drops to his waist level. In other instances, his shoulder is flying open and his base is unsteady.

Are these issues fixable?

After Bortles worked diligently with sports biomechanics guru Tom House in his second offseason, the Jaguars raved about the "night and day" difference in his throwing motion. Bortles went on to set single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,428) and passing touchdowns (35), leading all NFL quarterbacks with 72 completions of 20 or more yards, debuting at No. 56 on NFL Network's The Top 100 Players of 2016 countdown.

The key is to keep honing the delivery, an important step Bortles skipped after his breakout season. Even established quarterbacks such as future Hall of Famer Tom Brady seek help with mechanics each offseason.

"Augmenting (a throwing motion) is a lot of process, process, process. A lot of repetition. And it can be incremental -- maybe even several years," one evaluator recently told Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson. "There is some elimination involved that can wreak havoc with a quarterback mentally. So you have to be careful with it -- try some things and if the changes start making problems worse, you move on to something else.

"That's why it's an offseason thing because you need the time to be deliberate. ... It's not easy. You can tinker and get really bad (results)."

As natural as the Bortles comparison might be with a pair of athletic, golden-armed 6-foot-5 quarterbacks, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah prefers to cite Russell Wilson as a model for Wentz. The Seahawks star compensates for a looping windup with a quick release.

Jeremiah insists Wentz's rookie mistakes and mechanical flaws shouldn't overshadow his obvious positive attributes. Of five NFL personnel executives recently asked to build around one quarterback from the last two draft classes, three told Jeremiah they were opting for Wentz while the other two chose Titans franchise cornerstone Marcus Mariota.

Jeremiah is not alone in his high regard for Wentz's prospects.

After squaring off against Wentz two weeks ago, Aaron Rodgers raved about his young counterpart as "an amazing kid, very cerebral beyond his years."

"I think his ceiling is extremely high," Rodgers continued, "and Eagles fans should be very excited for the future."

Wentz's biggest booster remains his head coach. Stressing that the face of the franchise's future is a "pro's pro," Pederson firmly believes the adversity of Wentz's rookie season works in favor of his development.

"Carson is going to get there. The sky is the limit for him," Pederson said Monday. "There are going to be setbacks. ... You have to go through this in the NFL.

"Carson handles everything like a pro. He's got that kind of mentality that is going to serve him very well. It's a long process. He's making progress, and even though there are some mistakes, he is doing so many things very well. We ask him to do a lot. I'm very pleased with the steps he's making."

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff once remaked, "Until you find your quarterback, the search for him consumes you."

Having found his quarterback, Pederson isn't about to be consumed by a few rookie pitfalls.

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