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Eagles Need Wentz to Play Better Against Cowboys

By Paul Macrie, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

It was always naive to think that Carson Wentz was going to maintain his torrid start to his NFL career.

The first three games couldn't have gone any better for the rookie quarterback. His last three starts have been more of a roller coaster ride, as he has thrown three interceptions during that span and his accuracy and decision-making has waned.

As the Eagles get set to play the hated Dallas Cowboys this Sunday night, it is time for the North Dakota State product to raise his level of play.

There is no reason to panic over Wentz's recent play. It was unrealistic to believe he was going to produce an MVP-type season as a rookie. The odds are stacked against him to put up gaudy numbers week-to-week with shoddy receiver play, and an offensive line that will be much-maligned the rest of the season with a rookie right tackle and a center who is a shell of his former self.

Those are legit excuses for the rookie, but there were two things in the last game against an elite Vikings' defense that Wentz must eliminate if the Eagles are to remain in the NFC East race the remainder of the season. He must avoid throwing into double coverage and tweak his throwing mechanics.

The first interception he threw last week was an errant high throw to a covered Brent Celek. The throws that tend to sail have a high chance of being picked off. 

During OTAs, minicamp and training camp, it was reported that Wentz had a tendency to throw the ball high, whether it was deeper routes, slants or hitches. He wasn't doing that in his earlier starts, but the issue has popped up again in recent weeks. 

As Wentz gets set for his first game against fierce rival Dallas, it will be vital for him to concentrate on tweaking his throwing mechanics this week. His mind appears to be a little rushed too. There were several snaps last week that he couldn't handle initially because it appeared he was already going through his reads downfield. That was one of the points head coach Doug Pederson made during his Monday press conference. 

The Cowboys defense is 21st in the league in pass yards allowed (266.2), but they have only surrendered 17.8 points per game and are 10th in the league in rush yards allowed. It has been an overachieving defense through six games. The unit has been on the field less, and nine takeaways is a major improvement so far. Players such as linebacker Sean Lee and corner Morris Claiborne have upped their performances in 2016.

After facing a stingy Minnesota defense, Wentz should have more room to operate this week despite an improved Cowboys defense awaiting him. His receivers will need to make his life easier by showing a better ability to get open, but the rookie will need to perform at a level franchise-caliber quarterbacks normally do. 

This is a perfect week to have more run-designed plays in the game plan for Wentz. He has 18 rushes for 43 yards so far this season, but it is time to unleash that element of his game.

Of course, it isn't to say run him to the point where he is being put into harms way, but a few option plays could create Dallas to back off their coverage a little more. The Eagles offense has become more predictable in recent weeks because of the opponent's lack of respect for the receivers and more of a straight-forward running attack.

As noted on several occasions this season, the schedule gets more difficult as the season progresses. Dallas, New York, Atlanta, Seattle and Green Bay are the challenges ahead. Each opponent offers a new look for Wentz. He has taken his lumps in recent weeks, but has been relatively unfazed. The protection was much better against Minnesota, and if that continues, it will only be a positive for the rookie's development.

It is "Dallas Week." The Sunday night spotlight will be at its brightest for Wentz, as he enters an unfamiliar environment at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The Eagles will need for their franchise hopeful to lead by example and play his best game yet. Wentz has shown to this point he is capable of such efforts. Now, it is time to sit back and enjoy his next challenge as an NFL quarterback. 

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