Presnap bias: why Cian Fahey is wrong about Carson Wentz

Patrick Causey, Follow him on Twitter @pcausey3

The word bias is defined as “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned.”

We expect to see bias from sports fans, especially against players on their chief rivals. I’m not holding my breath for Cowboys fans to heap praise on Carson Wentz, and I wouldn’t waste my time calling them out for refusing to recognize how well he has played.

But sportswriters and self-proclaimed draft experts are supposed to objective, providing readers with analysis that is fair and impartial. When a draft expert uses his bias to push a narrative that doesn’t add up? It’s worth calling out.

Enter Cian Fahey. Fahey wrote an article this week on PresnapReads.com, extolling the play of Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott against the Chicago Bears. I don’t take issue with that; and in fact I generally agree that Prescott has played better than expected.

But it’s how Fahey marketed this article on Twitter that calls into question his ability to disassociate his work from his own biases:

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Given this tweet, one would think that Fahey’s article would show side by side comparisons of Prescott doing things that Wentz has yet to accomplish this season. Of course, you would be wrong. In an article that spans 1,697 words, Fahey spent a whopping 30 of them dedicated to Wentz, saying: “During a week when fellow rookie Carson Wentz was compared to Peyton Manning pre-snap and Aaron Rodgers post-snap, Prescott’s control of his offense has barely been mentioned, if at all.”

#Analysis.

Since Fahey didn’t back up his assertion, I thought I would put his theory to the test.

Before I get started, I want to make one thing clear: this is not a knock on Dak Prescott, nor an attempt to take away from anything that he has accomplished. This is simply a response to Fahey’s assertion that Prescott showed more against the Bears than Wentz has all season.

Let’s go point by point. First up, Fahey discussed two throws from Prescott while under pressure. On this throw, Prescott faced almost immediate pressure up the middle, which Fahey suggests “is typically the toughest for a quarterback to function against.”

Dak under pressure 1.gif

Fahey also compliments Prescott for completing this dump off throw to Cole Beasley, saying: “[Prescott] held the ball long enough for Beasley to clear the traffic over the middle of the field and delivered as early as he could. The young quarterback did this while the pocket around him closed. Prescott had pressure in his face but kept his eyes downfield and maintained his posture to throw the ball with a stout foundation.”

Dak under pressure 2.gif

These are nice throws, indeed. But Wentz completed passes under pressure all damn season, especially pressure up the middle, since Jason Kelce has become a shell of his former self.

Exhibit A: this throw against the Bears on Monday Night Football. Kelce looks like he is wearing ice skates on this play, getting pushed back into Wentz’s face. Wentz isn’t phased and completes a 15 yard pass to Trey Burton with ease:

Or how about this throw in Wentz’s first career start against the Browns. It’s 4th down and the Browns bring a double A gap blitz getting immediate pressure on Wentz. Despite the pressure, Wentz connects with Zach Ertz for a first down, putting the ball where only Ertz can catch it:

Or how about this throw, where Wentz throws Brent Celek open despite getting nailed as he released the ball.

Fahey next compliments Prescott for using his legs to obtain a first down. Of particular note, Fahey likes that Prescott recognized the Bears were in man defense without a spy and took off for the first after the Bears defenders were ran away from the line:

Dak taking off under pressure.gif

Wentz did the exact same thing against the Steelers last weekend, exploiting the Steelers man defense for a 10 yard gain and a first down.

Fahey next shows how Prescott was able to navigate the pocket to buy time for his receivers to get open downfield. Prescott’s throw is slightly off, but he still hits Witten for an 18-yard gain.

Dak stepping up in pocket.gif

Are you starting to sense a theme yet? Watch this play against the Steelers, where Wentz  navigated the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield, stopping short of the line of scrimmage and hitting Darren Sproles in stride for a touchdown:

 

Next up, Fahey goes through two plays that show Prescott’s ability to recognize and adjust to the defense h is facing.  On the first play, Fahey points out that Prescott used a hard count to force the Bears’ linebackers to tip their hand on what defense they were in, which told Prescott where to go with the football.

Dak hard count.gif

But Wentz has shown the ability to use hard counts to his advantage as well. On the first drive of his career, Wentz used a hard count on 3rd and 3 to draw the Browns offsides and obtain a first down.

Fahey also discussed Prescott making a presnap adjustment that made this completion to Dez Bryant possible. Fahey complained that Al Michaels and Chris Colinsworth didn’t even give Prescott credit because they were busy discussing a penalty that negated the play:

Dak audible.gif

In an odd twist of irony, Fahey is doing exactly that which he complains about, missing the many examples of Wentz audibling at the line to get the Eagles in a better play based on the defense he is facing. Against the Browns, Wentz recognized man defense based on the single high safety and changed to a pass play that got Jordan Matthews in space for a huge gain:

Last example. Fahey doesn’t show a clip of the play, but discusses Prescott’s (first and only) touchdown throw to Dez Bryant, saying “Prescott later threw a touchdown to Bryant when he diagnosed Cover-1 before the snap based on the defense’s alignment. He was alone in the backfield with five receivers spread across the formation. Bryant was running a skinny post to his right, so he opened the play looking left to hold the safety to that side of the field. The decisiveness with which Prescott turned back to Bryant told us that he was always going to throw the ball there.”

If that play sounds oddly familiar, that’s because it is almost exactly what Wentz did on the first touchdown pass of his career. Wentz recognized the Browns were in man coverage based on the single high safety, stared down Ertz running a hitch route over the middle to freeze the safety, then quickly and decisively pivoted to Jordan Matthews and hit him for a touchdown:

Later in the game, Wentz manipulated the safety with his eyes by staring down Jordan Matthews running over the middle. The safety bites, leaving Agholor in single coverage against All Pro cornerback Joe Haden. Wentz does his thing, hitting Agholor in stride for a 40-yard touchdown:

Again, this is not a knock on Dak Prescott. He turned in an impressive performance against a depleted (and bad) Bears defense last week. And all signs point to the Cowboys having obtained a promising young quarterback. And that’s ok. Wentz and Prescott can both be good.

But if you are going to say that Prescott is doing things that Wentz has yet to do, you should at least try to find some examples of that occurring. Fahey didn’t. I’m not sure why Fahey has an ax to grind against Wentz. But maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to admit that he was wrong when he said Wentz was a really bad prospect leading up to the draft.

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3 thoughts on “Presnap bias: why Cian Fahey is wrong about Carson Wentz

    • Two reasons: (1) he used to write for Bleacher Report and has a fairly substantial following on Twitter, holding himself out as a football expert. So I thought it was important to respond to comments of his that I perceived to be off base; (2) remove him from the equation, and it is still a narrative that is being used by many to discredit what Wentz has accomplished.

  1. Pingback: Mid-Season Evaluation of Carson Wentz, Part II | Eagles Rewind

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