But he ended that day driving a golf cart out of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a black brace on his left knee. Torn ACL. Never the same. Wentz bounced back in 2018 and 2019 — his stats hovered around the top 12, the Eagles gave him a $128 million four-year extension — but he cratered in 2020, by any measure one of the worst quarterbacks. soccer.
Now, Washington commanders have bet on Wentz after he played relatively well for the Indianapolis Colts last season — at least until an epic season-ending meltdown. The Colts traded him with no clear plan to replace him, a sign of how his stock has fallen since 2017. In Washington, Wentz is a marked improvement over Taylor Heinicke, and at the cost of two third-round picks, he’ They are expected to have a major impact on the offense.
The question for Wentz and Washington — both after two years of below-average quarterback play, both with potential — is how high each can push the other. And the question for Wentz specifically may be, “What’s changed since 2017, and is it fixable?”
Football analysts say it’s more complicated than that. At the most basic level, Wentz is a perfect fit for offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s vertical scheme, ESPN’s Matt Bowen said. Even though the quarterback turns 30 in December, despite struggling with back, knee and foot injuries, Bowen said Wentz still has the strength and talent to make the deep, hard and tight throws that had been missing from COs since Turner arrived with Coach Ron. Rivera in 2020.
“At the end of the day, I think when you have him in Washington, that’s what you want: you want him to expand the field,” Bowen said. “You want him to make the big throws, the game-changing throws on the court up to the third tier. You want him to be very productive in critical game situations, third down and in the red zone. This is what you want.”
Kevin Cole, data analyst for Pro Football Focus, argued that Wentz should not be judged by his 2017 performance as he outperformed in key situations that year, such as third down. By the expected points added metric, Wentz had the fourth-best third season of any NFL quarterback in the past decade, according to TruMedia. Cole said a more realistic target was his 2018-19 form, when Wentz was a “marginal top 10, marginal top 12” player.
Last season with the Colts, Cole said Wentz was “pretty close” to that level statistically, but poor play in high-level games – New England’s Week 14 win, Jacksonville loss in week 18 – made him look worse than he was. Wentz is a high-variance quarterback, capable of throwing shots others can’t but comes with the risk of extreme downside that could show up in a season, like 2020, or a game, like Jacksonville.
“You have to be able to live with it [variance]”, said Cole, “and it’s difficult for the fans, for the coaches and for everyone. “
In film, Bowen said, there are a few explanations for Wentz’s inconsistency. Most glaring is the poor mechanics with his lower body and trigger point. This causes him to miss layup shots and prevents the offense from staying on schedule.
The other, Bowen said, is Wentz’s penchant for trusting his physical gifts. Instead of checking, Wentz tries to extend plays, which can lead to explosive wins or losses, such as sacks or interceptions. Wentz’s ball safety has been a problem throughout his career – his 58 fumbles from 2016-20 were 11 more than any other player in the league – but from 2017-19 he made enough big plays to compensate for this.
Turnovers, after his improvement last season, aren’t his only persistent mistakes. Wentz’s commitment to extending the game often gets him fired. Over the past two years, he’s been sacked 82 times, second only to Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow (83). Of those sacks, only 33 — about 40% — happened in less than three seconds, according to TruMedia.
“We need to see more consistency in terms of decision making, in terms of when to make available throws and [how to keep] the offense out of negative situations,” Bowen said. “There is no doubt about the talent. It’s been very inconsistent for the past two years, which is why he’s on his third team in three years.
It will be Turner’s job to get Wentz to find that balance. That can be tricky because multiple reports over the years in Indianapolis and Philadelphia have described Wentz as a poor leader who doesn’t respond well to heavy training. Colts coach Frank Reich, the former Eagles offensive coordinator who was seen as the one who could fix Wentz after the disastrous 2020 season, admitted to The Athletic last fall that Wentz likes to keep control on the line of scrimmage. .
“There are uncomfortable moments,” he said. “We’re both pretty stubborn. We have a disagreement, and it goes deeper than, “Oh, that’s weird.” We really disagree on that. But it’s still good. We work through that stuff. Obviously, as a coach, I will always have the last word. But I never try to use this position. I want it to be a collaborative thing. But there is a chain of command. This chain of command must be followed for this to work.
If Turner can work Wentz, Bowen said Washington has enough skill-set and offensive-line talent to get the most out of Wentz. He could stretch the field with tight end Logan Thomas. He can take one-on-one vertical shots to receiver Dyami Brown. He can exploit midfield with gimmicky receiver Curtis Samuel or find Antonio Gibson coming out of the backfield. And he can deliver a well-timed ball to star receiver Terry McLaurin on any number of routes.
“How we judge Carson Wentz this year will be…those throws,” Bowen said. “You are going to have to be consistent and precise and throw with anticipation from the pocket. Because the scheme works. There is no doubt that the diet works. It will just depend on his ability to function and produce in that attack and play the games in critical game situations.
Despite the potential pitfalls, despite the likelihood of Wentz returning to 2017 production levels, Cole argued Washington was better with him than with any other quarterback in the past two seasons. The roller coaster of variance can be tough to ride, and public opinion on the Washington trade will likely hinge on whether Wentz can regain his form from 2018-19, which Cole says might be a more realistic expectation.
“At least there are some upsides, hopefully for him,” the analyst said. “If the team is ready to take this chance, it could pay off.”