Carson Wentz arrives into the 2021 NFL season with a lot to prove. The former second overall pick got traded by the Eagles to the Colts earlier this year. After a dismal 2020 season, Wentz’s time in Philadelphia ended on a disappointing note. With training camps opening later this month, the preseason program is arguably one of the most important in Carson Wentz’s career.
The NDSU alum enjoyed several seasons of high-quality play; his 2017 season, in particular, was the high point as Wentz played at an MVP level. That season ended in injury for Wentz, while Nick Foles took the Superbowl glory and spotlight. Following on from that season, Wentz failed to reach that MVP benchmark. His play sunk to such an abysmal level that Philadelphia benched him for Jalen Hurts. With Wentz on a new team, new coach and new environment, it’s time to assess why Carson Wentz will succeed in Indianapolis.
What Went Wrong For Carson Wentz in 2020
The headline numbers from Wentz’s 2020 season make for grim reading. A 49.6 QBR, 50 sacks and 15 interceptions are the headline numbers. Watching Wentz in 2020 made for painful viewing. Wentz played an erratic, rushed style of quarterback. He seldom set his feet in the pocket; he looked nervous and panicked while struggling with his reads and progressions. The video here highlights his issues.
Furthermore, Wentz threw away 11 more passes in 2020 than he did in 2019. That highlights the problems he endured under pressure. Usually, the level of pressure a quarterback faces gets blamed on the offensive line. However, the line ranked 11th in ESPN’s pass-block success. That suggests Wentz was holding onto the ball for far too long. It is a bad habit that Wentz has developed into his game.
Even in his MVP year, he would hold onto the ball for too long, but he used his legs to scramble and bail out of trouble. After several injury issues, Wentz’s hesitancy at using his legs caused him problems in 2020. Carson Wentz’s accuracy also got worse in 2020; his lousy throw percentage jumped up to 21.7%. Wentz played with shoddy mechanics, bad decision making and no confidence. That was a recipe for disaster. The former Eagles quarterback’s Next-Gen Stats passing chart encapsulates his troubles.
How Can Frank Reich Change Things
Frank Reich knows Carson Wentz very well. The Colts head coach was the former offensive coordinator in Philadelphia as Wentz entered the league. Reich’s experience also understands the quarterback position as he is a former NFL quarterback. Last year saw Reich lead the Colts with veteran signal-caller Philip Rivers under center.
Firstly, if you cast your minds back to 2017, Wentz excelled with Zach Ertz and Tre Burton at tight end. He also worked well with a bevvy of athletic running backs. Veteran tight end Jack Doyle should fill the role as a gritty, blocking tight end that could leak out on a fourth read as Wentz’s safety blanket. Mo Allie Cox displayed his Basketball traits as he broke out as a solid tight end. Lastly, Indianapolis drafted Kyle Granson. The SMU product is a player with an outrageous vertical leap; he also runs heavy vertical routes. All quarterbacks require good tight end play. Reich’s tight end room holds a little bit of everything; they could help Wentz in tricky spots.
Add Jonathan Taylor, Marlon Mack and Nyhiem Hines to the mix, and Wentz has a lot of help in the backfield. The Clots ranked ninth in total rushing yardage, while they ranked tenth in rushing attempts. Behind an elite offensive line, the Colts will attempt to run the ball down the opponent’s throat.
An elite offensive line, talented running backs and skilful tight ends could see Reich implement a quarterback-friendly offence. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay have designed clever, efficient offences that are simple for their quarterbacks to use. We witnessed Wentz struggle to go through his reads last year, and he looked shaky when throwing into tight windows. I fully expect Reich to use a lot more play-action, bootlegs and designed rollouts for Wentz out of a functioning running game. Providing Wentz with a digestible offence where he doesn’t need to overplay could help him.
Quarterbacks are strange animals. They require plenty of tenderness, love and care. Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren had a father/son relationship. Conversely, Matthew Stafford and Joe Lombardi never clicked. Wentz’s downfall in Philadelphia coincided with Reich’s departure. Quarterbacks require plenty of confidence; moreover, they must trust their coaches implicitly. Wentz clearly possesses a powerful bond with Reich.
Furthermore, Reich saw Wentz arrive in the NFL as a rookie. He is fully aware of the flaws that exist within Carson Wentz’s game. So much of quarterback play happens between the ears, Reich has been there as a player, and he understands what is happening inside Wentz’s head. That might be the biggest trump card Frank Reich holds at the table. With that in his hand, he will turn Carson Wentz’s career around.