Carson Wentz
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Carson Wentz is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL, and for good reason. 

When Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last week mainstream reactions were deeply mixed. While some were troubled and confused by a team with a “win-now” roster like the Colts trading for a quarterback who spent the last few weeks of the 2020 season on the bench, others thought the move put the Colts in the middle of the Super Bowl conversation

While I’m optimistic that Wentz can have success in Indianapolis next season, there are some worrying trends in his game right now. Here’s what the film tells us about the Colts’ new signal-caller.

The Good

Carson Wentz gets people excited because he makes plays very few quarterbacks are capable of making. He has a high-end arm, he’s a good athlete and he’s an aggressive player. Carson Wentz can be as dangerous throwing the ball downfield as any quarterback in the league.

Week 5 vs Pittsburgh 3rd and 12 from PHI 23 Q3 9:05

This is an example of a really high-end throw that Wentz made last season. Attacking the middle of the field against Cover 2 is generally a very good idea so Wentz wants to get the ball to Travis Fulgham. The defender is playing Fulgham with his back turned to Wentz, which means he’s only really able to cover the width of his shoulders. Wentz sees this and he’s decisive, firing a rocket to Fulgham just over the defender’s head and the Eagles convert a third and long. This is a franchise quarterback type throw that a lot of players aren’t even willing to attempt.

Week 11 vs Cleveland 1st and 10 from PHI 19 Q2 15:00

Carson Wentz’s ability to take a hit and still make a big-time throw is probably his best asset. The Philadelphia offensive line was working with reserve level players for most of last season but their performance against the Browns was particularly awful. Dallas Goedert comes wide open on a wheel route and Wentz hits him in stride before getting clobbered. To me, making big throws from clean pockets says much less about whether or not a player has a great arm than what they can do when they’re uncomfortable. 

Wentz was uncomfortable a lot last season, and he still made some huge plays.

Week 11 vs Cleveland 3rd and 9 from PHI 26 Q3 8:09

Here’s another good example of Wentz keeping his eyes downfield, and delivering a strike before taking a hit. Wentz begins the play reading the concept to his left but it’s not there, he drifts away from pressure and he puts the ball on target to Fulgham before taking another massive hit. This is another first down-worthy play from Wentz on third and long after a complete breakdown from his offensive line. 

Week 5 vs Pittsburgh 2nd and Goal from PIT 8 Q3 5:58

This is another really good example of Wentz’s arm talent and what he can do while under pressure. The Eagles have a five-man pass protection called and the Steelers are rushing with six so Wentz is responsible for getting rid of the ball quickly here. Greg Ward is running an out route against a corner with inside leverage and no help so he’s wide open. Wentz sees him and is able to flick the ball to Ward with a defensive tackle bearing down on him. 

The Bad

The biggest thing keeping Carson Wentz from playing to his full potential has been accuracy issues. As the clips I included earlier displayed, Wentz has a very good arm and he fits the ball into tight windows on a regular basis which makes a lot of his misses even more confusing. 

Week 11 vs Cleveland 1st and 10 from PHI 37 Q4 13:54

Now nobody is going to make every throw, every time but plays like this show up way too often on Wentz’s film. Fulgham runs a good route here, threatening the vertical enough to force the corner to flip his hips before he makes his break. But Wentz skunks this ball, throwing it low and behind Fulgram. If Wentz hit him in stride they have a very good chance for a first down here but it’s just a wasted opportunity. 

Week 7 vs New York 1st and 10 from PHI 11 Q1 6:03

Here’s another ugly miss to Fulgham. Wentz is being aggressive and trying for a holeshot against Cover 3 cloud but he just sky-mails it here. This ball needs to be put on Fulgram’s back shoulder, throwing it high also puts Fulgham in a position to get laid out.                  

Wentz’s tape is full of ugly misses like these ones, at this point in his career it might be too much to expect for him to eliminate them completely. Indianapolis will still need him to work hard to be more consistent next season if they want to go deep in the playoffs.

Carson Wentz also had some serious decision-making issues last season. The Eagles’ Week 7 win against the Giants was Wentz’s worst performance that I watched and this play was one of a few touchdowns that he left on the field. 

Week 7 vs New York 3rd and 7 from NYG 13 Q2 13:35

The Giants’ strong safety is driving on DeSean Jackson before Wentz even separates his feet to make this throw. I think Wentz sees Greg Ward get in the way of the corner lined up overtop Jackson but he just doesn’t see the safety.  If he would have looked at the strong saftey, Wentz would’ve seen Fulgram coming wide open for a would-be touchdown. 

Week 5 vs Pittsburgh 2nd and 10 from PHI 45 Q4 6:15

Pittsburgh deserves credit for having a really good call for what Philadelphia was trying to do here but I’m still not a fan of Wentz’s decision here. Wentz sees the corner covering Greg Ward blitz but he doesn’t see that the safety replacing him is playing Ward flat-footed. That means that he’s in a great position to make a play on a slant route, which is what Ward is running. This ball could’ve easily been intercepted and Ward still gets his head taken off because of this throw. Wentz should’ve gotten this ball to his running back in the flat.

So How Will Carson Wentz Look With The Colts?

When Wentz is good, he’s damn good but the Colts should know that he isn’t a sure thing. 

The main reason I feel that Wentz can work in Indianapolis is that they’ll offer him a much more QB-friendly offensive structure than what he had with the Eagles last season. Wentz will go from playing behind a revolving door at offensive line to the most consistent front in the league. While Philadelphia had some success running the ball last season, the Colts are actually capable of building their identity around it. I’m also a big fan of Michael Pittman Jr. and I think we can expect him to take on a bigger role in the Colts offense this season. 

I’d like to see the Colts employ a scheme-based passing attack that takes advantage of Wentz’s strengths. An emphasis on the intermediate passing game and play-action would serve them well. The rest of the Colts’ roster is strong enough that I think they would be in a really great position to run away with the AFC South if Wentz simply plays like one of the 15 best quarterbacks in the league.

We’ll see if a change of scenery will help Carson Wentz live up to the fan’s high expectations.

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