Will Carson Wentz do well as an Indianapolis Colt?
By: Trenton Roberts (Twitter: @TRobertsNFL)
On February 18th, the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles announced a trade: starting quarterback Carson Wentz was shipped to Indy in exchange for a pair of picks, those being a 2021 third and a 2022 conditional second. Had this trade happened even so much as a year earlier, there is no possibility of it going down, as Wentz was coming off another solid 2019 season in which he broke 4,000 yards for the first time in his career and threw just seven interceptions to 27 touchdowns.
After the 2020 season, however, there are people that will say the trade is equal in value for both sides, and even some that will tell you the Eagles won by getting rid of Wentz. So, what happened?
Well, if you didn’t follow anything related to the Eagles in 2020, I’ll quickly get you up to speed. To put it simply, Wentz absolutely fell apart. Without a competent offense surrounding him, and with the offensive line in shambles due to the injury bug, the Eagles stumbled their way to a 4-11-1 record, dead last in the worst division in football, the NFC East, and second worst in the conference behind the 4-12 Falcons.
Prior to getting benched in the final quarter of the season, Wentz accumulated a league-leading 15 interceptions to just 16 touchdowns in 12 games. What is even more impressive is that, despite playing four fewer games than most quarterbacks, Wentz led the league in sacks with 50, averaging out to just over four sacks each game. It is also telling that only a single receiver netted over 50 catches on the season, that being Greg Ward, and only Ward, Travis Fulgham, and tight end Dallas Goedert tallied more than 400 receiving yards. The offense surrounding the struggling quarterback was horrendous, but Wentz had issues of his own.
For those who watched any of the Eagles games in 2020 and compared them to his tape from prior seasons, it was obvious that Wentz was not the same quarterback he was before. Perhaps it was the lack of protection, a true top target, or something else, but Wentz developed a multitude of bad habits throughout the season, turning him from a budding young star into arguably the worst quarterback in the NFL.
Now, in 2021, it’s on Colts head coach Frank Reich to see if he can reignite the magic that was displayed when he was the offensive coordinator for Wentz’s MVP-caliber season in 2017. However, it is far from smooth sailing for the pair, as the coaching staff will need to work out Wentz’s aforementioned bad habits in order to get him back to his prior self. However, unlike in Philadelphia, Carson Wentz will have many of the pieces he needs to round back into form.
The Indianapolis Colts house one of the league’s top offensive lines, with superstar left guard Quenton Nelson heading the charge. The unit allowed just 21 sacks in 2020, tied for the second fewest in the league, and their 71 sacks allowed since 2018 is the second fewest over that time period, just one more than the 70 allowed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite losing cornerstone left tackle Anthony Castonzo to retirement at the beginning of the offseason, the team has adequately replaced him with former Chiefs bookend Eric Fisher and pinch-starters in Sam Tevi and Julién Davenport. With Wentz looking good behind top offensive lines from 2017-2019, he should be able to rely on the big guys up front once again in order to boost his own confidence.
The offensive line isn’t the only improvement, however. In Philadelphia, Wentz struggled to get things going while passing to 2017 UDFA Greg Ward, oft-injured tight ends Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz, an inexperienced Travis Fulgham, and rookie receiver Jalen Reagor, none of whom spark fear into opponents. In Indianapolis, Wentz will unite with former league-leader T.Y. Hilton, sophomore breakout-candidate Michael Pittman Jr., and tight ends Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox to form the passing offense. Throw in dynamic receiving back Nyheim Hines and wide receivers Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal, and Wentz is entering a much better situation than he saw in 2020.
Along with a strong rushing attack that saw 2020 rookie running back Jonathan Taylor finish third in the NFL in rushing and is set to return former 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack into the picture, and Wentz has all the tools there to be successful once again. However, the question again returns to whether he can get rid of all the bad habits that arose in the 2020 season in order to return to his full potential. If Reich and Co. can release Wentz from his shackles and round him back into shape, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see the former star reach 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air with the team surrounding him. Should he continue to struggle as he did for much of the 2020 season, there is a chance he could even end up on the bench in favor of 2020 4th-rounder Jacob Eason or 2021 6th-rounder Sam Ehlinger. Whether he regains his star form or is benched for the second time in as many seasons is ultimately up to the 28-year old from North Dakota State University.