INDIANAPOLIS – Outside of the jersey number Carson Wentz will wear in Indianapolis, there’s quite a few questions surrounding the new quarterback of the Colts.
Wentz, 28, comes to the Colts less than two years after the Eagles financially committed to him as their franchise quarterback.
In Indy, Wentz will be reunited with Frank Reich, with the mutual respect in that relationship the driving force behind those believing in this reclamation project.
What are the questions about Wentz now leading the Colts?
1. Were Wentz’s struggles in 2020 mental or physical?
The answer is probably both, when you see a player of Wentz fall off like he did in 2020.
Physically, you see some breakdowns in his fundamentals, as playing in a clean pocket wasn’t something that happened as often for Wentz last season. Although even when Wentz did have a clean pocket, his accuracy was the worst in the NFL in 2020.
Mentally, how much were the issues for Wentz due to something ‘between the ears,’ to steal a line from Jim Irsay?
There’s some scar tissue on Wentz. Is it reparable?
No matter, it appears Wentz’s confidence has been shaken and that must be addressed.
2. What will Frank Reich’s tutelage mean to Wentz?
It’s no secret that Frank Reich’s presence is undeniably the biggest reason why Carson Wentz is joining the Colts.
Dating back to 2016, Reich has had big time conviction in Wentz.
Reich’s belief that he can get Wentz back to being a high-level starting quarterback is why Jim Irsay and Chris Ballard have backed their head coach in this decision.
The track record of Reich getting quarterbacks to play at high level under him is impressive. Granted, the Wentz problems are different than anything Reich has encountered before (and then resurrected).
Admittedly, Wentz has said his stubbornness and Type A personality tendencies got the best of him at times in Philadelphia. Will the respect of a mind like Reich’s—and the two guys aligning up so much morally—allow for Wentz to have more trust in what his head coach/play caller is saying and doing?
3. Is a new (or better) support system what Wentz needs?
Putting Reich’s presence (or other former Eagles assistants Press Taylor and Mike Groh now in Indy) aside here, let’s focus on the Colts roster around Wentz.
What will an offensive line with the likes of Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith do for Wentz’s protection and confidence, after having different starting line combinations in virtually every start last season (Wentz was sacked 50 times in 12 games last season)?
How much will Jonathan Taylor at running back help Wentz, who never had a 1,000-yard lead back in his time in Philadelphia?
What about a healthier pass catching group that catches the ball better than Philly’s woeful effort there in 2020?
What about a defense that showed signs early in 2020 of being a unit that can alleviate the offensive stress?
Simply, what about a change of environment for the North Dakota native? Philadelphia is a different animal than virtually every NFL city. Will Indianapolis help Wentz feel more settled and comfortable?
4. What type of leader do the Colts now have at quarterback?
Back in 2019, a Philly Voice article published several anonymous reports from Eagles players saying Wentz was ‘selfish’ and ‘uncompromising.’
Wentz never outright denied those accusations, admitting he needed to be a better teammate. You also saw a recent report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter stating Wentz and former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson went two months without talking last season.
The Colts do not mince words in stressing what leadership means inside of their locker room. Obviously, the quarterback is usually at the forefront of that.
It’s clear Wentz wanted out of Philly.
He now has a second chance, back with a friendly coach. He needs to embrace that and show his teammates that he can be a leader for a franchise that has seen a revolving door at quarterback and has lacked a true vocal leader on the offensive side of the ball.
5. Are injuries a concern?
Just to recap, Wentz has suffered the following injuries in the NFL: fractured ribs, torn ACL, fractured vertebra and concussion.
Since the torn ACL in 2017, Wentz is just 17-21-1 as a starter, despite playing in one of the worst divisions in football.
While those various injuries have only contributed to him to missing 8 regular season games (he was benched for the final month of the 2020 season), there are some questions about what those physical ailments have done to the way he now plays the game.
Have the various injuries lessened the anticipation he played with earlier in his career? Is he still as mobile of a quarterback as he was early in his career?
This injury history is a reason why the Colts wanted the conditions in there for the 2022 draft pick being sent to Philadelphia (1st rounder: If Wentz plays at least 75 percent of the snaps or plays at least 70 percent of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs; 2nd rounder: If those parameters are not met).
6. Should a lack of playoff experience be a worry?
That is the extent of Carson Wentz’s postseason resume as a player. A torn ACL in December of 2017 kept Wentz off the field for the Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl. And then a concussion on the second series of a Wild Card loss to the Seahawks sent Wentz out of his lone postseason contest as a player.
Wentz’s experience in the playoffs is virtually non-existent, especially compared to other AFC signal callers (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Tannehill, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield).
Having success in the playoffs, particularly without a ton of postseason experience, is no guarantee and an unknown in the Wentz dilemma.
7. How different will the Colts offense be with Wentz under center?
It doesn’t take an expert to know that Carson Wentz plays the quarterback position much differently than Philip Rivers.
Honestly, the Colts offense should have more available to it with Wentz under center. This surrounds more of an actual ‘run’ option at quarterback when calling RPOs. It also means a passing offense that should see more vertical/seam routes being thrown.
Rivers’ strengths are his quick rhythm accuracy, anticipation and the mental chess match game.
Wentz’s strengths are his live arm and playmaking ability with his legs. That should help the Colts when they get into third down and red zone situations.
8. What about the fumbles?
One of the uglier stats on the Wentz resume is his 58 career fumbles since 2016, the most for any NFL player in that span (Kirk Cousins is 2nd with 50 fumbles).
Some blame for this could be on a shaky Philly offensive line recently, but that would be lazy to lay all of it there.
Wentz has fumbled at least 9 times in each of his 5 NFL seasons, with ball security being a clear problem.
This is a risk that comes with a more mobile quarterback (Rivers fumbled twice in 1,045 snaps last season).
9. How high is the ceiling?
When Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14 of the 2017 season, he was the MVP favorite and the league’s best passer on third down and the red zone.
At the time, the trajectory for the second-year quarterback was higher than any other young QB in the NFL.
Is it possible for Wentz to get back to that level or has the ceiling been lowered to a better than average quarterback we saw in 2018 and 2019?
If so, Wentz is still under a reasonable contract number for that level of play.
This ceiling, and the fact that Wentz is only 28, were really appealing to the Colts.
10. Who will be the backup to Wentz?
Currently, Jacob Eason and Jalen Morton are the only Colts quarterbacks under contract for 2021.
Before the retirement of Rivers, the Colts said they were unsure about their comfort in Eason being the backup.
Does that mean they will be seeking some sort of veteran backup option this offseason for Wentz, with Eason again as QB3?
For some, Eason as the backup is the way to go. If Wentz gets hurt or struggles, isn’t it time to see what you have in Eason?
For the Colts though, they’ve invested some experience into the backup position every year under Ballard and Reich. Would any pressure to win now lead to the staff wanting more of a veteran in place, in case Wentz misses a few games in-season?
11. How long will the leash be on Wentz?
This has been a popular question from fans curious about those conditions on the 2022 draft pick being sent to Philadelphia.
Contractually, Wentz is under Colts’ control through 2024. But the deal is really a 2-year, $47 million contract with no guarantees on Wentz past 2022.
For many, it’s really head scratching to see the Eagles take on the largest cap hit in NFL history to trade Wentz, some 20 months after giving him a $128 million extension. And others wonder what the Eagles saw from Wentz in 2019, when he led the Eagles to an undefeated final quarter of the season to earn a playoff berth, yet the organization decided to draft a quarterback the following April. The selection of Jalen Hurts, when the Eagles had tons of other needs, came before the awful 2020 season from Wentz.
Should there be concern that the Colts seemed to be the only team that actually offered the Eagles for their former franchise quarterback?
Unless this train goes off the rails, it’s hard to see the Colts bailing on Wentz at any point this season.
In all likelihood, this is (at least) a 2-year audition for Wentz, assuming he doesn’t look like the guy we saw in 2020.