ASHBURN, Va. — The first impression of quarterback Carson Wentz left the Washington Commanders excited for the subsequent one. They noticed what they’d hoped to see this spring: a powerful arm that ought to open up their offense. The work ethic, the brains.
These attributes made Wentz enticing to the Philadelphia Eagles, who chosen him No. 2 general in 2016, and the Indianapolis Colts, who traded for him in March 2021. Now they’re the attributes the Commanders level to after buying and selling for Wentz on March 9, hoping he can solidify a place that has been a revolving door for many years.
To recap: Since successful the Super Bowl after the 1991 season, Washington has began 31 totally different quarterbacks — 9 over the previous three seasons. Also to recap: Wentz was traded in every of the previous two offseasons, one thing that will have been troublesome to fathom only a couple years in the past.
Both sides want this pairing to work.
“I’d like nothing more than to play here for a long time and have a lot of success,” Wentz stated.
He is signed for 3 extra years, however has no assured cash after 2022. Whether he turns into the lengthy-time period reply stays to be seen, however Washington favored what it noticed this spring.
“There’s a lot of different things he’s capable of doing,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner stated. “Obviously a very skilled player. You see him out at practice, he’s a big, physical guy. He can really push the ball down the field.”
For Washington, Wentz is the newest instance of a quarterback providing hope.
In 2018, Alex Smith arrived through commerce following one in every of his finest seasons with Kansas City. His profession modified, and was practically ended, with a damaged fibula and tibia. In 2019 Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 choose general. He was lower earlier than the tip of his second season. Last 12 months, the group hoped veteran free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick could be the reply — even when solely momentary. He suffered a season-ending hip damage within the second quarter of the season opener.
But none of them had Wentz’s arm. Wentz can also be 29, so if it clicks for him in Washington he may very well be right here some time.
“This is probably his last opportunity, just being blunt about it, to prove that he can be a franchise quarterback in the NFL,” ESPN NFL analyst, and Hall of Fame quarterback, Troy Aikman stated in May.
Said Wentz two weeks later: “I didn’t know that was said. I’m fine with it. Everyone’s got their own opinion. I don’t try to put too much pressure on myself. I always have high expectations for myself and for the offense, but I don’t try and play those types of games. I don’t have enough mental space to kind of process all that, and it can wear on you.”
What the Commanders have seen whets their urge for food for coaching camp and the season. Coach Ron Rivera pointed to Wentz’s work ethic, and the way onerous he was on himself this spring. After some performs, Rivera would hear Wentz speaking. The coach would flip round and notice Wentz was speaking to himself about what he might have completed higher on a specific play.
What Rivera hears within the huddle additionally pleases him.
“I really like his command of our offense,” Rivera stated. “When you listen to him in the huddle, you listen to him talk to his teammates about certain aspects of the play. I know it gives me confidence, but when he is in the huddle calling the plays the way he does, I know his teammates can feel the confidence.”
The coaches additionally like how Wentz has labored via his progressions and thrown in rhythm. During one play in minicamp, receiver Cam Sims turned because the ball arrived. But, as a result of he took too lengthy to get into his route, the move stunned Sims and the ball slid via his arms. It was a lesson for the wideouts.
“Cam was worried about footing on grass instead of the technique of the route,” receivers coach Drew Terrell stated. “That’s a prime example of a great throw in rhythm that we have to be there to make the play. It was right on the spot.”
Said working again J.D. McKissic of Wentz: “He learned the offense pretty fast. He’s smart, he’s intelligent, he’s getting the ball out, he can move pretty well in the pocket, too. He’s looking like that young Carson again.”
Wentz wasn’t good. The protection intercepted him now and again and he misfired on some throws. And the questions on how far he can lead Washington will take time to reply.
“The beauty of coming to a new spot is you get to reinvent yourself,” quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese stated. “You get to start from scratch, if there any things you didn’t like about yourself at other places. I know for myself, I’d say let’s make sure that doesn’t happen [again]. … No one is holding you to an old standard.”
In Philadelphia, Wentz needed to re-emerge after backup Nick Foles stepped in for an injured Wentz in 2017 and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title. In Indianapolis, Wentz was being in comparison with quarterbacks resembling Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers.
There’s no such scrutiny in Washington, simply optimism.
“He’s just so powerful,” Zampese stated. “The ball gets up and down so fast to downfield targets. For most [QBs] on a 10-yard route it’s easy; it gets to 15-20 yards and it’s like, ‘ah.’ [Wentz] zips the ball in the same [on longer routes]. We can access the field at a quicker rate than maybe some other places can.”
Said cornerback Kendall Fuller: “He’s always asking questions: Why did you play it like this? How did you see it? Everybody knows his arm talent, but it’s the little things.”
Wentz’s optimism stems from the standard of the gamers round him — receivers Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson; working backs Antonio Gibson and McKissic; tight finish Logan Thomas. And it stems from modifications in his private life that he stated have helped him develop. He’s married (2018) and has two youngsters.
“Everything’s changed. You mature a little bit, you see the world a little bit differently,” Wentz stated. “So, I’m always trying to learn and just build and grow as good of relationships as I can with everybody, both sides of the ball, coaches, equipment staff, training staff. I’m gonna make mistakes. I’ll be the first to admit it. And so [I’m] always trying to grow and be self-reflective and be a better person.”
Wentz’s arm does not must mature. The coaches additionally like how he operates their fast beneath sport.
The Commanders have pace at receiver that may threaten horizontally or vertically, however at its core the Turner offense needs to go down the sector. Since coming into the league, Wentz ranks eighth in passing makes an attempt of 20 air yards or extra, eleventh with 140 landing passes (eighth since 2017) and nineteenth in Total QBR (twelfth since 2017) in response to ESPN Stats & Information analysis. During that very same span, Washington’s Total QBR ranks thirty first and its 98 landing passes rank twenty eighth.
That’s why Zampese will not attempt to change a man who likes to throw deep.
“I want that guy,” Zampese stated. “We’ve been looking for guys like this; there aren’t too many like that. It’s easier to get a guy to back off than to push a guy the other way. This is hog heaven for us. This is exactly what we wanted.”