ASHBURN, Va. — Quarterback Carson Wentz’s first impression left Washington commanders excited for the next one. They saw what they had hoped to see this spring: a strong arm that should open up their attack. Work ethic, brains.
These attributes made Wentz attractive to the Philadelphia Eagles, who selected him No. 2 overall in 2016, and the Indianapolis Colts, who traded him in March 2021. These are now the attributes that commanders point out after trading for Wentz on March 9. hoping he can consolidate a position that has been a revolving door for decades.
To recap: Since winning the Super Bowl after the 1991 season, Washington has pitched 31 different quarterbacks, including nine in the past three seasons. Also to recap: Wentz has been traded in each of the past two offseasons, which would have been hard to fathom just a few years ago.
Both parties need this pairing to work.
“I would love nothing more than to play here for a long time and be very successful,” Wentz said.
He’s signed for three more years but has no guaranteed money past 2022. Whether he becomes the long-term answer remains to be seen, but Washington liked what he saw this spring.
“He’s capable of doing a lot of different things,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. “Obviously a very talented player. You see him in training, he’s a tall, physical guy. He can really push the ball down the pitch.”
For Washington, Wentz is the latest example of a quarterback offering hope.
In 2018, Alex Smith arrived via trade after one of his best seasons with Kansas City. His career changed and almost ended, with a broken fibula and tibia. In 2019, Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick. It was cut before the end of its second season. Last year, the organization hoped veteran free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the answer — even if it was only temporary. He suffered a season-ending hip injury in the second quarter of the season opener.
But neither of them had Wentz’s arm. Wentz is also 29, so if it works out for him in Washington, he could stay here for a while.
“This is probably his last opportunity, just to be blunt about it, to prove he can be a franchise quarterback in the NFL,” said ESPN NFL analyst and quarterback Troy Aikman. Hall of Fame, in May.
Said Wentz two weeks later: “I didn’t know it had been said. It’s fine with me. Everyone has their opinion. I don’t try to put too much pressure on myself. I always have high expectations for myself and for offense, but I don’t try to play those kinds of games. I don’t have enough mental space to process all of that, and it can wear you out.
What the COs have seen whets their appetite for training camp and the season. Coach Ron Rivera pointed out Wentz’s work ethic and how hard he was on himself this spring. After a few plays, Rivera heard Wentz speaking. The coach would turn around and realize Wentz was talking to himself about what he could have done better on a particular play.
What Rivera hears in the group pleases him as well.
“I really like his mastery of our attack,” Rivera said. “When you listen to him in the huddle, you listen to him talking to his teammates about certain aspects of the game. I know that gives me confidence, but when he’s in the huddle calling the plays like he does, I know his teammates can feel the confidence.”
The coaches also appreciate the way Wentz worked on his progressions and pace. During a play in the minicamp, receiver Cam Sims turned around when the ball arrived. But, because he took too long to get into his route, the pass caught Sims by surprise and the ball slipped through his hands. It was a lesson for the broads.
“Cam was worried about walking on the grass rather than course technique,” receivers coach Drew Terrell said. “It’s a great example of a great paced throw that we have to be there to make the play. It was just spot on.”
Wentz running back JD McKissic said: “He learned the offense pretty quickly. He’s smart, he gets the ball out, he can move around the pocket pretty well too. He looks like that young Carson again. “
Wentz wasn’t perfect. The defense intercepted him on occasion and he missed some shots. And questions about how far he can take Washington will take time to answer.
“The beauty of coming to a new place is that you can reinvent yourself,” quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said. “You can start over, if there’s things you didn’t like about you somewhere else. I know for myself, I’d say let’s make sure that doesn’t happen [again]. …No one is holding you back from an old norm.”
In Philadelphia, Wentz had to reappear 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 compared to quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers.
There is no such scrutiny in Washington, just optimism.
“He’s so powerful,” Zampese said. “The ball goes up and down so fast to downfield targets. For the most part [QBs] on a course of 10 meters it is easy; it happens at 15-20 meters and it’s like, ‘ah.’ [Wentz] zips the ball in the same [on longer routes]. We can access the pitch at a faster pace than maybe other places.”
Cornerback Kendall Fuller said: “He always asks questions: Why did you play like that? How did you see it? Everyone knows his arm talent, but it’s the little things.”
Wentz’s optimism stems from the quality of the players around him — receivers Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson; running backs Antonio Gibson and McKissic; tight end Logan Thomas. And that stems from changes in his personal life that he says have helped him grow. He is married (2018) and has two children.
“Everything has changed. You mature a bit, you see the world a bit differently,” Wentz said. “So I always try to learn and build and develop as good a relationship as possible with everyone, both sides of the ball, the coaches, the equipment staff, the coaching staff. I I’m going to make mistakes. I’ll be the first to admit it. [I’m] always trying to grow and be introspective and be a better person.”
Wentz’s arm doesn’t need to mature. The coaches also like the way he handles their fast-paced game underneath.
Commanders have speed at the receiver that can threaten horizontally or vertically, but at the base, Turner’s offense wants to get downfield. Since entering the league, Wentz ranks eighth in passing attempts of 20 or more aerial yards, 11th with 140 touchdown passes (eighth since 2017) and 19th in Total QBR (12th since 2017) according to ESPN Stats & Research. Information. During that same span, Washington’s Total QBR ranks 31st and his 98 touchdown passes rank 28th.
That’s why Zampese won’t try to change a guy who likes to throw deep.
“I want this guy,” Zampese said. “We were looking for guys like that, there aren’t many like that. It’s easier to push a guy back than to push a guy the other way. This is pork heaven for us. This is exactly what we were looking for.”