One of the boldest moves of the 2021 offseason saw the Indianapolis Colts send the No. 84 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, plus a conditional draft pick in the 2022 draft to the Philadelphia Eagles for Carson Wentz. (The pick becomes a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75% of the team’s snaps and is a second-rounder otherwise.) Indy has been searching for a long-term answer at quarterback since the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck, and after cycling through Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers, the team landed on Wentz.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – SEPTEMBER 19: Carson Wentz #2 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The idea was that by reuniting with his former offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, and playing behind a stronger offensive line than the one that contributed to his disastrous 2020 season, Wentz would be able to recapture the form he had earlier in his career — before injuries started to derail his progress. Six weeks into the season, and with the Colts set to play the San Francisco 49ers on “Sunday Night Football” this weekend, it’s safe to say that the results have been mixed for both teams.
Wentz has largely been … fine for the Colts, overall. While much of his production was concentrated in two games, he has, essentially, given the Colts league-average quarterback play. At the moment, Wentz ranks 17th in the NFL in QBR, 17th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and 18th in TruMedia’s EPA per play. It doesn’t get much more average than that.
He was excellent in completing 49 of 67 (73.1%) passes for 630 yards (9.4 per attempt), and four touchdowns against the Dolphins and Ravens in Weeks 4 and 5, good for a 122.1 passer rating. But he is otherwise 79 of 126 (62.7%) for 915 yards (7.3 per attempt), five touchdowns, and one interception, which seems quite good but actually produces a 94.5 passer rating that sits just below the league average of 95.2. He’s basically gotten exactly what has been schemed up for him and nothing more or less, with a 0.9% completion percentage over expectation that ranks 14th in the league, per NFL.com’s NextGen Stats.
All of that would likely be just fine with the Colts if they were the team they thought they were at the time they made the move to bring Wentz to Indianapolis. But they’re not. Their vaunted offensive line has been ravaged by injuries. A unit that ranked 10th, 13th, and seventh in Pro Football Focus’ pass-blocking grades over the last three seasons ranks 30th so far this year. While the Colts checked in second, seventh, and second in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Sack Rate in the first three years under Reich, they are 22nd this season. Wentz has thus been under pressure on a sky-high 41.9% of his dropbacks, the second-highest share in football. Not all of that can be attributed to the line in front of him, though, as Wentz’s tendency to hold and hold and hold the ball until the last possible moment has followed him to Indy.
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His receivers do not get much separation, as evidenced by the fact that Wentz has had to throw into a tight window 17.1% of the time, the fifth-highest rate of the league. He’s done that despite often throwing short of the first-down marker (his average pass has been 1.9 yards short of the sticks, the fifth-lowest mark in the NFL), which is not great, because it means he’s forcing throws but not even challenging defenses down the field when he does so.
More concerningly, Indianapolis’ defense has fallen off from the high perch it established over the past few seasons. The Colts rank just 17th in defensive DVOA, with the league’s No. 1 unit against the run but the 29th-ranked outfit against the pass. The Colts have largely been unable to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, with even their 29.9% mark that falls well short of league average being propped up by games against Jacoby Brissett and Russell Wilson, two players who hold on to the ball for longer than almost any other passer in the league. Indy has essentially done well only at covering players who run routes on Rock Ya-Sin’s side of the field, and has been torn up by short (26th in DVOA) and deep passes (30th) alike.
Wentz has been on the field for every snap (putting the Colts on track to forfeit their first-round pick), and despite the Colts raising his game considerably from where it was last season. they do not appear to be a better team. Much of that is due to the injuries they have suffered within their most dominant position group, but some of it is also because they counted on their defense continuing to play at a high level despite surely knowing the relative unsustainability of year-to-year performance. If the Colts were still a top 10 defense, the jump they’ve made on the other side of the ball would have them firmly back in the mix. But as an average defense, the team as a whole is kind of in no-man’s land. And that’s not really a place you want to be.
The Eagles, meanwhile, have gotten very up-and-down play from Jalen Hurts under center. Their apparent plan was to stock up on draft picks and use the season to evaluate Hurts, after which they could either use those picks to surround him with a better roster or else use them to package together for a new quarterback of the future. The issue there is this year’s quarterback draft class looks, uh, not great, and the Eagles’ roster is not in such a shape that using those picks to acquire a veteran like Wilson or Aaron Rodgers (assuming they become available) would immediately make them one of the favorites in the NFC.
The Colts have gotten what they wanted out of Wentz, for the most part, but may not have enough on the roster elsewhere to get them where they want to go. The best thing the Eagles did in the offseason was trade down with the Dolphins and get Miami’s 2022 first-round pick, though it’s notable that the third-round pick they received in the Wentz deal was used as part of the trade-up to get DeVonta Smith, who looks awesome. So, are there any winners or losers here yet? Not really. At least, not clearly.Internet Explorer Channel Network