When it comes to quarterback Carson Wentz, it appears as though the Indianapolis Colts’ fanbase is somewhat divided—some think he’s an average starting NFL stopgap, while others truly believe that he can become the long-term answer at a critical position.
What is clear though is that he’s coming off his best career game as a Colt—and as his pair of previously sprained ankles are getting healthier (and the Colts offensive line in turn, better in pass protection), his play and production are definitely starting to trend upward:
Carson Wentz is the 4th player in Colts history to throw for 400 passing yards in a game, joining Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Johnny Unitas. pic.twitter.com/8Cuqdb9lUR— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 12, 2021
Carson Wentz's production over the last two weeks (healthier and more acclimated in @Colts offense):— Matt Taylor (@MayTayColts) October 13, 2021
73.1% - #3 in NFL
630 passing yards - #4 in NFL
9.4 yards/att - #5 in NFL
6 completions over 20 - tied for 5th in NFL
Last night was the best Wentz has looked since 2019–looked like Carson Wentz of old.— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) October 12, 2021
Tough loss-but that’s the most promising thing to come out the first month for the @Colts
If they get that guy consistently—and he’s been trending that way—they’ll be in mix in Dec
Lamar Jackson's going to get all the hype on Tuesday but man Carson Wentz played his ass off tonight. Tons of big-time throws. Decision-making was on-point between aggressive throws & check downs. Mobility looked good too. He's now had a passer rating of 100+ in 3/5 games in '21.— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) October 12, 2021
Carson Wentz through 5 games: 65.3 percent completions, 7.6 yards per attempt, 7 TDs, 1 INT, 99.4 rating.— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAErickson) October 12, 2021
Wentz hasn’t been perfect, and he was kicking himself for the first-half fumble last night.
But Wentz is playing pretty darn good football for the Colts so far.
There’s also other reasons for optimism:
Carson Wentz: 142.9 Passer Rating on targets ‘past the sticks’— PFF IND Colts (@PFF_Colts) October 13, 2021
1st in NFL pic.twitter.com/lORGeqhaw0
Despite a rough start in the win column, Carson Wentz has made major strides this season.— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) October 12, 2021
2020: 16 Pass TD, 15 INT
(tied for most INT in NFL)
2021: 7 Pass TD, 1 INT
(tied for fewest INT in NFL, among qualified passers) pic.twitter.com/AC9usdsboz
Only QBs with 0 turnover-worthy passes this season:— PFF (@PFF) October 9, 2021
Carson Wentz pic.twitter.com/RCDqFPIHO2
Now, some of the lack of ‘turnover-worthy passes’ means that Wentz has played ‘boring’, checked down to the underneath routes, and not taken shots downfield, presumably somewhat out of necessity (or survival) from having played behind a porous offensive line in pass protection—at least to start the season.
However, as we saw during this past Monday night’s primetime matchup, particularly on his 42-yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman Jr., that he’s starting to take more calculated shots downfield—as a byproduct of getting healthier and more comfortable behind center for the Colts (and his offensive line as mentioned, blocking better in the passing game):
Think this throw is the best of the season for Carson Wentz. High-low concept to the short side and he throws a perfect pass in rhythm between the corner and the safety. Think Wentz of a few weeks ago doesn't even take this shot. He is definitely building confidence pic.twitter.com/exUCq7pwkq— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 13, 2021
That should help the Colts offensively, who don’t need a reincarnation of ex-starter Jacoby Brissett, but rather, a starting caliber quarterback who can challenge opposing secondaries deep and generate some big plays in the passing game.
So, where do we stand on Wentz?
Personally, I’m not entirely sure yet—and that’s perfectly okay.
His stock is clearly trending upwards right now, and I think he’s good enough to with on most Sundays, but is he good enough to win a Super Bowl with (the overarching goal for any NFL team and the ‘look yourself in the mirror moment’—otherwise what’s the point? You’re just wasting time, when you could be finding a long-term solution).
Well for one, both the Colts defense and their special teams will have to be much stronger than they showed in this past Monday night’s soul-crushing loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
It will take a more complete, all-around effort collectively.
Injured kicker Rodrigo Blankenship missed an extra point, the Colts failed on an ensuing two point conversion, and Hot Rod later missed two field goals (*one blocked); while the Colts defense turned into a sieve in the second half and overtime (namely due to a lack of pass rush and injuries to their starting cornerbacks—as former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson simply carved them up.)
But Wentz will also have to continue to get healthier, improve, and get more comfortable within the Colts offense. Right now, his evaluation remains entirely fluid.
The Colts don’t need him to become Patrick Mahomes necessarily—although they’d clearly take it, but a ‘Top 12ish’ starting quarterback would be ideal—and is good enough to realistically chase an elusive Lombardi Trophy with serious championship aspirations.
Fortunately, the 1-4 Colts still have some time to make a full determination on Wentz—because if their season continues to snowball (and the playoffs eventually fall out of reach), they have until Week 13 to ultimately shut down the newly acquired quarterback (to preserve their top 2022 first round pick).
[Philadelphia obtains Indianapolis’ 2022 first round pick (which would be an early one in this scenario) if Wentz plays at least 75% of the Colts’ total offensive snaps.]
Even then, they’re still committed to him significantly salary-cap wise for at least the 2022 campaign, so it’s not as though it would be ‘one and done’ with Wentz regardless.
Right now, it’s okay to say ‘I don’t know yet’, because the Colts still have time to figure it out.
That being said, at this juncture, Wentz appears to be ascending in Indianapolis and arguably hasn’t even played his best football consistently yet.