In the months and weeks leading up to the Carson Wentz trade agreement, I was asked several times for my opinion of Wentz as a player. I knew what I had heard everyone say, Wentz was terrible. He’s lost his confidence. His throwing mechanics are a mess. He’s only had one good season. He needs an elite team around him to be good.
All of those things were parroted from the loudest football voices, everywhere you turned and that’s fine but I had yet to really study Wentz and form my own opinion. With that in mind, I took to Twitter armed with NFL Gamepass recordings and started watching the 2020 Eagles. So far I’ve analyzed five games from Wentz’s 2020 season and I’ve learned a lot.
Today we’re going to look at Wentz’s ability as a passer.
A season ago Carson Wentz showed that he has a strong arm and can throw with accuracy. He made every throw you need a professional quarterback to make at all levels of the field. Wentz’s downfield accuracy was good and his multiple deep attempts per game were thrown with ease, a departure for Colts fans who watched Philip Rivers put everything he had into the deep shots he attempted a season ago. Wentz also demonstrated proper ball placement, keeping passes away from defenders and thrown to safe spots on the field. With that said, Wentz was nowhere near consistent as a passer. His throwing mechanics varied from play to play and even though he could throw with excellent accuracy and perfect placement, he missed easy throws and threw balls into traffic regularly. We’ll take a look at all of it in more detail below.
These throws are as good as it gets
1/2 Here Wentz does a good job moving the safeties with his eyes and small pump to his left. If you slow the tape down you can see him glance to the playside safety, he sees that he's playing shallow and Wentz knew where he wanted to go. pic.twitter.com/d19apV83xV— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 9, 2021
This was another play that Wentz changed at the line. He never looked off his receiver on this one, he knew where he wanted to go with the ball before it was snapped and he threw a perfect pass for six. pic.twitter.com/WIWo5Gziyb— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 9, 2021
Eagles run a naked boot flood, Wentz reads the play correctly and delivers a good ball with good placement. Nice play. pic.twitter.com/pkaFQg2oVB— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
Like a boss, Wentz comes back in and delivers a perfect ball to Travis Fulgham, who then makes a nice play to get into the end zone. This was just a 1v1 on the outside that Wentz liked, he never looked away and threw a great ball. Mechanics were solid here. pic.twitter.com/fJwWi5RJ2D— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
1/2 Lose another 6 yards on a RB screen on the next play setting up 3rd and 22 when this happens.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
The EZ angle shows how well Wentz moved the defense with his eyes before coming back across the formation hitting his receiver where you never want to hit them: the hands. pic.twitter.com/5alJz8Hz58
I love this play from 11. Does a great job avoiding the rush, stepping up in pocket, resetting his feet and delivering a perfect pass 30 yards downfield in the end zone that hit his RB in the hands before it fell to the turf.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
This is a marked improvement from week 4 for Wentz pic.twitter.com/UPA9nFi6t4
This pass is really, really nice. 11 threads this ball between the CB and S right on the sideline. The RB in the flat held the CB, who knew he had help and that subtle hesitation gave Wentz a really small window and he threw a perfect pass. Impossible to defend this one. pic.twitter.com/CD8qPZQxPt— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 15, 2021
Wentz stepped up in the pocket and delivered an absolutely perfect ball with 40 seconds to play in primetime, to win the game.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 15, 2021
It doesn't get better than that. pic.twitter.com/oMfKfOv00c
A couple plays later 13 gets a step on his man and Wentz throws this beauty. Not much to say other than his mechanics were solid, his feet were good, the pass dropped in perfectly. pic.twitter.com/2urBunQb6C— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 15, 2021
At times Wentz makes some jaw-dropping throws. Given a clean pocket and a deep receiver one on one, his long ball is fantastic. When at his best, his arm strength and accuracy are both almost as good as you can ask for, there’s nothing you could realistically ask for from your quarterback that Wentz can’t do. His ability is obvious but it is hardly consistent.
We’ve all heard how bad Wentz looked in 2020 and while I’ve come to believe that has been overstated, it’s not completely without merit. Wentz’s struggles were real and we’ll take a look at some of those next.
Inaccuracy is a problem
Just a bad miss on this throw. pic.twitter.com/8uOKtiNPiz— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 9, 2021
It looks like the placement on this ball is bad. Assuming a 5th round rookie WR ran to the right spot in his 1st pro game w/o camps or preseason, so . What he definitely didn't do was work back to the ball and break this pass up. Tough to know what happened but it's not good. pic.twitter.com/005598WXLU— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 9, 2021
Yet another ball low and behind. Holding the ball low again. There's an extra hitch in his windup here that delays the throw. It's the only difference I'm seeing from 2017 to now. pic.twitter.com/Q3RN6Z22Km— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 9, 2021
Wentz pulls the ball down, gets his eyes back downfield avoids the rush, can't reset his feet and nearly throws a pick. Had he placed this ball in front of his receiver it could have been completed. At least it was low. All of this is correctable but not great from 11. pic.twitter.com/BVBVcJG1oj— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
The placement on this ball was bad. It was behind his TE. Still should have been caught but it wasn't an accurate ball. Only thing I see is Wentz drop the ball down which elongates his throwing motion. It might be nothing but it's the only thing I see that isn't always there. pic.twitter.com/L5hWB4iGVe— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
This is just a miss from Wentz. I watched this angle, the EZ angle and the TV copy and the only explanation I've come up with is it was just an inaccurate ball. Everyone has them. Hate to see it with 13 so open but it happens. Will monitor other accuracy issues. pic.twitter.com/OBEJEAgUqp— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 15, 2021
Wentz’s inaccurate passes aren’t hard to find on tape. It’s true, some of his inaccurate throws can be explained due to pressure or trying to avoid another defender in space but I can’t ignore how often he threw from a clean pocket to a fairly open receiver only to have the ball miss its target, badly.
It’s true that Wentz’s throwing mechanics are often sloppy but even when he does manage to display a picture-perfect windup and throwing motion and seemingly good footwork, his balls don’t always hit their intended target.
At this point, I feel it’s important to point out that I am not a quarterbacking mechanics expert. I know the basics but someone like Tom House or Jeff Christiansen, someone who has spent years of their life focusing on every aspect of the human throwing motion, can watch someone throw and see details that I would overlook. When I read that back to myself, it seems like it should be obvious but I feel the need to include this disclaimer all the same.
Wentz’s accuracy is often bad but I can’t always atribuite it to anything obvious. There are other times though, that his inaccuracy is very clearly caused by poor mechanics. The same poor mechanics you’ve heard so much about are real and obvious to anyone who has ever seen a good quarterback throw a pass. I have to say these next clips are absolutely ugly.
Going to need a mechanic
The fade away pass almost gets this one picked. The pressure in his face clearly impacted the throw but I would rather see him throw this one away than throw that ball again. pic.twitter.com/Ockh2QywSq— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
2nd and 6 with good field position. Wentz's feet are a mess and the reason this was incomplete. Should have been an easy completion with a chance for good YAC. pic.twitter.com/XdjQqrS8kj— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
For those still wondering, Carson Wentz does not throw an accurate jump pass. pic.twitter.com/AS9S0Mk94f— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
Wentz feels the pressure in his face and doesn't step into this throw, it results in an inaccurate pass. Sets up 3rd and 6. pic.twitter.com/kbU05mIEWN— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 10, 2021
His upper and lower body aren't on the same page. He subtly starts his motion, only to stop before deciding to go ahead and throw it where he initially looked and his feet never really get in sync with his throwing motion again.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 15, 2021
He seems to be second guessing most of his throws. pic.twitter.com/haLanjfdHz
Wentz's feet caused this throw to go high. I hate that he was fading away from nothing here. It's one thing if he's going to get hit, he's been hit a lot, it's not great but I get it. But this is bad.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 15, 2021
That said as long as it should be fixable. Hopefully I don't see it again pic.twitter.com/pVJVde43Lf
Looking at 2nd and 26 Wentz sees the throwing lane has to his right. You would like to see him get this ball down, if his receiver doesn't come up with it, this one is probably picked. Not to mention putting his receiver in a vulnerable position. Ultimately gets those 16 back. pic.twitter.com/LxDfFLRNhs— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 15, 2021
All of these clips have one thing in common: Carson Wentz’s footwork is a mess. In the first and third clips, he doesn’t step into his throw. In the second clip he seems to have forgotten that his feet are supposed to do a very specific thing when he throws a football and it results in a chaotic mess. The last clip is less obvious but his throwing stride is elongated and as a result, he hangs the ball up in traffic. Luckily he didn’t get his receiver killed and the ball was caught, not tipped, and intercepted.
A few other small details I noticed:
From his second attempt of his season I noticed how much lower he was holding the ball and as a result how elongated his throwing motion is in 2020 compared to 2017.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 9, 2021
It looks small in stills but the motion is longer as a result. pic.twitter.com/2POv8hMpBX
Another difference I've noticed pre-snap is his stance in gun. His footwork is different as a result. In 2020 there seems to be less wasted movement than 2017. 2017 on left. 2020 on right. Might not mean much, just looking for details. pic.twitter.com/gz1a3VAnXS— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) February 9, 2021
Wentz’s mechanical issues have been and are ugly, but they’re not always present either. At times Wentz looks like a great quarterback and then two plays later he looks like he’s throwing a football for the first time in years.
This might be the ugliest aspect of Carson Wentz’s game, the good news is, that despite it being bad it’s not hopeless.
How can the Colts get more good out of Wentz’s passing ability?
Just like in my examination of Wentz’s athletic ability the biggest thing the Colts can do is surround him with more talent than he’s had in the past. Since that doesn’t seem to be a difficult task, the team is already well on its way to doing just that.
Beyond that, perhaps Frank Reich can convince Wentz to trust him, trust his teammates, and to know when to play the design of each called play and when to create plays on his own. Reich has to do everything he can to make Wentz as comfortable as possible with the offensive system and what he is being asked to do. Due to their experience together, I believe Frank Reich is well aware of how to do this for Wentz. Even if he can make him a more confident player, Frank Reich nor the rest of the Indianapolis Colts completely fix Carson Wentz’s mechanical issues.
At some level these issues have to be fixed by Carson Wentz. The Colts front office and coaching staff can make it as easy as possible, and I have faith they will, but Wentz needs to put in a lot of hard work establishing a more consistent throwing motion. He obviously can throw with proper form but working with a famed QB guru like Tom House, whose client list includes nearly every good quarterback of more than a decade, could go a long way to building on the positive that already exists and working to ensure the breakdowns in his mechanics happen less and less often.