For Carson Wentz, consistency has been elusive during training camp – The Washington Post

For Carson Wentz, consistency has been elusive during training camp - The Washington Post


In the Washington Commanders’ 10 training camps so far, quarterback Carson Wentz has been consistently uneven, sometimes throwing incredible darts and other inexplicable ducks. He hit hard pitches deep and missed easy short ones and they sometimes came close enough to prompt the question: How?

“[His accuracy] is a lot better than you give him credit for, just the way things are going in practice,” Coach Ron Rivera said Saturday night after the team’s practice at FedEx Field. “There are a lot of little nuances that we see and that we look at and review. There are a few mistakes, but nothing we are too worried about.”

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The problem, Rivera argued, is circumstantial. Wentz is still adjusting to a new scheme with new terminology and new advancements, as well as a speedy group of receivers that resemble a “4×100 track team.” Give him enough reps, Rivera said, and the offense will be good.

For now, though, even die-hard fans seem wary. During introductions for the stadium practice, Wentz ran down the home team tunnel for the first time and heard loud cheers — louder than for most anyone except defensive end Chase Young and quarterback Terry McLaurin. But there was also anxiety, a hesitancy created by Wentz’s past two years and Washington’s past two decades, and for the next 90 minutes, Wentz did little but confirm the optimism and concern of those in attendance.

“It’s good, could definitely get better,” Wentz said of the offense. “But it’s still early. We are only two weeks in camp, and [timing and rhythm] are the things that we especially work on. … Far from perfect, but it’s fun developing chemistry with those guys.”

Early on Saturday, Wentz seemed set up to thrive. He had his starting offensive line — Wes Schweitzer was at right guard for Trai Turner (quad) — and a full complement of skill players minus receiver Dyami Brown. But he struggled just like he did Friday, airmailing several pitches and skipping a few others in the dirt. He looked particularly uncomfortable under pressure, which advanced stats suggest is a part of his game that has deteriorated considerably over the years.

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But then Wentz threw a laser between three defenders to receiver Jahan Dotson. It was a tight window throw with timing that few post-Kirk Cousins ​​Washington quarterbacks could have made — and it seemed to get him into some rhythm. He hit a tunnel screen and a quick out before stepping into a long bomb to deep receiver Marken Michel, who came down with it in the end zone.

On one of the following drives, as Wentz went bald, Rivera saw a perfect example for his argument. On one play, quarterback Curtis Samuel ran a short route across the middle and Wentz threw too high and too hard for him to handle. It was there, Rivera said, that Wentz got used to the way Samuel runs those short routes and his speed (Samuel clocked a 4.31-second 40-yard dash).

Rivera also blamed unfamiliarity for Wentz and McLaurin’s inconsistent connection. McLaurin said it’s taking a little longer to adjust because he’s missed all of the offseason workouts while holding out on a new contract. He learns how Wentz wants routes run, like whether a receiver should run the route high or low if a defender is playing inside leverage.

“We do a good job of really working through those things … even when we miss some of the deep balls,” McLaurin said. “It’s still good to get those reps to see it work against our defense and get a feel for what it’s supposed to look like.”

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Finally, on third down during the last period of practice, they connected. Near the goal line, Wentz stepped back and lofted a quick, back-shoulder fade to McLaurin, who turned just in time to catch it over the head of cornerback Danny Johnson. It was the first time Wentz and McLaurin had run the fade in camp, McLaurin said, and they excitedly walked back to the sideline several times. McLaurin loved the ball placement and timing and later compared the play to a “play rep.”

Afterwards, a reporter asked Wentz if he could play more than a series or two next Saturday in the team’s first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers in hopes of smoothing out wrinkles.

“I always leave that up to the coaches,” he said. “There are some new pieces, there are some new things, so I know we want to go out [and] we’ll trust them to make the call on how much.”

Maybe Rivera is right. Maybe Wentz, two years after a traumatic end in Philadelphia, can recapture the magic he once had. Or maybe Rivera is wrong, and Wentz is the player who often struggled the past two years, and the examples the coach cites are just confirmation bias. Or maybe the truth, like Wentz’s play so far, will solidify somewhere in the muddy middle.

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