For Colts QB Carson Wentz, stats only tell part of the story

Carson Wentz's first few games with the Indianapolis Colts haven't gone as well as fans hoped, but the QB has shown reasons for optimism.

When Carson Wentz joined the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, he was reunited with Frank Reich, his offensive coordinator when he was on an MVP pace in Philadelphia. And while the pairing has gotten off to a rocky start in 2021, the Colts QB has provided reasons for optimism.

Carson Wentz’s statistics have been unimpressive so far

Indianapolis has started the season with just one win in four games, and Wentz’s statistics reflect their struggles. The Colts QB hasn’t even broken 1,000 passing yards, totaling just 920 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 1 interception through the air.

Wentz could be playing far worse, but he doesn’t seem to have helped Indianapolis much this season.

Using advanced metrics to evaluate Carson Wentz’s play

Overall, Wentz’s advanced metrics confirm what the traditional statistics tell us. To illustrate that point, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM). OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement, designed to evaluate players based on how much they contributed to the creation of their statistics rather than the statistics themselves.

Wentz’s performance so far on the metric has been underwhelming. Through four games, his overall grade sits at 21.13. That ranks 25th out of 35 qualifying quarterbacks. He simply hasn’t had the impact Indianapolis was hoping for when they traded for him.

Examining the advanced metrics behind Wentz’s overall OVM grade

To explain why Wentz’s grade is underwhelming, we need to look at the advanced metrics involved in calculating it. To start with, the Colts QB isn’t throwing the ball particularly far downfield, averaging 6.9 yards per attempt and 5.4 yards per completion.

Despite that, he’s completing just 63.8% of his passes, one of the lowest completion percentages in the NFL. According to the NFL’s projections, that number is 0.3% higher than expected, which is a mediocre differential.

To Wentz’s credit, he is throwing into tight windows on an extremely high 18.1% of his throws. But that isn’t enough to overcome his deficiencies in other areas.

OVM grades hampered by injuries

Although Wentz’s overall OVM grade is unimpressive, there is a significant caveat that works in his favor. His overall grade is tanked by an individual grade of 8.81 in Week 3. In that game, Wentz was merely one week removed from accomplishing the rare feat of twisting both his ankles in a single game.

Not only is that extremely unlucky, but it also clearly affected his performance the following week.

Aside from Week 3, Wentz’s grades have actually increased each week, starting at 19.74 in Week 1 then rising to 24.77 and 32.32 in Weeks 2 and 4. That trend indicates that Wentz, aside from one injury-plagued performance, is steadily growing more comfortable in the Colts’ offense.

Comparing Wentz’s performance this season to how he played in 2020

To contextualize Wentz’s 2021 OVM trend, let’s compare it to how he played during his last season in Philadelphia.

You can see his grades from each week of that season in the chart below, marked by the black dots. For comparison, the regular-season average grade for quarterbacks in 2020 is represented by the yellow line.

For Colts QB Carson Wentz, stats only tell part of the story

Even taking that Week 3 grade into account, Wentz is still performing better overall with Indianapolis than during his last season with the Eagles. He has already earned two grades above 20 points, which he only did five times in 13 games a season ago. He has also earned a grade above 30, which he only did twice in 2020.

Additionally, Wentz’s worst grade from 2020 was a 7.84-point performance in Week 4. That is even lower than his Week 3 grade from this season.

Those numbers indicate that, despite his injuries and statistical deficiencies, Wentz has shown legitimate signs of improvement so far in 2021.

The Colts need their QB to play at a higher level to turn their season around

Despite defeating the Miami Dolphins last week, the Colts’ playoff hopes are still on life support. A loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night would drop the team to 1-4. That wouldn’t quite end their season, but it would certainly get close.

And while the Colts have more problems than just their QB, that only makes Wentz’s performance even more crucial. Fortunately, he seems to be trending upward. If he continues to progress, maybe Indianapolis can drag themselves into the playoffs.

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