The Washington Commanders are ready to roll with Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback. Despite washing out of two other franchises over the past two offseasons, Wentz still appealed to the Commanders as a notable upgrade over former fill-in starter Taylor Heinicke.
With Wentz steering the ship, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera hopes to post a record above .500 for the first time in his tenure. While Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts fans will roll their eyes at that sentiment, Wentz’s third landing spot could be the charm of his NFL career.
How Carson Wentz could impact the Commanders’ offense
Wentz — a former No. 2 overall pick — is hoping for redemption in Landover, Maryland. Entering his seventh season, Wentz has been bad-mouthed as a leader and teammate in Philadelphia and Indianapolis — quite vividly in the latter by Colts owner Jim Irsay and GM Chris Ballard — and Washington is probably his last place to redeem himself as an NFL starting QB.
Last season, Wentz’s numbers were fine (3,563 passing yards, 27 TDs, and seven INTs), but the end result of the season was an embarrassment. The Colts came up short in two straight games that they should have won and got bounced out of the playoff race by the last-place Jacksonville Jaguars in the season finale. The blame was thrown squarely at Wentz’s feet, as he came up short (and then some) when the team needed him the most.
With a clean slate, Wentz will try (again) to return to his 2017 form. He’s several years removed from the major injury that cost him a chance at a Super Bowl run, though he did get a ring, but now he has a pair of dynamic wideouts in Terry McLaurin and first-round pick Jahan Dotson to throw to.
Wentz won’t be able to lean on the running game as he did in Indianapolis with Jonathan Taylor, but he’ll have an improved group of weapons, including RB Antonio Gibson, TE Logan Thomas, and emerging wideout Dyami Brown.
Wentz has the ability to sling the ball down the field. If he can protect himself from turnovers, Washington has a shot at sustaining consistent passing success. Wentz has developed a notable chemistry with Dotson throughout the offseason, and the rookie could be a big play waiting to happen with Wentz tossing him the ball. — Mike Kaye, PFN Lead NFL Reporter
How could Wentz impact fantasy football?
It was an unceremonious exit for Wentz following his time in Indianapolis. While his 3,563-yard and 27-touchdown season was solid, the team’s inability to clinch the playoffs on the road in Jacksonville sealed his fate and drew the ire of the owner, who has no trepidation of expressing his feelings to anyone with a notepad and a pencil.
Odds are this is Wentz’s final chance to become a full-time starter. Luckily for him, Wentz joined the team with the most ambiguous QB room in recent years. With guys like Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Garrett Gilbert, Alex Smith, and Colt McCoy, it’s no wonder players have struggled on this team.
No player has felt this more than McLaurin. I wish the NFL had a transfer portal strictly for him at this point.
Coming off another 130+ target season for the second consecutive year, McLaurin hauled in 77 receptions for 1,053 yards and five TDs as the WR25 in PPR (WR32 in points per game). The issue was the inconsistency due to the QB play. McLaurin can separate and win against anyone, yet he led the NFL in contested catches last year with 25 because his QBs threw him into coverage with underthrows or inaccurate passes.
While certainly never to be confused with a sharpshooter, Wentz, if anything, is an upgrade for McLaurin. Compared to Wentz last season, Heinicke threw for 3,419 yards (Wentz – 3,563), 20 touchdowns (Wentz – 27), and 15 interceptions (Wentz – 7) with an 85.9 passer rating (Wentz – 94.6).
Deeper targets are another area in which Wentz proves to be an upgrade over Heinicke. While Heinicke attempted more deep passes (64 to 60), Wentz had a higher completion rate, completing 43.3% (sixth in 2021) compared to Heinicke’s 32.8% (24th overall).
All of a sudden, if these deeper targets hit, McLaurin’s fantasy football floor can match his ceiling. He was a top-12 receiver just four times last season, coming in as a WR3 or worse in 76% of his games. In his three years, McLaurin struggled in this aspect, recording top-24 (WR2+) weeks in just 37% of his games.
As for Wentz’s fantasy impact on the rest of the roster, it’s difficult to trust anyone. Gibson is constantly losing reps to other RBs like J.D. McKissic, and at some point, Brian Robinson will return. At WR, Curtis Samuel didn’t play, leaving Dotson a potential dart throw. The only player fantasy managers should focus on is McLaurin, as he’ll have the best shot to be a league-winner if things hit for once. — Tommy Garrett, PFN Senior Fantasy Analyst
How Wentz could impact Commanders’ betting odds
Since getting drafted in 2016 at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, Jared Goff and Wentz have had eerily similar careers. They both struggled as rookies, made huge leaps in Year 2, and eventually helped lead their respective teams to a Super Bowl appearance (which Wentz’s Eagles won, thanks in part of course to Nick Foles).
Similarly, both quarterbacks’ fortunes have since waned. While Goff appears poised for a rebound in a make-or-break season with the impressive rebuilding Lions, Wentz is far more of a wild card. Goff might not remain in Detroit in 2023, but at least he doesn’t have an heir-apparent breathing down his neck. Wentz does (rookie Sam Howell), and that impacts Wentz and the betting odds of Washington’s other skills players in 2022.
When betting on players, we need to factor the context of the team’s schedule and postseason outlook. In a division featuring the Cowboys and Eagles, Washington remains a long shot to win the NFC East, and thus, a relative long shot to reach the playoffs.
In addition to four tough games against these two rivals, they’ll face the Titans, Packers, Colts, Vikings, 49ers, and the Deshaun Watson-led Browns. So despite having a relatively easy schedule, Washington will need to sweep their other seven games and win (realistically) at least three of these tougher contests to have a shot at the postseason.
Not impossible, but also not something we’d recommend betting on. Wentz has earned mixed reviews this summer. Rookie receiver Dotson certainly will help, but the offense remains a work in progress, as tertiary receivers like Samuel and Brown haven’t yet found their footing in Washington. Meanwhile, the often-injured and aged tight end Thomas might never come close to matching his one-hit-wonder 2020 campaign.
There’s a better than 50% chance that this will be Wentz’s only season wearing burgundy and gold. And if they’re essentially out of postseason contention by their Week 14 bye, we shouldn’t be surprised if Howell takes over for the stretch run. Wentz needs to exceed lofty expectations to elevate his core playmakers. That’s not a safe wager. — BJ Rudell, PFN Betting Director
How does Wentz impact Washington’s 2023 NFL Draft plans?
Ideally, the acquisition of Wentz kicks the can down the road in the Commanders’ quarterback conversation. There was talk that Washington might need to invest in a QB in either the 2022 or 2023 NFL Draft, but Washington — with pressure to compete in the short-term timeline — instead chose to make a deal for a veteran.
Washington has made it known that Wentz is the guy heading into the 2022 season — or at least that they’re going to treat him like he is until he doesn’t deserve it anymore. Whether that point will arrive, and when exactly it does, is difficult to pinpoint. Wentz utterly unraveled as Philadelphia’s QB in 2020. It looked as though he might build himself back up with a respectable campaign in a Colts uniform, but a late-season collapse soured his favor there as well.
In the NFL, cycles tend to repeat. And with Wentz being on his third team in three years, it’s hard to be overconfident in his ability to make a resurgence. Even the Commanders seem to at least be aware of this possibility.
The Commanders drafted Sam Howell in Round 5 of the 2022 NFL Draft – a polarizing QB who’s viewed by some as a potential starting talent with more development. And while the price to acquire Wentz was relatively hefty — a second-round pick swap and two third-round picks, one of which being conditional — Wentz’s contract also has a potential out in 2023 that alleviates the Commanders of any dead cap.
If Wentz struggles again with the Commanders, there’s an avenue Washington can take to cut ties and start fresh with little additional cost. However, such a move might not bode well for coach Rivera.
The hope is that Wentz finds his footing again, and Washington isn’t a bad place to do it. Wentz has one of the better offensive lines in the league at his disposal, as well as a talented supporting cast.
On paper, Wentz has everything he needs to right the ship, not only for himself but for the Commanders as well. In an ideal scenario, a resurgence from Wentz eliminates the need for a QB in the 2023 NFL Draft and beyond. Nevertheless, nothing about the past two seasons has been ideal for Wentz. One may be hesitant to assume the coming one will be much different. — Ian Cummings, PFN NFL Draft Analyst