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Colts Doing Everything Possible to Place Carson Wentz in a Situation to Succeed

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMay 11, 2021

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) in action during an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The Indianapolis Colts became the logical landing spot for Carson Wentz the moment his future with the Philadelphia Eagles came into question.

Since the Colts completed the trade for the quarterback, general manager Chris Ballard and Co. have meticulously worked to place Wentz in a position to succeed—unlike how things were handled in his previous two seasons in Philadelphia. 

Familiarity often breeds confidence.

In this case, Wentz rejoined two of his former offensive coordinators, Frank Reich and Mike Groh, who now serve as the Colts' head coach and wide receivers coach, respectively. Plus, Reich hired former Eagles quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator Press Taylor this offseason after Philadelphia dismantled Doug Pederson's staff. 

Moreover, Reich and his staff wanted to work with Wentz. 

"I said to [Ballard], 'I don't know what Philadelphia's plans are with Carson (Wentz), but do you think we can see if they will trade him?'" Reich told reporters in March. "We knew one (quarterback) option was the draft and free agency. But I also knew there was a unique dynamic in Philadelphia. I felt like we had to make that connection and find out if it was possible."

Ultimately, the Colts traded a third-round draft pick this year and a conditional second-round selection next year to acquire Wentz's services. 

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Everything fell apart for Wentz over the past two seasons. His played worsened with more pressure applied on the position. The Eagles endured numerous injuries along the offensive line. The wide receiver corps didn't live up to expectations. Both of those issues interconnected and culminated in Wentz playing too much hero ball. The quarterback often tried to make something out of nothing.

Eventually, bad habits formed and turnovers occurred. Wentz tied for the league lead last season with 15 interceptions in 12 games. 

To make matters worse, the quarterback's relationship with his coach deteriorated, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. In general, the dysfunction found within the Eagles organization grew out of hand and infiltrated every level. 

The backing of an entire franchise and its coaching staff are extremely important for Wentz's maturation. This isn't to say he was without fault. All players, especially quarterbacks, have egos. At the same time, a lack of functionality throughout an organization sets everyone up for failure. 

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

"The quarterback has to feel comfortable with who's pulling the strings and who's pulling the trigger," Ballard told reporters. "And that made the trade for Carson a lot easier because I knew there was a trust level between the two of them [Wentz and Reich], and trust is everything in this league and trust between the quarterback and the play-caller is everything."

With that in mind, the Colts plan a back-to-basics approach with their new starter. The offensive coaching staff's understanding of where Wentz is most comfortable and can best succeed is critical to this makeshift marriage. 

"It's getting back on track, getting back in rhythm, just doing his job as a quarterback," Reich said. "Do the little things right. Don't be a hero on every play. Don't have to try to make the spectacular plays every play."

Mindset, an understanding of the individual and usage within the team's scheme are the starting blocks toward success. From there, a proper supporting cast will provide a comfort level while working through pre- and post-snap reads on a down-by-down basis. 

The Colts already featured one of the league's best offensive lines. According to Pro Football Focus, Indianapolis' front five ranked seventh overall last season even though the performance was considered a "relatively down year" due to injuries and some subpar play from individuals. The ranking shows how good the unit can be when it's firing on all cylinders. 

Granted, Anthony Castonzo retired after the 2020 campaign. His absence created a significant void in the lineup the Colts couldn't immediately address. 

With this year's 21st overall pick the Colts chose defensive end Kwity Paye. An opportunity to address a premium position with arguably the best pure prospect available shouldn't be viewed as a negative, especially since Paye has NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year potential. At the same time, the Colts bypassed the chance to draft a left tackle and replace Castonzo. Indianapolis didn't even draft a blocker until the seventh round. 

"It just didn't match up. How many true left tackles were in the draft? We'll see. ... If you're gonna draft a guy that high, and you're drafting him to be a left tackle, you'd like to know that he's going to be that his whole career," Ballard told reporters after the fact. 

Ballard wasn't content to stand pat at the position. The Colts signed Eric Fisher to a one-year, $9.4 million contract Monday, per ESPN's Adam Shefter.

In doing so, the final piece of the puzzle came into place. 

Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

Last season, Fisher played relatively well and graded as the league's 16th best offensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. The 30-year-old left tackle suffered a torn left Achilles tendon in the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills, though. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported the Colts had the 2013 No. 1 overall pick in for a physical last week and are comfortable with where he's currently at in his rehab. 

Fisher may not be ready for the start of the regular season, but the Colts should have high expectations while waiting for Fisher to get up to speed. Besides, a run-heavy approach makes sense at the onset of the 2021 campaign. 

Wentz is a superior quarterback when working from a clean pocket, and he doesn't handle pressure particularly well. Protection is of the utmost importance. 

The Colts can build the quarterback up slowly by featuring running back Jonathan Taylor once the season begins. Taylor ran for 741 yards during the final six regular-season games of his rookie campaign, including a Colts' single-game rushing record with 253 yards in the season finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars

Reich can roll through Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins when Taylor isn't on the field. 

With the primary focus on the team's running backs and the offensive line opening up holes, Wentz won't be forced to carry the offense while benefitting from what has the potential to be a strong play-action game. Prior to the 2019 season, Wentz was one of the league's best play-action quarterbacks, per PFF

Once the quarterback gets in rhythm after establishing the passing game, Wentz has capable targets all over the field. The Colts' top three wide receivers are back after T.Y Hilton re-signed this offseason on a one-year, $8 million deal. Zach Pascal also signed his restricted free-agent tender. As a rookie, Michael Pittman Jr. played well down the stretch with 77.2 percent of his overall production coming after Week 9. 

Wentz loves to target his tight ends, too. Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox are a strong duo, plus the Colts drafted SMU's Kylen Granson in this year's fourth round. 

Indianapolis features a top-10 defense as well. Matt Eberflus' unit plays a disciplined brand of football and flies all over the field. 

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Obviously, the quarterback's health will play a significant role in Indianapolis' direction. Wentz has been dinged throughout his career dating back to his high school days. Sam Ehlinger's selection in the sixth round makes sense strictly as an insurance policy. 

But no better place existed for the 2016 second overall draft pick to revive his career and once again look like the franchise quarterback everyone expected after a strong start to his professional career. The Colts have properly built around Wentz with a strong offensive front, a deep running back stable and multiple weapons in the passing game to go along with a certain comfort level the quarterback should experience in his new setting. 

As of now, the Colts should be counted among the AFC elite, alongside the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, as long as Wentz returns to form. 

       

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.

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