Carson Wentz seeks to prove the skeptics wrong

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

In less than two weeks, Carson Wentz will come up against the last team he faced – the Jacksonville Jaguars. And exactly two months from today, Wentz will meet the team he was playing for back then – the Indianapolis Colts.

For Wentz, who is the Washington Commanders’ new starting quarterback, the interval between those two games will go a long way in determining whether one of the NFL’s most controversial players has a chance to restore his reputation this season, or the place. continue down a murky path where his name is, it seems, continually challenged.

Wentz has heard a lot of criticism over the past few years, and it has turned the idea that he was one of football’s most dynamic and promising callers into a giant question mark.

Once a highly prized No. 2 pick, then a player who led the Philadelphia Eagles for most of a glorious season before getting injured and Nick Foles leading them to a Super Bowl, it’s been kind of a thorny and mysterious lead.

In some ways, it’s not a downfall at all. Last season, Wentz had the ninth-best QB rating in the league and threw for 27 touchdowns against seven picks. But needing only to beat the league’s worst Jaguars on the final day of the campaign to book a playoff spot, he put on a tasteless display and was chased out of town with indecent haste once the offseason has begun.

The Colts organization has been talking about him ever since.

“I think the worst thing you can do is make a mistake and try to live with it,” Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters after Wentz was traded to COs in a move that effectively cost Washington a pair of third-rounders. “For us, it was something that we had to move away from as a franchise. It was very obvious.”

The same kinds of remarks about Wentz that were first heard in Philadelphia quickly surfaced – that he is selfish, ego driven and a bad teammate.

As the Colts welcomed Matt Ryan, it feels like every positive statement about the new quarterback has been matched with a thinly disguised shot of character about the old one.

Meanwhile, the discussion in Washington has been a work in progress, as a connection to elite receiver Terry McLaurin only began to emerge after some teething troubles early in camp.

Wentz admitted some of the preseason optics have been less than flashy, raising fears that at a $28 million price tag he still won’t be the answer in a capital that’s been a QB dead zone for years. years.

“We put some good, bad and bad on tape and it hasn’t been perfect, but I like where we are,” Wentz told reporters. “I like the mindset, I like the make-up. We’re definitely not perfect, we’re going to build and grow every week, every time we step on the pitch.”

The NFL Scheduling Computer works in mysterious ways and never fails to conjure up oddly delicious games. New Panthers QB Baker Mayfield’s reunion with the Cleveland Browns is the pick of the bunch in Week 1, but there’s an inevitable irony in Wentz’s date with the Jaguars, the team that so ridiculed him. .

Going head-to-head with the Colts in Week 8 (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX) will be even more mouth-watering. Wentz doesn’t exactly wear his heart on his sleeve, but how could he not be excited and determined to prove a point for this one?

Strangely, how Ryan’s first season in Indianapolis unfolds will partly indicate how Wentz is viewed in absentia. If the former Atlanta Falcons star shines, Wentz’s retirement will still be celebrated with joy. If Ryan is struggling, however, particularly to get used to an offense relying heavily on running back Jonathan Taylor, then it could get interesting.

“What you had was Carson Wentz, a bit of a playmaker,” FS1’s Colin Cowherd said on ‘The Herd’ recently. “Matt Ryan isn’t. He’s not going to make some of Wentz’s mistakes, but he’s also not going to escape some of the problems Wentz might have. He’s going to be asked to fix some personnel issues.”

Expect Indianapolis’ anti-Wentz sentiment to escalate in the coming weeks. For Indy’s veteran squad, the belief still holds that they were a reliable QB away from making a deep playoff run. This claim is highly debatable, but it persists and there is bitterness.

For Wentz, a new situation provides an opportunity to change the scenario. But if he wants to do it fast, he’d better play in two specific games – where he’s the central character in a fiery narrative.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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