Can Carson Wentz end Washington Commanders’ seemingly endless search for a quarterback? – The Virginian-Pilot

ASHBURN — On the eve of Carson Wentz’s third training camp with three different teams in as many years, Ron Rivera greeted the new Washington Commanders quarterback with a handshake and a message that even a veteran of the NFL maybe should have heard.

“You were wanted here,” Rivera told Wentz.

Once wanted by Philadelphia as a second draft pick before falling out of favor with the Eagles and with Indianapolis a year later, Wentz no longer seemed like a hot commodity after the Colts collapsed late last season and missed out. the playoffs.

But Rivera and Washington’s front office has targeted the 29-year-old in hopes of solving the organization’s seemingly endless search for a starting QB. The commanders are now Wentz’s team, with all the pros and cons that come with job security and coaching conviction to the pressure and expectations of reaching the playoffs.

“He stabilized that position for us,” said general manager Martin Mayhew. “We’re excited about what he brings to the table in terms of physical talent and also what he brings to the table as a person, as a leader.”

Wentz, the leader, has already emerged, from collecting receivers for private workouts to escape room outings that he has treated as a game situation. The physical talent that has made him a highly touted prospect of North Dakota State is still there, though some of the mistakes he made with Philadelphia and Indianapolis left him available.

Now with Washington, Wentz is eager to move from one NFC East rival to another and start over.

“I feel confident in myself,” he said. “I feel the self-confidence of the people around me, which means a lot.”

The Colts believed in Wentz when they acquired him, and that faded to the point that team owner Jim Irsay called the move a “mistake” and blamed inconsistency in games. passes for causing them major problems. The same kind of belief evaporated in Philadelphia after Wentz threw a league-high 15 interceptions in 2020 and was replaced as the starter by Jalen Hurts.

Wentz reignited his career with Indianapolis last season, throwing 27 touchdown passes and just seven picks, though a gruesome loss to Jacksonville in Week 18 that included two turnovers ended the Colts’ season — and his tenure with them – on a sour note.

Rivera and the COs saw good in Wentz: a strong arm who could extend the offensive reach on the field, a prototypical 6-foot-5 frame suited for the modern game, and a seasoned leader who could take charge of a team. who had eight different quarterbacks. over the past three years.

The hope is not to change Wentz but to make the most of what he does well and try to limit some mistakes that sometimes derailed him.

“It’s just about making the right call over and over again,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. “I just want him to be himself and understand the game and understand the situations. There’s a time and a place to go for that and there’s a time and a place where, hey, this n is not there.

The pre-season training and action showed the good and the bad for Wentz. He completed 16 of 22 passes and had solid practices in limited exhibition playing time, although at times in camp some inaccuracies came out.

Interceptions by his teammates in 11-on-11 drills in August don’t count, and after a particularly tough day of practice, Rivera focused on what Wentz and the other QBs on the roster could do to learn. of their mistakes.

“It’s about making decisions at this point,” Rivera said. “As you go through the film with him, it’s listening to the explanation of: ‘Why this reading? Why this decision? Hey, did you see that? What prompted you to do this? That’s what it’s really about.

Wentz has already taken command of the offense by rounding up offensive playmakers for a liaison retreat and workouts in California ahead of training camp. He learned a lot about his new teammates on and off the court, and back in the DC area, they learned a lot about Wentz’s competitive nature, even on double dates at local escape rooms.

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“It’s like he’s on the pitch,” punter Tress Way said. “He’s adamant about breaking the record, no clues. I tried to keep it light, but we got out of the room every time. He’s still undefeated.”

A 10-7 record, especially given a weak schedule, would likely be enough to get Washington into the playoffs in Rivera’s third season. It will also require the defense to rebound and the offensive line to keep Wentz upright.

But it’s up to Wentz to get the job done.

“I really like his aggressiveness,” top receiver Terry McLaurin said. “When he tries to give us chances on the pitch, I think that’s something we all know as an attacker that we want to improve on.”

Going into his seventh professional season, Wentz still has things to improve. He seems to understand where those gaps are. Addressing them will go a long way in determining whether Commanders will play in mid-January and, ultimately, whether he will be back for a second season.

“I’m still trying to figure out, how can I improve?” says Wenz. “How can I look at myself first? Where can I improve? Where can I help the team improve? All these things. And so, for me, it’s just about getting in and distributing the ball to these guys and being efficient, being efficient, being consistent.

NOTES: Starting safety Kam Curl said he underwent surgery to repair a right thumb injury and hopes to play in Sunday’s season opener against Jacksonville. Tight end Logan Thomas, who tore multiple ligaments in his left knee late last season, is still trying to figure out whether he will play the Jaguars or wait until Week 2 in Detroit. … Commanders named franchise sack leader Ryan Kerrigan assistant defensive line coach. Kerrigan, who recently returned to Ashburn to announce his retirement, replaces Jeff Zgonina after Jeff Zgonina was promoted to replace fired D-line coach Sam Mills III.

Brandon D. James