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Carson Wentz shines in Washington Commanders preseason debut

New Washinton Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz had drawn criticism during training camp for his lack of accuracy. It’s just a continuation of struggles on the part of the former Philadelphia Eagles No. 2 pick over the past couple seasons. It’s also one of the reasons he was jettisoned from both Philadelphia and Indianapolis.

Despite Wentz’s issues, Washington exhausted draft capital to acquire him from the Colts this past offseason. The idea was for head coach Ron Rivera and Co. to get more out of the former Pro Bowl signal caller while improving under center.

If Saturday’s preseason debut against Baker Mayfield and the Carolina Panthers is any indication, Washington might have in fact been on to something.

Accuracy was not an issue in Wentz’s limited playing time with the quarterback completing 10-of-13 passes for 74 yards. That included the embattled veteran leading the Commanders on a 14-play, 82 yard touchdown-scoring drive in which Wentz completed 6-of-8 passes.

Those near the nation’s capital must be happy to see Wentz find an early connection with recently-extended star wide receiver Terry McLaurin. They will have to be a potent duo if Washington wants to surprise the masses and compete for the NFC East title.

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Small sample size leads to confidence in Carson Wentz

carson wentz, washington commanders
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t all great for the Commanders’ offense in the first half. That included running back Antonio Gibosn continuing with his case of the fumbles. A full-time starter for Washington last season, Taylor Heinicke also threw an interception to conclude a long drive at the end of the first half.

Focusing on the micro here, Wentz turned some major questions about his summer performance into success in live-game action.

“It’s a lot better than you give him credit for, just because of the way things happen in practice. There’s a lot of little nuances that we see that we look at that we get to review. Yeah, there’s some inaccuracy. But it’s nothing that we are overly concerned [about].”

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera on Carson Wentz during training camp

Wentz, 29, drew criticism for his performance in his final season with the Eagles back in 2020 when he tied for the league lead in interceptions with 15.

This led to Philadelphia opting to move off Wentz in favor of Jalen Hurts, trading the former to the Indianapolis Colts. Wentz lasted just one season in Indy with questions coming up about his leadership ability. However, his stats were much better than anything we saw from Commanders quarterbacks a season ago.

  • Carson Wentz stats (2021): 62% completion, 3,563 yards, 27 TD, 7 INT, 94.6 QB rating
  • Washington Commanders QB stats (2021): 65% completion, 3,746 yards, 21 TD, 15 INT, 85.8 QB rating

With a new lease on his football life, the onus is now on Wentz to up his level of performance. He’s enjoying a fresh start with the Commanders, and finally feels like he’s in the right spot.

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“I think for anybody, it just builds confidence. It builds confidence within myself,” Carson Wentz said at the start of training camp. “I will always think that I’m a confident person, but hearing it from somebody else, from the head coach, definitely instills that confidence more.”

If the Commanders are able to unlock Wentz, they could surprise the masses while competing with the Dallas Cowboys and his former Eagles team in the NFC East.

While a small sample size, Saturday’s performance has to be seen as encouraging.