Can the Colts' Deep Passing Game Improve with Carson Wentz?

The Colts' deep passing game has been less than ideal since the retirement of Andrew Luck. Can that improve with Carson Wentz under center?
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I became public enemy number one with Indianapolis Colts fans yesterday, as I highlighted some of Carson Wentz's struggles under pressure in 2020. To keep it fair though, I decided to look at a major positive that Wentz could bring the Colts' offense in 2021.

The Colts' deep passing game has been below average since Andrew Luck retired after the 2018 season. Fortunately, Wentz brings a similar mobility and arm talent that Luck brought to this team.

While I am not comparing these two quarterbacks beyond this one skill, I decided to take a look at how Wentz in 2017 compared to Luck in 2018 on deep passes. I thought this comparison was fair because it was the last time both quarterbacks were in a Frank Reich-led offense.

The positive correlations between the two quarterbacks were great to see statistically and on film. So today, let's jump into these two seasons by these quarterbacks and break down the deep passing game.

2017 Carson Wentz vs 2018 Andrew Luck

While it isn't a perfect apples to apples comparison, both of these talented quarterbacks were in a similar situation and scheme in these two years (Wentz had better offensive weapons but I digress).

The stats when comparing these two seasons on passes that traveled 20+ yards in the air are strikingly similar. Luck was 31 of 75 for 1,018 yards with 9 TDs and 5 INTs. He had a passer rating of 100.4.

Wentz on the other hand went 25 for 65 for 912 yards with 10 TDs and 4 INTs. He had a passer rating of 100.2 (stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus).

The stats only tell part of the story though, so I jumped into some film to find similar traits and route concepts on display. The best example I found was this isolated double move on the outside.

Wentz is able to hit Alshon Jeffery in stride down the left sideline perfectly to the outside of the defense. Luck, on his play, hits T.Y Hilton with a pinpoint pass down the left sideline as well. Similar route concepts and similar great throws.

There weren't many players in the league who could improvise like Luck in the pocket and still deliver strikes down the field. While Wentz is a few years removed from being great in this department, he has the traits and ability to extend and make big plays.

These clips stood out for both quarterbacks. Wentz makes a great play in the pocket before finding an open Nelson Agholor down the field. In the second clip, Luck is able to evade defenders as well, and he finds a wide open Chester Rogers down the field to set up a game-winning field goal.

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Arm talent and ability are great to have as a quarterback but sometimes a great scheme is the key to an effective downfield offense. That is what happens on these similar deep crossing routes.

Wentz is able to hang in the pocket after the play-fake and find a wide open Agholor deep down the field on a crossing route. On his play, Luck is also able to find his man, Hilton, uncovered on a deep cross after the play-action.

Something the Colts' lacked the last two years in the vertical passing game was a quarterback who could simply get the ball down the field. Jacoby Brissett had no accuracy deep and Philip Rivers just didn't have the arm talent anymore.

On these plays, both quarterbacks are able to deliver the deep post on the money for touchdowns. Wentz hits Torrey Smith perfectly after he crosses the cornerback's face while Luck hits Hilton as he pulls away from his defender.

Simply having a quarterback who can hit these passes on time down the field can make a huge difference in the Colts' offense. When the vertical pass is a real threat, it opens up so much more underneath.

These slot shots are both beautiful by these two quarterbacks. Wentz hits Agholor in stride for the long touchdown while Luck throws a nice touch pass over the zone to a wide open Hilton.

Final Thoughts

One thing I will always be with my film assessments and analysis is honest. I have my reservations and concerns with Wentz's overall game but I am excited about some elements he can bring to this offense. One of those elements is the deep passing game.

Even in his worst career season (2020), Wentz showed the ability to hit the deep ball. Putting him in a scheme that allows him to take well timed shots could do wonders for his game.

The NFL today revolves around explosive plays and the Colts' haven't had an explosive passing game in the past two years. With Wentz, there is a chance the Colts' can get back to some 2018 success down the field. I am confident that this will be one of the major benefits of the Wentz trade for Indy.


Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.

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