The Indianapolis Colts swung for the fences with their offseason trade for Carson Wentz. While Wentz has all the talent in the world, it is hard to ignore the recent struggles in Philadelphia that led to his departure.
The main emphasis of this series has been to focus on the mechanical concerns in Wentz's game and discuss how they can be fixed (with some insight from top quarterback trainers around the country).
Wentz has always been known as a "hero ball" quarterback, which isn't necessarily a bad thing by any means. That mindset is what can turn a play that is dead in the water into a huge, momentum shifting touchdown. It can also lead to disastrous plays like this, though.
When deconstructing the major issues of hero ball and issues in quarterbacks with big arms like Wentz, a common theme is the tendency to throw off-platform. Wentz has to improve when his process is sped up, and has to limit his tendency to throw off-balance in the pocket.
That will be the main focus of the series today. I will look at some of these issues in Wentz's game and discuss how some offseason drills can correct this relatively minor issue.
Why Off-Platform isn't Ideal
Before we get into some film and drill work on correcting this issue, I wanted to dive into exactly why this is an issue. With quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes and Josh Allen making absurd off-platform throws every week, why shouldn't quarterbacks be encouraged to throw more of them?
For help with this article, I spoke with QB Coach Steve Calhoun of Armed and Dangerous QB. Calhoun is a top quarterback trainer who is an instructor with the Manning Passing Academy and has helped train multiple NFL quarterbacks (most notably Jordan Love).
"Move and reset, not move and throw off of one foot." said Calhoun. "There’s only one Pat Mahomes, and only one Aaron Rodgers."
That's the biggest thing with off-platform throws. Can quarterbacks with great arm talent do them? Absolutely. The problem, though, is the body loses so much strength and accuracy when not properly synced up.
Players like Mahomes, Allen, and Rodgers can make absurd throws without being properly synced, but even they would agree that it is better to reset and throw than to throw off of one foot.
"I get into great discussions with my quarterbacks who want to do more off-platform." said Calhoun. "I say 'let’s go watch some NFL film and get a percentage where they actually threw off-platform or off of one foot.' It’s maybe only seven or eight times a game where quarterbacks truly throw off-platform."
Off-platform throws are great for highlights but they are not a consistent way to play quarterback in the NFL. A more productive and efficient way to approach the game is to slide, reset, and deliver an accurate throw with a proper base.
Wentz's Struggles in this Area
Wentz was actually really good during his peak years of knowing when to throw off-platform and when not to. In the latter half of 2019 and for most of 2020, he began to struggle mightily in this area.
I would suggest that a big piece of this is confidence. If a quarterback doesn't trust their pocket or their reads, then the process can get rushed to the point where the quarterback isn't executing their fundamentals.
Wentz is a mobile quarterback who has to regain his former confidence and improve his movement in the pocket. Being able to make plays out of the pocket is great but the truly elite quarterbacks are the ones who can maneuver inside the pocket at a high level.
"You need to be able to move in a small space quickly and change your throwing lane. I’m not a quarterback coach who is going to work a lot on throwing off-platform." said Calhoun. "That’s just not the game."
In these video clips below, it is easy to see the poor footwork after moving in the pocket. Notice how Wentz is fading away in many of these clips too, which is evidence of these throws being off of the back foot.
Compare those clips above to these ones of Philip Rivers and it is easy to see where the differences lie. Rivers was excellent at moving in the pocket and not letting the surrounding environment impact his process.
The NFL game is all about speed. That speed also applies to the quarterback position. Quarterbacks have to be able to react quickly to pressure or changing circumstances and still maintain their footwork. If they don't, it turns into a lot of mistakes that Wentz made this past season.
Drills to Correct this Issue
Luckily, like with most of the issues covered in this series, the drill work to correct this issue isn't too intense. The key is getting Wentz to see pressure, move to a new spot, reset, then fire rather than firing off the back foot.
Tony Racioppi, who has appeared in a few other pieces in this series, was kind enough to send me a few videos of his best drill to correct this issue.
The drill isn't too crazy by any means, and is mostly mechanical to work on the two-step process. The key is getting the front foot to a new platform and then swinging the back foot to create the new alignment down the field.
The drill is a reactionary one in order to simulate a game situation. The defender either goes right or left from the middle position and the quarterback has to react and move to the other side to reset.
Another great drill is one by Calhoun. His drill is focused more on the speed of the footwork in order to simulate how fast a quarterback has to move in a real game situation.
"The best thing that I try to do is to get them to speed up faster than what they would normally play." said Calhoun. "I’m really emphasizing that speed because that is what they are going to play at come game day with the adrenaline and pressure of a real game."
Calhoun opts to use tennis balls to simulate this. With multiple tennis balls rolled at the quarterback's feet, they are forced to constantly set and reset throughout the drill.
"There shouldn’t be practice speed and game speed… it’s just game speed." said Calhoun. "I try to emphasize the speed of their drops and quick resets. That’s the best way I can try to simulate a game environment."
While these drills are just two of the many out there, these are just two ways that the Colts could attack the issue Wentz has of not resetting his feet after moving in the pocket.
Carson Wentz is a good quarterback who has had his fair share of struggles over the past two years. The main point of this series has been to show that these issues are correctable and he can, potentially, get back to his old self with proper work.
When it comes to resetting when off-platform, the drills like ones above can help. The real way to fix the issue though it to get into a real game situation and react under real pressure. Quarterback coaches can simulate the best they can, but it ultimately comes down to how the quarterback performs in real pressure situations.
From everything I have heard, Wentz is in a good place mentally and working hard on his mechanics. As long as he is focusing hard on these problem areas, he has a chance to revitalize his career in Indy.
See Below for More in This Series:
- The Mechanics of Carson Wentz: Setting the Hallway
- The Mechanics of Carson Wentz: Quarterback Sequencing
- The Mechanics of Carson Wentz: Learning From the Success of Josh Allen
- The Mechanics of Carson Wentz: Tom House
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.