The Indianapolis Colts now sit at 0-2 after a narrow loss to the Los Angeles Rams. While the Colts looked much better in week two than they did in week one, there are still plenty of issues with this team at the moment.
Quarterback Carson Wentz, at least, was not one of those issues. He finished the day completing 20 of 31 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also finished with three carries for 27 yards in the loss.
With Wentz continuing his steady play, I dove back into the film to see how his mechanics held up against the ferocious Rams' pass rush.
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Sequencing and Alignment Improving
The Colts' gameplan in the passing game was quite simple in this one; quick, underneath zone-beaters to spread out the Rams' defense. Wentz operated well in this system when he was actually given time to throw.
With the Colts using heavy one-read pass plays, Wentz was able to get into a rhythm with his sequencing and alignment. Most of his passes were to hitch routes in between zones, so his process was typically one-step, two-step, then throw.
This first clip shows what I'm talking about well. Wentz was mostly operating in two-step drops out of shotgun in this game. This allowed him to quickly read the defense, align to his first option, then fire. On this play, he gets to the top of his drop, aligns his body to tight end Jack Doyle, and throws a perfectly placed ball with good velocity.
Wentz was able to get into a good groove with these passes. Repetition often can lead to improvement, and the consistent drops and reads helped Wentz find a comfort zone early.
The constant drops (two-step, set, then throw) allowed him to make throws like this, where he had to drive it into a tight window, much easier. He has his feet set to his target and is able to drive forward to add the needed velocity to fit the pass in between two defenders for the first down.
On top of these positives, I have been happy with his overall sequencing on most throws this year. He had a tendency to swing his front foot wide in 2020, but that problem appears to be a thing of the past in 2021.
This downfield throw to Michael Pittman Jr is a great example of his improved sequencing. He is able to get comfortable in his set after the play-action up the middle. He quickly snaps his head to the outside, and his body follows to align the throw. I paused the video as he begins to release the pass, but it is easy to see the proper sequence of events in this pass.
He keeps his front-half closed (which is enhanced by his left hand being kept high and tight) and he rotates through his hips to complete the pass. My only issue would be that he steps with his front-foot before his hips pull through the pass. He didn't need the extra velocity on this throw, but that's a minor detail to clean up going forward.
Overall, huge steps forward considering where he was last year with these two areas.
Improved Pocket Movement
Wentz was under duress for a majority of the afternoon on Sunday. The Colts' offensive line simply couldn't hold up against the pass rush of Aaron Donald and the Rams.
As a result, Wentz was running for his life for a majority of the game. From what I saw on film review, he mostly handled the extra pressure well. There were a few missed opportunities, and he isn't completely absolved from blame, but I would put a majority of the issues in this department on the offensive line.
Where I found myself particularly impressed with Wentz was in his pocket movement. Last year, he had the tendency to turn and run out of pocket whenever he felt any pressure closing in. While he did have to bail from a few pockets in this game, I liked that he hung in the pocket as long as possible and stepped into open space when he had it.
This clip below shows two different options Wentz had as this pocket broke down. The red arrow shows the path he would have taken last year, which certainly would have led to a sack/throwaway. Instead, he takes the green arrow's path, stepping up from the edge rusher and escaping the pocket forward for a positive rush.
Still Has To Bring Down the Hero Ball
While Wentz has impressed me through two weeks and has mostly operated within the system, his hero ball tendencies do pop up every now and then. Hero ball in itself isn't a bad thing, but making risky, off-platform throws typically lead to more negative results rather than positive ones.
These were the two most egregious examples from Sunday. He is under duress on both plays, and he does a good job of trying to make something happen. The issue comes when he attempts two very off-balance, risky throws after escaping the pocket. These were fortunate enough to fall incomplete, but Wentz still needs to learn to rein it in and learn to live for another down.
The second clip was the worst one of the day for Wentz. On third and six in a three point game, he has to throw this ball out to Doyle over the middle. Trying to make more out of what he was given unfortunately leads to a near sack (and a high ankle sprain for him).
Carson Wentz has had a mostly positive start to the 2021 season. He has had some misses and miscues, but he is playing much closer to the 2018/2019 versions of himself rather than the 2020 version. If I told you that prior to the season, you would think that the Colts would be at least 1-1 after two games.
The big issue right now is that the rest of the Colts' team (particularly the offensive line and defense as a whole) is just not performing up to par. I expect some positive regression for both groups, but this team isn't going anywhere until that happens.
As the Colts prepare for week three, the big question mark is if Wentz will be ready to go after suffering two ankle sprains in the loss. I hope that the Colts err on the side of caution here, but we will see. If the Colts have any hope of beating the Tennessee Titans, Wentz is going to have to play.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.