Just a little over a month removed from foot surgery, Colts quarterback Carson Wentz is expected to start against the Seahawks on Sunday. Initially expected to miss anywhere from 5-12 weeks, Wentz will be a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
Along with Wentz, Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich is also hopeful All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson (foot) will return. However, the fourth-year man out of Notre Dame suffered a "flare-up" in his back and will not join Wentz in practice this afternoon.
Getting both back would be a massive boon for the Colts and a disappointing blow to the Seahawks' odds of starting the year 1-0... or would it? With Wentz, at least, Seattle may have its preferred option of who goes under center for Indy this weekend.
"Wait, why would they rather face a former MVP candidate instead of Jacob Eason, who's never played in a real NFL game before?"
Glad you asked, reader. It's simple, really.
During his time with the Eagles, Wentz had four regular season matchups against the Seahawks. He and his team went 0-4 as Seattle limited him to a passer rating of 74.2 with six touchdowns, six interceptions and 1,037 yards. In those games, Philadelphia was outscored 90-51.
Due to his injury, Wentz missed the entire preseason and has only made a handful of appearances in practice. While he's familiar with Reich's system from their days together in Philadelphia, he naturally hasn't had the ideal amount of time to settle into his new digs and develop a chemistry with his new teammates.
Eason, on the other hand, has been in Indianapolis for over a year. Considering he and rookie Sam Ehlinger took the majority of first-team snaps under center during the month of August, it shouldn't be much of a stretch to assume he's ahead of Wentz in certain areas. While there's no arguing who the better overall talent is on paper—it's Wentz—all players need time and reps to reach "football condition," which isn't just a physical achievement—it's a mental one as well.
Therefore, one could argue Eason may be better suited for success in Week 1. As a result of his time away, Wentz could theoretically undergo some natural growing pains through his first few games in a Colts uniform.
The other thing to keep in mind here is his health and the health of those around him. Indianapolis may be without left tackle Eric Fisher, who's working his way back from a torn Achilles and was just activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list. He'll be a limited participant in the team's practice on Wednesday, but if he and Nelson are unable to go, Wentz will make his Colts debut without his entire left-side protection.
And depending on how well Wentz's foot has healed, he might not be able to avoid pressure to the best of his ability. That has to leave the likes of Carlos Dunlap and the Seahawks' rotation at LEO defensive end licking their chops.
The one player Wentz is confirmed to not have at his disposal on Sunday is receiver T.Y. Hilton. To start the season, the four-time Pro Bowl selection was placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery on his neck. That means receivers Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell, as well as tight ends Mo-Alie Cox and Jack Doyle will be Wentz's primary options.
It's certainly a talented group of pass catchers, but one that shouldn't necessarily invoke fear in the hearts of Seattle's defenders. It's an especially decent landing spot for a Seahawks team with lingering question marks at cornerback before they face off against the likes of A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Deebo Samuel and other great receiving threats over the next few weeks.
It won't be a walk in the park and the Colts are indeed getting healthier, but the Seahawks—at least on defense—have a good opportunity to start out on a strong note. If they can take advantage of the situation at hand, they're catching a very talented Indianapolis roster at the right time.