Aikman: Commanders ‘last opportunity' for Wentz to prove he's QB1


Carson Wentz understands that spotlight that'll be on him during the 2022 NFL season.

Now with the Commanders following a March trade from Indianapolis, Wentz is set to begin his third straight season as the starting quarterback for a different team. That's led many, including former Cowboys star and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, to believe Wentz's opportunity in Washington will be the 29-year-old's last shot to prove he's a franchise quarterback.

"I think that right now, Carson had an opportunity; it didn’t end well in Philadelphia, of course. He then got traded to Indianapolis. Didn’t go great for him there. They decided to make another change at that position, and now he’s landed in Washington," Aikman said Monday during a conference call previewing ESPN's Monday Night Football slate for the 2021 season.

"This is probably his last opportunity, just being blunt about it, to prove that he can be a franchise quarterback in the NFL," he continued.

It's been a whirlwind of a few years for Wentz, a quarterback who played at an elite level just a short time ago. In 2017, Wentz was the MVP favorite before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. He would return from the injury and lead the Eagles to two straight playoff berths, including arguably his statistically-best season in 2019 with over 4,000 passing yards and 27 touchdowns.

In 2020, during the pandemic-altered campaign, Wentz had his worst professional season to date. He threw for just 2,620 yards, 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions before being benched for then-rookie Jalen Hurts.

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After being traded to the Colts last offseason, Wentz bounced back with a strong statistical season (3,563 yards, 27 touchdowns, 7 interceptions) but came up short during the team's final two regular season matchups. Indianapolis lost both games, including a Week 18 finale to a previously two-win Jaguars team, a collapse that unofficially marked the end of Wentz's tenure with the Colts.

Since arriving in Washington, Wentz has received tremendous support from head coach Ron Rivera general manager Martin Mayhew and the rest of the team's coaching staff. During Wentz's introductory press conference in March, Rivera went on the record to say he felt the 29-year-old could be the team's long-term answer at QB.

"I believe it is. I believe it's what we're looking for," Rivera said. "His skill set speaks very well for us, especially for what we want to do and how we want to attack our opponents. I like our quarterback position."

Then, during the annual league meetings just a couple of weeks later, Mayhew raved about Washington's new signal-caller both as a player and as a person.

"Carson has an incredible skill set," Mayhew said. "Second overall pick in the draft, has a great arm, great athlete. Obviously, a great person as well. ... We feel like he’s going to be an outstanding player for us. He’s got a good history as a starter in this league. From our standpoint, we really needed a guy who’s had some experience in this league. So we talked about it and he’s the best option for us.”

Not only does Wentz get a fresh start in Washington with a staff that believes in him, but the quarterback also has the opportunity to face both of his former teams this season for the first time in his career. The Commanders travel to Indianapolis in Week 8 before hosting the Eagles on Monday Night Football two weeks later.

Although Wentz tried to downplay the significance of facing his former team, Aikman is hopefully the QB will take advantage of his opportunities this season in Washington.

"I’m hopeful that he’s able to take advantage of that. Looking forward to that match-up between those two teams," Aikman said. "But this is kind of a defining season, I think, for Carson Wentz and what his future is going to look like."

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