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Commanders' offense primed to be more explosive with Wentz at QB

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Carson Wentz provided a preview of what the Washington Commanders' offense will look like during Wednesday's OTAs.

The Commanders were running 9-on-9 drills when Wentz spotted first-round pick Jahan Dotson, who was running towards the middle of the field. Wentz zipped the ball between two defenders, giving Dotson just enough time to snatch the ball out of the air before finishing the play in the end zone.

Granted, the play occurred in a controlled environment against a defense that could not go full speed in June, so take the moment with as many grains of salt as you want. It is, however, a good sign for things to come as well as another reason for head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner to expect progress from the offense.

"Do I expect us to step forward? I do," Rivera said. "I expect us to be able to really expand on what we've done in the past."

Wentz didn't take long to impress his teammates. He's picked up the offense quickly, according to J.D. McKissic, and his touchdown pass to Dotson was hardly the first positive play he's had this offseason. It's been something of a learning process for both Wentz and the Commanders to see what he's capable of in the offense.

The answer, it turns out, is basically everything they ask of him.

"There's a lot of different things that he's capable of doing, obviously a very skilled player," Turner said. "You see him out at practice. He's a big physical guy. He can really push the ball down the field. Our group of receivers does a great job of running, getting open and he's finding him."

The more specific plans that the Commanders have for Wentz is to push the ball downfield in a way they haven't done in previous years. Last year, Washington 24th in yards per pass completion; the year before, it ranked last.

The Colts did a bit better in 2021 with an average of 10.4 yard per completion, which ranked 17th. With all the weapons that Washington has, the team believes dropping Wentz into the offense will provide the boost they've been searching for.

"The season didn't go well for them as a team or him personally," Turner said. "And then I think last year, he bounced back and really, really had a good year and really played really well in stretches of last season. I think that's more of what to expect from him. And then…build off that and just recognize the things that he does well and try to continue to do those."

The Washington Commanders worked through team and blitz drills during Wednesday's OTA. Check out the top shot from the practice. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

Wentz's arm, and his enthusiasm to use it, has always been viewed as one of Wentz's strengths. Rivera has said multiple times that Wentz can do things other quarterbacks can't or struggle with, and that hinges around his arm strength.

"You always want to try to do whatever you can to create explosive plays," Turner said. "That's a big part of scoring points. It's hard to consistently drive the field against teams. So, when you can get big chunks, that helps you score points consistently."

While the Colts did fall short of the playoffs, they were one of the best in terms of explosive plays. The team ranked sixth in terms of explosive play rate in 2021, while Washington ranked 20th.

Of course, Turner isn't looking for Wentz to sling the ball downfield on every play, but he doesn't want that to come at the cost of Wentz playing out of his comfort zone.

"I think that's the balance that any good quarterback always goes with, because these guys are competitors, and they think, 'man, I can make this throw,' or, 'I can find a way to make this play,'" Turner said. "Whether you can or not, that really isn't important. It's just about making the right decision over and over again and not putting us in a tough situation."

The pieces are set for Washington to take that desired step forward. Dotson is only the latest addition to a passing attack that already featured Curtis Samuel, Terry McLaurin and a solid pass-catchers at tight end.

If the results look anything like what Wentz has shown already, that progress could become a reality soon.

"The threats in the passing game, being able to open it up a little bit, that definitely helps everything," Turner said.

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