INDIANAPOLIS – Carson Wentz is practicing two days earlier than was the case last week, it’s the right ankle that’s really bothering him, and some of the mobility that clearly was lacking and limited him in the loss to the Tennessee Titans should return.
But as the Indianapolis Colts’ search for their elusive first victory veers to South Florida and the Miami Dolphins, Frank Reich erased any doubts regarding whether Wentz, as limited as he most certainly will be for a second game since spraining both ankles, is the man for the most influential job.
“Yeah, I think we can win football games like that,’’ he said Wednesday.
That wasn’t the case last Sunday when a stationary Wentz averaged just 5.2 yards per pass attempt, was unable to avoid the pressure (10 hits, including two more sacks that ran his season total to eight) and couldn’t make enough plays in a 25-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
There certainly were issues elsewhere.
The defense allowed 180 yards on the ground, including a fourth straight 100-yard outing to Derrick Henry. Ryan Tannehill threw three touchdown passes and scrambled three times for 58 yards. Special teams added to the team-wide failure with a roughing-the-punter penalty and Rodrigo Blankenship’s wide-right 51-yard field goal attempt.
But the inability of the offense to operate at a higher efficiency level was a major detriment.
Remember Wentz averaging 5.2 yards per attempt? That’s only because of a strong closing kick. He completed 7-of-13 passes for 100 yards in the fourth quarter.
In the first three quarters when the game was very winnable, Wentz was 12-of-24 for 94 yards. That’s 3.9 yards per attempt and 7.8 per completion.
The lack of a vertical passing game – or at least the threat of one – impacted what otherwise was an effective run game. Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines averaged 5.6 yards per attempt, but were limited to 16 total attempts. Perhaps Reich should have dialed up more rushing plays, and there apparently were times Wentz stared at a stacked box and checked out of called runs.
Reich is optimistic Wentz being another week removed from severely spraining his right ankle will result a more effective Wentz. Even if that’s only incrementally the case, he believes that will be enough.
“I mean, I think it’s going to be better than that, but I think we can win football games if that’s what it looks like,’’ Reich said. “I think he’s good enough, and I think we’re good enough to win football games like that.
“Obviously we already said he’s at a better place. I’m not saying he’s feeling great – you can ask him that – but we are at a better spot, and I think we’ll have a little more mobility this week.’’
Wentz practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. Last week, it was 100% rehab – “Threw the kitchen sink at it,’’ he repeated for the umpteenth time in seven days – until he was a limited participant in Friday’s session. He wasn’t cleared to start against the Titans until after pregame warm-ups.
“Way better,’’ Wentz said. “I don’t think I’ll be full practicing, but just the fact that I’ll be able to go out there and do some limited work. I was not in that place by any means last week.
“Came out of the game relatively unscathed with that, so it’s continuing to heal and be in a better place every day.’’
Wentz is uncertain how much more mobility he’ll have against the Dolphins. There were a few occasions in the loss to Tennessee where a 100% Wentz would have avoided the pressure and scrambled for yards and an occasional first down.
In the first two games, he rushed/scrambled nine times for 60 yards but was cognizant not to overly stress his ankles in Nashville. It marked only the second time in Wentz’s 71-game career he’s failed to have at least one rushing attempt.
Wentz is hesitant to push it too much during the week.
“You do some things in rehab, but at the end of the day you don’t want to ‘test’ it every day,’’ he said. “There’s a fine line of letting it heal and continuing to rehab.
“Not to get into all the specifics of that, but like I just mentioned, it’s definitely in a better place than last week, and it’ll continue to heal — kind of take it day-by-day.’’
Wentz admitted there were a few plays against Tennessee he would have handled differently had he been healthy, but insisted his immobility wasn’t “a limiting factor’’ in the Colts falling to 0-3 for the first time since 2011.
“I could have been better for sure,’’ he said.
The Colts failed to generate a touchdown on two first-and-goal situations against the Titans. On one, Wentz overthrew a diving Michael Pittman Jr. in the back of the end zone.
“Could’ve and should’ve completed a couple more balls and made a couple of more plays or quicker reads or things like that,’’ Wentz said. “Whether that’s because of the ankle or not, there were just some things that I need to be better at.’’
Wentz has completed 62.6% of his passes in his career and hit 65.8% against Seattle and 64.5% against the Rams. Last Sunday’s 51.4% (19-of-37) was the fourth-worst of his career.
“If I didn’t think he could throw as accurately as he needs to throw, he wouldn’t be in there,’’ Reich said. “Last week the problems we had — did we miss one or two throws? Yeah, but not many.
“The accuracy wasn’t the major issue last week.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.