Carson Wentz's accuracy, chemistry with Terry McLaurin remains 'work in progress'

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Wentz's accuracy, chemistry with McLaurin a 'work in progress' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The first two weeks of training camp have been a seesaw for Carson Wentz. The highs from the Washington Commanders' new quarterback have been quite impressive. The lows, however, have led to some eye rolls.

The entire Wentz experience was on display Saturday evening at FedEx Field for the Commanders' open practice, which received a more-than-solid turnout from the fanbase. Wentz's arm talent flashed at times, highlighted by a nearly 60-yard touchdown pass to Marken Michel. He also made multiple impressive throws during red zone drills, with two resulting in touchdowns -- one to Terry McLaurin and one to Curtis Samuel.

However, during simple quarterback and receiver drills with no defense present, Wentz struggled. His accuracy -- which has been hit-or-miss throughout camp -- was worrisome during these sessions, as he had multiple throws that either sailed way over his receiver's head or were in the dirt. That's far from ideal, especially considering the fact there was no pass rush chasing Wentz or defensive back trailing his targets.

Following the conclusion of Saturday's practice, head coach Ron Rivera admitted Wentz has been inaccurate at times, but he's not overly concerned about it just yet.

"There’s a lot of little nuances that we see and look at and get to review," Rivera said. "There are some inaccuracies, but it’s nothing that we are overly concerned about. You see what's going on and how things are developing, you see the timing and just understand the feeling of what’s going on with our concept. So, we will continue to grow and work on it."

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Shortly after Rivera left the podium, Wentz spoke with reporters and offered a similar viewpoint as his head coach.

"It feels good, could definitely get better," Wentz said about the offense's timing and rhythm. "But it’s still early, we’re only two weeks into camp and those are the things that particularly we’re working on. We’re also not game-planning for our defense, seeing different looks and all those things. So, I feel like it’s in a good place, but it’s just going to keep getting better. Far from perfect, but it’s fun developing chemistry with those guys.”

With just 10 training camp practices in the books, it's understandable that Washington's offense still has plenty of work to do. After all, Wentz is still learning a new system -- his third offensive playbook in as many years. It takes hundreds of reps for quarterbacks to get the timing down with their respective receivers, something Wentz simply hasn't had yet.

One specific connection that still has yet to fully click has been the Commanders' most important one. Just based on skill set alone, Wentz and McLaurin should be a great match. Wentz is easily the most talented quarterback McLaurin has played with at the NFL level, while the same can be said vice versa. But two weeks into camp, they're still trying to figure one another out.

"I definitely think it's a work in progress," McLaurin said about his chemistry with Wentz.

Besides a few days of training together in Los Angeles in early July, training camp has been the only time Wentz and McLaurin have worked together. McLaurin missed all of OTAs and minicamp while he was going through contract negotiations. By the time McLaurin's extension was finalized, the entire offseason program had already been completed.

When asked if he felt McLaurin's absence from the offseason program has impacted the wideout's chemistry with Wentz, Rivera responded with "without a doubt."

McLaurin and Wentz are determined to make up for lost time, though. The wideout said Saturday night that the two of them plan to get some extra reps together during practice in order to work through some of the growing pains they're having right now.

“I think it’s just still a process, to be honest," McLaurin said. "I think the best thing that I can continue to do is be as available as I can in practice. ... I know we’re going through some growing pains; I’ve had that in the past. But I think just his demeanor and my demeanor make for a good foundation along with the other guys we have in our room. We have a lot of guys who are just unselfish and are not going to really get too frustrated. Just trust in the process of what we are trying to get done.”

Wentz echoed a similar sentiment as McLaurin, too, emphasizing that building chemistry is a process and that it doesn't happen overnight.

"It takes time to develop that timing. It takes a lot of conversations too," Wentz said. "You go out for a rep at practice, whether you hit it or miss it, you come in and watch the films and say, 'This is what I was seeing, this is what I was feeling,' and you talk through it. It’s still early, it’s not perfect. It’s in a good place but it’s going to keep getting better. ... I feel good about where we’re headed.”

Like Rivera, McLaurin doesn't seem too concerned about Wentz's accuracy, either.

"Carson definitely does a good job of putting the ball out in front of you which is awesome for a receiver," McLaurin said. "Like I said a lot of times, you'd rather get overthrown than underthrown. Obviously, you've got to be ready for both scenarios as a receiver. Even when we miss, it's not by a lot."

The fourth-year receiver continued by praising Wentz for how he's able to put a lot of air under the ball, giving McLaurin and the rest of the receivers plenty of time to track it. McLaurin also applauded Wentz's arm strength, something that should allow Scott Turner to dial up more deep passing plays than we've seen in the past.

"The timing in the way that he likes to throw the deep ball and the zip he puts on the crossing routes gives you a chance to catch the ball and run with it," McLaurin said. "That is extremely great for us in our room to be able to run with the ball after the catch."

The touchdown connection between Wentz and McLaurin on Saturday night was a perfect example of what the duo hopes is a building block in their chemistry together. McLaurin said that specific play felt like a "game rep" and the fact they were able to complete that pass should be a confidence builder moving forward.

McLaurin later added that the touchdown play was the first time he and Wentz had worked that concept in camp. So, the fact that they were able to complete that specific pass should be a confidence booster moving forward.

"For us to connect on it on the first time when the timing was great," McLaurin said. "My landmark was good, his timing was great. Those are the reps that you take and put in your back pocket of, 'OK, that’s a game rep.' ... When you have plays like that where you don’t really get to rep them a lot and you connect, that gave me a lot of confidence and it gave him confidence, too.”

Come Week 1, Wentz -- barring injury -- will be the ninth different quarterback McLaurin has caught a pass from in his career. From Case Keenum to Taylor Heinicke to now Wentz, and everyone else in between, the 26-year-old wideout has constantly had to play alongside signal-callers with vastly different styles.

So, while the Wentz-McLaurin connection remains a "work in progress," McLaurin is confident the two will be on the same page when the games start to actually count.

"It’s hard to get every rep of every concept that we run down pat, but I think just the overall communication is big as we go along and do this process," McLaurin said. "I think we’re both competitive, you want to hit them all and that’s the expectation. But, as long as we’re on the same page we expect when the games come around to really start making those plays even more.”