Turner insists Wentz's presence won't change the offense much originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
With Wentz, the unit was more inclined to throw, as the former Colt and ex-Eagle eclipsed the 40-attempt mark in each of his first four outings with Washington. Overall, the squad went 2-4 in Wentz's opening stint, and while the aerially-focused style was far from the only reason for those struggles, it was nonetheless in place during them.
Yet when Heinicke stepped into the huddle, the group turned its attention to its running game, and as a result, the preseason backup had just one 40-plus pass appearance in nine starts. For the Heinicke-led span, the team went 5-3-1 thanks both to the many benefits of that approach and, yes, additional factors, namely a defensive resurgence.
But now Wentz is back atop the depth chart due to Ron Rivera's decision to bench Heinicke in hopes of providing the entire club with a "spark" amidst its 0-2-1 slump. According to coordinator Scott Turner, though, the intention is to preserve the club's rush-heavy ways despite Wentz's impending return.
"There's not going to be much difference as far as what we want to do," Turner said in a press conference Thursday. "We still want to be physical and be balanced in that way. But I think just [Wentz's] excitement and energy coming in will be good."
Between Wentz — whose increased zip on the ball is extremely obvious when compared to Heinicke's — and the diverse skills that Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel bring at wide receiver, the Commanders have some pieces in place should they want to be a more downfield-oriented operation (as for the offensive line, well, that's the dicey part of this equation).
Besides, it's not like the recent results are so positive that they'd bely the thought of an adjustment in strategy. Across Washington's last three contests, the offense managed just 20, 12 and 20 points, and an in-relief Wentz was actually responsible for seven of them at the end of last Saturday's loss in San Francisco.
Turner, however — while allowing that his calls could be altered by the flow of Sunday's matchup with the Browns — seemed quite content with the idea of trying to beat Cleveland and others on the ground.
"We want to be physical," he said, repeating that adjective. "I think it takes a little bit of the pressure off of [Wentz] not throwing, not having quite as many pass attempts."
Wentz is also interested in not disturbing his crew's efforts all that much. He'd clearly like to contribute to improved results, but he's not keen on modifying his personality now that he's assuming the role that Heinicke held for a couple of months.
"I think you try not to take that from zero to a hundred," Wentz said Wednesday. "I try to be the same. Even when I was trying to back up and support and help Taylor, I tried to be around, be involved, be the same amongst the guys.
"Nothing on that front's going to change majorly," he continued. "Obviously out at practice it looks different, in the game it's going to look different, it's going to feel different, but from a day-to-day, I try not to change too much."
Therein lies the conundrum for Wentz, Turner, Rivera and Washington as a whole.
When the goal on offense was to dominate in terms of time of possession, lean on Brian Robinson Jr. to punish opponents and watch as the defense soundly defeated its foes, the wins piled up for a fun-while-it-lasted stretch. Unfortunately, the victories have been put on pause as of late, which prompted the shakeup at quarterback.
With the swap now completed, will Wentz be able to execute the exact same formula? Or better yet, should he be asked to execute the exact same formula? Or should the Commanders revise their scheme on top of editing their lineup and let Wentz show off his advantages over Heinicke?
On Thursday, at least, Turner sounded like a coach who's confident that the previously-established plan will mesh with the newly-inserted starter. It won't be long until his actions get the chance to match his words.