Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, and Three Other Storylines to Watch as the NFL Season Approaches

By Akiva Wienerkur   August 22, 2021 

Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, and Three Other Storylines to Watch as the NFL Season Approaches

The NFL season starts on Thursday, September 9, in what should be a star-studded matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The quarterback position, featuring all-time great Tom Brady and newly re-signed Cowboys star Dak Prescott, will obviously be one of the key matchups to watch in the game. But intrigue around it now exists for a different reason — Prescott’s status is unclear.

A promising Dallas season was derailed last year when Prescott went down with a season-ending injury in September and his replacements couldn’t adequately move the offense. Dallas missed the playoffs, but re-signed a healthy Prescott in the offseason. 

Prescott hasn’t played in the preseason, and most assumed that was because Dallas was just taking a cautious approach with their star coming off an injury. That is, until an oddly worded tweet from the team’s official Twitter account stirred fans up. “It’s not a setback. And it’s not a reason to worry. But QB Dak Prescott is planning on getting another MRI,” the Cowboys tweeted.

Which clearly made people suspicious that, maybe, there is more to Prescott’s absence this preseason than has been let on.

Prescott is actually dealing with a muscle strain in his shoulder, which isn’t the injury that kept him out much of last season. The Cowboys may not play him in their remaining preseason games, but they do expect him to be ready for the season when it starts.

Despite the intrigue around Prescott, that isn’t the only storyline impacting the NFL odds scene. Here are three other developments that are worth watching as the season nears.

Can the Colts keep Carson Wentz healthy?

Speaking of quarterbacks with major health issues, Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts hoping to revive his career after it fizzled out in Philadelphia. 

Jul 28, 2021; Westfield, IN, United States; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Dezmon Patmon (10) at Grand Park. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY SportsJul 29, 2021; Westfield, IN, United States; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) at Grand Park. Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Wentz is replacing future Hall of Famer Phillip Rivers as the team’s starter this season, hoping to bounce back from two injury-plagued seasons with the Eagles. Last season, he was benched late in the season in favor of Jalen Hurts and feuded with then-coach Doug Pedersen.

The Colts were a good landing spot, as the team has young talent and made the playoffs last season. But injuries once again proved to be a problem, as Wentz has a foot injury that has kept him out in the preseason.

Indianapolis is hopeful he can be ready for the regular season opener, but coach Frank Reich understandably isn’t predicting a timeline based on Wentz’s severe history with injuries. 

If Wentz’s injury lingers, look for the Colts to explore the trade market. Gardner Minshew could be available should Trevor Lawrence, as expected, win the starting quarterback job in Jacksonville. Bears backup Nick Foles, who guided Philadelphia to a Super Bowl when Wentz went down with an injury, could once again be pursued to back him up. Reich was the offensive coordinator of that Philadelphia team, so Foles makes some sense as a target. He’d also likely not require as steep a price in a trade as the younger Minshew would.

Will Deshaun Watson play this season?

Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs with the ball as Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt (70) attempts to make a tackle during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Watson currently has two situations that are being closely watched. The first, and most severe, is his legal issues. He’s been sued in more than 20 civil suits alleging sexual harassment and assault. He’s also under criminal investigation related to some of the accusations, and the NFL is doing its own investigation. Depending on what, if any, charges he faces, he could face a lengthy suspension. 

Less serious is the fact that he requested a trade before the accusations against him surfaced. As one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, the return for him would be high under normal circumstances. But the Texans reportedly aren’t willing to trade him at a discounted rate simply because he faces potential legal and NFL consequences. So he’s in an awkward holding pattern right now where he’s a part of the team, is participating in practices and training at the team’s facility, but may not ever play for Houston again.

Will the Dolphins give up on Tua Tagovailoa?

As a rookie, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s struggles were somewhat masked by the fact that the team out-performed expectations and was a real threat to make the playoffs.

Aug 14, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) throws the ball against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

In his second year, with a team hoping to contend, Tagovailoa may not have the same leeway he had in his first year. Tagovailoa was already reportedly dangled in trade talks for Watson. He also has pundits already labeling him a bust. 

Tagovailoa has reportedly been more assertive leading the offense in camp this season. He’s made some preseason mistakes, but the team has said those are easily correctable. 

Last year, the Dolphins had experienced backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has had big moments in his career, available for when Tagovailoa was ineffective. They don’t have that sort of luxury this season, as backup Jacoby Brissett has not had the sort of success as a starter Fitzpatrick has. So, the Dolphins will go as far as Tagovailoa will take them.

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