Behind Enemy Lines with Colts Wire to preview Week 8

The Washington Commanders enter Sunday’s Week 8 game against the Indianapolis Colts on a two-game winning streak. To add to that winning streak, Washington’s defense faces the relatively unknown Sam Ehlinger at quarterback.

Ehlinger replaced veteran Matt Ryan this week, and Colts head coach Frank Reich believes he can help the Colts win now. One reason for the optimism around Ehlinger is his mobility.

In preparation for Sunday’s game against the Colts, we spoke with Colts Wire managing editor Kevin Hickey to catch us up to speed on Indianapolis. Kevin gives us a scouting report on Ehlinger and talks Jim Irsay, Carson Wentz and more.

 

Give us a scouting report on Sam Ehlinger?

KH: We don’t have a lot to go off of when it comes to NFL tape. But Ehlinger is going to be utilized heavily in an RPO scheme. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, and that was his biggest weakness coming out of Texas. However, he made a lot of adjustments to his mechanics working with Tom House over the offseason, and it has led to giving him a bit more juice. He makes the biggest impact with his legs both from a scrambling and designed-run standpoint. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used Ehlinger similarly to how the Giants use Daniel Jones but likely with fewer throws outside the numbers.

What’s wrong with the Colts offensive line?

KH: A lot. First, they had to replace two starting spots at left tackle and right guard. Neither of the players who started the season are still holding those spots. The communication along the offensive line has been poor. From stunt pickups to correctly ID’ing pressure and blitzes, it’s been a mess. But then two cornerstone pieces in center Ryan Kelly and left guard Quenton Nelson haven’t played to expectation. Nelson has still be a strong run blocker, but he’s been beaten in pass protection far more than he should, especially considering his contract. It’s just been a mess all around from technique to communication, and having a statue like Matt Ryan can only work for so long.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Colts defense?

KH: One of the biggest strengths was the run defense before Kwity Paye injured his ankle in Week 5. The combination of Paye on the strong side and Grover Stewart at the one technique made for a lethal unit against the run. The unit has since fallen off, but Stewart is still an elite run defender. The pass rush isn’t as consistent as they’d like it to be, especially with Yannick Ngakoue, who disappears at times. The secondary has been strong, though, led by Stephon Gilmore. Linebacker Bobby Okereke is enjoying a strong contract year, and the return of Shaquille Leonard—albeit on a pitch count—should help. The lack of turnovers is a massive weakness, though, and it’s hindered the defense’s ability to get off the field at times.

Was Carson Wentz as bad last year as Jim Irsay has said?

KH: I always shied away from saying Wentz was bad. He wasn’t a bad quarterback. He was just extremely volatile, and I think Commanders fans have gotten a glimpse of that. Not even on a week-to-week basis but from play-to-play. He looks like an unstoppable force on one play and then makes a jaw-dropping mistake to turn the ball over on the next. Irsay’s comments were a bit surprising simply because the Colts like to keep things in-house, but it was clear down the stretch of the season that this was going to be a one-year ordeal.

Speaking of Irsay, he’s become a hero of late to Washington fans for standing up to Dan Snyder. How do Indy fans view Irsay?

KH: Before I started covering the team for Colts Wire in 2017, I didn’t know a whole lot about how Indy fans viewed him. After five years, it’s clear he’s held in pretty favorable regard in terms of his own fanbase. Irsay has had his issues, without a doubt, but he also makes a conscious effort to do everything he can to environment around the organization and the city a positive one. They often hold fundraisers for various causes, and he’s never been shy to dig into his pocket to offer aid when its needed. During my five years covering the team, I haven’t found anything that suggests he deserves some of the hate he gets on the internet.

What’s your prediction?

KH: The Colts offense can’t get much worse than it was for the first seven games. As much as I’d like to think Ehlinger will provide a bit of a spark because of his play out of structure, history hasn’t been too kind to quarterbacks making their first career NFL starts. I think the defensive line for the Commanders will do enough to keep the Colts offense at bay and come away with a road win. Commanders 19, Colts 17

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire