The Indianapolis Colts are 3-3-1 on the season and only 1.5 games out of first place in the AFC South. Yet, on Monday, the Colts benched veteran quarterback Matt Ryan for the season and turned over the reins to second-year QB Sam Ehlinger.
Ehlinger, a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, will make his first NFL start in Week 8 against the Washington Commanders.
Curiously, the Colts benched Ryan ahead of the Washington game. The Commanders are the team that traded for former Indianapolis quarterback Carson Wentz, who is now sidelined with a finger injury. Even before his injury, Wentz wasn’t playing particularly well, although he was much better than Ryan was for the Colts.
Then, there is the whole Jim Irsay vs. Daniel Snyder saga.
Anyhow, there is a game on Sunday, and the quarterbacks aren’t who anyone expected in the offseason. It will be Ehlinger vs. Taylor Heinicke.
On Wednesday, Colts head coach Frank Reich praised his young quarterback and believes he’s ready.
“It’s a big step, but we think he’s ready,” Reich said, per Kevin Hickey of Colts Wire. “This guy is special. You all know it; everybody knows it. Talk to anybody in that locker room, and we’re fortunate to have a guy – really, three quarterbacks like that. Sam (Ehlinger), he’s got that about him; he carries himself in a way, and he practices in a way. He’ll be ready.”
Reich understands Ehlinger will make mistakes but also believes he will make plays.
“Is he going to make mistakes?” he said. “Of course, he’s going to make mistakes. But I think Sam will make plays. Sam is going to make plays. He’s proven that everywhere he’s been, and we believe that’s what he’s going to do for our offense. He’s going to make plays.”
One reason the Colts turned to Ehlinger is because of his mobility. The offensive line was struggling to protect the stationary Ryan, and Ehlinger can help Indianapolis’ offensive line, much how Heinicke helped Washington’s last week.
“If you have a quarterback who can scramble and get out into the open, if you say, ‘Hey, if you can just get us one or two a game, one or two third-down conversions where you scramble,’” Reich said. “If you get one or two a game, those are huge plays. Sam (Ehlinger) as we all know, we’ve all witnessed, he has the capability to do that.”
Washington’s defense is playing excellent football recently. However, Ehlinger’s legs present a different threat. In the past, the Commanders have had issues against dual-threat passers.
Who would’ve thought this game has become one of the more interesting on the Week 8 schedule?