INDIANAPOLIS – Winning football.
In their first ever action against another NFL team, Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger gave the Colts something they are hoping for until Carson Wentz returns.
Needed right now to compete for the starting job with Wentz out, those young QBs had their head coach giving them more than a passing grade following Sunday’s preseason opener.
-Eason’s day: 15-of-21 for 183 yards (the entire first half, 5 series leading to 10 points)
-Ehlinger’s day: 10-of-15 for 155 yards, 1 interception (the entire second half, 4 series leading to 11 points)
Here are Reich’s thoughts on how his QBs looked:
On Eason: “The two-minute drive was a clinic. He hit some really nice throws the whole first half. He had a couple lasers in there that really looked good. He put the ball on the ground one time and made one or two errors, mental mistakes that we will clean up. I thought he went out there and showed himself well.”
On Ehlinger “Sam had the rough start with the interception. We had a mental error on that play, somebody ran the wrong route. I got to see the tape to see how it all played out, still wasn’t a good throw. But then Sam bounced back. That’s the kind of thing we want to see from our quarterbacks, mental toughness. To be able to have a glitch and come back and play good football. I thought both of them did that. They are probably going to grade out as playing winning football at the end of the day.”
Watching Eason operate on Sunday and you wouldn’t have thought that was his first football game in more than 20 months, let alone his first time putting on an NFL jersey.
Eason played an entire half on Sunday and gave the Colts some efficiency and production they’d sign up for in a heartbeat.
In playing 5 series, Eason completed 71 percent of his passes and had a yards per attempt of 8.7. That combination is something the Colts would love from any QB. Yes, Eason was playing against Carolina’s second-team defense, but he also was playing with mostly Colts reserves.
After settling in with some decisive, quicker rhythm action early on—often finding his favorite target Dezmon Patmon—Eason opened things up as the half moved along.
His most impressive throw of the day came in a perfectly thrown 37-yard ball to Parris Campbell, one that had plenty of touch on it for the speedy wideout to catch it in stride for the big gain.
Room for improvement is still there in several areas for Eason.
His pocket presence could use some work. Reading progressions early in plays and being decisive with that decision making could be sharper. Ball placement and honing in that fastball are on that list, too.
But I don’t think anyone thought Eason would be as productive as he was on Sunday, with little help from the run game.
Ehlinger bounced back from that early interception (the rookie said he was ‘trying to aim it’ early on) to lead a couple of scoring drives in the final quarter.
The rookie took some chances vertically, too, with his receivers aiding him in 50/50 situations. Ehlinger then showed off his strength of making plays on the run.
It wasn’t the incredibly efficient Ehlinger we’ve seen in camp, but his 4th quarter performance of the offense rallying and moving down the field fit his description.
Looking back on Sunday, Eason needed his performance as he tries to regain the position he had back when Wentz first got hurt.
What Reich had to especially love from these guys on Sunday was that when both encountered late-half moments, the QB’s led drives that ended with points.
The wish is that the Colts won’t need these guys in September.
But if Sunday is a glimpse into what could happen if they are called upon, the early returns offered some hope that this ship can stay afloat.
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