INDIANAPOLIS – So much for those Carson Wentz return or Jim Irsay/Daniel Snyder storylines this week.
The Colts (3-3-1) are beginning the Sam Ehlinger era in Week 8, with the Washington Commanders (3-4) coming to town for a 4:25 PM kickoff on Sunday.
Here are the takeaways from the Colts first practice of the:
- Frank Reich was non-committal on Wednesday if Matt Ryan will be the backup once he regains his full health. When Reich was asked about why the Colts are opting to go with Sam Ehlinger over Nick Foles as the starter, he kept it short: “Best for the team…We think Sam was the best choice for No. 2.” With the acknowledgment Jim Irsay had clear influence over this decision, Reich has been left to answer for a decision that had authority coming from the top of the franchise.
- Ryan did meet the media on Wednesday, and was first class throughout the session. Ryan, who is the 3rd QB this week (will be inactive) and will be busy rehabbing a Grade 2 right shoulder sprain, fielded all the media’s questions and handled everything like a true pro. As you’d expect, Ryan said he was “shocked and surprised” to hear the news. Here was Ryan’s thoughts on Reich saying the Colts did not hold up their bargain in supporting the 37-year-old QB: “Coming in, I thought we had enough,” Ryan said. “You don’t know how things are going to shake out. “I would’ve liked to play a lot better. I appreciate everybody taking ownership, and I’ve tried to do that myself, as well.” Ryan said he has not given a thought to requesting a trade, with the NFL’s trade deadline coming on Tuesday. Speaking of that trade deadline, the Colts better be making and taking calls.
- Sam Ehlinger is easy to root for. His story off the field is tragic in what he’s been through losing his dad just before he started high school and his brother last year. From Day One, Frank Reich and Chris Ballard have been effusive in their high character praise of Ehlinger since drafting him last April. As far as Ehlinger on the field, here’s more on what to expect from his playing style.
- Whether Colts players want to publicly say it or not, it’s clear the locker room is nowhere near unanimous in the decision to bench Matt Ryan and go to Sam Ehlinger. Here’s a snippet from Ryan Kelly on the QB decision: “I think everybody has their own opinions on it. I’m not going to get into mine.” Kelly admitted some surprise about the decision.
- Reich did have an interesting comment on Wednesday about the quarterback path chosen by Jim Irsay, Chris Ballard and himself in recent years. When Reich was asked about this path getting the Colts ‘nowhere,’ he pushed back a bit, before bringing up the other path the team has elected not to go down: “I think it has gotten us somewhere. I understand on the outside, it may look like it’s not. We’ve developed a roster, we’re continuing to develop a roster that we think is a championship roster. So, that’s part of a double-edged sword because every year, we’re close. Do you want to take a step back? Maybe at some point you have to do that but that’s the hard part. As Chris (Ballard) and I and Mr. (Jim) Irsay sit down and talk about those things, those are the decisions that you have to make, every offseason. I don’t think we’ve been spinning our wheels. I think every year we’re learning and we’re getting better. I understand the record goes up and down. Like I said, we’ve won a lot of games here in four years. We’ve won more than we’ve lost in four years. In some ways, I think we’ve exceeded expectations with all that we’ve gone through when you consider the number of quarterbacks. You say in ’18, how did we do? In ’19 with a quarterback change, how did we do? In ’20, how did we do? Where did we fall as far as expectations? In ’21, and I think if you look at it year by year, I think you could argue that in some ways, in some ways, not all ways, we’ve exceeded expectations given the fact that we’ve had that many quarterbacks and still have been able to be in the hunt and find ways to get better. When Chris and I and Mr. Irsay talk, we’re about winning championships. That’s what we’re trying to do.” It’s the part of ‘do you want to take a step back’ that is the harsh reality of what is needed right now for this franchise.
- Is Sunday the second 2022 debut for Shaquille Leonard? Leonard practiced all last week but was overruled in returning to the field after his concussion/broken nose. For many reasons, it’ll be interesting to see if Leonard indeed dresses on Sunday and how effective he looks. The Colts are desperate for some game-changing defensive plays.
- Looking back on Sam Ehlinger’s impressive preseason in which he completed 24-of-28 passes with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, it was asked how many of those completions were to guys the second-year QB will also be throwing to on Sunday. As you’d expect, Ehlinger didn’t complete any passes to the frontline skill guys in the preseason (Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce, Parris Campbell, Mo Alie-Cox, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines). Ehlinger’s 24 preseason completions went to the following guys: Dezmon Patmon-7, Mike Strachan-4, Deon Jackson-4, Jelani Woods-2, Kylen Granson-1, Samson Nacua-1, D.J. Montgomery-1, Ethan Fernea-1, D’Vonte Price-1, Michael Jacobson-1, De’Michael Harris-1. That list combined to play 15 percent of the snaps for the skill group this past Sunday (Granson-21 snaps, Woods-19, Jackson-5, Strachan-2, Fernea-1). In other words, outside of the tight ends, Ehlinger is going to get his first real look with the top of the wide receiver depth chart and running backs this Sunday.
- With this week’s news of Sam Ehlinger getting the start on Sunday, here’s a list of the Colts starting quarterbacks, with their win/loss record, since they last won a division title: Andrew Luck: 20-18, Jacoby Brissett: 11-19, Carson Wentz: 9-8, Philip Rivers: 11-5, Matt Hasselbeck: 5-3, Matt Ryan: 3-3-1, Scott Tolzien: 0-2, Josh Freeman: 1-0, Brian Hoyer: 0-1.
- The Colts are having a punting competition this week after an awful performance from Matt Haack on Sunday. Noah Cooney was signed to the practice squad. He’s an undrafted free agent from 2021 and has yet to punt in an NFL game. Haack struggled mightily in pinning the Titans inside the 20 on Sunday. His holding role has been pretty solid, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Colts opt for a guy who has never been in the NFL.
- It’s Ring of Honor time for the Colts in 2022. Tarik Glenn will be inducted during halftime of Sunday’s game with the Commanders. Glenn was the main left tackle for the Colts in the Peyton Manning era. He was a Pro Bowl protector of Manning’s blindside.
- The Commanders (3-4) entered Sunday off a very nice win over Green Bay, with backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke starting for the injured Carson Wentz. Washington has had some big-time offensive struggles this season, despite some intriguing skill players. Defensively, the Commanders have some notable names on their defensive line but rank last in the NFL in takeaways this year.
- The Colts are on their normal practice routine this week, going Wednesday-Friday. They’ll welcome the Commanders for their first 4:25 PM kickoff this season at Lucas Oil Stadium.