INDIANAPOLIS – It would be foolish to say Sam Ehlinger should be the Colts franchise quarterback after one NFL start, but his starting debut certainly had plenty of promising moments.
Evidence of that could be seen in the box score, with Ehlinger checking important metrics in completion percentage (73.9%, on 17-of-23) and yards per attempt (8.6).
Evidence of that could be seen in Ehlinger’s willingness to take some vertical shots, and delivering those on-target with a big completion to Alec Pierce, or a touch ball to Nyheim Hines or a must-have catchable ball to Michael Pittman.
And further evidence came from how Ehlinger bounced back from a bad fumble in the second quarter.
It was expected Ehilnger would be able to make some plays with his legs, and that was definitely there on Sunday.
But, as pointed out above, the deep ‘Sunday-type’ tosses and resolve after the turnover were things you wouldn’t truly feel until a game setting.
At the very least, Ehilnger looked like a more than competent backup quarterback, with the potential to play winning football in spot duty.
He provided a welcomed threat with his legs, took some accurate down-field shots, stayed away from a high number of communication/timing issues and bounced back from a first-half fumble.
Ehlinger sparked the Colts first scoring drive with his legs.
It was Ehlinger moving outside of the pocket on a 3rd-and-4 late in the 1st quarter to find Michael Pittman for a first down. On the next snap, Ehlinger stepped up from a collapsing edge rush to deliver a nice ball to Pittman for another first down. Later in the drive, it was the threat Ehlinger brings as a runner coming in handy on Jonathan Taylor’s longest run of the season, going for 27 yards.
Honestly, the Colts should try to tap into this part of Ehlinger’s game a little more, continuing to try and get him out of the pocket and on the move.
Next up in Ehlinger’s dream job interview is quite the matchup for a young quarterback.
It will be the first road start of Ehlinger’s young career, a trip to take on Bill Belichick and the Patriots. With NFL film fresh, game-planning against Ehlinger will receive more and more attention.
This will be another course in what looks to be a 10-game evaluation period for the 24-year-old quarterback.
Ehlinger can’t quarterback an offense going 3 quarters without a touchdown, like what took place on Sunday. His second-quarter fumble was a costly mistake.
But you still saw some strong individual aspects to his starting debut and that makes you think this guy has a deserved spot in the NFL.
“Obviously, don’t ever really know what to expect until you’re in there and the live bullets are coming,” Ehlinger said after his first start. “Now I know what it feels like to play a regular season game. I think that there’s a lot of potential for growth, which I’m excited about. There’s a lot of things to clean up and things to do better. There’s a lot of opportunities out there to be had. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow and improve.”
Of course, the Colts cannot afford to grade Ehlinger on a curve.
At the end of this season, the evaluation must be, is this guy capable of being a franchise-leading quarterback for a team with Super Bowl aspirations?
If there’s any doubt in that, the organization must exhaust every chance possible in finding that QB answer in the draft.
For now though, Ehlinger deserves credit for how he performed on a stage where you see many in his position wilt.
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