The Case for Eason
When looking Eason’s throws from the first game, we see a pattern emerge: Eason played his best when dealing with spread passing concepts, the same offense he played at Washington. The Colts combine a bunch of different aspects together, including spread concepts, which emphasize cutting the field in half for your reads, making a pre-snap decision and getting the ball out to your primary read on time. As you’ll see in the video below, Eason’s first few throws (1st, 3rd and 4th) were spread concepts and he thrived on them.
When forced to sit in the pocket and read, he doesn’t get the ball out as quickly and usually holds it long enough to feel pressure. It’s very clear he still needs to learn how to make better reads post-snap and make quicker decisions when it’s not a spread passing concept.
Eason’s true strength is his arm strength, and that’s not a surprise to anyone who knows him. The amount of zip he can get on a pass is truly remarkable and he can fit the ball in tight windows. Throughout the game, I was actually impressed with his ball placement on a lot of his throws. He had some bad drops from his receivers and I would not categorize his accuracy as an issue, at least in this game.
His real issue is his decision making and his awareness. I don’t get the sense that he feels pressure well and it led to a turnover at one point. He needs to feel the pressure earlier and find ways to evade it, using his legs (outside the pocket) or finding space within the pocket.
As mentioned before, his decision making when forced to make reads post-snap (sitting in the pocket and going through his progressions) is where he’s weaker and where he needs to be sharper.
Eason played against mostly backups, but also played with mostly backups. Nevertheless, he’s still making throws in tight windows and his mechanics obviously don’t change whether he’s with backups or starters; he has improved, but there are still hurdles that he needs to get over in order for him to be a respectable starter.
The Case for Ehlinger
The first thing I noticed about Ehlinger, at least compared to Eason, is that he processes things much quicker. He gets the ball out at the right time, whether it’s a spread concept or not, and he knows when to tuck the ball and run.
In terms of arm strength, Ehlinger isn’t in the same league as Eason, who puts so much more zip on the ball on short to intermediate passes, but the thing with Ehlinger is that his arm is more than strong enough to stretch the field. In fact, he made a perfect 50 yard throw in early part of the 4th quarter.
His ball placement is really good, like NFL starter good. Even though he’s going up against 3rd stringers, tight window throws are tight window throws. Leading a receiver is leading a receiver whether it’s TY Hilton or Ashton Dulin. The only difference is that you need to adjust to each receiver so he’s more used to the 3rd stringers than he is the starters, but his accuracy is fantastic. He puts the ball in a spot where only the receiver can get it and without having to slow him down to adjust to the ball. He also uses his legs much better than Eason and is a quicker and shiftier athlete overall.
He makes decisions quickly, but he has a tendency of forcing throws and making ill advised throws, even in some practice clips that were made public. For example, the interception in the Panthers game was a very poor throw since he was given a clean pocket for multiple seconds, had the receiver open earlier in the play, but waited until the throw was longer and harder and the defensive back jumped the route and made the easy interception. It’s those type of plays that scare me enough to tamper my excitement.
In the end, you have to go with Eason right now. In a perfect world, you take Eason and Ehlinger into some Elon Musk invention that combines their skills together, but it seems like we’re a good 20-30 years away from that. In the present, you roll with Eason who can make all the throws and can be effective with spread concepts. No matter who you go with (including Wentz), the Colts’ offense will win or die with their running game.
Eason’s timing and anticipation are not up to par and it’s not something you can improve in two weeks. Something you can improve is his post-snap reading and his decision making. That will come with good coaching and more competitive reps in the last two preseason games and joint practices. If Eason takes care of the football, doesn’t force throws and can give the Colts a few wow throws each game, he can be good enough to win a few games as a starter, even against stiff competition.