According to Fox59’s Mike Chappell, second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger has been elevated to second-string behind incumbent starter Matt Ryan—as veteran backup Nick Foles will be a healthy inactive this upcoming game day versus the Jacksonville Jaguars:
“The Indianapolis Colts are shaking up the pecking order at quarterback,” writes Chappell.
“Sam Ehlinger, not Nick Foles, will be Matt Ryan’s backup for Sunday’s meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Foles will be one of the team’s inactives.”
“That isn’t seen as a threat to Ryan’s status, despite his mistake-prone start to the season and the overall ineffectiveness of the offense.”
The move appears to be less of an indictment on either Ryan or Foles, but simply that the Colts are intrigued with Ehlinger’s youth, athleticism, and dynamic skill-set—featuring significantly upgraded mobility over the two veteran quarterbacks.
Not only can Ehlinger be deployed in certain short yardage and red zone packages situationally behind center (i.e., like the New Orleans Saints Taysom Hill), but he also could be an eventual replacement option behind a struggling Colts offensive line in pass protection—should it not actually improve.
Specifically, Ehlinger has the ability to escape duress and make plays outside the passing pocket, which is a football trait that neither Ryan nor Foles have at this point. The Colts may also simply want to see what they have with the young quarterback going forward—if the football season spirals downward, and they ultimately fall out of playoff contention.
Ehlinger had an impressive preseason showing for the Colts, as he completed 24 of 29 throws (83%) for 289 passing yards, 4 passing touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He also rushed on 6 carries for 71 rushing yards (11.83 ypc. avg.) and a rushing touchdown.
Always regarded for his mobility, pocket presence, and accuracy, Ehlinger had flashed improved arm strength and throwing velocity after undergoing unique offseason training—which was always critiqued as his limiting passing deficiency at the pro ranks previously.
The hope is that the Colts will resolve their pass protection issues sooner rather than later, Ryan will remain behind center, and fans may not see Ehlinger except for the occasional situational package. However, right now, he is the next man up at starting quarterback.