Sam Ehlinger making his NFL debut
The Colts’ offense has been abysmal with Matt Ryan at the helm, those are the facts. It is not the point of this article to discuss how much of those struggles were Ryan’s fault, but whether the new quarterback will be able to elevate a struggling unit. Ehlinger will be making his first NFL start on Sunday against what is a middle of the pack Commanders’ defensive unit. It will be a nice test to see if the young quarterback has what it takes to revive this offense or if the season is already lost.
Colts’ IOL vs. Commanders’ defensive front
The offensive struggles can also be attributed to the lackluster interior offensive line play for the Colts, not only in pass protection, but also in opening up running lanes for the backs. The Commanders have two elite defensive tackles in Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen, that will make life miserable for the Colts’ offense if the issues are not at least somewhat resolved by Sunday.
Jonathan Taylor vs. Cole Holcomb (Edit: Holcomb is out for Sunday)
Linebacker Cole Holcomb is by far the Commanders’ leading tackler this season with 69 total tackles, and he is a menace against the run. Jonathan Taylor has struggled with injuries, poor offensive line play, and lack of creative play-calling this season, but he still showed flashes of the greatness that made him an MVP candidate last year. If the Colts offense is to put on a solid outing then Taylor will have to recapture his old form.
Edit: Linebacker Cole Holcomb was ruled out for Sunday’s game, meaning that Taylor will probably have an easier matchup on deck.
Grover Stewart vs. Tyler Larsen
The Commanders have struggled to find a solid center this season, and are now down to their third option this year with Tyler Larsen, who has also struggled. Grover Stewart is establishing himself as a premier defensive tackle, dominating against the runs while also making a few plays pass rushing. Stewart will be key to stopping the Commanders’ offense under Heinicke.
Stephon Gilmore / Kenny Moore vs. Terry McLaurin / Curtis Samuel
McLaurin and Samuel have been the brightest spots on the Commanders offense so far, as they both have over 300 yards and two touchdowns each. They were both targeted 8 times by Heinicke on their game against the Green Bay Packers, making up for almost half of the total targets in their game. Gilmore has been his usual self, providing dependable, oftentimes dominant, cornerback play, while Kenny Moore has stabled the ship a bit after struggling to start the year. The Colts will need to keep the young Commander’s receivers in check on Sunday in order to continue their stretch of solid defensive performances.