clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Colts vs. Commanders Week 8 preview: Sam Ehlinger makes his NFL debut

Sam Ehlinger has built a career with intangibles. How will he impact the trajectory of the Colts’ season?

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

DraftKings Sportsbook has the Colts as 3-point favorites when they host the Washington Commanders on Sunday afternoon.

Expect this game to be one of the most overlooked of the weekend. This is a cross-conference game between two teams not projected to make the playoffs, let alone make deep runs. Both enter the game quarterbacks who did not enter the season as a starter. Carson Wentz soured so quickly in Indianapolis that he lasted only one season and was thought of highly enough to command two third-round picks from Washington. He took over for current starter Taylor Heinicke.

If Colts fans want to take solace in anything, under the circumstances, it’s that Washington will be playing someone who got replaced by someone this franchise wanted no part of moving forward.

Another interesting bit for Colts fans is that Sam Ehlinger was handed the starting job over Matt Ryan, who had accumulated the fourth-highest passing yards in the NFL to this point in the season. He is in only his second season. He has built a career of thriving in an underdog role. He has succeeded by earning a reputation as a leader, someone with intangibles his teammates will rally behind, and a leadership quality on the field that could allow him to outperform expectations. Ehlinger had a strong training camp and preseason, past veteran Nick Foles to officially backup Matt Ryan a week ago, and now has earned his opportunity to start.

A year ago, Ehlinger beat out the more heralded prospect in Jacob Eason.

Ehlinger has mobility in the pocket and enough athleticism to gain yards on the ground. He’s comfortable throwing on the run and likes to get outside the pocket to make things happen. He is certainly a better fit for an RPO-style offense, the kind Frank Reich likes to run.

The knock? He’s small for an NFL quarterback and doesn’t have a strong arm. Also, the coaching staff was concerned about his rookie season accuracy. He has worked with Tom House to improve his throwing motion, resulting in what some feel is better velocity, and his coaches have noted better accuracy.

Entering the season, the Colts were expected to be without meaningful passing weapons. At this point, Michael Pittman Jr. has shown he is a legit #1 receiving, Alec Pierce has flashed promising upside as a rookie, Parris Campbell is coming off of back-to-back games as the top receiver on the team, and the tight end room has been incredibly productive - especially in the Red Zone.

Jonathan Taylor is playing in his second game after returning from injury, and Shaquille Leonard is expected to make his return on defense.

If you’re looking to bet, take the under on total points. Otherwise, it’s tough to say how this one will go. Frank Reich does masterful work with former backup quarterbacks, as he was one himself. Perhaps he can work more magic and get the Colts back over .500?