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Setting expectations for Sam Ehlinger taking over as Indianapolis Colts’ starting QB

The Indianapolis Colts are coming off their third loss of the season and second consecutive loss to Tennessee. After a week of the team looking like it had righted the ship, they came out and flopped in Week 7. 

It left both the organization and the fan base asking the same question. What can be done to fix this problem? This week Sam Ehlinger, who was recently moved up the depth chart from third string to second string, will make his first career NFL start. It will come against Washington, who just beat Green Bay in Week 7.

But what can the Colts expect out of their new starting quarterback? Is placing Matty Ice on the bench a good or bad move by head coach Frank Reich?

The times are changing in Indianapolis

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t the first time the Colts are making big changes on offense this season. Leading up to their Week 5 game against Denver, the team shuffled up their starting offensive line. The results were better but still not great. But now with a new quarterback, what can Colts fans expect to see from Ehlinger?

“Highly touted dual-threat quarterback from the Austin area who put together four solid but somewhat unspectacular years at Texas. They don’t come much tougher than Ehlinger at the position, and his intangibles are as good as you could ask for. He’s a very average passer but can deliver most throws with good enough accuracy and velocity to hit the open target. He doesn’t have a plus arm and could struggle to fit throws into tight windows or make big completions throwing on the move. His deep ball accuracy is a step below average but he’s fairly effective throwing with anticipation on intermediate routes. He’s not an explosive runner, although he gets tough yards on a consistent basis as a scrambler and on-called runs. His 2019 tape is a better study of his potential, but career backup looks like his ceiling.”

– Sam Ehlinger scouting report, from Lance Zierlein NFL.com

This would validate the Colts’ thinking in drafting and developing Ehlinger. And from his rookie season to now, the 6-foot-1, 223-pound quarterback got noticeably better. So much so, that the Colts had to worry if they placed him on their practice squad, another team would scoop him up. This led them to carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster heading into the season.

Related: NFL scouts believe Matt Ryan’s arm is “shot”

Expectations for Sam Ehlinger’s first start

NFL: Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Ehlinger’s first start will come against the aforementioned Washington defense that ranks 21st in the NFL. Their pass defense ranks 19th, and their rush defense ranks 18th. So, this sets up well for Ehlinger to have a good start.

This newly implemented quick rhythm and passing offense should pair well with his strengths and abilities. Also, Ehlinger’s mobility should help him avoid some sacks and hits behind the worst offensive line in the NFL. It will also add another element to the scoring attack. 

The hope is that Ehlinger will be able to provide a spark to the offense. And if he plays well enough, he could possibly prevent the firing of Frank Reich and Chris Ballard. Coach Reich said that the change in the starting quarterback was going to happen even if Matt Ryan didn’t have his Grade 2 shoulder sprain. And that Ehlinger is going to be the starter for the rest of the season.

Regardless if you believe this is the truth or if it’s a matter of “covering of your booty,” this change should provide some optimism for this week. Ehlinger will be given the opportunity to show that he is a starting NFL quarterback. And he can show that maybe, just maybe, he’s the franchise QB the team has been needing since Andrew Luck retired early.

Ehlinger will have one week to be prepared to start an NFL game. So expectations should be low. At a minimum, if he avoids turning the ball over, that would be a win. Then each week after, he should get even better with even more practice as the starter. As previously mentioned, Washington is not a good defense. And both Ehlinger and the Colts have an opportunity to win this week’s home game. 

Related: NFL mock draft 2023: C.J. Stroud, Hendon Hooker land in perfect spots in latest 2023 NFL Draft mock

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