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3 takeaways from Sam Ehlinger’s NFL debut vs Washington

Chris Phillips

The Indianapolis Colts started their sixth different quarterback in the Frank Reich era. It’s hard for a coach and team to win when they’re starting a new quarterback every year. At some point, the organization needs to get a franchise guy. This has been the biggest fault of Chris Ballard.

That is a different topic for another day. Today we’re going to talk about Sam Ehlinger’s performance in his NFL debut. Obviously, the final score isn’t one that fans were wanting. Yet, there are some positives to take away from this game that fans can get excited about for the rest of the season. 

Related: 4 instant reactions to Indianapolis Colts’ loss to Washington

Sam Ehlinger’s mobility was a breath of fresh air

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The Colts have a modern NFL quarterback, one who is mobile and can scramble from the pocket. Sure last year’s starter Carson Wentz is mobile, but he didn’t utilize that skill nearly as much as Ehlinger did. Making his first start, Ehlinger rushed six times for 17 yards on the day. And there were a number of other plays where he utilized his legs to avoid a sack or hit.

Moving forward, it would be nice if the Colts can incorporate some designed rollouts for Ehlinger. Plays that can get him on the edge and stress the defense into preparing for Ehlinger’s ability to run the ball or throw the ball. It would add another wrinkle for defenses to gameplan for.

Related: NFL QB Rankings

He improved over the course of the game

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Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

His first-half performance appeared to be more cautious and conservative. Ehlinger didn’t take any deep shots downfield or really try to force anything. He mostly ran whatever play was called, which was mostly run plays. And to be fair, he didn’t really force anything in the game in general. 

In the second half, the 24-year-old QB seemed to play a little bit more relaxed and carefree. He was quicker with his decisions in reading the defense. And he even launched a 47-yard pass to Alec Pierce, which was the biggest play of the game. It seemed as though in the second half that he had more confidence. 

This makes sense, as he most likely found a rhythm and had a better understanding of Washington’s defense and the speed of the game. What will be interesting moving forward is if he plays next week with the same confidence he ended with or if he’ll play conservatively to start. For fans, it would be great to see their team go into halftime with a lead for once.

Related: 2022 NFL offense rankings: Miami Dolphins climb entering Week 9

His game isn’t pretty but it moves the ball

One of the biggest takeaways from watching Ehlinger play on Sunday is that his style of play is reminiscent of how everyone plays a game of backyard or pickup-style football. It’s not polished or refined. Just get the ball, throw it to the first open man or if you’re blitzed, take off and run for as many yards as you can get. 

This style of play has been the largest point critics have used as to why Ehlinger couldn’t be a starter or succeed in the NFL. Well, for this week, his style of play looked pretty effective. He completed 74% of his passes for 201 scoreless yards. The one negative was his impression of Matt Ryan, where Ehlinger fumbled away the ball.

Overall, this was a nice debut game for him. It’s one he can hopefully build upon. As of now, it doesn’t appear that Ehlinger is a franchise quarterback. He gives the impression that he is the Taylor Heinicke version for the Colts. Maybe with more experience, another level of his game can be unlocked. And maybe, while he might not be a franchise quarterback, he might just be good enough to win games, or at least more than Wentz or Ryan were.

Related: Back to the Future: How the Indianapolis Colts could create a legacy team