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10/24/2022
<p>#4 Sam Ehlinger running during a 2022 preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo Courtesy Indianapolis Colts) </p>
#4 Sam Ehlinger running during a 2022 preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (Photo Courtesy Indianapolis Colts)

A star at Texas is now being thrown into the wolves. Can Sam Ehlinger come out the leader of the pack?

With Matt Ryan relegated to the QB2 spot, can Sam Ehlinger produce in the starting role?

Not even two months ago — Aug. 30 to be exact — few Colts fans would have gone about that Tuesday any differently than they would any Tuesday, but for fans deeply invested in the team it was a big day. The anticipation of 53-man roster cut day was something few people would feel, but the impact always seemed to be influential. For the Colts that day few questions remained unanswered, as the roster was mostly compiled.

The only real unknown entering that Tuesday: Sam Ehlinger

The Colts had a decision to make regarding their need at the quarterback spot. The team had already solidified Matt Ryan as the starter and Nick Foles as the backup. The team had been paying close attention to Ehlinger, who had a stellar preseason completing 24 of his 29 passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions. The team decided to lean on the side of caution and kept Ehlinger to be the third-string quarterback.

The Colts' 2021 sixth-round pick was a four-year starter at Texas under Tom Herman where Ehlinger compiled a 27-16 record while passing for 11,436 yards — good for second in school history — and having a 94-27 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Ehlinger also holds the Texas record for quarterback rushing touchdowns in a season with 16 and the Big 12 conference record with consecutive passes thrown without an interception with 308 passes.

Leapfrog seven weeks and head coach Frank Reich has just announced the plan to have Ehlinger not only start week eight when the Washington Commanders come to Lucas Oil Stadium, but will take the offensive helm for the remainder of the season.

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#4 Sam Ehlinger looks for a receiver in a 2021 preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. (Photo Courtesy Indianapolis Colts)

The reasoning for the decision will be debated in the following days and weeks. Are the Colts deciding it’s going to be time to tank for a high pick? Have the Colts decided that Ryan just isn’t the sheriff in town anymore? Will the team be buying or selling come the Nov. 1 trade deadline?

I’m not confident it’s any of those. Instead, perhaps it's Ehlinger’s playmaking ability that Ryan so badly lacks.

Reich is right about Ehlinger. There will be mistakes: interceptions, fumbles, overthrows, underthrows. These are learning curves for a 24-year-old making his first start in an NFL game, but didn’t Matt Ryan make the same mistakes, at the highest clip in the league in fact?

The issue that it seems the Colts are intending to fix actually might not even be directed at Ryan’s turnover issues, but instead the offensive line. Ryan has been sacked 24 times this year, and as mentioned before, leads the league in turnovers with 12. Now, by no means am I defending the pathetic offensive line play, but I am making the case that Ehlinger’s increased mobility over Ryan will trump his perceived lesser arm talent.

For weeks the Colts' offense has struggled and a huge aspect of the demise has been the extreme lack of production from Matt Ryan. If you look at the top quarterbacks in the league right now, they all have something in common: escapability and mobility. Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes all have incredible abilities as playmakers because they can extend plays and keep them alive longer than defenses can stay in coverage.

Am I comparing Sam Ehlinger to the top QBs in the league? No. But, at the end of the day the Colts have a chance to be reinvented for success in a way the team never could with Matt Ryan.

Is the Texas product the Colts future at the quarterback position?

The coming weeks will be a solid tell.


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