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NFL Draft

Can Sam Ehlinger Pick Up Where He Left Off?

  • The Draft Network
  • October 22, 2021
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Sam Ehlinger is back. Well, kind of.

It was announced earlier this week that Ehlinger had been activated from IR after going down with an injury in the preseason. In the same announcement, the Colts said they had also waived former backup quarterback Jacob Eason, who Ehlinger was so closely in contention with for the No. 2 job.

Ehlinger now is behind starter Carson Wentz, who was injured and uncertain to start the season earlier this year. Based on the way things were going before Ehlinger suffered the first-half knee injury against the Detroit Lions, it looked like he was well on his way to taking the job from Eason as it was.

Ehlinger was 3-of-3 passing for 63 yards with one carry for 14 yards before his appearance was cut short. The play in which the former Texas Longhorns signal-caller was injured was one to watch in itself as he slipped out of the first tackle before taking the dooming hit, connecting with wide receiver Dezmon Patmon.

In the two combined preseason games before this one, Ehlinger completed 18-of-28 passes for 225 yards with three interceptions (two of which were tipped passes) and also had 41 rushing yards. Even though there was still evident room for improvement, Eason hadn’t done anything to separate himself and it’s easy to argue that Ehlinger could have finally had his night where he pulled away in a big way if he hadn't gone down against the Vikings.

Given Wentz’s injury history, which includes a hairline fracture in his rib (2016), a torn ACL and LCL in his knee (2017), a stress fracture in his back (2018), and a concussion (2019) with Philadelphia, it goes without saying that the backup position is an important one for the Colts. 

The Colts have a guy they can rely on in Ehlinger, who has long been touted for his leadership ability, the ability to elevate his teammates, and both his physical and mental toughness. It’s hard to come by prospects whose coaches and teammates are so adamant about the intangibles Ehlinger has from his college days to his transition to the NFL.

The sixth-round pick has also shown incredible improvement in several areas he was knocked for ahead of the draft in what we were able to see of him in the preseason, primarily looking at accuracy and ball placement. He’s also done a good job of maintaining his composure under pressure (as if the play he was injured on against the Vikings didn’t serve as enough proof) and has shown good pocket presence, proving that he has made real strides as a passer that can be built upon in addition to having a solid running ability that makes him a true dual-threat quarterback.

Preseason is preseason, but there are certain traits you can see in a quarterback passing-wise that show evident improvement here from an individual standpoint. It will be interesting to see how Ehlinger continues to build upon the foundation he has set, but there’s no question he’s made the most of his opportunity to lay it.

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