Second-year quarterback Jacob Eason is in line to be the day one starter for the Indianapolis Colts, as starter Carson Wentz will be sidelined 5-12 weeks with a foot injury.
While there is still a chance that Wentz is ready for the opener, the Colts are operating as though Eason will be the guy on day one. Eason, a fourth round pick in 2020, didn't play a snap as a rookie as the third-string quarterback behind Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett.
Eason came out of college as a physically gifted yet raw passer, and that is the main reason why he slipped to the fourth round. Being thrust into a starting role is a big jump for the young signal caller, and the hope is that he will be ready to go after the preseason.
He seemingly won't get any breaks in his first few starts either, as the Colts open the year with five straight games against teams with a winning record in 2020. In today's film room, I dive into one of Eason's biggest weaknesses on his college film and discuss how it could hurt him in these first few games.
Struggles against Pressure
By far and away the biggest concern on Eason's college film was how he handled pressure. In 2019 at Washington, he had a QBR of just 12.2 when under pressure. Pro Football Focus also gave him a grade of 37.6 when pressured in 2019, which was the second-worst grade in the Pac-12 among eligible quarterbacks.
This isn't an uncommon concern with young quarterbacks, but it is something that can derail a player's career. In the NFL, quarterbacks are under pressure on nearly every snap in some form.
These are just a few examples of his struggles, but it does highlight his poor pocket management when he feels the defense closing in. This is the most important thing for him to improve on if he is going to make it in the NFL.
Week 1: Seattle Seahawks
This concern could be something the Colts could coach around against most teams, but the opening schedule is brutal in this regard. The Seahawks are one of the toughest teams in the league for Eason to start against.
The Seahawks aren't overly impressive across the defensive line, but they do boast quite a few solid players in Benson Mayowa (13 sacks combined the last two years), Kerry Hyder (8.5 sacks in 2020), Aldon Smith (former All-Pro with 5 sacks in 2020), and Carlos Dunlap (veteran pass rusher with 87.5 career sacks).
The real concern with this team is how they scheme up pressure. The Seahawks utilize fire blitzes relentlessly, and it puts a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They like to load up the box and bring defenders from all directions to harass quarterbacks.
This clip was from a game in 2020 when the Seahawks sacked Josh Allen seven times with these blitzes. Notice how the outside stunts combined with looping defenders creates havoc in the pocket.
The other concern is that the Seahawks were one of the best teams in the NFL against the run in 2020 and will likely carry that into this upcoming year with who they are bringing back. The Colts are going to have to scheme up a lot of quick passes to beat this blitzing defense.
This match-up worries me more than the other two I am going to mention simply because of these two factors. When it comes to first career starts, this is a tough test for a young quarterback.
Week 2: Los Angeles Rams (Aaron Donald)
While I am not as concerned for the overall pass rush in this match-up, there is one player that I-- and the rest of the league-- am terrified of. Aaron Donald is arguably the greatest defensive player in the history of the game, as his career sack total of 85.5 in just seven years is absurd for a defensive tackle.
With the Colts' offensive line likely to be down Eric Fisher-- and maybe Ryan Kelly depending on how his injury heals-- this could be disastrous. Donald will have free reign to line up either on the edge against Sam Tevi or on the inside against Mark Glowinski on passing downs.
On top of having to contain a once-in-a-generation player, the Rams also had the number one overall defense in the league last year. Their secondary is legit, led by the top corner in the league in Jalen Ramsey. The pressure up front by Donald will be one thing but the secondary behind it will be equally as tough to beat.
Week 5: Baltimore Ravens
If Eason ends up starting until week five, he will be in for another tough game against the Ravens. While the Ravens-- much like the Seahawks-- don't have superstars up front, they do have some quality players who perform well in their role.
The biggest concern is how blitz-heavy they are. The Ravens led the NFL in blitz percentage in 2020, blitzing on over 44% of passing plays. That is an absurdly high rate that has been sustained for years by Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale.
The Ravens make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks with this blitz heavy scheme and would prove to be a tough test for the young Colts' signal caller.
Behind that blitz-heavy scheme are two of the premier ballhawks in the league in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. The duo combined for five interceptions and 12 forced fumbles in 2020 alone. If Eason isn't careful, if he ends starting, it could be a long outing early in the year against a top defense.
Jacob Eason is an interesting young quarterback who the Colts need to see in real action with Carson Wentz out. Unfortunately for Eason, it doesn't get much harder than this stretch to open up the year.
This isn't me saying that Eason is doomed to struggle out of the gate, but I do think it is likely that these match-ups prove to be difficult for him. These defenses are tough for the top quarterbacks in the game, even more so for the first couple starts for a player's career.
If anybody can find a way to make things easier for Eason, though, it is Frank Reich. I'm sure he will simplify the gameplan in order to mitigate the pass rushes of these three teams. Will Eason be able to execute in these games if he has to start? We shall certainly find out.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.