In the ongoing competition for the backup quarterback spot for the Indianapolis Colts, and possibly starting job early in the season, the two players involved have experienced quite a few ups and downs.
Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger both had good performances in the preseason against the Carolina Panthers at home and disappointing outings against the Minnesota Vikings on the road.
With only one week left of training camp and one more preseason game against the Detroit Lions, head coach Frank Reich would like to determine a winner of the competition by early next week. Reich wants to make sure there is ample time to get the winner ready for Week 1 in case Carson Wentz cannot return from his surgically repaired foot to begin the season.
After squeaking out a 12-10 win over the Vikings on Saturday night, both quarterbacks know they need to do some critical self-scouting to clean up the mistakes they made.
“I think just everything,” Ehlinger said when asked what he would look for when watching the film. “As I would if I had a good game and just evaluate myself, learn, get better. Continue to push forward. I understand mistakes are supposed to happen as a rookie. And there's not a lot of rookies that get an opportunity to be able to start a preseason game. So, I'm just thankful for the opportunity.”
Ehlinger did get the start on Saturday night and had an opportunity to play with many of the Colts’ starters who will be playing on Sundays. He had a very pedestrian stat line, going 8-of-13 (61.5%) for 70 yards and 2 interceptions. His three interceptions in two games is definitely a concern moving forward.
When Ehlinger looks at the tape, he will likely see a few throws he wishes he could have back. His first interception sailed high off the hands of Parris Campbell and into the arms of Vikings’ linebacker Troy Dye, who returned it for the lone touchdown of the evening. The second interception came on a ball he was trying to force to Ashton Dulin over the middle, which was again tipped in the air and picked off.
Ehlinger had a couple of drives that lead the Colts into field goal range, but he could never capitalize and turn them into touchdowns. He knows that red zone success is crucial for this team’s success.
“It's tough,” Ehlinger admitted. “If you want to be a really successful team you gotta be great in the red zone. It's something we work on all the time. We talk about all the time. We've got to be better in that area. Six points is a lot better than three.”
Ehlinger’s competition also plans to dive headfirst into the film to see where he can clean things up. Eason came in midway through the second quarter and played the rest of the game, going 16-of-27 (59.3%) for 132 yards. Like Ehlinger, he also struggled in getting points on the board as the offense only came away with two field goals in his time on the field.
Eason started out very inaccurate, missing his throws either high or behind his intended target. He began a measly 2-of-8 before going 14-of-19 to finish the game. The accuracy issues are something that Eason must improve on if he wants to have success as a starter in this league.
“It felt, in the first half, was just pitch and catch,” Eason said. “I had guys and I was just either behind them or early or late or whatever it was. I just have to make those throws when those opportunities come up and keep the drives going.”
Eason’s inaccuracy and failure to deliver the ball on time stalled a few scoring drives for the Colts. His ability to deliver the ball at the appropriate velocity on short to intermediate throws was also an issue. But Eason seemed to settle in and got better as the night went along.
“You go back at halftime and kind of recalibrate and that kind of thing,” Eason explained about his second-half performance. “But for how I want to play, I want to be able to play from the start to the finish consistently. And I get it, there’s ups and downs in the flow of the game. There’s some things to clean up, but there’s also some positive things out there today.”
Eason connected on a few nice strikes to Dezmon Patmon for chunks plays and first downs, including a rollout on third down in the fourth quarter that pretty much sealed the victory for the Colts.
As they stand now, Eason is the leader over Ehlinger for the backup quarterback position. Both players will go back and look at the film to improve as all young quarterbacks should.
Ups and downs are normal for young quarterbacks, but the ones who can correct their mistakes and learn from them are the ones who ultimately succeed in the NFL.
What did you think of Eason and Ehlinger's performances on Saturday? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!
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