But if there’s any doubts about Ehlinger’s ability to step in and play well immediately, the Colts locker room isn’t showing it.
Both defensive tackle Grover Stewart and wide receiver Alec Pierce offered support for the new quarterback in the hours after the Colts announced the change.
The Colts coaching staff have also added words of encouragement for Ehlinger over the last couple days. Some of head coach Frank Reich’s support even came when he faced a difficult question from media.
OC Marcus Brady, DC Gus Bradley See Growth & Poise in Ehlinger
It would be surprising if the Colts coaching staff didn’t hype up the young quarterback before his first NFL start. After all, there’s a reason — other than needing more offense — he’s replacing former MVP winner Matt Ryan.
But the complimentary words from Brady and Bradley are still noteworthy. Brady told the media on October 25 that Ehlinger is up to the challenge of playing against NFL starters in his first career professional start.
“What we’ve seen in Sam the last two years, we’ve seen him grow,” Brady said. “We do know what he does well and what to stay away from. I think what Sam does a great job [with], he understands who he is.”
Brady is also up for the challenge of switching the offense from solely pocket passer to a more running-style quarterback.
“It’s gonna be different,” Brady said. “It’s not the same. Matt and Sam are two different types of quarterbacks, but for the most part, it’s not gonna change too much for the skill guys and our O-line up front…”
“Maybe a little more naked game and get him outside the pocket in that aspect, hopefully get the run game rolling, so it’s gonna vary a little bit.”
Bradley told the media that what Ehlinger has done as the Indianapolis scout team quarterback has earned him the right to this opportunity.
“As far as his presence, I think that’s what you feel the most from him as a defensive coach,” Bradley said. “His poise, he goes through his progressions, his accuracy.”
Stewart, Pierce See Positives in Quarterback Change
The rookie wide receiver agreed with his offensive coordinator that not too much will change from his perspective with the quarterback switch.
“I don’t think it’ll be that much different,” Pierce said. “We’re still running our same routes, trying to look the exact same for the QBs …”
“It might change up coaching-wise a little bit the things they do with a new QB in there.”
It certainly should change the play calls because Brady is correct — Ehlinger and Ryan are two very different quarterbacks. Calling the same offense for Ehlinger that the team did for Ryan would be a disservice to the young signal caller.
With how badly the Colts offensive line has struggled, Indianapolis will likely do a lot to get Ehlinger outside the pocket as Brady talked about with the media. Ryan took 24 sacks in seven games, and while that pressure will likely continue, at least Ehlinger has the ability to escape and run for yardage.
There definitely won’t be any changes on defense because of the quarterback switch, but Stewart explained that he really likes the move behind center.
“I think it’s a great decision for us to have Same [Ehlinger] back there,” Stewart said. “The way he done came along and make plays during the preseason … So I think that’s a good move for us.”
Reich Explains Move to Start Ehlinger in Face of Criticism
No on inside the Colts organization has voiced a concern about the move to Ehlinger, but some doubters have surfaced in the media. Most notably, sports columnist Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star told Reich during the October 24 press conference that Ehlinger wasn’t good enough to be the backup “nine days ago,” and that starting Ehlinger makes it look like “you don’t know what you guys are doing.”
Reich calmly responded, trying to explain how much he has liked Ehlinger since the beginning of training camp.
“Sam [Ehlinger] had a particularly good preseason. Nick [Foles] brought a long track record as a great backup and that we still value very highly and has done a lot of good things on the practice field,” Reich said. “As far as Sam was concerned, we have continued to ‘sing his praises’ and felt like it was always 2A and 2B if you will.
“I feel like this is exactly why we wanted all three of these guys on the roster.”