Colts Waiting to Unleash Package of Plays for Young Playmaker

Frank Reich

Getty Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich is reportedly planning to deploy a package of plays designed to specifically feature one young weapon.

The decision to promote second-year signal caller Sam Ehlinger to No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart sent Indianapolis Colts media into a bit of a frenzy on October 14. Ehlinger’s promotion meant former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, who the Colts signed to a 2-year, $6.2 million contract this past offseason, would been inactive in Week 6 as the team’s No. 3 quarterback.

But when presented the opportunity to explain the reasoning for the change, head coach Frank Reich revealed his full logic behind the surprising switch.

“It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, Nick, Sam beat you out,’” Reich said during his press conference on October 19. “It was more of a schematic thing. Don’t get me wrong, we love Sam, and he’s earned the right to be in this role, but Nick Foles has just looked lights out in practice, physically his arm strength, and he’s doing a good job in this offense. It’s built for him in a lot of ways.

“I think he was a little bit shocked at first, but I think he understood why we were doing what we’re doing; it’s what’s best for the team, but in no way did it diminish how we feel about him and what he brings to our team.”

Ehlinger did not play a snap during his first game on the active roster this season, but Colts insider Joel A. Erickson confirmed what Reich seemed to be implying during his press conference — the Colts have a package of plays to take advantage of Ehlinger’s mobility.

Package of Plays Coming With Ehlinger

As the cliche goes, the NFL is a copycat league. The New Orleans Saints have featured Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill in a package of plays for years with a lot of success.

Hill is 7-2 in his career as a starting quarterback. He has thrown for 9 touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards per attempt in the NFL. But Hill has also posted 5.9 yards per carry and rushed for 21 touchdowns in 70 NFL contests.

This season, Hill only has 5 pass attempts, but he leads the team with 5 total touchdowns and is averaging an incredible 10.3 yards per rush.

Reich and the Colts haven’t experienced that kind of success with a backup quarterback as a runner, but in 2020, Indianapolis used Jacoby Brissett in a similar role. Brissett recorded 17 rushes despite Philip Rivers starting every game at quarterback. With those opportunities, Brissett scored 3 rushing touchdowns.

Could Ehlinger become another option for the Colts on the ground in goal line situations? Or could his dual-threat ability be a change up for defenses in the middle of possessions that may need an extra spark?

Colts fans will apparently find out once Ehlinger receives some snaps.

Foles’ Future With Colts

There’s one big difference between the Colts promoting Ehlinger to the backup quarterback role and how the Saints have deployed Hill over the years — Hill isn’t technically the team’s backup signal caller.

New Orleans has always had two other quarterbacks active on game days in addition to Hill. So when the Saints have suffered an injury behind center, which has happened each of the last four years, New Orleans didn’t have to turn to Ehlinger.

If Matt Ryan lands on injured reserve, the Colts can still start Foles the next week. But a problem could arise during a game where Foles is inactive.

Ehlinger’s likelihood for injury is higher if he’s used in short-yard situations as a runner. If he suffers an injury during the same game Ryan takes a big hit, then the Colts could be in a big bind.

How promoting Ehlinger to the backup role impacts Foles’ long-term position in Indianapolis is another storyline worth monitoring. Foles is signed through the 2023 season.

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