The eyes of almost all Indianapolis Colts fans during their preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers were fixed on the quarterback battle, as head coach Frank Reich has yet to pick either Jacob Eason or Sam Ehlinger as the fill-in starter while Carson Wentz is on the mend.
The two players could not have more contrasting styles. Ehlinger has great mobility, accuracy on the run, and playmaking ability, but his arm talent is questionable. Eason has limited mobility and poor pocket presence, but the 6-6, 230-pound gunslinger has one of the strongest arms in the game.
By the end of the game, both quarterbacks had turned in encouraging performances. While Eason completed 15 of his 21 passes for 183 yards despite some big drops, Ehlinger compiled 185 total yards on the ground and in the air while leading a game-winning drive.
However, both players had some obvious flaws, and Reich was quick to point them out. Despite that critical take, Reich claims that both players should be very pleased with how they performed on Sunday, describing the fact both players had some up-and-down moments as a “best-case scenario.”
Colts coach Frank Reich liked what he saw from his quarterbacks.
Eason’s biggest issue coming out of Washington was his poor pocket awareness, and while he didn’t have the best offensive line in front of him against the Panthers, Eason was sacked three times and lost a fumble deep in his own territory. He put concerns about his play to rest by slicing and dicing Carolina in the air.
Eason’s arm was as strong as advertised, and he showed off his impressive downfield arm on throws to both Parris Campbell and Mike Strachan. With both Strachan and Kylen Granson dropping long passes, Eason’s numbers could’ve looked even gaudier if his receivers held on to the ball.
Ehlinger started the game with a brutal interception that led some Colts fans to wonder if Eason had just locked up the job. Eventually, Ehlinger found his footing, using his legs and quick decision-making to total 155 passing yards on just 10 completions and 30 rushing yards.
With Eddy Pineiro drilling a game-winning field goal as a result of Ehlinger’s drive down the field, No. 4 can take comfort in the fact he performed well given the circumstances and how he started.
Wentz will be the undisputed starter when he comes back from his injury, but Eason and Ehlinger made Colts fans feel just a little bit more comfortable about how the offense could look if Wentz is forced to miss more time than expected.
Be it on the back of Ehlinger’s legs or Eason’s rocket launcher, the Colts’ offense appeared to be in fine form.