How the Commanders are preparing to face QB Sam Ehlinger originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
It’s tough to prepare for an opponent when you hardly know anything about them. That’s the conundrum the Washington Commanders find themselves in heading into a Week 8 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who will be making his very first NFL start.
Prior to this week, the Commanders were likely preparing to face Matt Ryan, who the Colts signed as a replacement QB1 following the trade that sent Carson Wentz to Washington. Well, Ryan’s tenure in Indy hasn’t gone according to plan, as he was benched for Ehlinger not only for Week 8, but for the remainder of the season due to a combination of a shoulder injury and subpar play (Ryan put up nine touchdowns, nine interceptions and just a 42.0 QBR in seven games).
Indianapolis is gambling in choosing to go with the unproven Ehlinger for the remainder of the campaign as they only sit at second place in the AFC South at 3-3-1. So how can Washington game plan for the unknown?
“We’re gonna have to try and figure out what he does best,” head coach Ron Rivera said in an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay on Monday.
“We’ll have to look at some of the stuff from some of his other games and kind of decide if this is how they’re gonna use him, what they’re gonna try to do, so this is how we’re gonna need to attack it.”
Problem is, Ehlinger’s never thrown a pass in the NFL before. He’s had three rush attempts in regular season play, but not a single throw. If you go to his ESPN page, the latest available video on him is a touchdown pass against West Virginia from Ehlinger’s senior year at Texas.
So based on what is available on the 24-year-old QB, we know that he’s a 6-foot-1 dual-threat under center. Take his final three years as a Longhorn: during that span, he threw for just shy of 10,000 yards, 83 touchdowns and just 20 interceptions for an average quarterback rating of 149.8. He also rushed for over 1,500 yards and 31 TDs.
But his scouting report is not all roses. His pre-draft NFL profile says of Ehlinger: “He’s a very average passer, but can deliver most throws with good enough accuracy and velocity to hit the open target. He doesn’t have a plus arm and could struggle to fit throws into tight windows or make big completions throwing on the move” and also that he has a proclivity for taking too many risks in the pocket.
Washington will have to wait and see what’s in store for them as they face an ambiguous starting QB in Indianapolis on Sunday. The Commanders are riding high on a two-game winning streak, but need to make up ground against a stacked NFC East with 10 games remaining this season.