The Washington Commanders’ Week 8 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts will be a battle of backup quarterbacks. Not only is Taylor Heinicke filling in for the injured Carson Wentz, but the Colts sent shockwaves around the NFL this week by benching starter Matt Ryan for 2021 sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger.
This is sneakily a huge game on Washington’s schedule. A third win in a row would complete the team’s quest to get back to .500. With a loss, though, the team would fall to 3-5 with games against the Vikings and Eagles on deck.
A change from a former MVP and four-time Pro Bowler to a quarterback who hasn’t started a game in the NFL would normally bode well for the opposition, but Ryan leads the league in interceptions and fumbles and his 6.8 YPA ranks 21st among quarterbacks and his 42.0 QBR ranks 23rd at the position.
More often than not, backup QBs provide a spark to their teams. The Commanders experienced this last week with Heinicke defeating the Packers.
With that in mind, who exactly is Sam Ehlinger? What’s his background and playing style? What should Washington fans know before Sunday?
What do Commanders fans need to know about Sam Ehlinger after the Colts benched Matt Ryan?
You might remember Ehlinger from his college days at Texas, where he was a superstar. In 2018, his second season as a starter for the Longhorns, Ehlinger broke a school record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 16. Ehlinger’s 27 wins as the starting quarterback is the fourth-most in school history.
By the time he graduated, Ehlinger finished with the second-most passing yards in school history, trailing only former Washington QB Colt McCoy, and the second-most passing touchdowns, trailing only McCoy and his 33 rushing touchdowns are fourth-most in school history for any position (Ricky Williams is first at 72).
While Ehlinger is unproven at the NFL level, he has plenty of experience running an offense and is a gamer of the highest degree. Much like Sam Howell this year, Ehlinger led the Colts to a comeback in his first preseason game in 2021 and set the NFL ablaze with his scrambling ability.
This highlight vs the Lions shows what he offers as a quarterback.
Remind you of anyone? Looks a lot like Heinicke to us.
After sitting behind Carson Wentz and backup Jason Eason in 2021, Ehlinger looked the part of a viable backup this preseason, completing 24-of-29 passes (82.7%) for 289 yards, four passing touchdowns, one rushing score and zero turnovers; good for a 147.8 passer rating.
Like Heinicke, Ehlinger is tough as nails, a gamer of the highest degree and praised for his leadership intangibles.
The former Longhorn might not have the arm of an NFL quarterback, but make no mistake: the Colts will rally behind the young QB, who suddenly has the rest of the season to prove he’s the solution to Indy’s long-standing QB carousel.
Long story short, the Commanders cannot take this game lightly.