Jacob Eason got his first chance to really practice with the Colts over the last few weeks, and the 2020 fourth-round pick took full advantage of his opportunity.
And on Sunday, Colts head coach Frank Reich confirmed Eason will begin the 2021 season as the team's backup quarterback.
"I think Jacob has earned that spot," Reich said. "I think he's done a nice job. Really happy with is progress and happy for him. Jacob's handled himself like a pro.
"I think his bright spots have really been throwing the ball down the field, making some nice chunk plays down the field and I think the other bright spot for Jacob was that it wasn't too big for him. That he got in there and looked comfortable, looked like he belonged. We expected that but you never know until you actually get in there and I think he's earned the trust and respect of the team."
That last line from Reich — you never know until he gets in there — was a particularly important question for Eason, who saw sparing amount of practice reps last year behind Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett on the Colts' depth chart. The pandemic-altered preseason, with no games and a truncated training camp, meant even fewer opportunities for Eason to get experience as a rookie.
2021 was a complete turnaround, then, with Eason taking a heavy load of snaps with the Colts' first-team offense with Carson Wentz out for all but five training camp practices. Eason started preseason games against the Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions and finished with 62 pass attempts over three games in August.
"With Carson's injury, it was great for Eason to be able to come up and get all those reps and prepare himself for a game situation and get ready and battle it out through camp," wide receiver Zach Pascal said.
Add in all the work Eason got at Grand Park and he's heading into the 2021 season with plenty of confidence built on all that experience.
"The reps were everything," Eason said after Friday's game in Detroit. "Actually being able to go out there and A, learn from my mistakes and B, get a live view of what's going on and how all the pieces are moving and all that stuff, it was huge. Every rep I was learning something from and trying to take advantage of it and obviously it helped me out exponentially playing these preseason games."
Eason had to compete to win this job, with Sam Ehlinger — who suffered a knee injury against the Lions that will not require surgery nor will end his season — forcing his way into taking a share of reps with the first-team offense. But Eason said he felt steady progress from the start of camp to the end of the preseason, with that growth coming with all the experience he gained on a daily basis.
Eason's next task is following the example set by Brissett over the last few years and preparing like he's the Colts' starting quarterback no matter the status of Wentz. But he'll do so not only with more confidence, but the confidence of his teammates gained over the last few weeks.
"I have all the trust in the world in Jacob," wide receiver Parris Campbell said. "Everybody on this (Zoom media) call has seen Jacob make strides from preseason (Game) 1 to preseason 3. I could honestly say he stepped up in a big way with Carson being out and just, you can tell he's seeing things faster, he's playing faster, he knows what he's doing, the way he's making calls in the huddle, he's making checks.
"I've really seen Jacob get better throughout camp and I think we can all attest to that. Confidence (is) very high in him."