A few days after Christmas last year, Gus Bradley got to work preparing for the possibility his Las Vegas Raiders defense would have to face Sam Ehlinger in Week 17.
With Carson Wentz on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, Ehlinger – the 2021 sixth-round pick from Texas – was in line to start. Wentz, of course, tested out of the COVID protocol and was able to play in that Sunday's game. But Bradley had to get his team ready to face Ehlinger, which meant diving into the Colts' three preseason games, and even looking back into his college career with the Longhorns.
"It forced you to go back and look at all of his games that he played and how he played," Bradley said. "It's a lot of preseason games. So I'm sure that's what (the Washington Commanders will) do now is go back and look at preseason and try to get a feel for the things that he does well."
Ehlinger played in three preseason games in 2022 – and played well in those, completing 24/29 passes for 290 yards with four touchdowns while rushing six times for 71 yards with a score – but the first pass he throws Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium will be his first in a regular season game as a pro. Washington does have some tape to work off in prepping for Ehlinger, just like Bradley did last year, but there are plenty of unknown elements to how Ehlinger will operate the Colts' offense beginning on Sunday.
But behind the scenes on 56th Street over the last few weeks, Bradley has had an up-close look at how Ehlinger operated the Colts' scout team. On Monday, Reich praised how Ehlinger has worked during those practices, and noted how that factored in the team's decision to elevate him to be their starting quarterback.
"I told Chris Ballard last week, Sam had one of the best weeks of practice I've ever seen him have — he made four or five what I would say to you are elite throws," Reich said. "I mean elite, big-time throws down the field, threading coverage, putting the ball right where it should be. Those things don't go unnoticed."
Bradley, of course, is mostly focused on how his defense practiced against the looks Ehlinger gave. But it was impossible for him not to notice the way with which Ehlinger practiced.
"I really like Sam," Bradley said. "His presence and attention to detail, he's very poised. When he goes against us, he's always trying to get better whether we say hey, we want you throwing to this guy, you can feel him going through his progression as if he was the quarterback.
"He does a great job against us as far as when he's scouting for us and being the opposing quarterback. As far as his presence, I think that's what you feel the most from him, as a defensive coach – his poise. He goes through his progression, his accuracy, basically what we've seen out of him in training camp."