Practice Notebook

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Practice Notebook: Why Colts Coaches, Teammates Believe Sam Ehlinger Is Ready For First NFL Start

Ehlinger will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Washington Commanders at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

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Frank Reich made it clear during his press conference on Wednesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center: The Colts' move from Matt Ryan to Sam Ehlinger was done with one thing in mind.

Win.

"There's nobody waving the white flag," Reich said. "That's not in my DNA, that's not in our players' DNA. I wouldn't do that in a million years. This is about winning — we're trying to win a championship. That starts with winning an AFC South championship. We're still in position to do that."

So why are the Colts confident Ehlinger – who's never started a game in the NFL, let alone thrown a pass in a regular season game – can play the kind of winning football necessary for this team to reach its goals in 2022?

Let's start by hearing from the guy in the building who's known Ehlinger the longest.

"Sammy is a dog, man. He's a dog," tight end Kylen Granson, Ehlinger's teammate at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, said. "He will do whatever it takes to win, whether that's making plays with his legs or his arm, he always puts on a show."

How about from a team captain on the defensive side of the ball?

"Just the way he approaches every day – since Day 1, Sam's carried himself like a pro," defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "Even last year as a rookie, just seeing his demeanor each and every day, he approaches every day and prepares like a starter. He just has that competitor mentality that he brings. Very excited to see his first start and the way he approaches this week."

Or from a guy who's caught plenty of passes from Ehlinger over the last two years, both in practice and in preseason games?

"Sometimes he'll be out there making plays and I'm like, dang, did you see Sam on that play?" wide receiver Dezmon Patmon said. "He's a baller."

And from the head coach himself:

"Anybody who knows Sam knows that he's made for moments like this," Reich said.

Every one of Ehlinger's teammates pointed to his relentless work ethic and poised demeanor in preparing each week as if he were the starting quarterback, no matter where he was on the team's depth chart. For Ehlinger, that preparation means this week of practice won't feel daunting to him as Sunday afternoon's kickoff against the Washington Commanders at Lucas Oil Stadium approaches.

"Regardless of when that opportunity was going to come, I was going to be ready and do what I could to be prepared," Ehlinger said. "And that's alleviated a lot of the stress — I mean, I can't imagine if I weren't preparing the way I was."

On the field, the Colts believe Ehlinger's athleticism, ability to process opposing defenses and general "it" factor can be a spark for an offense that enters Week 8 averaging 16.1 points per game, 30th in the NFL. That doesn't mean the Colts expect him to go out and win AFC Offensive Player of the Week right from the jump, but there's confidence he can efficiently operate the offense and make plays with his legs when he needs to.

"There's an element to where the league's transitioning to more mobile quarterbacks, and I think I'm able to offer that," Ehlinger said. "So just being smart with the football, taking completions, getting the ball in the playmakers' hands — we got a lot of really good players. And even in the run game, giving the ball to (Jonathan Taylor), Nyheim (Hines), Deon (Jackson), let those guys work. Parris (Campbell) is playing great, (Michael Pittman Jr.'s) playing great, Alec (Pierce) is playing great. Get the ball in their hands and let them be the stars."

And while the rest of the NFL hasn't seen much of Ehlinger, his teammates and coaches behind the scenes have seen what he's about, whether it's on the practice field, in meeting rooms or around the team facility.

"Now that he's getting his opportunity, I know he's gonna take full advantage of it," Granson said. "So it's all in his preparation — dude prepares like a pro. So he's gonna play like a pro."

*Wednesday's practice report: *

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