INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts are shaking up the pecking order at quarterback.
Sam Ehlinger, not Nick Foles, will be Matt Ryan’s backup for Sunday’s meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Foles will be one of the team’s inactives.
That isn’t seen as a threat to Ryan’s status, despite his mistake-prone start to the season and the overall ineffectiveness of the offense. Ryan leads the NFL with 10 turnovers – seven interceptions and three lost fumbles – while the offense is averaging a league-worst 13.8 points per game. The Colts have failed to score more than 20 points this season, and in seven straight games dating back to 2021.
It is, however, an indication the team is curious whether Ehlinger might offer a spark should the offensive struggles continue or his mobility might help offset a leaky offensive line – 21 sacks, 73 pressures in five games – if coach Frank Reich feels the need to turn to his backup quarterback.
Foles has been the unquestioned backup since signing a two-year, $6.2 million contract with $4 million guaranteed in May. He immediately was positioned behind Ryan and ahead of Ehlinger.
At the time, Reich admitted he had been trying to acquire Foles for several years. The two were instrumental in the Philadelphia Eagles winning Super Bowl LII; Reich as the offensive coordinator and Foles as the backup who capitalized when Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Foles “has proven that he can do it at the biggest level and the biggest stage, in any kind of weather, in any moment,’’ Reich said in May. “He can win a shootout, and he can win a close game, make the key plays in a close game.
“I just think he adds good depth, and now you’ve got two experienced guys. We’re incredibly fortunate.’’
However, Reich also mentioned the value of Ehlinger, the team’s 2021 sixth-round draft pick.
“We’re happy with Sam, think Sam’s developing well and think Sam has a bright future,’’ he said.
Ehlinger was the Colts’ star of the preseason. He completed 82.8% of his passes for 289 yards with four touchdowns and a 147.8 passer rating. He also led the team in rushing with 71 yards on six attempts, including a 45-yard touchdown.
Foles was 15-of-22 for 152 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a 68.2 rating.
Neither has had an opportunity to jockey for positioning on the depth chart, other than on the practice field. Ryan has been on the field for 356 of 358 offensive snaps, with Foles handling the other two at the end of the week 2 blowout loss at Jacksonville.
Ehlinger has been inactive in all five games and has never thrown a pass in the regular season.
The Colts have valued Ehlinger since selecting him in the 6th-round of the 2021 draft. Reich and general manager Chris Ballard routinely pointed to the “it’’ factor he possessed and was on display during his productive 46-game career at Texas.
Ehlinger spent the first six games of his rookie season on the injured reserve list with a knee injury suffered during the preseason, and appeared in only three games. He was on the field for just 18 snaps.
At Ballard’s urging, Ehlinger worked with throwing guru Tom House during the offseason.
“Chris told me I needed to go work with him,’’ Ehlinger said.
The improvement was noticeable.
“This guy has worked as hard as anybody on the roster in the offseason, in training camp,’’ Reich said in August. “He is a relentless worker. He is so determined to get better in every aspect of his game.
“I think his arm not only looks stronger, I think he’s throwing the ball more accurately than he was last year, not that it was bad last year.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.