INDIANAPOLIS — Sam Ehlinger made a seven-step drop, noticed the inexperienced grass type like an ocean and determined to make the leap.
The Colts’ third-string quarterback made it 30 yards earlier than a Buccaneers defender got here close to him, then lower inside previous a pair earlier than pulling one into the top zone for a 45-yard landing.
It was the newest spotlight in a preseason stuffed with them. By three video games, he is been the Colts’ main rusher and one of many league’s most explosive passers in a stretch of soccer that is broadly thought-about meaningless.
However perhaps in some unspecified time in the future, the manufacturing begins to imply one thing. That is Ehlinger’s hope after throwing 4 touchdowns and nil interceptions, finishing 83% of his passes at almost 10 yards per try, taking part in with backups and in opposition to backups.
It is one thing the Colts are having to ask themselves as they finalize the roster.
“Sam has had a phenomenal preseason,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “It’s hard to imagine having a better preseason than he’s had. He’s done everything he’s needed to do.”
GREGG DOYEL: Sam Ehlinger’s improved arm forcing Colts into tough roster choice
Like all teams, the Colts must pare their roster down to 53 players by Tuesday. For them, it means cutting 27 players. They’ll sign some back to the practice squad, if they clear waivers and decide to take Indianapolis’ offer over others on the market.
The decision with Ehlinger at this point appears to be more about other factors than it does him. The second-year, sixth-round pick out of Texas happens to play a position where only one man plays, shy of injury. And he has two veterans entrenched in spots ahead of him in Matt Ryan and Nick Foles, both of whom have a year left on their contracts.
Keeping a third quarterback would mean giving up something else, either a special teams starter or a backup at a position that could see the field, like cornerback, linebacker or wide receiver. That could be hard to square with a team that aggressively added Pro Bowl defenders Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue in order to chase a championship window with a 37-year-old Ryan.
That mindset also led the Colts to sign Foles, with his 56 starts and a Super Bowl MVP trophy, to the backup spot. That move signaled to Ehlinger that it was time to take the long view.
“If I want to play in this league for 15 years, I should spend, really, the first three learning,” Ehlinger said after the second preseason game.
At the request of Colts general manager Chris Ballard, Ehlinger started working this offseason with Tom House, a renowned throwing coach who has helped Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck take their games to new levels.
With Ehlinger, the work started at a more basic physical level.
“There’s a lot of things, starting with my shoulder and the way that it’s shaped, the muscles that are dominating,” Ehlinger said. “That’s just from a functional, fitness, working on the muscular stuff, and then from the biomechanical signature, working on timing. The sequencing of when you want to throw, all the way from the ground up, so working on all of those things, and then working on mechanical variables within that signature. There’s been a lot that’s gone into it.”
If the Colts preserve Ehlinger, it will be by means of the prism of that lengthy view. It’d imply reserving a roster spot for a participant who is not alleged to play for 2 years.
He is executed simply sufficient this offseason to pose the query.
“That’s the decision that we’ll have to make here in the next 24-48 hours,” Reich stated.
Contact Colts insider Nate Atkins at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NateAtkins_.