INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard knew it would be a possibility. Coach Frank Reich too. Owner Jim Irsay has many years of experience in the field, including in 2015 with Andrew Luck – who was the first draft pick three years earlier.
And now the Colts are facing it once again: a starting quarterback who has a resume that includes far too many years of injuries.
That’s what looked the Colts in their collective face when they acquired Carson Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles last winter.
Two full 16-game seasons in five years in the NFL. That’s all for Wentz.
What did the Colts do despite this information?
They didn’t come out and bring in a veteran quarterback with no experience to support Wentz.
And guess what else?
Wentz is not dealing with a sprained ankle, he has two ankle sprains that knocked him out of Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and leaves his status for Sunday’s road game against the Tennessee Titans (at Nissan Stadium, 1 p.m. ET, CBS) very murky.
The Colts are 0-3 for just the third time since 1998. They could bank on sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason to prevent that from happening if Wentz is out on Sunday.
This is the same Jacob Eason who struggled to distinguish himself from rookie Sam Ehlinger to start as Wentz suffered from another injury – surgery to his left foot – at training camp.
Eason was slow in his progressions and threw each pass with the same fierce speed as the New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman, closer. He’s also the same Jacob Eason who blocked tight end Jack Doyle, which made Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey easy to intercept in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
So if Eason starts this weekend and the Colts struggle to win games because of their quarterback play, Irsay, Ballard and Reich will have to look at each other in the mirror because they deserve the brunt of the blame for failing to tackle the depth of the quarterback during the offseason.
“I thought he had made really good progress,” Ballard said of Eason before the regular season started. “Last year I couldn’t get him to pre-season work and, really, he was the third-string quarterback, so few reps all year. But what he got, it’s a doctorate watching Philip Rivers play the game.
“You can sit in the boardroom and sit down to practice, but playing a game is on a whole new level.… That will be his biggest challenge in the future is to keep playing the game, the game has to get a little slower, and it has to play faster. “
It doesn’t matter who plays the Colts quarterback if the offensive line can’t protect better up front. The group lacked continuity.
Quenton Nelson missed three weeks of training camp due to foot surgery. He is also currently suffering from back pain. Center Ryan Kelly missed a few weeks with a left elbow injury. Left tackle Eric Fisher made his debut against the Rams, coming back from an Achilles tear with the Kansas City Chiefs last season. Right tackle Braden Smith is currently out with a foot injury.
The Colts can’t afford to give up six sacks and 21 hits like they have in the last two games. Those numbers would likely be higher if Wentz wasn’t able to avoid the rush by jostling each other.
“There is no ‘cache’ in this league,” said Kelly. “We have to stop it. There were too many shots at him.
“His tenacity, his shooting, all the times he got hit and all the times he got up,” added Nelson. “It’s on another level. He didn’t complain once.
A struggling offensive line, a second-year quarterback who got his first NFL snaps in the last two practices of the game on Sunday, and the next three road games against teams that have won at least 10 games in the last season in the Titans, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens.
Good luck with an inexperienced quarterback if Wentz is out.
“He had a lot of reps during training camp, and he worked hard in the way he interacted in meetings and the reps he got in training,” Reich said of Eason. . “You can see the growth. I can see the growth over the past two weeks as he led the Boy Scout team. I can see the growth in how he is leading the Boy Scout team this year versus how which he led last year.