With Carson Wentz injured, it’s fair to question Colts’ QB depth

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard knew this would be a possibility. So did coach Frank Reich. Owner Jim Irsay has numerous years of experience dealing with it, including in 2015 with Andrew Luck — who was the No. 1 draft pick three years prior.

And now the Colts are dealing with it yet again: A starting quarterback who has a resume that includes way too many years of injuries.

That’s what was staring the Colts in their collective face when they acquired Carson Wentz from the Philadelphia Eagles last winter.

Two complete 16-game seasons in five years in the NFL. That’s it for Wentz.

What did the Colts do despite having that information?

They didn’t go out and bring in a veteran quarterback with any experience to back Wentz up.

And guess what else?

Wentz is not dealing with one sprained ankle, he’s dealing with two sprained ankles 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 staring at 0-3 for only the third time since 1998. They could be banking on second-year quarterback Jacob Eason to keep that from happening if Wentz is out Sunday.

He’s the same Jacob Eason who struggled to distinguish himself from rookie Sam Ehlinger to start while Wentz was dealing with another injury — left foot surgery — in training camp.

Eason was slow with his progressions and threw every pass with the same fierce velocity of New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. He’s also the same Jacob Eason who locked in on tight end Jack Doyle, making it easy for Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey to intercept him in the fourth quarter Sunday.

So if Eason does start this weekend and the Colts struggle to win games because of their quarterback play, Irsay, Ballard and Reich will have to look in the mirror because they deserve the brunt of the blame for not addressing quarterback depth in the offseason.

“I thought he made really good strides,” Ballard said of Eason before the start of the regular season. “Last year, not being able to get him any preseason work and, really, he was the third-string quarterback, so minimal reps all year. But what he got was a Ph.D watching Philip Rivers play the game.

“You can sit in the meeting room and you can sit in practice, but playing in a game is a whole different level. … That’s going to be his biggest challenge going forward is to continue to play the game, the game has to get a little slower, and he’s got to play faster.”

It won’t matter who is playing quarterback for the Colts if the offensive line can’t do a better job protecting up front. The group has lacked continuity.

Quenton Nelson missed three weeks of training camp because of foot surgery. He’s also currently dealing with a bad back. Center Ryan Kelly missed a couple of weeks with a left elbow injury. Left tackle Eric Fisher made his debut against the Rams, returning 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 quarterback hits the way they have the past two games. Those numbers would likely be higher if Wentz wasn’t able to avoid the rush by scrambling.

“There’s no ‘hide’ in this league,” Kelly said. “We gotta stop it. There have been too many shots on him.”

“His toughness, shoot, all the times he’s gotten hit and all the times he’s gotten up,” Nelson added. “It’s on a different level. He hasn’t complained once.”

A struggling offensive line, a second-year quarterback who got his first NFL snaps on the final two drives of the game on Sunday, and the next three games on the road against teams that won at least 10 games last season in the Titans, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens.

Good luck getting by with an inexperienced quarterback if Wentz is out.

“He’s had a lot of reps during training camp, and he’s worked hard in just the way he’s interacted in the meetings and the reps that he’s gotten out in practice,” Reich said about Eason. “You can see the growth. I can see the growth these last two weeks as he was running scout team. I can see the growth from the way he’s run scout team this year compared to the way he ran it last year. He’s making the right steps.”

Original article: https://www.espn.com/blog/indianapolis-colts/post/_/id/26662/indianapolis-colts-have-only-themselves-to-blame-at-qb-if-carson-wentz-is-out

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