Panthers at Colts Recap: Good and bad with Walker, Eason, and Ehlinger

The quarterbacks in the Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts contest made the game a lot of fun to watch. Could they be eventual starters?

There is no shortage of storylines from the 2021 NFL preseason, and the Carolina Panthers at the Indianapolis Colts matchup was no exception. The storylines for this clash were easy to see. We weren’t asked to look any further than the quarterback position: P.J. Walker, Jacob Eason, and Sam Ehlinger all flashed in different ways.

Panthers at Colts: Could P.J. Walker be an eventual trade piece?

Despite completing less than half his passes, Walker showed how electric he is between the lines during the game. There aren’t many backup options in the NFL that offer what Walker provides for the Panthers. Walker could be a trade piece for the still rebuilding Panthers if a team loses their starter for a short-to-intermediate time frame.

However, depending on how Sam Darnold looks early in the season, Walker could press for starting snaps, driving his value up higher if he plays decently from there.

It might be better to keep him around, though. Walker has the requisite arm talent to deliver passes with velocity. His athleticism allows him to work outside of the normal confines of an offense, which was evident on his 60-yard strike to Terrace Marshall in the Panthers at Colts preseason clash. Somehow, Marshall got caught from behind despite reportedly possessing 4.3 speed.

On that particular rep, nobody was open, and Walker found pressure coming from both exterior rushers. He retreated initially, then stepped forward, kept his eyes downfield, and delivered a strike.

Then, reality sets in. We look at how he got along during live reps in 2020, and we see that maybe the preseason isn’t quite a 1:1 translation. He threw 5 INTs on 56 attempts in 2020 and completed just 57.1% of his passes.

His next few preseason outings will be critical for his value to both the Panthers and the league.

Jacob Eason plays to his billing in Panthers at Colts

The scouting report on Jacob Eason was one of the easier QB reports in the past few draft classes. He’s not mobile, but he’s got a high-powered rifle attached to his right shoulder, and his general accuracy impresses. He also struggled mightily processing information over the middle of the field when he left the Washington Huskies.

Fast forward to the first preseason game for the Colts in 2021, and we see he might still be that player. If given time, Eason can stand tall in the pocket and deliver balls with great accuracy and velocity to all levels of the field. He also appears to have a good idea of trajectory on downfield throws. He must learn to throw a bit of a changeup on short throws, but that should come with time.

In his start for the Colts against the Panthers, he struggled twice on middle-of-the-field reads, showing indecision and inaccuracy on those throws. The biggest issues for Eason came in the form of managing pressure off the edge. Twice he could have stepped up to avoid the rush, and twice he stood there and took the sack.

The other issue came on a fourth-down play where he failed to throw the ball. He took a deep sack, which resulted in a turnover on downs. Eason has the tools to start in the NFL, but he must improve on his inconsistencies before that day comes.

Sam Ehlinger might be Eason’s opposite

Unlike Eason, Ehlinger is athletic. He resembles the Carson Wentz mold more closely. Honestly, Wentz is a bit of a mix between the two, both in good and bad ways.

Ehlinger doesn’t have Eason’s arm strength, and he isn’t as generally accurate, either. He does, however, possess a quicker mental trigger while processing complex looks. Unfortunately, his decisiveness and lack of velocity can lead to problematic leverage reads, like his interception in the preseason game.

Ehlinger has a great feel for placing passes that require the changeup Eason doesn’t have. He’s able to drop passes into the bucket over the top of linebackers and underneath safeties. And, despite the interception, he showed no sign of tightness in his trigger.

Both Colts QBs played well in crucial moments

When it came down to the end of the half and the end of the game, both Colts QBs played well, driving their teams to points at the end of each. Ehlinger’s legs provided a lift for the team when he tied the game up on a two-point conversion and on the final drive.

He also did it with his arm, going 3/3 on the game’s final drive. Eason went 4/4 on his final drive of the half and made the more impressive throws of the two in those instances. Ehlinger’s legs simply add an element that Eason doesn’t have.

Eason probably has a leg up in the battle for Colts QB2, but it might be closer than we all originally believed it could be.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here, and his voice and face on Pro Football Network Daily. Follow him on Twitch and Twitter.

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