Training Camp

Training Camp Buzz: Rookie QB Sam Ehlinger seeing first-team reps at Colts practice

The 2021 regular season is just around the corner, and NFL Network has you covered with wall-to-wall training camp coverage each day starting at 10 a.m. ET. Follow along here for some of the best sights, sounds and moments from "Inside Training Camp Live" and around the NFL.

  • The Colts' ongoing storyline at quarterback took a slight turn on Tuesday with rookie Sam Ehlinger seeing reps with the first-team offense. It was the first time the sixth-round QB worked with the first-team offense, according to The Athletic's Zak Keefer, and with that Ehlinger also saw a starting NFL defense for the first time. In the wake of Carson Wentz's foot injury, it was second-year QB Jacob Eason taking those reps up until his point. The two split the starting reps on Tuesday and will do so for the remainder of the week including the team's oncoming joint practices with the Panthers. "It wasn't Jacob (Eason) doing anything wrong," coach Frank Reich told reporters after practice, per The Athletic's Stephen Holder. "This is a meritocracy and Sam (Ehlinger) has looked good so we decided to split it up. The good news is they both looked sharp today. We'll continue to split those reps." Ehlinger, who started three seasons at Texas, has shown pocket poise and an effective ability to run the ball during his college years, which is an aspect that could potentially separate himself from Eason. It's still unclear how long the Colts will be without Wentz, but Reich and the Colts have maintained their desire to roll with what they have at QB before making any drastic moves. Tuesday's development will certainly lead to speculation of an all-out QB competition between Eason and Ehlinger for the right to start Week 1 should Wentz remain absent.
  • It's safe to say the relationship between All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas and the Saints is fractured. Will it lead to an imminent breakup? "I would say a trade is certainly not off the table," NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. "At some point, I wouldn't be surprised if the Saints move on from Michael Thomas eventually, but it is complicated." For starters, Thomas is not healthy after undergoing ankle surgery in June. He's expected to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, which would make him unavailable until about the trade deadline in early November. His contract might be an even bigger obstacle. Trading Thomas would result in an $8 million dead cap hit for 2021 and a whopping $22 million in 2022. That makes parting ways "not impossible," Rapoport said, "but not easy either."
  • Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has no problem playing in the preseason as he enters Year 17. "I think it'll be good. It'll be good to get out there and go through the process with the guys," Fitzpatrick, 38, told NFL Network's Kim Jones on Inside Training Camp Live. "I'm new and I'm trying to get a feel for some of these guys, but even just the communication in and out of the huddle, getting out there, looking at the play clock again, communicating with the line on pass plays and run plays, that kind of stuff. It's good to get a little dress rehearsal. So I'm excited to be out there for a little bit." Prior to training camp, coach Ron Rivera established a QB competition between Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke, making Washington's preseason slate an important measure for the season ahead. Reporting from WFT camp, Jones says Fitzpatrick is the front-runner for the job with Heinicke receiving about 25 percent of the first-team reps. WFT visits the New England Patriots on Thursday live on NFL Network (7:30 p.m. ET) for their first preseason game.

Sacking QBs is something Washington already excels at by virtue of a budding pass-rushing duo. Entering 2021, Montez Sweat believes he and Chase Young can break the NFL sack record for a pass-rushing tandem, which was set at 39 sacks by Minnesota's Chris Doleman and Keith Millard in 1989. "We talk all the time about breaking records and stuff like that," Sweat told reporters Tuesday. "I personally want to go get the combined sack record that the guys got back before. We talk about it all the time." The two combined for just 16.5 sacks in 2020, but with just three years of NFL experience between the two pass rushers, Sweat and Young are poised to grow those numbers with a great defense surrounding them. "Because we're both dynamic players," Sweat explained. "That's all. We got two dynamic players on one line. You can make things happen."

  • Travis Etienne has garnered plenty of attention since being selected No. 25 overall by the Jaguars. The running back was a surprise pick to many after the team chose his Clemson teammate Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick and the unexpected continued into the summer with Etienne working out as a wide receiver during rookie minicamp. Reporting from Jacksonville, NFL Network's Maurice Jones-Drew -- the Jaguars' all-time leader in touchdowns (81) -- said the team is "really excited" about Etienne's potential as an all-around playmaker. Speaking with Jones-Drew on Inside Training Camp Live, Etienne detailed how their transition together into the NFL has been beneficial, saying it has provided him a "sense of normalcy" and their digestion of the Jaguars playbook has been sped up by learning it together. Their rapport is naturally transitioning onto the field as well. "When Trev's out there, I kind of feel like the ball is coming to me because he's not used to everything yet," Etienne said. "So, he's still trying to figure out everything and he has a sense of normalcy with me. So he definitely finds me in the check down position… He kind of uses me as a safety blanket."

The early reviews of Lawrence have been glowing from local reporters, but leave it to new Jaguars cornerback Rayshawn Jenkins to provide them with the juiciest of headlines with this comparison. "I was back in L.A. last year for the past four years and I was able to see a guy like Justin Herbert," Jenkins said on Inside Training Camp Live. "They have some similar traits, with the body type, the pocket presence, just the poise in the pocket."

  • As Atlanta heads into a transition year with a new head coach and new general manager, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero highlights three under-the-radar names making noise at Falcons camp. Olamide Zaccheaus, who made a splash on his very first NFL reception with a 93-yard touchdown catch in 2019, is shaping up to be the team's No. 3 wide receiver behind Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. Tight end Hayden Hurst is in "phenomenal shape" according to Pelissero. Hurst enters his second year with the Falcons after a trade from Baltimore a year ago, and the selection of No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts may've lit a fire under the veteran after a disappointing year. Lastly, a preseason player to watch from Pelissero -- quarterback Feleipe Franks -- who has been attached to Matt Ryan's hip during camp. Franks, an undrafted free agent from out of Arkansas, is expected to get plenty of snaps in the preseason and could open some eyes.
  • San Francisco's offseason addition of Alex Mack brings an elite run blocker to the center of the 49ers' offensive line. The five-time Pro Bowler also brings with him first-class perspiration for those taking snaps from him under center. Luckily, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is well-prepared for Mack's sweaty snaps. "It definitely makes it difficult if you're not ready for it, I would say," Garoppolo told reporters, via NBC Sports Bay Area. "I've kind of learned throughout my career how to deal with it, but the best way I could describe it is you're playing in a dry game and all of the sudden it's a rain game when you get the snap."

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