Jacob Eason’s learning curve accelerated with Carson Wentz’s foot injury

Sports
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacob Eason runs a drill during practice at the NFL team's football training camp in Westfield, Ind.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacob Eason runs a drill during practice at the NFL team’s football training camp in Westfield, Ind., Saturday, July 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

WESTFIELD – Teaching moments aren’t reserved for the practice field, meeting rooms or video review following the latest training camp session.

Sometimes they occur in the cafeteria.

Friday, Matt Eberflus shared a lunch table with Jacob Eason.

It was the veteran defensive coordinator offering coaching points to the young quarterback.

“That was pretty cool for coach to do that,’’ Eason said following the Indianapolis Colts’ Saturday afternoon practice at Grand Park Sports Campus. “We’re on the same team here. We’re trying to help each other anyway we can.

“Yeah, you’re competing in practice, but it’s not like we’re going to hide things from you.’’

Eason is in his second camp with the Colts, but it’s essentially his first considering how the summer of 2020 unfolded. He was a fourth-round draft pick, but practice reps were virtually non-existent behind starter Philip Rivers and backup Jacoby Brissett. The invaluable preseason opportunities were erased as the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the four preseason games.

Eason opened camp as the No. 2 behind Carson Wentz but has been running the No. 1 offense since Wentz suffered a foot injury near the end of Thursday’s practice.

It’s a role Eason will maintain until Wentz returns, and there’s no indication when that might be. Noted foot and ankle specialist Robert Anderson was expected to review the MRI scans of Wentz’s foot, and all options remain on the table, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

That includes surgery. Even though the Colts’ don’t believe the injury is season ending, it’s not a stretch to consider Eason, not Wentz, will be the starter when the season opens Sept. 12 against the Seattle Seahawks at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Eberflus was unable to offer an update of Wentz’s situation.

“There’s no timetable right now,’’ he said. “We don’t have any new information.’’

Eason has kept in contact with Wentz via text and insisted he hasn’t considered the possibility of being the starting quarterback against the Seahawks.

“I’m just taking it a day at a time,’’ he said. “Just one day at a time, one practice at a time, one rep at a time. Just trying to get better and keep competing.

“We always talk about this mindset in team meetings. Frank (Reich) is big on focusing on the picture, zooming in on that picture and right now we’re in training camp. We just finished day 4 and that’s where we’re at.’’

The eye test seems to tell us there’s a lot of room for improvement in Eason’s work in the pocket.

There’s no question he possesses a strong right arm, but accuracy has been an issue in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work. Friday, he was 12-of-20 with an interception linebacker Bobby Okereke would have returned for a touchdown had it been a game condition. Saturday, Eason was 11-of-19. He suffered another interception at the hands of Okereke, then linebacker E.J. Speed got him.

That’s three interceptions in the past two days.

“Just getting the feet wet, getting back in the swing of things, getting in and out of the huddle, seeing the defense, seeing key coverage guys,’’ Eason said. “It’s been good. I’m getting a lot of reps, getting a lot of improvement, feeling more and more comfortable every day.’’

Eason’s increased reps on the practice field are invaluable to his growth, especially considering the lack of serious work he was given as a rookie.

“It’s huge,’’ he said. “You’re watching yourself and seeing your decisions, your progressions, your progress.

“It’s a lot different watching someone else do it. You can’t always see what they’re thinking. You can talk about it, but when you’re doing it you know what you were thinking, you know what you were seeing. You can make those self-corrections.’’

Eason had an opportunity to work with a handful of receivers last season, including Michael Pittman Jr., and that increased during the abbreviated two-week offseason program this offseason.

However, he’s still far from in sync with most, including T.Y. Hilton. Hilton got a step on a defensive back Friday, but Eason overthrew him.

“Just a little off,’’ he said. “There are certain plays you only get one shot at.’’

Eason frequently looks indecisive as he goes through his progressions, and often is erratic with his throws. His best moment Saturday was a touch pass to tight end Mo Alie-Cox in the left corner of the end zone. Alie-Cox wrestled the ball away from the DB but was ruled out of bounds.

Still, it was an example of Eason’s skill set.

But that’s been countered by the two Okereke interceptions. The one on Friday went straight to Okereke.

“They fly around,’’ Eason said. “They’re high-energy guys.’’

And the defense is led by a coordinator more than eager to offer free advice over lunch.

“We sat and talked, and I asked him about, ‘Hey, anything you saw you need to clarify in terms of the coverages and all that?’’’ Eberflus said. “And I do that with all the quarterbacks, it’s not just exclusive to him. We had a good conversation.’’

Although Eberflus’ attention generally is focused on the defense, he’s noticed Eason.

“I saw him go through some really good reads, some really good progressions, threw some good balls today,’’ he said. “I think he threw on time a lot today.

“So, it was good. I think he’s progressing well.’’

 QB added

With the uncertainty of Wentz’s situation, the Colts signed free agent quarterback Brett Hundley.

His arrival shockingly highlights the inexperience of the Wentz-less quarterback room. Hundley has appeared in 18 games with nine starts during time with the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packer.

He possesses all of the NFL experience. Eason, sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger and Jalen Morton have not taken a snap.

Hundley posted a 3-6 record as a starter with the Packers in 2017. He completed 192-of-316 passes for 1,836 yards with nine touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 70.6 rating.

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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