After a long Stampede Blue vacation and a disappointing turnout in the "rigged" Bleacher Report competition, I thought I would return and share my thoughts about the preseason game last Friday. The good news is, this game supplied an excellent opportunity to get a gauge on our young, inexperienced, or developing players. The bad news is that we looked rather bland on both sides of the ball. However, as has already been noted by BBS and Colts Homer, little about our "team" as a whole should or can be taken from preseason games, particularly the early ones. So I will do my best to take what I can from the game in terms of individual performances and what those performances may mean for the season this year and, later, the potential roster.
Who Looked Good?
Jamie Silva -
Without a doubt, Silva showed that he has come a LONG way from where he was at the same time last year. We knew that he was a talented football player from his performance at Boston College and he showed excellent special teams play last year. What he showed on Friday was that he has an innate ability to always be around the ball. When some defensive players were getting stuck on blocks or missing tackles, Silva was there to clean things up many times. On one play he took a shot from an offensive lineman which he managed to bounce off of to make a tackle which was nothing short of incredible. Had he not found a way to keep his composure and make a solid arm tackle, the runner would have continued for another 5+ yards. Silva indicated in camp that his primary goal was to start playing more instinctively and he showed that when he does he is a solid contributor on defense and special teams.
Matt Giordano -
Giordano entered the year without a great deal to prove. The team, coaches, and fans know what they have in Giordano, a speedy, hard-hitting special teams player who knows the defense well enough to be a solid sub when starters need a breather or injuries demand a short-term starting replacement. In the game on Friday, Giordano did a lot to show that he's extremely capable on defense and that the drop-off from the starters will be marginal should Giordano need to play a more significant role in games. Colts fans and coaches should be comfortable if Giordano comes into the game in any situation during the regular season if he can keep up his heads up play, speed, agility, and continue to tackle the way he did against the Vikings.
The biggest surprise of the game has to be Jacob Lacey. For the most part Lacey has gone without attention or praise throughout rookie mini-camp and training camp. In the Vikings game, Lacey was extremely fast, aware, hit hard, and looked capable of making exciting plays in coverage. Lacey showed the ability to close on the ball quickly, punish ball carriers, and had a shot at an interception that he should have had. When a player like Lacey shows that he can hit, has speed, breaks up passes, makes plays on the ball, and makes tackles against the run, it's a good sign. If this young man improves much over his performance on Friday, we may have a surprise contributor entering the season. For what it is worth, Lacey showed the speed and agility that makes him an intriguing potential special teams contributor in my eyes. I would like to see him get a shot returning punts and kicks.
Gary Brackett -
One thing is clear, Brackett is healthy. He continues to show why he is the captain of the defense. Some of his head-up plays stopping the run were outstanding.
Seward is an incredible athlete. He showed a good eye for the ball and nearly stuffed a run for a two yard loss, which I am confident he would have made if he was not bumped off of the play by Ed Johnson. If he continues to improve as he becomes more comfortable with the defense I think he could be a solid back-up for Gary Brackett and a special teams contributor. I have not seen enough yet to think he is a threat to Brackett for his starting job but it's not outside the realm of possibility.
Mike Tauiliili -
One thing is for sure, Tauiliili can lay the wood on ball carriers and is very fast. His ability to close on ball carriers and bring the pain was clear again the Vikings. He is raw but he impressed in the same way Senn impressed last year in pre-season.
Marcus Howard -
Howard was a terror off of the edge. He consistently beat offensive lineman, put pressure on the quarterback, and even found a way to force running plays to the inside on more than one occasion. If he continues to develop at this pace there is no doubt he is ready to be a steady member of the defensive end rotation in the regular season.
Eric Foster -
Foster displayed amazing versatility not only holding the line of scrimmage on the inside but also at defensive end on running downs. Foster has clearly bulked up and seemingly lost little of his speed in the process. On top of that, Foster looked like a guy who could make a steady contribution on special teams.
Adrian Grady is the other big surprise. Grady did not budge on the defensive line and flashed the ability to get penetration. On one occasion he blew up a running play by clogging the lane, forcing the back into the heart of the defense. On another he got into the back-field and took down the back for a loss on his own. What is most impressive is that he made these plays back-to-back. Later in the 3rd Quarter he stuffed another run for no gain. Finally, in the 4th quarter he tripped up a runner just passing the line of scrimmage to allow Travis Key to hold the play to about 3 yards and stopped two other runs by himself after short gains. I liked Grady coming into training camp and pre-season and he showed the kind of presence that reminded me of Ed Johnson two years ago. At this point it seems like he has a shot at the regular season roster. I look forward to watching him in the next game.
Ed Johnson -
Big Ed Johnson looked really good. For a guy who's been out of the league for the better part of the year and came into camp looking overweight, he was a big part of the defense (literally and figuratively). There is no doubt that he is heading to a starting job if he continues to play at the same level.
Collie looked very good. He carries himself like a team leader already and is clearly focused on the job at hand. He displayed outstanding hands, concentration and an ability to get open. Additionally he showed some tenacity when he ripped the ball back from a Viking DB who tried to steal it from him after he was down. His play wasn't perfect, sometimes he missed blocks he could have made but he also made some solid blocks like when he led the way for Donald Brown on his long run. Far and away the front runner for the slot receiver job after Friday.
Seeing another player wearing #83 with his size and quickness was eerie. His sideline reception was impressive and he seems capable of developing into a real player. After the release of Roy Hall, Matthews showed the most in the Viking game to replace him in the competition for a potential fifth roster spot at wide receiver. Matthews is another player I would like to see have a shot returning kicks and punts on special teams.
While Addai's best run is due as much to a great block by Mike Pollak as it is to his abilities, he did display the speed we were accustomed to in his first two years in the league. While he seems ready to be a regular contributor and worthy of another chance as our starting running back, he still shows way too much "wiggle" than he needs to gain yards. On his long run he juked one too many times and may have gained more yards if he would have made one step and moved quickly inside as opposed to slowing so much that he allowed the help on defense to catch up and make a play. Still, he looked better than he did at any point last year.
Donald Brown -
Wow. Just wow. Donald Brown is quick, he has the ability to get thin, and showed the strength to run through arm tackles. This is the back we have been looking for as a part of our tandem back rotation. I see things getting only better from here for Brown. I am very excited about this young player.
Curtis Painter -
For a rookie quarterback in his first NFL action, Painter looked very poised. There is no doubt his job was made more difficult with all the pressure he had to deal with but his cannon on the run is worth noting. If he can continue to settle in and get comfortable, he will give Sorgi real competition for the back-up job. As it is, Painter showed about as much as Sorgi ever has in a pre-season game. In his first series he was very accurate and efficient moving the ball. His development will be something to watch as Sorgi continues to rest on the sideline. Pretty solid decision-making, as displayed by his decision to dump off to his release man Simpson when one play broke down (resulting in a first down).
Tony Ugoh -
Ugoh looked good at tackle and guard. While at first glance it looked like he blew his assignment when Manning went down the third time, a second look shows that Ugoh controlled his assignment and leaves one to wonder why Manning went to his left directly into Ugoh and the defender. At no point did Ugoh allow the defender to get free and there was a ton of room for Manning to step up with a massive passing lane to work with. It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop and I can't imagine any way Ugoh will stay behind Charlie Johnson on the depth chart at LT entering the regular season.
Man oh man does this guy have a leg. I can't remember the last time I saw a guy punt and jumped to my feet as I watched the return man backing up further and further while the ball hung in the air (from the 35 to the 15). His first punt travelled around 70 yards in the AIR! It's yet to be seen if he has the ability to be effective in short punting game, in positional punting. Hunter Smith was excellent at this. Hopefully McAfee shows the ability to do this as well. Still, WOW! I thought "Scifres" the first time he punted and that's exactly what we wanted. Good show.
Chad Simpson -
If Simpson's performance is any indication of what he brings to the table for the Colts he has no business making the regular season roster. In fact, he shouldn't even take a spot on the practice squad. To be direct, Simpson is nothing close to a legitimate kick returner and he definitely has shown nothing to suggest that he will be an effective running back if he is needed. In terms of the RB competition, he would be behind Lance Ball on my list and I would rather see Mendenhall get carries than see more of Simpson. It's time to get serious about a different returner and frankly, there's no room on this team for a back who brings absolutely nothing to the rotation.
Pierre Garcon -
After all of the hype, Garcon has yet again disappointed in his debut. After showing an ability to run fluid routes in practice and earning praises for solid hands Garcon did nothing to contribue on Friday. The one opportunity to he had to make a meaningful catch and with the blocking to make a significant gain, Garcon dropped the pass, running before securing it even though it hit him in his hands, which led to a punt. Hopefully he can get the butterflies out of his system and show something more in the next game or not only will he lose the competition for the third receiver position to Collie, he will legitimize a player like Matthews.
Corey Hilliard -
Hilliard had one of the worst offensive line performances I have seen in a long time. Pressure constantly came from his side of the field, leading to Manning getting sacked, Painter scrambling for his life, and doing nothing to help our running game. It is a scary thought to think that Hilliard would ever been needed during the regular season. This is a player who does not belong on the roster. If he is all we have it is time to start shopping. The good news is that Federkeil and Johnson are far better back-ups for Diem so that will likely be unnecessary.
Freddie Keiaho -
The fact is, Keiaho started all year last year and was put in the game against the Vikings' second and third team players. When he should have stood out as one of the most dominating defenders he was invisible. When he was spotted he actually looked out of place and incapable of making an impact. On a roster that is looking to get bigger and has players like Tauiliili, Senn, and Seward competing for roster spots it is not outside of the realm of possibility that Keiaho is cut before the regular season begins. He had better pick it up on defense and become a special teams star in the next few weeks or his future in the NFL is in doubt.
Fili Moala -
While Moala is expected to have some growing pains and certainly isn't at risk of not making the roster this early he did not look like a 2nd round draft pick. Donald Brown looked great, Jacob Lacey looked great, even Adrian Grady looked great. Moala had no impact and clearly needs more work before he is ready. At this point it would take a miracle to think he will be greatly improved for the next pre-season game. What we have to hope is that another three weeks with the coaches will help Moala take big strides.
Terrence Taylor -
Unfortunately, Taylor was no better off than Moala. He too was invisible while in the game and did little to make plays. When Adrian Grady out-performs both of your draft picks at defensive tackle, something is amiss. Let's hope that Taylor grows into his role throughout the remainder of pre-season and training camp.
Others Worth Noting:
Tim Jennings - Flashed ability.
Daniel Muir - Amazing that he held the line consistently, considering all the reps. Made a number of plays against the run throughout the game.
Mike Pollak - Run blocking in particular.
Clint Session - Still fast and lays the wood.
Philip Wheeler - Definitely fast and had the chance to get a sack or deflect a pass on a blitz. GET THOSE HANDS UP! He also needs to do a better job of tackling.
Jerraud Powers - When a rookie DB does nothing to "stand out" sometimes that means he did nothing to mess up. For a rookie CB, that's a good game.
Jordan Senn - Continued to be someone around the ball when he was on the field. In on a lot of tackles.
Nick Graham - Nothing spectacular, although he was close with the potential sack on a blitz which was partially created by Silva. Still, in terms of DB competition, Graham is in the mix.
Ramon Humber - Raw and playing against third string Vikings but tackled well and stayed around the ball.