Preseason means nothing... unless you kick the snot out of a team in your third preseason game. Then, I guess it means something.
Overall, you have to feel encouraged by how well the Colts played Saturday night against the Browns. The positive to take away is that the strengths within this team are legit. What they do well they do very well.
The negative is that despite their best efforts, they aren't what they want to be. I'll explain below:
- The "power running game" isn't working, and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton needs to stop with it, already. Interior linemen like Samson Satele simply aren't talented enough to impose their physical will on opponents, which is kind of important if you want to run that kind of offense. After Vick Ballard's first run of 15 yards, which was sprung by a great block by fullback Stanley Havili, the Colts slammed the ball for run totals of -5, 2, 4, 4, and 1. That's 5 rushes for 6 yards. It wasn't until the Colts' abandoned the power running in the second quarter and came out throwing when the offense started catching fire. 6 of the Colts 8 plays on that first drive in the second quarter were designed passing plays. The end result was an 8-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Stanley Havili. Speaking of Andrew Luck...
- Luck really is amazing. He finished with 164 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on 16-of-25 passes. The pick was the fault of fullback Stanley Havili, who let a Luck pass bounce off his hands near the Cleveland 2 yard line and into the hands of Browns corner Tashaun Gipson.
- Despite the second quarter screw-up that resulted in an INT, Havili played very well. I liked his blocking, and he is a good receiver out of the backfield. Great play design and execution on his 3-yard TD catch from Luck in the first quarter.
- As he's been all preseason, Robert Mathis was invisible last night. He failed to record a single tackle and he was no-where near the quarterback, Brandon Weeden, when the Colts blitzed. For as sensitive as Mathis gets when writers like Andrew Mishler make logical observations about his limitations, Mathis has done nothing this preseason to dispel the perception that he is little more than an average player without Dwight Freeney to draw double teams.
- Indianapolis' secondary was excellent last night. Coverage on the receivers was tight and the corners, in particular Greg Toler, continued to make plays as they've done all preseason. LaRon Landry had a strong presence in his debut game for the Colts. I also liked what I saw out of Marshay Green. I think he makes the 53-man roster because of his special teams ability. And speaking of special teams...
- Very nice! Kick coverages were solid and the return game was outstanding. Kerwynn Williams opened the game with a 39-yard return while Green chipped in 38-yard punt return in the third quarter.
- Cleveland attempting an onside kick with 4:33 left in the 4th quarter of a 20-6 preseason game was Busch League. When Larry Asante, a former Browns player, picked off Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer on the very next play and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown, the sagely words of former NBA player Rasheed Wallace echoed through my mind: "Ball don't lie."
- The Colts pass rush continues to be a problem. The only first unit defensive player to register a sack in preseason is Erik Walden (ugh) and when the Colts sent 6 rushers at Weeden, the Browns were able to keep them off their QB. Mathis was invisible. Lawrence Sidbury was a waste all preseason. Bjoern Werner was inept as a stand-up linebacker, proving more effective in the second half when he played mostly defensive end. I also didn't see any pressure from Ricky Jean Francois, who has underwhelmed this preseason. Like Mathis, Jean Francois failed to register a single tackle against the Browns.
- The Colts run defense got blown off the line early by the Browns offensive line. Trent Richardson opened the game with runs of 5, 10, 5, and 12 yards. Cleveland was imposing their physical will on the Colts during their opening drive only to be derailed by a holding penalty on 2nd and 8 from the Indy 42. Richardson finished the first quarter with 32 yards on 4 carries. For reasons that mystify, Cleveland abandoned the run for the rest of the half, passing 10 times and running 5 times.
- The run defense was better with Josh Chapman on the field at nose tackle than with Aubrayo Franklin. I really see no reason to play Franklin, other than the fact that he makes more money than Chapman and Ryan Grigson has to justify the signing.
- For as bad as he looked in training camp, Darrius Heyward-Bey has really turned it on during preseason. He caught 3 passes for 33 yards Saturday night, and I really like that end-around play call the Colts ran in the first quarter. DHB is the anti-Coby Fleener, it seems.
- Another preseason game. Another T.Y. Hilton touchdown. This kid has taken a major leap from year one to year two.
- The 22-yard run by Donald Brown in the third quarter was one of the best runs I've ever seen him make. He ran angry, and made himself difficult to take down. If he'd had run like this for his first four years in the league, he wouldn't be the first round disappointment he is today. Interesting observation on that 22-yard run and one he made on the same drive for 7 yards: Brown stopped following his blocking. He following the fullback into the lane, and then made one cut into a different lane and took off.
- Anthony Castonzo sprained his MCL on the fourth play of the game. He left and did not return. We should have more details on the injury today. Joe Reitz stepped in for Castonzo at LT, and he was a disaster. Speaking of disasters...
- Gosder Cherillus, the highest paid right tackle in the entire NFL, was terrible last night. Paul Kruger ate his lunch and slapped his momma, all night.
What were your thoughts? Offer them below. I'm sure there was something I missed (Hint: Griff Whalen having a good game).