This post is longer than I had intended but in order to save the eyes of those who take the time to read it I have separated my analysis on individual players into three groups: 1) those who REALLY impressed in last night’s game, 2) those who I believe deserve an honorable mention and, 3) those who did poorly or who’s stock seems to be on the decline. (each subdivision is not in rank order)
*It seems that Tony Dungy and Bill Polian are already making some early decisions and judgments on players after the HoF game. Some of our more talented players, even some of the more talented players who are simply fighting for a back-up spot, saw a significant reduction in playing time. Those players would include: Hart, Howard, Foster, Guzman and Shotwell.
Jacob Tamme – Coming into the game, Tamme had not yet shown Colts fans his true value or accomplished anything to live up to the hype regarding his abilities as a receiving threat at the TE position. After this game, the fans are starting to get an idea. Tamme consistently found open space on the field and separated himself from defenders. When targeted, Tamme displayed good hands generating 57 yards through 5 catches, 2 of which were TDs. His performance is encouraging considering the Colts let Utecht and Fletcher go after last season and left many fans worried about our depth at TE. While it is too early to make a “final judgment” on a player after only one game, if Tamme proves that he can run routes, catch passes and generate yards when he is needed on a consistent basis, he will clearly be the best receiver we’ve had on the team to back-up Dallas Clark since Clark arrived.
Gijon Robinson – For many, coming into training camp, Gijon Robinson was a complete unknown. Whatever information folks might have gathered on Robinson after he was added to the franchise as a practice squad player last year had probably faded for almost every fan who stays on top of such information. Last week, however, Robinson made it clear that the big man fans saw in pictures from training camp also comes with nice hands and can certainly be used in the passing game, it was a good first impression for sure. I am less certain about how good of an impression he made as a blocker, though some fans complained that he was not as effective in that regard as they would have liked. In this game, Robinson took another step toward gaining the trust of Colts fans and coaches as a legitimate TE in the NFL by catching 3 passes for 30 yards. Anytime a rookie can come into the pre-season have a stat line like his, particularly as a reserve TE (especially with how talented our RB and WR options have proved to be) it bodes well for the coming season. I was not able to adequately assess his ability to block in this game either, unfortunately, and hope that others have had the opportunity to take a closer look and see where Robinson is here.
Mike Hart – A week removed from a game MVP level performance, Hart entered this game with an opportunity to legitimize his initial impression. Unfortunately, Hart received less work than he did a week ago. I say, unfortunately, not because Hart needed more opportunities to legitimize that initial impression than he was provided but because he, again, was exciting to watch and provided Colts fans with a reason to look forward to the coming season. In this game Hart only carried the ball twice, through which he was able to generate 20 yards for our offense. Averaging 10 yards per rush is nothing to sneeze at but really made his carries impressive is the traffic he had to negotiate to earn those yards. On his first run, Hart ran the ball right up the gut of the Panther’s defense, busting through the hole, quickly adjusting his route to get as many yards as possible, gaining an addition 5 or more yards (of the 18 he gained on the play) AFTER 3 Panthers defenders closed around him trying to make the tackle. On the next run, Hart was hit well almost immediately after getting the ball as he headed to the right side of our offensive line. What looked to be a sure loss or at best no gain at all turned into a 2 yard gain as Hart muscled forward, dragging his tackler as he fell forward. Watching the play I was astonished, there seemed no way we could hope to get anything out of that play… yet Hart found a way and kept the offense moving forward. Hart again looked well catching the ball pulling in 2 passes which he used to generate an additional 21 yards of offense, one 12 yards on one play and 9 yards on the other.
T.J. Rushing – Last week T.J. Rushing had an impressive punt return, which was unfortunately called back, but didn’t do much returning kicks. Pierre Garcon, on the other hand, returned the last kick of the night for more than 40 yards and gave fans a glimmer of hope that he might be a legit return man. In this game, Rushing took advantage of his opportunities and Garcon’s absence to return two kick, one for 42 yards and the other for 38 yard KR. It is difficult to have two long kick returns in the same night, the return man has no easy job, so it is encouraging to see Rushing put up such strong performances this early in the year. Breaking long runs is starting to become a regular occurrence for Rushing and fans could want nothing more than to see that. I am unwilling to anoint Rushing our kick and punt returner just after these two games, I would like to see him continue to perform throughout the remainder of the preseason and obviously, would really like another chance to see Pierre Garcon returning kicks, but he definitely is looking good for our return game. On the contrary, while Rushing has made a couple of decent plays on defense, what I’ve seen of him so far leads me to believe he’s not talented enough to make this roster for his defensive expertise. Our secondary is going to be really deep this year and outside of being an active component on special teams, Rushing doesn’t have what it takes to warrant a spot on the 53 man roster.
Jared Lorenzen – The Jared Lorenzen of a week ago disgusted me, I couldn’t pick out anything in that game that was truly positive in his performance outside of having a quick release and raising my eyebrows when he broke a run for a first down, displaying surprising speed. In this game, Lorenzen was an entirely different guy. He completed 12 out of 23 passes for 117 yards, with 2 TDs and without throwing an interception. Additionally, Lorenzen again displayed surprising speed and athletic ability for a man his size by breaking a run for 24 yards. After this game I feel like the question needs to be asked, “will the real Jared Lorenzen please stand up?” If Lorenzen takes advantage of the significant time I am sure he will see again next week and perform like he did against the Panthers, he will have the opportunity to potentially pass Gray and move into a better position to pressure Sorgi for the back-up spot, or at least give himself the chance to win a 3rd QB spot if we are forced to start the season with three on the roster.
Dante Hughes – After the Hall of Fame game some fans were excited about some of what they saw from Tim Jennings, who drew a lot of heat from fans for being mistake prone in the regular season last year. Coming into this game, Jennings had the opportunity to continue making a case for himself for the nickelback position on our defense. Instead, Dante Hughes outperformed Jennings and showed Colts fans the kinds of things they started to see during his rookie season before we lost him to an injury. Hughes did well in coverage, limiting receivers who drew his attention, including defending a pass. He also did well in run support and in bringing some pain to his opponent’s when he made his tackles. 2 of his 3 tackles were made on running backs, one stopped sweeping run to the outside for 12 yards and the other not only stopped the run after only 3 yards, it forced a fumble as well. The one pass he made against a receiver stopped the ball carrier quickly, allowing only 5 yards. It was definitely the kind of game Hughes needed to put himself back on top
Onrea Jones – Last week we found out that we have an extremely deep corps of WRs this year. So deep, in fact, it has been hard for fans (and probably coaches) to look forward to the tough decisions that will have to be made in the next few weeks on which WRs will take up spots on the 53 man roster, and on which or how many of the talented WRs who we have developed over the offseason warrants one of our practice squad spots. Most fans are certain that Roy Hall, Devin Aromashodu and Pierre Garcon are the only three WRs with legitimate chances for roster spots with most fans agreeing that it is likely the Colts fill six roster spots this year to keep all of the three mentioned above. However, Onrea Jones took advantage of his opportunity to play without the likes of Roy Hall or Pierre Garcon on the field. For the night, Jones caught 5 passes which generated 44 yards for our offense. He also showed nice hands, making some difficult catches in traffic. This week Jones was, at WR, what Gijon Robinson was last week, at TE. His performance at least made a strong case to keep him around, even if on the practice squad, and probably made him the most legitimate threat to the top three candidates for back-up spots at WR at this point in the preseason.
Kyle Shotwell – Let’s face it folks. Until Tyjuan Hagler and Clint Session return from injury, we have good reason to be concerned about finding quality depth at LB. Clearly, fans are excited at Philip Wheeler’s potential and most seem to believe he is a shoe-in to make the roster, barring news that his injury is far more serious than has been suggested and a decision to place him on the IR. However, Polian and Co. are definitely doing their share of shopping for behind the current starters, at least for the 2nd and/or 3rd back-up spots at the position, as was made clear when they added two LBs to the mix in Verdun Wheeler and Harrington in the past week. One player who stood out to my Dad last week was Kyle Shotwell. In this game, he appeared to take another step forward in making his case to make the regular season roster. He made 6 tackles on the night, which is solid given that he was not on the field for the whole game. What is more impressive is WHERE he made those tackles. His least impressive tackle netted only a 9 yard gain for the Panthers while he held the Panthers to 6 yards on one, 5 yards on another and only 4 yards on his other three. These numbers typically suggest that a LB is not allowing blockers to take him out of the play and is doing a good job of keeping plays in front of him. Collectively, after his play in the HoF game, the jury was still out on whether Shotwell was anything more than training camp fodder (most fans probably didn’t even know who he was and may still not), even fewer probably got the idea that he might be worthy of a practice squad spot. However, one would think that fans would notice a strong performance like the one he showed tonight and start taking notice of the chance that he may bring some real value to our depth at LB. For those who are not in the know on Shotwell, which included me until recently and primarily because of my Dad’s observations, below are some measurables that might get your attention.
Height: 6’0” Weight: 235 lbs. – 37 inch vertical jump : 4.52 seconds registered 40 time with scouts in 2007 : 4.4 overall personal best in the 40 – Voted the top defensive player in Div. II football as a senior at Cal Poly – his biggest strength playing college ball – he made an asinine number of tackles
Height: 6’3” Weight: 250 lbs. 4.68 40 yard dash
Brannon Condren – Last week Condren showed speed and a nose for the ball, making tackles or consistently filling our TV screens in close pursuit when other players beat him to opposing ball carriers. This week he continued to be highly active and productive making 8 tackles with 1 assist. One criticism on Condren, however, is that the stats indicate he is much more suited to stop the run than he is to pester receivers in coverage. His 3 tackles and 1 assist against the run stopped Panther RBs for 3 yards twice, allowing only 4 and 5 yards on the others. When tackling receivers, however, Condren brought down opponents after gains of 11, 13, 19, 21, 46 (reversed after challenge) and 37 yards. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s possible that some or most of those high numbers are the result of blown coverage by others, but it is definitely likely that some of those high numbers indicate that Condren did not do an exceptional job in pass coverage. He’s definitely improved and probably still improving, may make the roster our 2nd back-up safety and will most likely land on the practice squad if he does not… but he is someone worth keeping an eye on as training camp and preseason play continues.
Rookie/2nd string OL – Last week our offensive line look good overall and many of us grew excited in seeing that we are very deep at this position. This week the first team offensive line did not look well but the young players, rookies and other second string OLs, continued to give fans a reason to be stoked about Polian’s draft choices. I did not pick out a specific player this week from the 2nd unit who stood out but still am very happy with what I am seeing from our reserves on the OL.
Marvin Harrison – Realistically, for Marvin to be seen on a football field during an actual game should almost be enough for desperate Colts fans who can’t help but feel short of breath as they wonder about Marvin Harrison’s future with the Colts, particularly how much they can expect from him in the coming season. Not only did Marvin dress for and play in tonight’s game, he looked strong, ran well, made cuts… looked like the Marvelous of old and even produced 22 yards on 3 receptions, the first of which gave the Colts struggling first team offense its first first down of the night. All signs indicate that Marvin is back, ready to play, and still dangerous. Welcome back Marvin!
Anthony Gonzalez – Last year, as a rookie, Anthony Gonzalez worked with the offense in the slot in the preseason. With the loss of Marvin Harrison just four games into his career, he was forced into the wideout position and performed respectively and showed glimpses of scary ability. During the HoF game Gonzalez made only two receptions and generated only 7 yards. While he made a difficult catch on a pass thrown behind him on one of those receptions for 2 yards, last week’s game really didn’t give fans a chance to see the kind of weapon Gonzalez can be in our offense this year and in his natural slot position. This week, however, Gonzalez 2 passes but took 23 yards on one of those passes and 16 yards on the other for a 39 yard total receiving on the day. Given that Gonzalez, of course, was extremely limited in the number of player he had to work with, a 40 yard day is something to be excited about. I can’t wait to see more of him next week and am really excited about the prospect of having the slot machine v.2.0 as a part of our offensive arsenal heading into this season.
Dallas Clark – Last week Clark was a stud, showing his speed, ability to run after the catch, and ability to create space against opposing defenders. This week he showed another glimpse at his talent by catching one pass for 26 yards. To be brief, Clark is looking really good.
Keiwan Ratliff – Ratliff really hasn’t been on the radar as a DB pushing for a spot on the roster or even the practice squad. Many Colts fans are excited about the talent and depth of our secondary as they look forward to the year so grabbing attention at CB is no easy task. This week, Ratliff did a pretty good job of doing just that by making 4 tackles (3 giving up 9 yards and 1 giving up 4 yards). That his tackles were not made after big gains suggests on some level that he was sticking with receivers who drew his coverage and quickly making plays after opposing receiver caught the ball. Another indication of this is that finished the night with an interception which he returned for 4 yards. Additionally, with Garcon sitting out, Ratliff got a look returning punts; fair catching one and returning two others for 5 and 7 yards. If T.J. Rushing is any indication, if you want to make the Colts roster or the practice squad as a DB… you better bring more to the table than just coverage skills. It look like the coaches are giving Ratliff the opportunity to do so.
Ramon Guzman – Last week Guzman really disappointed me personally, and I don’t believe many Colts fans found big reasons to get excited about his play. This week, he looked better, making 4 tackles with 2 assists (two ST tackles on punt coverage which both stopped Panther return men for no gain). His other tackles were all made against the run with the two solos allowing 4 and 7 yards, the 2 assists allowed yard and resulted in a 2 yard loss. Additionally, Guzman recovered the fumble Hughes created and returned it 31 yards. At the very least he seemed to be in position to make plays more often and showed a better ability to keep plays in front of him. Still, though, the most value he brings to the team may be on ST and he will need to do more to gain the confidence of coaches and fans to be considered a legitimate option in the LB rotation.
Eric Foster – Foster received mixed reviews from fans after his debut last week. It is clear that fans were irritated overall with our play on the interior of our defensive line. To make matters worse, or Foster’s job more difficult, he has received a lot of attention from fans, coaches and others around the league with his impressive work over the course of the offseason. Tonight he made two tackles, which included a sack which set the Panthers back 10 yards. However, the other tackle gave up 7 yards on a run up the middle. Admittedly, it has been difficult to get a good read on Foster because so many players are switching in and out and because we are all dealing with getting familiar with numbers but I will say this. Based upon my observation of our DT play this week, I didn’t see anyone who appeared to control the line of scrimmage or consistently draw a lot of attention from the Carolina OL. It is possible I missed it and I don’t have it taped so I can’t tediously review the game to pick out Foster on every play but, again, outside of getting the sack… I can’t remember any DT who really jumped out at me.
Danny Verdun Wheeler – The second LB added last week. Interesting enough we picked him up after the Redskins cut him after the Hall of Fame game last week. He, like Harrington, was considered only training camp fodder to protect our other LBs from potential injury. However, to his credit, he did make 2 tackles with 2 assists (one assist shared with M. Hart in kick coverage). The encouraging stat line is that the tackles he did make stuffed a run for a 2 yard loss (assisted by Harrington), stopped another run for no gain and stopped a WR to allow only 1 yard. Of course, VW may have blown assignments and allowed big plays on other occasions while he was in the game but his state line at least seems respectable given the limited time he has had to familiarize himself with our defense.
Jordan Senn – Last week Senn perplexed me when he finished the game with 11 tackles. While some players popped out at me with more modest stat lines, Senn not getting my attention while making 11 tackles just didn’t make any sense. This week Senn got work with the first unit and finished the game with 4 tackles (one on kick coverage) and 2 assists. Senn’s tackles also warrant some acknowledgment as his allowed runs of only 4 and 6 yards on his solo tackles against the run, with another solo stop allowing only 2 yards on a pass. His two assists were both against the run and stopped Panther backs for a 1 yard loss and 3 yard gain (assisted by Brackett and Condren respectively). Obviously it is critical that Senn show value on special teams if he wishes to make the roster, particularly if he hopes to beat out Guzman who also made special teams plays as discussed above. However, it would seem that 15 tackles and two assists in his first two games, along with the respectable yardage allowed on his stops tonight, at least deserves a look. I like him to compete with Shotwell and Guzman for the final roster spots at back-up LB but think it more likely that he is playing for a spot on the practice squad.
Chad Simpson – Last week Simpson did not have many chances to display his talent. This week, especially with the release of Clifton Dawson and limited time for Joseph Addai (as expected) he had a better chance to show coaches and fans what he brings to the table. Simpson carried the ball 4 time generating a total of 27 yards, including one 16 yard run. He also caught a pass out of the backfield for seven yards. It was obvious that Simpson has blazing speed, quite possibly the fastest running back we’ll see in camp and preseason for the Colts this year. The problem for Simpson, of course, is Mike Hart. It is possible though, if Simpson continues to take advantage of his opportunities and produces at the same level as he did tonight, he could find his way onto the 53 man roster if we choose to keep 4 backs on the roster like we did last year. He brings a finesse running style option with him to the roster if he makes it, a style that may make him more appealing than Dawson should he be resigned (since Hart offers everything and more than Dawson, with a style somewhat similar to Dawson’s). I would say he has to beat out Kenton Keith for a spot as well but am utterly convinced Keith is a goner. Either way, if Simpson continues to produce as well as he did this week, a strong case will be made to stash him on the practice squad and develop him for next year when Rhodes will likely depart again.
Dedrick Harrington – Harrington was one of the two new linebackers the Colts picked up last week. He, like Verdun Wheeler, came with a rep of being too big and/or slow to fit into the Colts defensive scheme and quickly dismissed as one of those “pointless” preseason acquisitions made only to protect better LBs from injury. However, with less than a full week to become familiar with our defense, he did some positive things. Harrington had 4 tackles and 3 assists on the night. What is compelling though is that, outside of giving up 16 yards to a Panther receiver on one of his assisted tackles, all of his others tackles gave up no more than two yards. His 4 solo tackles stopped Panther RBs twice for no gain, twice for only a 1 yard gain. In his two remaining assists the RBs were stopped for only 2 yard gains. While it may well be possible that Harrington failed to make plays he should have made and was exposed as being weak in pass coverage, it is nice to see him be in on six plays which stopped the Panther running attack… considering the defense gave up 207 yards on the ground on the night on 48 rushing plays. 6 of those 48 plays ended with Harrington and netted only 6 yards.
Adam Vinatieri – Word on Vinatieri throughout camp has been that he looks like he is in the best physical shape of his life and that he has been consistently making 50+ yard field goals in practice. His body of work tonight indicates that the word is probably right. Not only did he boot a 42 yard field goal, he also was 2/3 on kickoffs for touch backs and made both XP attempts (THEY WEREN’T BLOCKED… YAY!!!) He’s ready… and that’s a great thing to see after having an off year last year.
Adam Crossett – While it may be entirely silly, because Vinatieri has a complete lock on the K position and appears to have plenty of miles left on him, and because Hunter Smith is a respectable punter in the league and has been entrenched as our starting P for so long (when do we need a punter with this offense anyway? Lol), Adam Crossett seems pretty freakin’ good. In four kickoffs, one resulted in a touch back, one landed at the 1 yard line, one at the 2 yard line and 1 at the fifteen. The kid has a pretty strong leg and one that is particularly multi-talented. He kicked a 34 yard field goal and punted twice, once for 34 yards which came down inside the 20 and another for 43 yards. For a comparison, Hunter punted twice for 47 and 50 yards. His long being only 4 and 7 yards show of Hunter is pretty respectable. Put his respectable performance on kickoffs, success kicking a 34 yard field goal and respectable performance punting the ball together and he seems like a kicking extraordinaire. Especially for someone who stuck on waivers again throughout the whole week and was readily available to be picked up by the Colts at the last moment for the second time before this week’s game against the Panthers. Thought he was worth a mention.
Gary Brackett – Brackett getting back on the field is reason enough for celebration. He finished the night with 3 tackles and 1 assist. Two of his tackles were made beyond 10 yards unfortunately. Will be glad when he is back in the swing of things.
Jamie Silva – After the HoF game I mentioned Silva as one player I really didn’t notice on the field. After I looked at the state line last week I realized that he did make some plays but had little else to go on as a reason to feel confident in Silva’s chances to make the roster… heck, I didn’t have a reason based just on watching the game to believe he has a chance to make the practice squad. This week’s game was similar in that he did nothing so spectacular that it really got my attention, however he did finished the game with 3 tackles, 1 assist and a pass defensed. His solo tackles were all made against the run and allowed no gain, 3 yards and 14 yards. His assist allowed 12 yards and was joined by D. Hughes. At this point, we know Giordano has a spot and Condren seems to be making the biggest impression for an additional roster spot at Safety if necessary but Silva seems to be doing something. Still, he will need to make an impression on STs and quick if he has any chance at the roster… although it is more likely that stronger performances to finish out the preseason will give him a shot at the practice squad.
Tony Ugoh/Starting O-Line – Struggled against the speed rush. Julius Peppers was a highly feared DE a few years ago and should still be respected but I expect Ugoh to do a far better job than he did this week. I imagine he’ll get a lot of work during practice over the next week to prepare for our next game. Hopefully it was just a fluke… but Ugoh didn’t look as strong as we’ll need him to be in pass protection.
Marcus Howard – Last week Howard drew a great deal of attention and made some exciting plays. This week he was either severely limited, ineffective or both. Based on the early deficit our first unit got into and on the excessive number of running plays Carolina ran on the night (48) it wouldn’t be surprising if Howard was limited.
Samuel Giguere – Don’t know what to say here. Not catching a single pass or possibly even not getting in the game for a single play during the first two preseason games is not a good sign. All the talent our WRs are showing who are getting in the games does not bode well for Giguere’s future with the Colts. If someone knows the story, the particular reason we’ve not yet seen him in action, I would be very interested to hear it.