As I noted in our little preview yesterday, I focused on three players last night: Ollie Ogbu, Joe Lefeged, and Jerry Hughes. Other players also stood out in the Colts awful 16-3 preseason loss to the Redskins. Some stood out for good reasons, but most stood out for bad because the depth on this team is sorely lacking.
I mean, seriously. When John Beck is able to effectively carve up your defense, which wasn't missing that many starters, your talent in that area simply isn't that good.
The offense for the Colts wasn't anything to stand up and cheer for either. In fact, they might have been better served simply defaulting on downs one through three, and skipping directly to Pat McAfee punting. McAfee's punt average for the game (46 yards) was more than the Colts offense accumulated in the first half: 41 total.
Much of the reason for the Colts putrid showing on offense was Curtis Painter. He was 5-10 for 40 yards, but his throws were off, his pocket presence non-existent, and his playmaking skills tragically comedic. He drove the Colts to one first down in two quarters of play. It was a poor effort, and the player many feel is the worst quarterback in the NFL did himself no favors last night.
For a game like this, I don't like to 'accentuate the positives.' Coaches are supposed to do that crap. My job is to point out the good and the bad, and if there is 90% 'bad,' then simply ignoring it and saying, 'It's not that bad,' is not going to fix the problems. Yes, it's preseason. Yes, Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Anthony Gonzalez did not play. I understand that.
Here's my word of warning: Part of the reason Peyton Manning took 'less money' this offseason was so the Cols could use it to improve their team. Ask yourself, honestly, did last night show you and improved Colts football team?
Here are my game notes, with most of them focused on Ogbu, Hughes, and Lefeged:
- The 56-yard run by Tim Hightower on the second play of the game was embarrassing. It was also all Dwight Freeney's fault. He was completely blocked out of the play by, I believe, Trent Williams. This gave Hightower a big cutback lane. The linebackers, in particular Kavell Conner and Gary Brackett, were blocked out of the play. Thus, Tim Hightower, who has absolutely no speed, ran untouched for 56 yards. If that's Arian Foster in Week One, that's a touchdown.
- Antoine Bethea injured his hamstring tackling Hightower. Joe Lefeged took his place at free safety, and looked good. Lefeged is better suited for SS, but I was impressed how effective he was filling in for Bethea. It's now obvious to me that the coaches feel he is the depth they need at SS. I'm not saying I think that's smart (because it isn't), but Lefeged will definitely make the 53-man roster, baring injury.
- The defense's inability to get teams off the field on third down has been an issue since Bill Polian arrived in Indianapolis back in 1998. The Colts have gone through four defensive coordinators during that time, with two of them being Tony Dungy (who really controlled the defense during his tenure, not Ron Meeks) and Larry Coyer. Like Dungy, Coyer is very well respected and he is known for crafting defenses that stop the run and get teams off the field on third down. Not even he can figure out a way to fix this issue. It's not coaches. It's personnel.
- Example, on 3rd and 8 at the 7:30 mark in the first quarter, the Colts corners are giving up 10-yard cushions to the receivers. I realize that, for almost the entire night, the defense ran vanilla Cover-2. But, on 3rd and 8, a 10-yard cushion is simply conceding the play. Despite Robert Mathis being used as a roaming linebacker, rushing the passer while standing up from the left side, and Gary Brackett blitzing from the middle, John Beck was able to make his 3-step drop and fire a pass out to Anthony Armstrong. Jacob Lacey, the Colts corner on Armstrong, was 10 yards off him pre-snap. If Lacey steps up, jams Armstrong hard at the line, then the route is thrown off. Beck, who was pressured even though he was making a three-step drop, likely can't complete the pass if Lacey throws off the route. Instead, Armstrong runs clean off the line, turns, and converts the third down. Even Colts TV analyst Mark Herrmann noticed it: ''That's too much room on a third down play.'
- At 6:05 mark, I noticed Hughes was in the game. He did a nice job running down the line and making a tackle, opposite field, on Tim Hightower for minimal gain.
- Same drive, 2nd and to at the 4:33 mark. Colts blitz again. Again, Lacey gives huge cushion. Beck takes 3 seconds, delivers pass over middle to Santanna Moss who catches and runs for first down. Can't play that coverage if team is blitzing. Gotta man up. If Lacey can't do that, we either shouldn't blitz, or Lacey should be cut.
- Same drive, 3:10 mark, Antonio Johnson and Dwight Freeney blast through the offensive line. Both get credit for sacking Beck. Freeney absolutely destroyed Trent Williams on the play.
- Overall, impressive night for Mookie Johnson. He was really bringing it, and rarely was overwhelmed at the point of attack.
- 3rd down, same drive, Joe Lefeged comes up from safety spot and blows up Redskins runningback short of first down. Nice play there. Redskins kicked a field goal.
- In the second quarter, I was very impressed with the play of Ricardo Mathews and Drake Nevis at the DT spots. Nevis is simply a beast. He should be starting Week One because he is better than Fili Moala, who did nothing last night.
- Here's another example of terrible play by the corners. At the 5:29 mark in the second quarter, the Colts get the Redskins into a 3rd and 12. I remember noting, 'If they can't get them off the field here, our defense is in trouble for 2011.' Beck was pressured by John Chick. Beck then steps to his left and delivers throw to Donte Stallworth for first down. Stallworth was open because of horrible coverage by Jerraud Powers. After Stallworth got off the line, Powers gave him a very weak 'patty cake' jam. This did nothing to throw off Stallworth's route.
- Second quarter saw Ollie Ogbu in the game. He mostly played UT with Mathews at NT. I consider this a compliment for Ogbu: I often got him confused with Nevis.
- John Chick's sack before the 2:00 warning was a result of Redskins LT Trent Williams simply falling down.
- At the 1:55 mark, once again Jerry Hughes made a good play. He recognized the screen, read it well, and stopped it short of the first down. Hughes was very solid making plays opposite side of the field. However, all evening, his pass rushing was inconsistent at best.
- When the Colts got the ball back at roughly the 1:45 mark before halftime, rookie LT Anthony Castonzo seemed to make the wrong read. He left Brian Orakpo unblocked, and Orakpo had a clean shot at Donald Brown in the backfield for a big loss.
- Right out of halftime, Dan Orlovsky game in and played quarterback. He drove the Colts inside Redskins territory despite his offensive line, in particular Jeff Linkenbach, sucking. Orlovsky was constantly having to move and run for his life. Yet, he made good reads and delivered the football well.
- Mark Herrmann when Orlovsky was in the game: 'It's a welcome sight to see a first down.'
- Javarris James is so very impressive. Hard running. Great receiving out of the backfield. Baby J's great run off a screen was the result of Orlovsky effectively drawing in the pressure, Joe Reitz making an excellent seal block, and JJ making a great cut right of that block. I will be very, very pissed if Baby J doesn't make the cut. He's a very solid back, and an excellent special teams player.
- Inside Redskins territory, on the 3rd down play for the opening drive after halftime, Orlovsky kept two backs in with him to block. Both JJ and the tight end DeVree whiffed, and Linkenbach was totally owned off the right edge. Orlovsky had no chance. Sack.
- Adam Vinatieri kicked a 55-yard FG. Very nice.
- The second half, while mostly painful to watch, showcased some of Delone Carter's skills. His 3rd-and-1 run was quite impressive. I'm also surprised how well his receiving skills have improved.
- Taj Smith will get cut for missing that catch by Orlovsky deep down the right sideline. Orlovsky threw a perfect ball. All Smith has to do is reach up and catch it. In the pros, that's as easy as it gets. Smith bobbled the pass and didn't have control of it running out-of-bounds. We saw Smith whiff on a similar pass last year in preseason against, I believe, the 49ers. In the NFL, you must make that catch clean. Bye-bye, Taj.
- Yes, I know Taj is a good special teamer, but WRs who cannot catch pretty much define the label 'useless.' Unless you see the Colts cutting Gonzo or IRing Blair White, Taj Smith is not making this roster.
- In general, I liked what I saw last night from Tyler Brayton, No. 75. He was solid at the point of attack at a DE, and I think I saw him rushing from DT spot.
- I liked Joe Lefeged returning punts. He fielded them well, and did some things to make some guys miss.
- Adrian Moten's pick on Rex Grossman was superb coverage play. I think Moten will either steal Cody Glenn's or Ernie Sims' job. Moten was also good on special teams last night.
If you are looking for positives here, I guess I can tell you that I feel better about the DT position. I also think the Colts might have found a small gem in Joe Lefeged, and I did see some improved play from Jerry Hughes. Even even got credit for a sack in the second half!
In general, I like the left side of the Colts o-line. Castonzo and Retiz were able to get some nice push left. Mike Pollak and Ryan Diem were useless on the right. TV play-by-play man Don Fisher and Mark Herrmann stated it was only a matter of time before Diem is moved back to guard and Pollak is warming the pine.
I'll toss Pollak this bone though: He looked better at center. Nothing great, but nothing terrible either.
Overall, I'm concerned with the team's depth. I know some people simply write it off as, 'It's just preseason,' but we've seen rookie QBs like Ryan Mallet in New England and Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville come in and play pretty well. Those guys are rookies. Painter is a third year player, and he still looks as bad today as he did his rookie year. Again, from a talent and performance standpoint, there is no logical reason Curtis Painter should still be on this roster. Orlovsky has pretty clearly outplayed him, and has done so with inferior talent surrounding him.
What were your thoughts? Observations? Suggestions? Please discuss.