In Ryan Grigson I trust.
Well, at least I do after one preseason game.
Seven out of the 10 players the Colts drafted this spring played yesterday, and all seven of them made plays that impressed me. Especially Andrew Luck. That guy made a lot good plays.
But so did Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T.Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard, LaVon Brazill and Chandler Harnish. It may be just one preseason game, but the rookies made an incredible first impression against the Rams.
As we wait for NT Josh Chapman, OG Justin Anderson and OLB Tim Fugger to return to the lineup, those seven players are the ones who will be under the most scrutiny when it comes to the first-year players.
Read on after the jump to see what I liked about each of them in the game.
I'm still running through highlights of Luck on NFL.com, and it's still giving me goosebumps.
His pocket presence and mobility were phenomenal on every passing play, especially his quick spinmove out of the backfield in the second quarter. His decision making was great, even on the sideline dart to T.Y. Hilton that looked close to being picked off. An average quarterback wouldn't have been able to make such a precise pass that Luck did, threading the ball into Hilton's hands and over the defender. Luck isn't an average quarterback. In the end, it was just an outstanding pass and an outstanding catch. Beautiful play to watch.
His arm strength was on display with the touchdown pass to Austin Collie, as well as his ability to go through his progressions and even move the defense! Sideline Scouting mentioned it first on Twitter that Luck had looked through three different receivers before locking onto Collie on that play. Those darting eyes put the centerfield safety in cement, causing Collie to get wide open for a bullet pass from Luck.
I couldn't have imagined a better debut for Luck, and that's saying something. Through one game, our new quarterback looks like the real deal.
Fleener didn't get much of a chance to shine as a receiver. He had one nice catch in the flat that went for five yards and one drop over the middle that probably would have gone for at least 10. The DB may have draped over his back on that drop, but that's still no excuse for it. His routes looked like they should have been cleaner in order to create more separation, so he'll have to improve that.
Either way, I was actually more impressed by a play that showed off Fleener's blocking. If you go back and watch the Donald Brown touchdown, you'll see Fleener in motion at the left side of the line, lining up as an H-back. As soon as the ball is snapped, he heads into the second level, finds a defensive back and gives him two good pushes that sends the defender 10 yards in reverse. At that point, Donald Brown was already heading upfield, and even though the defender regains his footing and squeezes past Fleener, he's already too late to stop Brown. Fleener opened up that run on the left, along with LG Joe Reitz, and was one of the two key players that allowed Brown to break into the open field. The other player who opened the play up on the right side is conveniently the next player to talk about in this list.
It's a little disappointing that Allen didn't get an opportunity to catch a pass in this game, but his tremendous block on Donald's Brown's run made up for it.
Allen starts the play with his hand in the dirt next to right tackle Winston Justice. He chips a charging pass rusher to assist Justice and then charges upfield to find someone to block. Quintin Mikell ends up being his victim. As soon as Allen gets his hands on Mikell, it's over. Allen easily takes Mikell out of the play as Brown bursts right past them, and just for good measure, Allen pancakes Mikell to the turf.
It wasn't just an incredible play to start Luck's career. Fleener and Allen should be included in that sentence as well.
As I mentioned before, Hilton's grab over Janoris Jenkins was great. Plucking it out of the air with such ease and managing to get his feet down isn't the kind of catch I would expect a rookie to make in his first NFL game.
Once Stanton came into the game at QB, Hilton pulled in another two catches and ended up with 25 yards on the day. His speed and shiftiness wasn't tested much in the return game, but his hands looked reliable and he found soft spots in the Rams defense on the two throws from Stanton.
Hilton did make a questionable decision to let a punt go past him near the goal-line when he had a wide open field in front of him, but I won't criticize him for the bad bounce it took that allowed the Rams to down it inside the five-yard line. Next time, I do want to see him bring that out, though. No hesitation.
Quick, quick, quick. Ballard's first three runs went for 27 yards, and he looked decisive and shifty on all three of them. I loved how fast he moved his feet and how quickly he ran upfield. His runs may have come against second stringers at that point, but Ballard looked like the best playmaking running back on the night, outside of Donald Brown's big catch-and-run.
The Rams announcers may have said that Ballard fumbled inside the red zone during one drive, but that was actually Darren Evans. Ballard was pretty mistake free and took what the offensive line was able to give him.
Out of all the rookies listed here, I'm most interested in seeing Ballard in the next preseason game. He gave a good taste of what he can do, but I want to see more. Maybe even a few snaps with the first-string offense.
Brazill started his career out with a drop on a good pass from Luck, but he looked pretty good after that. He snagged a slightly off-target pass from Luck out of the air and took it for a first down in the second quarter, and then climbed a ladder to catch a 16-yard pass from Stanton in the third quarter.
I wish he would have come down with more than three catches off his six targets, especially the deep sideline pass that was broken up by Janoris Jenkins, but I was pleased with what I saw. Brazill looked like a smooth route runner who knew how to get open and he made some impressive catches in the process.
Again, these are rookies that are making all these plays. If they can do this in their debut, we should start to see even better results as they continue to grow.
Remember the days where it would be a miracle for a Colts backup QB to even complete a pass? In only three passes, Harnish put all of those past quarterbacks to shame. His two short completions were smart decisions, and his deep pass looked like a throw a 3rd-string rookie QB shouldn't be able to make, hitting Jeremy Ross right in stride for the easy touchdown.
It's admittedly a small sample size for Harnish, who was reduced to handing off the ball for most of the fourth quarter. I hope the coaching staff gives him a better opportunity to fling some balls around in the next game when they hopefully won't have to just burn time off the clock.
I'm sure there are a few plays, good or bad, that I missed from this group. Feel free to add your thoughts on these players in the comments. Let's have a conversation.