Every preseason, I pick four or five Colts players and focus on their development; from training camp on through game four to the final 53-man roster cutdowns. In the past, we saw good players get cut and bad players retained because of the egos controlling the front office. It drove me nuts. This year, the front office is more concerned with winning, player development, and finding the absolute best 53 players possible for the 2012 season. Thus, it makes my job of singling out four or so players easier, which I appreciate.
The first preseason game is in the books, and everyone and their mother is raving about Andrew Luck. True to form, Luck's performance against the Rams will get overblown and overhyped because that's just how things roll today. The moment Luck throws a costly INT, the same people anointing him with oils will begin to question whether or not he was worth the No. 1 overall pick.
Don't get pissed when this happens, my friends. Don't overreact. That's what they want. They want you frothy-faced mad and screaming at Colin Cowherd's smug mug as it mocks you from your television. Relax. Just take it in stride. It's only football, you know.
We made it a point to pick four players not named Andrew Luck for my annual spotlight series. Today, we have one game's worth of tape to evaluate them.
Players After Preseason Game One
Moore is pretty well entrenched as the Colts No. 2 starter behind Donald Brown. I said last week that Moore would overtake Brown as the starter if Brown didn't prove something in preseason. Well, maybe Brown saw me write this, because the first play from scrimmage by the Colts offense on Sunday against the Rams was a 63-yard catch-and-run by Brown for a touchdown.
True to form, I got trolled by Brown's loyal followers on Twitter as if I were upset that the former first rounder had showed something on the football field. Folks, a productive Donald Brown is exactly what I want. The fact is he has never been consistent, and his pass blocking skills are still a joke. In this league, blocking is just as important as running.
This brings me back to Moore. He had just two carries in the game (4 yards), but he also had a very nice catch-and-run for a 9 yards on first down in the second quarter. More importantly, it was when Moore came in the game that the pass blocking started to gel. I have not gone back and re-watched this, but I do have it in my notes. When Moore was back there to pass block, Luck started to have more time to throw (unlike the first two series, where Luck was running for his life). Moore seemed to be much more stable as a pass blocker, and he worked well as an outlet receiver for Luck.
If we are to use the Steelers as the offensive model, look for Moore to me Luck's third down back while Brown only plays on obvious run downs.
LaVon Brazill, WR
He had three catches for 38 yards, but he also had a key drop in the second quarter on a drive where drops seemed to be contagious. Coby Fleener and Austin Collie also let easy catches bounce out of their hands. Regardless, Brazill did make one grab that was impressive, snatching the football out of the air on an outside slant.
With Donnie Avery nursing a thigh injury (something that does not bode well for Avery, who is known as a brittle, injury-prone player), look for Brazill or T.Y. Hilton to take his place. Hilton also looked good against the Rams.
Jerry Hughes, OLB
Just like Donald Brown, Jerry Hughes had something to prove this preseason. He'd looked good in camp, but as Andrew Mishler correctly pointed out, Hughes looked good in last year's camp only to stink it up in preseason. This year, it looks as if Jerry might have taken a step.
Against the Rams, he played brilliantly.
Working mostly from a stand-up position, Hughes looked so much more comfortable and fluid rushing from an OLBer spot than DE. It is very possible that the switch to a 3-4 base defense could save Hughes' career. He notched two impressive sacks rushing from the outside. He also seemed to be in on every single running back tackle.
One interesting note: Hughes spelled Dwight Freeney at the rush linebacker position, not Robert Mathis (who Hughes is listed as the back-up to). However, unlike Freeney, Hughes did not rush from the DE position (a.k.a. with his hand on the ground).
Cassius Vaughn, CB
As we noted in our breakdown of the first defensive series, the Colts seem content to start Justin King on the outside at left corner. Then, on third down passing situations, Vaughn is getting brought in to play left corner while King shifts to cover the slot.
I didn't notice anything good about Vaughn's play, but nothing bad really stood out either. Part of the reason for that was the Rams clearly targeting King no matter where he lined up. King finished the game with a team high 6 tackles.
If there is a player you are watching or interested in, toss his name and a write-up in the comments below.