Every preseason, we 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. This is our evaluation of four players after the Colts second preseason game of 2012.
Preseason Game Two V. The Pittsburgh Steelers
, RBVick Ballard, RB
As expected, Ballard saw a lot of action with the ones, and he did not disappoint. While the stat line isn't great (10 rushes, 34 yards), he had several tough, hard runs that produced key yards in critical situations. For example, on the drive after the second Andrew Luck INT (the one that should have been a 43-yard touchdown had T.Y. Hilton not let it bounce off his hands), Ballard gained a first down on a 2nd-and-2, grinding out 8 yards. On the same drive, he almost scored from 7 yards out. The call on the field was that he did score, but the play was challenged. Replays did not have enough evidence to overturn the call, but for whatever reason the replacement refs decided to take Ballard's TD off the board.
Then, they spotted the ball in the wrong place, a full yard away from where it should have been.
If there is one concerning thing to pick at, it's that Ballard failed to score after two tries from the one. One the second down play, he tried to leap over the Steelers line, but was "met" in mid-air by Ryan Baker. Ballard was stuffed. The Colts did eventually score on third down, with Luck faking a hand-off to Ballard and sliding into the endzone. Of course, Luck should not have been awarded that TD because he began his slide before the ball crossed the goal line, but whatever. The Ballard TD should have counted. A bad make-up non-call for a blown replay call and a bad ball spot.
All in all, a solid night for Ballard.
Note: Mewelde Moore did not play because of a rib injury. When he returns, we'll switch our profile back to him.
LaVon Brazill, WR
has thrust Brazill into the limelight a bit. After Collie went down, Brazill saw significant action with the ones. The stat line shows 2 catches for 25 yards, but it doesn't show when he made those catches. His first one was on a 3rd-and-6 on the drive after most recent concussionAntonio Brown's 57-yard scamper into the Colts endzone. Brown caught the ball on third down, and gained 11 yards. The next one was on 2nd-and-1. This was during the two-minute drive before the half that eventually resulted in an Adam Vinatieri field goal. Luck hit Brazill for 14 yards on that play, progressing from the Indy 43 to the Pittsburgh 43 with 16 seconds left.
I haven't gone back and rewatched the tape in order to focus specifically on Brazill, but I don't recall seeing any drops. Drew Stanton had trouble locating him in the second half, but, for what I have noted, when Brazill needed to make a play Sunday night, he did both on offense and in the return game. It should be noted that his return stats were not stellar, but he seems much more comfortable handling punts than T.Y. Hilton right now.
In fact, overall, right now Brazill is better than Hilton.
Jerry Hughes, OLB
I've spent the last few weeks chatting privately with one of the Colts former area scouts. He was let go after the Polianoscopy the franchise went through earlier this year. Basically, from his P.O.V., the switch to the 3-4 defense is not the reason Hughes is playing so well now.
It was the threat of getting cut by Ryan Grigson.
For this scout, Hughes could always play as a DE in a 4-3 or a LBer in a 3-4. Didn't matter. However, Hughes was not motivated to succeed while the Polians were in town. With Grigson now in charge, there is no one to coddle Jerry. Thus, he's motivated and playing well. The scout told me Hughes looks like a totally different player out there. I agree. He notched his third sack in two preseason games, and he led the team in tackles (7). Granted, Hughes did this against Pittsburgh's second stringers on offense, but that was to be expected.
It's encouraging to see Hughes finally develop, but like Andrew Mishler, I temper my expectations. Hughes is still a major draft bust, and it is very difficult to trust him. He basically needed to be threatened with unemployment in order to play closer to his potential. I don't have much respect for players like that, but that's just me.
Oh, and to answer one question that seems to be making the rounds in the comments, yes. I'd have cut Hughes last year for John Chick if I were the G.M. Chick, unlike Hughes, practices and plays hard every day. I'll take dudes like that any day over lazy first round busts like Hughes. Somehow, I get the feeling Ryan Grigson would agree with me.
Cassius Vaughn, CB
Vaughn ad a rough night. Former-Colts wideout David Gilreath was killing him in the second half, including one play that netted 41 yards. Vaughn looked lost in coverage, and he earned only two tackles.
I can see now why Vaughn seems to be falling down the depth chart.
If there is a player you are watching or interested in, toss his name and a write-up in the comments below.