Preseason or not, that was pretty rough. Missed throws, fumbles, whiffed blocks, missed tackles, and more were the story of today's game for the Indianapolis Colts as they lost 36-10 on the road to the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason opener.
There was some good, for sure - such as Josh Robinson, the rookie running back who had a nice debut. But there was also a lot of bad from the Colts, and a lot of ugly from both teams in the first preseason game. As Rick Venturi (the color analyst for FOX59 today who did a good job) noted, the Colts were completely dominated in every facet of the game.
We got to see the Colts play in a game for the first time this year, and it was a bit of a let-down. Of course, let's not overreact to the preseason, however. The Colts are now just 4-9 in the preseason under Chuck Pagano, but they're 33-15 in the regular season. Last year, the Colts were 0-4 in the preseason and ended up going 11-5, winning the division, winning two playoff games, and making the AFC Championship game. We can still learn things from preseason games, but let's keep it in perspective too.
With that said, here's some notes from the initial viewing of the game:
- One of the positives from the game for the Colts was quarterback Andrew Luck - the player who nobody is worried about. He completed 5/6 passes for 43 yards, with the only incompletion coming on a drop by a wide open Coby Fleener. He was subbed out during the middle of his second drive, but he looks to already be in midseason form.
- We might as well just call this Colts' preseason game "The Zurlon Tipton Show." With starting running back Frank Gore not playing, Vick Ballard inactive as he recovers from injury, and Boom Herron not playing either, that left Zurlon Tipton as the starting running back today. He was their second-string back during the playoffs last year and could be a decent backup, but he's fighting for a roster spot. He didn't do much today to convince the Colts he's worth that roster spot, but then again he didn't get much help either. Tipton touched the football 20 times, gaining 56 yards (averaging 2.8 yards per carry). He rushed for just 34 yards on 16 carries, averaging 2.1 yards per carry. He also caught four passes for 22 yards. It wasn't a very good performance by Tipton, but then again he didn't get much blocking either.
- The Colts' first team offensive line (and second team) did a fine job in pass protection but looked awful in run blocking. The main culprit of that, based on the initial viewing of the game, was right guard Todd Herremans, who whiffed a number of times on blocks. I did think that Khaled Holmes did a solid job, but the run blocking from the offensive line was less than impressive.
- It was smart by the Colts to get Khaled Holmes, Lance Louis, and Jack Mewhort more playing time than some of the other linemen. They need those guys to really get time working along the line with the hope that they will be ready to go and playing well when the regular season begins.
- The best player of the game for the Colts today was running back Josh Robinson, who did a very good job running the football in the second half. His highlight of course came on his nine-yard touchdown run in which he made several players miss, but he did that other times too and showed the ability to make defenders miss tackles and showed nice vision to find the running lane. Robinson is a guy who I really like and who I think we need to keep an eye on, and he did a good job today.
- The other MVP for the Colts? Punter Pat McAfee. He punted eight times and averaged 56 yards per punt. He did a great job - and likely punted more than he will in a couple of games combined in the regular season.
- Phillip Dorsett did a pretty nice job in his first game. He caught four passes for 51 yards, and though he did have a fumble after one of those catches, he showed an ability to get open on a number of routes. I liked Dorsett's ability to get open and I thought he did a good job with his routes. And to cap it all off, he called for a fair catch as a punt returner, automatically making him a better returner than Josh Cribbs last year.
- Defensively, perhaps the story of the game was this: missed tackles. The Colts missed a ton of tackles today. There was Greg Toler completely misplaying a screen pass that ended up going for a touchdown. There was Winston Guy wrapping up but not tackling on a punt return that ended up going for a touchdown. And there were many other missed tackles as well. The Colts tried to get more physical in training camp, but there still wasn't much hitting - something that might have contributed to this horrible tackling performance. Whatever the reason, it's something the Colts quite simply need to be better at.
- At risk of making too big of a deal about one preseason game, I'll go ahead and say this anyway: I think we saw today what some are concerned about, and that's the depth at the cornerback position behind the starting trio of Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Darius Butler. Who did you see today that gives you any encouragement to step up and fill in for one of those guys if injured, like Davis and Butler are today (that's why they missed the game)? Maybe D'Joun Smith, but he suffered a concussion during today's game and therefore didn't see much playing time. Maybe Jalil Brown, but he didn't stand out today either.
- It was a rough day for Matt Hasselbeck. He completed 8/17 passes for 72 yards, often misfiring on some passes. It wasn't a very good game for the veteran, but his roster spot is secure nonetheless.
- Third string quarterback Bryan Bennett had an up and down NFL debut. His first drive was terrific, as he had a couple of big runs and a big throw or two that led the Colts down the field for their lone touchdown drive of the day. After that, however, Bennett missed on some throws and was picked off twice, including one that was just an awful read and throw, and fumbled on a read option keeper. He did some really good things, but he also had some really bad plays. Ultimately, it was a debut filled with some good things but also some bad things for the rookie quarterback.
- The Colts third-team defense did a very good job overall. Junior Sylvestre, Zack Hodges, Earl Okine, Kelcy Quarles, Daniel Adongo, Zach Kerr, and others were able to get after Tim Tebow and make some stops. Amarlo Herrera did some good things in his expanded playing time as well.
- I also thought Bjoern Werner did a pretty good job when he was in the game. I'm really glad the Colts have him playing at the strongside outside linebacker now, as he looked more comfortable there today. His best play came when he got his hand on a pass near the line of scrimmage, which allowed Amarlo Herrera to grab it for the interception.
- I thought that Denzelle Good did a good job at right tackle today. He saw a lot of playing time and held his own there, showing the athleticism and technique that he possesses. The team's seventh-round draft pick was an unknown player when Ryan Grigson drafted him, but he did a good job during his first preseason game.
- Don't complain about the play calling in a preseason game. The Colts ran it a lot with Zurlon Tipton in the game, but that's not going to be what they do in the regular season. Andrew Luck will check out of some of the plays and the team will pass more than they did - they wanted to see how their run game was, which was the reason for some of their play calling. But even if that wasn't the case and the Colts really were just trying to be a running team, after today's performance that would likely change.
- It's not easy to play the Eagles without any game planning. The Colts didn't really get a plan ready for facing the Eagles because it wasn't worth it for the first preseason game, but this is a hard team and offense to face regardless, much less without having game planned for it. That doesn't excuse the poor play and it doesn't excuse the missed tackles, but let's keep that in mind as well.
- The Colts suffered a couple of injuries in today's game. Rookie cornerback D'Joun Smith suffered a concussion, while defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles was injured in the fourth quarter and limped off the field with help from trainers, though thankfully it was just cramps.