Despite the game being on Saturday, I opted to wait to hand out my weekly awards until today. Monday just seems like a better way to do it.
As you're aware, the Colts won their first pre-season game of this year, and first since 2013. In the win, we saw the starters primarily play the entire first half, and one forgettable play in the second half. Personally, I thought there was a lot of good in the win, and that will be reflected in my awards.
MVP - Andrew Luck - I almost went with Erik Walden for a second straight week. However, Luck guided the offense very well in the regular season dress-rehearsal. He finished 12-21 for over well over 100 yards, and a score. Luck did throw a poor interception, but the play was called back.
A lot of Luck's incompletions weren't bad in my eyes either. Twice he missed T.Y. Hilton just a bit out of bounds. Both times the ball had great placement, Hilton just happened to be too close to the boundaries, mostly because of coverage. Luck missed Dwayne Allen on a pass to end zone that both looked a bit high, and also that Allen wasn't quite ready for it. Throw in a timing issue with Duron Carter late in the half, and that's a big portion of Luck's incompletions.
Luck was interviewed during the game (which he didn't seem thrilled about) and basically said the offense had some issues to work out. He's right, but that's what the pre-season is for. We've seen a lot of glimpses of what this offense is capable of, and I'm very excited to see the product on the field in Week 1.
Defensive MVP - Erik Walden - I need to give some more love to the linebacker. In the last two weeks of the pre-season, he's tallied 3 sacks in limited action. On Saturday, Walden was everywhere again on defense. He set the edge very well, and brought some nice pressure on Nick Foles. Last season Walden showed a lot of flashes, and this pre-season he seems to be putting things together on a consistent basis. I said it last week, but it Walden can continue to rush the passer well and set the edge, it will be a huge boost to the defense.
Horrible Play Call Award - End of the Half - Fourth and goal in a pre-season game. Why in the world did Chuck Pagano call for a field goal? The Colts had just marched down the field and were facing a fourth and goal. These are the scenarios where I really think Pagano needs to be more aggressive. Plus, as I said, it's the pre-season!!! Just go for it.
We've seen the Colts go for two a few times in the pre-season so far (which I love), but it seems to be an inconsistent thing. The past few seasons I, and I know the other writers have as well, have criticized Pagano's conservative play-calling. Unfortunately, it looks like it's here to stay.
Greatest Improvement Award - Special Teams - In the first two games of the pre-season, the Special Teams unit was very poor. The coverage was abysmal, and Pat McAfee wasn't having his best kicks. Again, pre-season, but I wrote that week that there was cause for concern.
This week, the unit improved great. The kick coverage was good, and we saw the Colts execute a perfect surprise onside kick. I loved the onside play, and it's good to know that it seems the team will still kick them if the opportunity presents itself. And of course Adam Vinatieri was his usual automatic self.
Cause for Concern Award - Pass Defense - While the run defense has been surprisingly good, the Colts pass defense has been extremely poor.
In total, opposing quarterbacks this pre-season are 53-83 (64%) for 643 yards and three touchdowns. Obviously the numbers are immensely terrifying, but still a bit concerning. Maybe this is just from me watching the games, and thinking that the passing defense doesn't pass the eye test right now.
Really, behind Vontae Davis, the Colts don't have much in way of the secondary. Greg Toler is injured (again) and isn't great when healthy. Darius Butler is a good slot corner, but nothing more. After that? I don't have a good answer. The couch GM in me thinks that Indy should make a move to bring in Tim Jennings, who was cut by the Bears yesterday, even though I do remember how terrible he was in Indianapolis.
Making an Impact Award - Tyler Varga - Another week, and another impressive showing from a Colts running back. This week it was Varga who impressed. Again Frank Gore didn't play (rightly so), and Josh Robinson was knocked out with an injury (more on that later) so Varga saw more reps.
Varga ran tough and got some extra yards, something fans aren't used to after years of Trent Richardson. The go-ahead score was also Varga's work. With Gore, Boom Herron, Vick Ballard, Robinson, Varga, and Zurlon Tipton all fighting for a roster spot, the Colts again look to have a good stable of running backs, regardless of who they keep.
LVP - Injuries - It has been the story of the pre-season. Until this week, the Colts had been fortunate to not be bitten by the injury bug. That changed this week as Robinson and Arthur Jones both went down with injury. As of this writing, I would guess Jones won't be seeing the field any time soon.
With all of the injuries this pre-season, maybe it's time for the NFL to shorten or eliminate these meaningless games.
Regardless, don't expect to see the starters work much on Thursday. Their job to get ready for Buffalo and the real games. And I'm definitely pumped for that.