The preseason is now officially over for the Indianapolis Colts. In an ugly preseason finale for both sides, the Cincinnati Bengals came out victorious by winning the battle of field goals 9-6 over the Colts.
It was not a well-played game whatsoever from a pure football standpoint from either team, and it really wasn't that entertaining of a football game (a few field goals but not much else). But, really, what did you expect from the fourth preseason game? It was a lot of backups trying to make one last impression before final roster cutdowns are due this Saturday by 4:00 p.m. ET.
Now, we're on to Buffalo as the Colts take on the Bills on Sunday, September 13 in the regular season opener. But first, we have some notes from tonight's game:
- The big story of tonight was the injuries, because let's face it: that means a lot more than anything on the field. Running back Boom Herron didn't play at all on the offensive side of the football but returned a few kickoffs, and on one such return he injured his shoulder. He went back to the locker room and didn't return, but we can't read anything into that because players injured in a preseason game rarely return in that game. Another running back, Vick Ballard, received a lot of touches and playing time early but on one play pulled up and was visibly upset, and he did in fact re-tweak his hamstring - the third time since training camp started that Ballard has tweaked a hammy. Cornerback Sheldon Price suffered a concussion, while inside linebacker Junior Sylvestre suffered an ankle injury.
- Speaking of those injuries, the running back position is an interesting one to keep an eye on moving forward. There's starter Frank Gore, but then after that is Boom Herron (shoulder) and Josh Robinson (concussion), who are both injured.
- Tyler Varga looked good again tonight, including a very nice 19-yard run. Varga just continues to impress and continues to stand a good shot at making the 53-man roster, especially now that a few of the others are injured. It was also very interesting to hear owner Jim Irsay talking about Varga while in the booth for tonight's game. Irsay raved about Varga's abilities and his play, and it was more than just the typical coach/owner speak. Irsay likes this guy and noted that there are going to be hard decisions for Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano to make. One of the most notable points that Irsay made was that Varga has shown he can contribute on special teams as well, and reading between the lines it appears that is something that might end up separating him from others and help him make the roster.
- A few of the starters did indeed play tonight for the offense. Center Khaled Holmes, left guard Lance Louis, and right tackle Jack Mewhort each started the game to get some extra work (which was a smart move) and played a couple of drives.
- Inside linebacker Nate Irving made his Colts debut tonight, as he tore his ACL last year with the Broncos and has been rehabbing from that since. Irving played just one drive but it was good for him to be out on the field again. He even made a nice play in which he got some pressure and allowed Junior Sylvestre to get the sack.
- Here's a very interesting thing from the game: from the second drive onward, Josh Chapman saw a lot of time at nose tackle. And by a lot of time, I mean he was in there toward the end of the fourth quarter still. Montori Hughes was also still seeing time in the fourth quarter. On the flip side, the two rookie linemen out of Stanford, Henry Anderson and David Parry, both saw time early with tonight's "starters." What does that mean? I'm not entirely sure, but I do think that it suggests that both Anderson and Parry will play quite a bit in week one. In fact, it is entirely possible that both of them will start. I could absolutely see that happening, especially since Chapman and Hughes were both playing in the fourth quarter of the fourth preseason game.
- Vick Ballard got a lot of playing time early, rushing nine times for 29 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and catching three passes for 12 yards. He got a lot of opportunities, but did he do enough to earn a spot on the roster spot? I'm not so sure. Let's put it this way: if Ballard ends up making the roster, it won't be because of this fourth preseason game. At this point, I just don't see him making the team. It's tough and I really feel for him, but he just can't stay healthy and that has cut his opportunities this preseason short.
- Clayton Geathers had a good night tonight, as he made a big hit and put his helmet on the football to force a fumble, and then a bit later he recovered another fumble. We also saw him in a variety of roles, including blitzing from that dime inside linebacker position. He could be utilized in a number of ways for this defense this year.
- Duron Carter did a very nice job tonight, playing his best game as a Colt so far. He caught 5 passes for 85 yards, including a 42-yard catch and run in which he made a couple of guys miss. He looked like the player we saw in training camp for the first time in preseason.
- Let's talk about broadcasters for a minute: I wish that we could see Rick Venturi call more Colts games this year, as he has done a good job this preseason. He knows the game but he also knows this team, and that helps him be an informative listen as a color commentator (something you don't see often in TV broadcasts). Also, Jim Irsay was a good listen in the booth as well. He gave some great info but also showed off his knowledge and knew what he was talking about.