The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 9-6 in Thursday night's preseason game. What did we learn from the game? Here are three takeaways (and we're using the team "learn" loosely):
Rookies could play big role along defensive line
The biggest takeaway from the fourth preseason game for the Colts is regarding how they played some of their defensive linemen. Toward the beginning of the game, rookies Henry Anderson and David Parry were in the game getting some work, while Josh Chapman and Montori Hughes were still in the game late in the fourth quarter. What does that mean? Head coach Chuck Pagano didn't really say much about it but tried to downplay the situation, not declaring either Parry or Chapman the starter at nose tackle. All I'll say is this: you don't play someone late in the fourth quarter of the fourth preseason if you plan on having that player make a major impact in week one. You just don't. I don't think it speaks well for Josh Chapman that David Parry was the one playing early on Thursday night, and while we won't know for sure perhaps until Sunday, it's entirely possible that Parry winds up starting in week one at nose tackle. The same thing goes for Henry Anderson, as there is now a gap along the defensive line that needs filled with Arthur Jones set to miss significant time. If Thursday night is any indication, Anderson could be the one who gets the start in trying to replace Jones. It's important to not read too much into what we saw on Thursday night regarding lineups, but the situation with the defensive linemen is hard to ignore and speaks volumes.
Running back depth takes a hit
The Colts were going to have a tough decision to make at running back regarding which players to keep around on the 53-man roster, but now the question might simply be who is healthy enough to play. Starter Frank Gore is as fresh as could possibly be after receiving just two carries in the preseason, but after that the Colts have a lot of injuries. Backup Boom Herron injured his shoulder on a kick return Thursday night and we don't know the severity yet. Vick Ballard re-tweaked his hamstring, the third time he has suffered such an injury since training camp started. And Josh Robinson is still recovering from a concussion, though he is expected to be ready to go next week. The bottom line, however, is that the Colts' running back depth took quite a hit on Thursday night yet again, primarily with the injury to Herron, who is expected to be the number two, change of pace back. Hopefully that is nothing serious.
Tyler Varga stands a good chance to make the team
Speaking of running backs, however, undrafted rookie Tyler Varga continues to impress. He rushed for 37 yards on nine carries last night (4.1 yards per rush) and broke off a very nice 19-yard rush. He also added two receptions for 17 yards. Varga's chances improved simply because of the injuries to other players but also because of his play on the field, and it was clear that owner Jim Irsay really likes him. Sitting in the booth with Don Fischer and Rick Venturi last night, Irsay was talking as Varga broke the 19-yard rush and just raved about the back. He didn't say that Varga would make the team (rather saying that Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano were going to have some tough decisions) but he did say that the running back's ability to play special teams should help him, and reading between the lines, it sounded very much like Irsay thinks that Varga should make the 53-man roster. I think there are a lot of Colts fans who would agree with that, and I also think that Varga should have a spot on the roster, whether it's because of injuries or simply because of his impressive play and hard-running.