The Indianapolis Colts made their 2016 debut last night, as they took on the Buffalo Bills in the preseason opener. The game actually turned out to be entertaining (for a preseason game) and the Colts pulled out the 19-18 victory.
We do snap count articles throughout the regular season, but I think they're even more valuable during the preseason as we try to get a better idea of some of the players and a better idea of what the team thinks of those players. So here are the snap counts from last night's game, along with some notes interpreting the charts.
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- Rookie center Austin Blythe saw by far the most reps of any offensive player, as he was in on 76% of the offensive plays. He did so while playing both guard and center, and it was certainly valuable experience for the rookie who is trying to earn a spot as one of the team's depth linemen.
- On a related note, three of the Colts' offensive line draft picks saw extensive playing time, with Austin Blythe and Le'Raven Clark playing the most snaps of anyone and Joe Haeg coming in sixth on the list - all three of them saw over half of the offensive reps. This shouldn't surprise anyone, as all three need some adjusting to the NFL level. The playing time is especially crucial for Clark, who is adapting to a pro system, and so I'd expect him to be near the top of these charts all preseason. Haeg saw his snaps at a variety of different spots, showing once again the versatility that the Colts like. For those wondering about the Colts' other rookie lineman they drafted, Ryan Kelly played 15 snaps (24%), which meant he was in for three drives (and played as much as Denzelle Good, the starting right guard). It wasn't a ton of work for Kelly, but he'll have plenty of time to work with Andrew Luck and the starters and the next two games in particular.
- At running back, Josh Ferguson saw the most snaps (24), followed by Robert Turbin (18), Jordan Todman (11), and Trey Williams (11). As I've mentioned elsewhere, I think we can go ahead and call Ferguson the team's number two back right now despite what the depth chart says, as Ferguson took the majority of first-team reps in camp and in the preseason opener, while he also worked with Andrew Luck during individual drills in camp (something only the starters do). Last night, though, those four backs had a pretty miserable game, as they rushed 19 times for just ten yards. The positive, however, was that Todman took a screen pass for a 42-yard touchdown. Here's an interesting stat: last night the Colts running backs rushed 19 times for ten yards (0.53 yards per rush) but caught three passes for 67 yards and a touchdown (22.3 yards per catch). Go figure.
- At wide receiver, Josh Boyce led the way with 29 snaps, followed by Tevaun Smith (25), Quan Bray (21), Chester Rogers (17), MeKale McKay (16), Donte Moncrief (12), Phillip Dorsett (12), Josh Stangby (11), T.Y. Hilton (6), Danny Anthrop (3), and Andre Debose (2). The leading snap-getters on this list shouldn't surprise anyone, as Boyce, Smith, Bray, Rogers, and McKay are the ones really leading the way in the competition for depth spots (I don't want to say it's narrowed down to just those guys, but it pretty much is). Chester Rogers led the team in yards (two catches for 63 yards and a touchdown), while Tevaun Smith led the team in receptions (three catches for 34 yards). They both had nice games, while Josh Boyce added two catches for 16 yards and MeKale McKay got 16 yards on one catch. And while we're speaking of the wide receivers, let me add this: if you're getting less snaps than T.Y. Hilton in the first preseason game in which Andrew Luck didn't even play, it's not a good sign for your chances whatsoever. Danny Anthrop and Andre Debose (and Josh Stangby, too) were pretty much invisible during camp at receiver, and that continued once again last night. Anthrop stands out among that group, however, as he was able to contribute on special teams by making a very nice hit last night.
- At tight end, Chase Coffman received the most snaps (35), while Erik Swoope (30), Jack Doyle (10), Konrad Reuland (9), Emil Igwenagu (7), and Dwayne Allen (6) followed. The huge gap between the first two and the last four tells me that the third tight end competition is right now between Chase Coffman and Erik Swoope. We know Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle are making the team, so it seems the Colts wanted to get Coffman and Swoope plenty of reps to see what they can do. Coffman finished with two catches for 24 yards, while Swoope caught one pass for eleven yards.
- Of the players who are projected opening day starters on offense, Ryan Kelly and Denzelle Good saw the most snaps last night with 15. Again, that shouldn't come as any surprise.
- Undrafted safety Stefan McClure led the way for the defense with 57 snaps, ten more than anyone else. That's very valuable playing time for a young player, so it's good news for McClure for sure.
- You'll notice that the top of these snap counts are heavily dominated by defensive backs and defensive linemen, which makes perfect sense: those are the two spots that were really hampered by injuries. The Colts were without five defensive backs and three defensive linemen, so that's likely a big reason for the high numbers of snaps by some of those guys. Regardless of what the reasoning is, preseason reps are a huge plus for younger guys who are trying to make the roster, so some guys who didn't get as much of a chance to shine in camp - like Stefan McClure, Lee Hightower, Frankie Williams, and Darius White - got plenty of opportunities to do so last night. White in particular impressed last night with his coverage, so he's a guy who took advantage of the opportunity. So did T.Y. McGill, who saw the third-most defensive snaps on the team with 43. He was one of the stars of training camp, and with several injuries the Colts left him in the game for extended reps. He really impressed with those reps and made some plays, once again proving he's a good player worth keeping around.
- Here's one thing that I don't understand: why did T.J. Green play only 20 snaps (26%)? That's only slightly more snaps than the starters got, and the Colts can't afford to treat Green like a starter right now in the traditional preseason sense. He may very well wind up starting in week one, but to me that's even more reason to increase his workload right now. As a rookie who many thought wasn't quite ready to step in to a big role in the NFL right away, the Colts should be getting him as many reps as possible - they can't get him enough reps, in other words. Playing him for only one-fourth of the snaps on Saturday night doesn't make much sense to me.
- At outside linebacker, Earl Okine and Trevor Bates led the way with 35 snaps each, while Ron Thompson and Curt Maggitt each played 29 snaps, followed by Erik Walden and Trent Cole (who each played 13). All four of the young outside linebackers really impressed on Saturday night, which was certainly a welcome sight for Colts fans.
- At inside linebacker, Edwin Jackson saw 39 snaps, followed by Antonio Morrison (34), Josh McNary (32), Nate Irving (17), Junior Sylvestre (15), Sio Moore (9), and D'Qwell Jackson (8). Edwin Jackson is a guy the Colts really seem to like and who had a very solid camp, so the fact that he led the inside linebackers in snaps means he's getting quite a bit of playing time in the preseason. With Morrison and McNary following close behind and then with such a large gap after that, it suggests to me that Jackson, Morrison, and McNary are currently the biggest competitors for the depth inside linebacker spots.
- Of the projected opening day starters on defense (assuming a healthy Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson), David Parry saw the most snaps with 15. You could argue that Nate Irving is the starting inside linebacker over Sio Moore, in which case he led the way with 17 (Moore saw nine snaps, but was injured during the game).
(Note: This is not the complete list; rather, this is a list of only those players who saw 30% or more of the special teams snaps on Saturday night).
- As you may have (hopefully) read at the beginning of this section, this isn't the complete list of snap counts for the Colts' special teams last night. I was originally just going to leave the special teams out, but then decided to include those players who received at least 30% of the special teams reps. Here's why: special teams snap counts don't really tell us much other than who the players are that are getting serious consideration on special teams and therefore could be the ones to improve their chances on that unit. The guys who played only a handful of snaps, therefore, probably aren't the best indicators of this fact and don't tell us much.
- Trevor Bates led the way on special teams with 20 snaps, and the Colts' seventh round pick also played 35 snaps on defense as well. That's 55 snaps in total for Bates, who is looking to earn a depth roster spot - if he can contribute on special teams and continue to show some nice things in the way of pass rush, he will certainly have a legitimate shot at doing so.
- In terms of total snaps last night (combining offense, defense, and special teams), Stefan McClure led the way with 73 (57 defensive snaps plus 16 special teams snaps), while Darius White (57 total; 40 defensive plus 17 special teams), Edwin Jackson (56 total; 39 defensive plus 17 special teams), Trevor Bates (55 total; 35 defensive plus 20 special teams) and Lee Hightower (55 total; 47 defensive and eight special teams) followed.