The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Baltimore Ravens 19-18 on Saturday in their second preseason game. What did we learn from the game? Here are three takeaways (and we're using the team "learn" loosely):
Starting offense looks good
This was the first time this year that we truly got to see the Colts’ starting offense in action. Though most of the starters played a week ago against the Buffalo Bills, the key piece didn’t. Andrew Luck returned on Saturday night against the Ravens (as did Frank Gore), meaning that even though the offense was without T.Y. Hilton they were probably as close to full strength as they’re going to get in the preseason. And ultimately, the performance of the offense was pretty encouraging. The starting offense managed 104 total yards on 18 plays across two drives, moving the ball at ease outside of the red zone. Luck completed all eight of his passes for 69 yards, while they also rushed for 35 yards (3.5 yards per attempt) on those first two drives. The run game wasn’t too great (the running backs averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on those first two drives), but the passing game looked good - specifically with Luck throwing to Phillip Dorsett (three catches for 37 yards) and Donte Moncrief (two catches for 25 yards). Maybe the most encouraging part of the offense was the offensive line, however, which kept Luck upright and clean - with some help from running backs Frank Gore and Robert Turbin, who both had nice blitz pickups. It looked like the Ravens were dropping more players into coverage, but that doesn’t matter - the offensive line did their job and kept Andrew Luck clean. The only real negative from the night for the Colts’ starting offense was their red zone production, as they stalled inside the 20 on their first drive and then Dwayne Allen lost a fumble in the red zone on the second. They need to finish their drives when the regular season rolls around, but there was plenty to be encouraged by from Saturday’s game.
Quarterback play is encouraging
Another thing Colts fans should be encouraged by is the play of the quarterbacks. Last week, backup Scott Tolzien (who started the game against the Bills) didn’t look good and had plenty of errant passes. Even Chuck Pagano was honest enough to admit this past week that Tolzien needed to improve his accuracy, which is really saying something. In the second preseason game, Tolzien improved his accuracy by 20%: against the Bills, he completed just 52.2% of his passes (12 of 23), but against the Ravens he completed 72.2% (13 of 18). He threw for 107 yards (5.9 yards per attempt) and a touchdown, which came on fourth down to Tevaun Smith. Tolzien played well tonight and was much better than a week ago. Third string quarterback Stephen Morris also had another good game tonight, as he completed 7 of 11 passes (63.6%) for 66 yards and a touchdown while also adding a 26 yard rush. With just a few minutes left in the game, Morris led the Colts down-field and threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Trey Williams. The following play was his one major mistake of the night, however, and it proved costly: he threw an interception on the two-point conversion and the Ravens returned it for the game-winning score. Morris did a nice job overall, however, and the two backup quarterbacks combined to complete 69% of their passes (20 of 29) for 173 yards and two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 107.4. When you add in Luck’s numbers, the quarterbacks were 28 of 37 (75.7%) for 242 yards and two scores for a passer rating of 110.4.
Defensive line depth being tested and proven
All offseason, we talked about how the defensive line looked to be an area of strength for the Colts, a position that arguably had the most depth of any on the team. That depth has been tested early on, however, as Henry Anderson is still recovering from a torn ACL, Kendall Langford is dealing with a knee injury, and Art Jones is still working his way back from injury (and is suspended for the first four regular season games). That has created plenty of opportunities for some of the younger defensive linemen to step up, and guys like T.Y. McGill, Zach Kerr, and others have definitely done so. In Saturday night’s game the defensive linemen were routinely in the backfield and making plays, pressuring the quarterback and making stops. T.Y. McGill (2), Sterling Bailey (1), and Delvon Simmons (1) combined for four of the Colts’ six quarterback hits on the night, while Hassan Ridgeway recorded one of the team’s three tackles for loss. T.Y. McGill recorded the team’s only sack of the night, and overall the defensive linemen accounted for 13 tackles. The defensive line (led by McGill) looks good already, which gives even more reason for optimism about the unit once Anderson and Langford return healthy, whenever that may be.