If there’s one way to describe tonight’s game for the Indianapolis Colts, it’s this: ugly.
In the third preseason game, one typically considered to be the closest to an actual regular season game and a sort of dress rehearsal for the season, the Colts fell flat and lost 33-23 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
With six cornerbacks sitting out and another (Darius Butler) leaving very early with an injury, everyone should have expected the Colts to get beat through the air. Likewise, the Colts shouldn’t have been expected to put heavy pressure on the quarterback when we know the talent isn’t there to do so consistently. But other areas of the game proved to be especially concerning - namely, the offensive line.
A week after giving Andrew Luck plenty of time to throw, the offensive line did the complete opposite this week: they gave him no time to throw. He was sacked three times and hit six other times, getting hit nine times in 21 dropbacks (he was hit on 42.9% of dropbacks). That obviously isn’t good, and perhaps the most blatant example came on a 4th and 1 play on which Luck didn’t even have enough time to make a three-step drop and quick throw, getting hit almost immediately from pressure right up the middle. The offensive line really struggled tonight, and perhaps the worst player was the unit’s highest-paid player: left tackle Anthony Castonzo (which has been the case this entire preseason, too). But it wasn’t just Castozno, as the entire line struggled tonight.
It’s actually pretty amazing that Luck was even able to complete 13 of 18 passes for 134 yards (including a tremendous throw to Donte Moncrief down the right sideline), considering how much he was under pressure. Donte Moncrief (six catches for 58 yards) and T.Y. Hilton (three catches for 38 yards) both had good games, and while Phillip Dorsett didn’t get as much time with the first team he still made some plays in the game, catching three passes for 39 yards (including a great catch and run for a gain of 39).
There wasn’t much that inspired confidence for the Indianapolis Colts moving forward. This was the last preseason action for most of the starters, as most of the first team guys won’t play on Thursday, and it wasn’t an encouraging finale. Outside of a blocked punt and the play of Stephen Morris, there wasn’t a ton impressive for the Colts tonight - which is concerning when thinking about how much the starters played.
Here are some other notes from tonight’s game:
- While it’s easy to say “it’s only preseason” on nights like tonight, there’s still some cause for concern. The outcome of the game certainly doesn’t matter, but the way the Colts played does. They played their (healthy) starters and treated it (somewhat) like an actual game, and the result wasn’t pretty. Their offensive line play was a legitimate concern. Their run defense tonight was a legitimate concern. Their secondary (partly due to injuries) was a legitimate concern. Their pass rush continues to be a legitimate concern. Their run game continued to be a legitimate concern as well. See, even though it doesn’t matter whatsoever that the Colts lost the game, it does matter that they didn’t look good at all while doing so. It’s not reason to freak out or lose sleep, but tonight’s game did produce some serious concerns - many of which were already there.
- Stephen Morris once again plays well. One other positive I’ll point out is that third string quarterback Stephen Morris turned in his third straight impressive performance this preseason. Morris completed 7 of 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown tonight while also adding a touchdown rush on a quarterback sneak. Morris led the Colts to their only two offensive touchdowns of the game and looked very good while doing so. In three preseason games, Morris has completed 19 of 31 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing five times for 46 yards and a score. He has been very impressive this preseason, for sure - and he’ll see a lot of action on Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Run game continues to go nowhere. This is the section where a lot of Colts fans will jump on Josh Ferguson, but it’s not really about Ferguson; it’s about the run game as a whole. Frank Gore rushed four times for six yards. Josh Ferguson rushed five times for four yards. Robert Turbin was by far the most effective back and rushed four times for 24 yards. Jordan Todman rushed three times for two yards. Again, there’s a bigger issue here: the run game as a whole can’t get anything going, and like it has been in recent weeks, a good portion of that blame lies with the offensive line.
- Anthony Castonzo has struggled mightily. I might get blocked by Castonzo on twitter for suggesting it, but he hasn’t really done a good job whatsoever of blocking defenders this preseason. He had a down year in 2015 when compared to 2014, but the hope was that he’d get back on track this year. While there’s still plenty of time for him to do so, his preseason performance hasn’t been encouraging. He has really struggled at left tackle, and you could make a very strong case that he’s actually been the worst of the Colts’ starting offensive linemen this preseason. That would be a very big development - and not in a good way - if Castonzo really regresses this year.
- Blocked punt provides rare highlight. The Colts’ first touchdown of the game came via a blocked punt, as inside linebacker Josh McNary did a really nice job of blocking the kick and then Jordan Todman recovered for a touchdown. Both McNary and Todman have been making a push to make the roster recently, and being able to contribute on special teams should only help the cause.
- Credit Rick Venturi where it’s due. Though preseason broadcasts for every team are rough and filled with errors (and Saturday night’s telecast for the Colts certainly was both), Colts color man Rick Venturi does a good job of explaining things to the viewer. I want to point out one example in particular where I think Venturi did a very good job. In the third quarter, Scott Tolzien and Donte Moncrief had a miscommunication in which Tolzien was picked in the end zone and it looked like Moncrief was on a completely different page. Venturi re-played it and explained what happened, which I think did a really good job of setting the record straight and preventing people from just running with a misunderstanding (which, again, shows the importance of watching film). Venturi showed that it was originally supposed to be a run play, which is evident from the fact that the back almost ran into Tolzien and from the fact that Moncrief was going to block on the play. Tolzien, however, audibled before the play and wanted to hit Moncrief on a hot route in the end zone, but apparantly his teammates didn’t get the memo. That’s what led to the miscommunication - which is exactly what it was.