The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 33-23 on Saturday in their third preseason game. What did we learn from the game? Here are three takeaways (and we're using the team "learn" loosely):
Offensive line still a major question mark
By far the biggest thing to take away from the game was the offensive line, which was very, very poor. It was the starting unit (minus right tackle Joe Reitz), and it was a disaster. A week ago, the offensive line was impressive and gave Andrew Luck plenty of time to throw, but this week was the opposite. Luck was sacked three times and hit six others, adding up to nine hits on 21 dropbacks. Just for comparison, that means he was hit on 42.86% of his dropbacks - last year, the highest single-game percentage for Luck came against the Denver Broncos, when he was hit on 32.43% of his dropbacks. Perhaps the worst play from Saturday night in pass protection was on a 4th and 1 play that was intended to be a very quick throw, but Luck didn’t even have enough time to get a quick throw off cleanly before pressure came right up the middle of the line. It wasn’t a good game whatsoever for the unit, and their highest-paid player - Anthony Castonzo - was arguably the worst of the starters.
It wasn’t just the pass protection that was bad, though that was the most concerning. The run blocking wasn’t good either, nor has it been all preseason. It’s popular right now to pile on Josh Ferguson for his struggles running the ball, but it’s not just him - Frank Gore rushed for just six yards on four carries behind the starting unit. Overall, the Colts rushed for just 13 yards on nine carries in the first half, and that’s not abnormal for the starting unit this preseason. Quite frankly, the offensive line needs to do a better job of creating lanes to run through.
But while the pass blocking and run blocking were both bad on Saturday night, neither were the worst development for the offensive line. Starting left guard Jack Mewhort, he best and most reliable offensive lineman on the roster, went down with a knee injury and is believed to have suffered a torn ACL, which will end his season. Now, not only do the Colts need to improve their offensive line but they need to do so without a key piece up front all year. That’s rough.
Injury issues continue to make things difficult
Speaking of injuries, the Colts are being hit hard by them right now. The injury to Mewhort is the one true major one the team has suffered this year, but there are plenty of other injury situations that are making things very difficult right now - especially with roster cuts coming up. At cornerback, six players sat out of the game on Saturday night and another, Darius Butler, left with an ankle injury. Two of the team’s three starting defensive linemen (Henry Anderson and Kendall Langford) are still out with injuries, as is starting safety Clayton Geathers and “starting” inside linebacker Sio Moore. Starting right tackle Joe Reitz missed the game with a back injury, and now the biggest injury yet has happened with Jack Mewhort likely done for the year. Head coach Chuck Pagano was honest after the game in saying that he doesn’t really have a good feel for his team yet because of all the injuries. With roster cutdowns to 75 players due by Tuesday and to 53 players by Saturday, that’s not a good scenario for Indianapolis.
Stephen Morris, quarterbacks are playing well
In order for this entire article to not be negative, let’s look at one of the biggest positives from the game: the play of Stephen Morris. He came in late in the game and completed 7 of 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown while also adding a touchdown on the ground, leading the offense to their only two touchdowns of the day. He has had a really good preseason (albeit while playing against third-string defenders), completing 19 of 31 passes (61.3%) for 314 yards (10.1 yards per attempt). three touchdowns, and no interceptions for a passer rating of 127.6 while also adding five rushes for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Though Morris has been the best of the quarterbacks, the others have also done a fine job. Andrew Luck has completed 21 of 26 passes (80.8%) for 205 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) and has added three rushes for 24 yards, while Scott Tolzien has completed 30 of 50 passes (60.0%) for 302 yards (6.0 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and one interception. It’s likely that only Luck and Tolzien will make the final roster, but Stephen Morris is playing well enough to warrant another job - whether on the Colts’ practice squad or with another team.