There were a few things that stood out Sunday as the Indianapolis Colts dropped their first preseason game of the 2017 season. Very few were good, but aside from the defense’s first unit a few of the lesser known guys actually looked as though they had something to prove.
Granted, multiple injured players will be back this week and will likely play on Saturday in Dallas, but Jeremiah George, Troymain Pope and JoJo Natson have certainly earned themselves a longer look by the coaching staff. Will they be able to continue to be as noticeable throughout the preseason? Time will tell, but at this point in the process interest has been piqued without question.
Honestly, George was the first to stick out to me when re-watching the game of these three mainly because he was in on the tackle of the opening kickoff. He looked good throughout the game on special teams, constantly being in the range of the tackle if he didn’t get a piece of the ball carrier himself.
George looks bigger than his listed 5-foot-11 frame, and though he doesn’t quite have the same size he reminds me of one of my favorite Colts who had a similar nose for the ball, Kavell Conner. George tallied 4 tackles – I counted 5, but whatever – and a pass defensed Sunday and, once again, he was on the screen as several tackles were made and in the right spot most of the game.
He has some really nice speed and seems to have a natural ability at the position to sniff out the play quickly and effectively. Chuck Pagano noticed him as well saying “George, knows who that kid is, but he flies around and he’s got toughness. He’s going to be a good special teamer.” Now, was he speaking about with the Colts? I think it was more of a general acknowledgment, however, I think he may be able to be more than that.
With Marlon Mack and Josh Ferguson out Sunday, we saw another back, Troymaine Pope, get some important carries and he certainly made the best of them. Pope put up 31 yards on 7 carries (4.4 ypc), nothing spectacular, but worlds better than any other back did. He also added a reception for 25 yards, and caught a screen pass for another big 54-yard gain only to have it called back because of an ineligible man downfield.
Pope showed toughness all game with his persistent refusal to go down at first contact, and aside from not having superior breakaway speed, he offers a very balanced skill set that the Colts could use on the back end of their roster. He’s got the vision, the ability to get those second level rushing yards the team so desperately needs and he’s a threat out of the backfield in the passing game as well. Josh Ferguson, better be on his A-game the next time he suits up, or he will B-gone.
If you ever wondered what a 12-year old would look like on the same field as an NFL team, JoJo Natson offers a very close comparison. But, Natson is fast man, and he can run quality routes and catch the ball too – he’s not just a speedster in the return game.
Pagano pointed him out without prompt earlier in the week saying “he’s got ability. All 150 pounds of him, he is tough as nails.” and later adding “JoJo is fearless and he’s a home run hitter -- he’s an explosive guy.” Pagano is right, he is and if there’s anything that may hamper his chances it’s got to be his size. Natson stands 5-foot-7 and is actually only 153 pounds – kind of mind blowing to be honest.
Natson caught 5 balls for 51 yards, and on three kick returns he nearly broke at least one of those that ended 28 yards downfield, but could have resulted in a dance in the end zone had he dodged one more obstacle.
With his ability to take it to the house on any given kickoff return, you’d have to assume they’re going to continue to see if he can break one and, just the same, see if he can continue to beat defensive backs with crisp routes and possibly show some physicality which would lead to better opportunities after the catch.
All three of these guys are staying healthy, popping on the game tape and showing that they have something that the team could use in multiple areas of the game plan. We know that most seasons have proven to have a surprise addition and this year could be no different if these performances continue to show up regardless whether it’s preseason or not.