With two games in the books, we slogged ever closer to the start of the regular season. Week two was a hard watch. I was actually attending the game and stayed until the final whistle, for some reason. Regardless, let’s dig in and attempt to find our winners and losers from this contest.
Matthias Farley made the first play of the game, and it was a pretty great one. The Ravens came out and took a deep shot downfield on their first play from scrimmage. Farley got a great break on the ball and batted it down in a nice effort. On the very next play, Farley proved his versatility by dropping the hammer on a runner and stopping them short of the line to gain. His solid play has made him the kind of reliable backup that is just what you need in a safety group where your two starters have had injury issues recently. If he has to play significantly, he has more than proven he is up to the task.
Speaking of safeties, we got a chance to see Clayton Geathers back in action tonight. He made his presence felt pretty early on, stripping the ball on a punt return that resulted in the Colts getting the ball back in great field position. He was active in his time on the field, seemingly in on every tackle. If Geathers can stay healthy, a big if, he is a difference maker. Pairing him with Malik Hooker provides two guys on the back end of this defense that know how to take the ball away and make plays.
It is still early. This is not real football yet, it is the preseason. However, Darius Leonard looks like exactly what the Colts need in this linebacker group. You could hardly go a play without seeing him flying to the ball, batting away a pass, or leading the effort to gang-tackle the ball carrier. He isn’t a perfect player, but he has shown that if he can carry his play over to the regular season, he is a star in the making in the middle of this defense. That is hugely encouraging, because it is the area with the most questions, and if he establishes himself as a legitimate playmaker, this defense is vastly improved.
Guess who’s back? John Simon is stating his case as clearly as possible for being a central fixture on this defense. He notched another sack, bringing his total to 2.5 for the preseason so far, and also had a tackle for a loss and 2 more QB hits. As a guy who many thought did not fit this new scheme and couldn’t really make the transition to defensive end, Simon just keeps making plays.
Speaking of guys making plays and getting after the quarterback, Hassan Ridgeway is back again as well. Maybe it is foolish of me to do it, but I’m getting really excited about Ridgeway. There are plenty of reasons to pump the brakes on his ceiling, but the guy has now put together consecutive games with 2 sacks. He also had 3 tackles for a loss and 2 QB hits. The Colts’ depth at defensive line just keeps looking better with each week.
Real talk time. Nyheim Hines has had a miserable preseason. His fumbling and kick return problems are becoming a serious issue. In the preseason it seems that Reich plans to keep using him, but it would be pretty questionable to start the season with Hines returning kicks in any capacity. He has a lot to prove if he wants to make any contribution to this team.
Fountain hasn’t done much in camp and has generally looked raw, like you expect from a rookie out of a small school. However, he had an opportunity to make an impression last night, and frittered it away. He was the target on two end zone looks from Brissett and couldn’t bring either one in. The passes weren’t great, but he has to step up and make a play there.
This was not a good game for Andrew Luck. He threw an ugly pick on their second drive on a pass with a pretty unclear target. It is clear that there is still not great chemistry with his receivers, and without T.Y. Hilton in the game, he struggled. Some miscommunication with Ryan Grant led to a miss on a deep ball along the sideline, and he really only was able to consistently connect with Jack Doyle. This is not a major worry to me. Luck is not a good quarterback, he is a great one. The play calling and scheme are being kept very vanilla, his best receiver wasn’t on the field, the offensive line was missing its starting left tackle, and they were facing a very good pass defense. Luck will be fine, but this was not a pretty outing for him.
What is it exactly that Ryan Grant offers this team again? The bill on him was that he was the reliable playmaker. Nothing spectacular, but he was sold as the Jack Doyle of the receiver group. He wouldn’t make big plays after the catch, he wasn’t making highlight reels, but he would come in, do his job, and make valuable catches when needed. I’m still waiting to see one. It is true, Luck didn’t give him the best throws to work with. The first was a miss on a fade route where it seems Grant turned over his inside shoulder and Luck threw to his outside shoulder. It was a bit high, but could possibly have been brought down. The second was on a drag route and was high off his fingertips. Maybe it is unfair to criticize him too harshly for missing on these, but if you’re the team’s number two receiver, it seems like you need to actually make some plays.
Autry had a pretty rough two play stretch, getting called for encroachment and then nailed for leading with the helmet. While the helmet rule is a total mess, this was definitely the kind of play where you know he’s getting hit with it. Darius Leonard is in the process of making an excellent tackle, literally catching the tight end in the air and slamming him into the ground. Autry comes in late with a helmet hit that actually pushes him upfield. Worse for Autry, he got banged up on a play and was down for a bit before walking off on his own. In a competitive defensive line group, any kind of injury is bad for establishing that he is a guy who deserves playing time.