The Indianapolis Colts finished up their preseason Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals on the road. A lot of second- and third-string players were looking for their moment to shine in order to make the Colts’ initial 53-man roster, and a few of them did exactly that.
Granted, roughly 80 percent — give or take — of the roster was likely already decided before the preseason finale, but I think you can make the case that between 5 and 10 roster spots were decided in Cincinnati. Here’s some of the takeaways I had from the Colts’ 27-26 victory over the Bengals to head into the regular season.
Zach Pascal is making this roster:
Despite limited time with Jacoby Brissett as the quarterback Thursday night, Pascal continued to rise up the ranks of the receiving corps. In the first half alone, Pascal hauled in 3 passes for 33 yards and added a really nice contested touchdown catch.
Additionally, Pascal got more work as the return man on special teams and looked more than competent in that role which has become more important with the steady decline of Nyheim Hines the past couple weeks. Pascal really helped himself, and actually showed some very interesting signs of ability for the future.
Ryan Delaire showed up again:
It doesn’t show up much in the box score, but Delaire continued to show that he is fully capable of being a rotational pass rusher for the Colts Thursday night. Delaire showed an inside rip, a spin move, the power to bullrush and the ability to bend the edge Thursday night in pressuring the quarterback.
Delaire finished with 2 total tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defensed to end his very productive preseason with the Colts. Now, we get to see if the Colts decision makers feel that the long game with Delaire is worth it, and don’t feel that he’s just a preseason superstar.
Henre Toliver and Lenzy Pipkins were everywhere:
Toliver did very well for himself Thursday night. At the end of the first half, he led the Colts in tackles (6) — with 4 solo stops — and also notched himself a pass break up.
Coming into this game it looked as if Chris Milton was going to run away with the CB4 role with the ability to play out on the boundary as well as in the nickel role. Toliver, just joined that conversation in a very big way. He finished with 7 tackles to co-lead the Colts on the night.
Pipkins also made a nice day’s work out of Thursday night. Pipkins was just acquired in a trade with Green Bay, and he looked to be a pretty nice fit for the Colts’ scheme. He came up quick in run support, made some nice hits — one causing an incompletion — and, if nothing else, made for interesting conversations for Chris Ballard and Frank Reich over the next 48 hours.
Daurice Fountain came to play when it counted most:
Like Pascal, Fountain came into this game hunting a spot on a receiving corps that has yet to truly define itself. I must say, it was nice to see that he stepped up to the plate early and often. Fountain also pulled in 3 receptions in the first half of Thursday’s game totaling 32 yards and showed that he could earn some separation from defenders in the process.
This is big for Fountain. One of his downfalls, in terms of mechanics, has been his footwork and a less-than-impressive ability to win at the line of scrimmage. He was able to do that on a couple of his catches early as the cornerback was very physical with Fountain, yet he was able to go down low for the reception.
Fountain nearly brought in another ball late in the game on a deep pass down the sideline from Phillip Walker which would have netted a 33-yard gain. Yes, it doesn’t look good that he didn’t complete the catch, but he also has been showing that he’s learning by gaining separation throughout the route, as well as creating some space as the ball begins to come down.
Matthew, and Tyrell Adams looked really good with extended snaps:
First of all, I believe both of these guys are making the Colts 53-man roster. The rookie, Matthew Adams, had a beautiful pass deflection in the red zone early in the second quarter, and Tyrell got one in nearly the same fashion about midway through the third quarter.
Tyrell was the more accomplished of the two Thursday with 7 total tackles (Matthew had 2), but both were very active in the middle of the defense. They both played multiple spots within the linebacker roles and showed the ability to break on the ball in coverage as well as the ball carrier for big stops.
This had to have been expected with the recent trade of Antonio Morrison as both of these linebackers are more versatile and are far better when it comes to covering downfield. Both of them have been very pleasant surprises this summer.
The depth at defensive tackle showed very well:
Both, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Grover Stewart and Hassan Ridgeway showed some real signs of speed and power Thursday night. Each of them were more disruptive than their boxscore totals would suggest.
This is great news for a unit that needs to solidify its depth and show that it can actually provide the rotation the coaching staff covets. Ridgeway has been a beast through the preseason, but has only accomplished some of his production against first- and second-team players.
That’s not to take anything away from him, but it’s not wrong either.
Nunez-Roches and Stewart totaled 3 tackles apiece and may make for some interesting decision-making (Nunez-Roches in particular) when it comes to the initial 53-man list. Rookie Tomasi Laulile even added the Colts only sack of the night in the last minute of the game.