The Colts have dropped their first game of the season to the Bengals 34-23 in heartbreaking fashion. Although it is hard to look at the positives after a tough loss, there is a lot to be happy about in this game. The Colts are a young team that played well but just ultimately couldn’t get it done.
So before we shift our weekly focus to the upcoming matchup with a talented Redskins team, lets look back on my 5 Colts players to watch from last week and see how they did this past weekend against the Bengals:
Anthony Castonzo, LT (or whoever starts at LT):
Anthony Castonzo came into this game as a game time decision and was inactive for the game. As I predicted in my preview piece for the game, Joe Haeg ended up getting the start in his place with J’Marcus Webb starting at right tackle. Overall Haeg held his own in pass protection and was about average in the run game. His pass blocking was especially commendable in this game as he made his first career start at left tackle against a very good Bengals pass rush.
The most promising aspect of Haeg’s performance was that Luck had time to get rid of the ball. Even though a lot of what the Colts were doing involved quick passes, Luck did pass the ball 53 times and was only sacked twice. Neither of those sacks came from young budding star pass rusher Carl Lawson, who Haeg was tasked with blocking in passing situations on Sunday. Overall it was a good spot start for Haeg and hopefully Castonzo can play next week against Washington.
Someone has maybe already threaded this, but #PFF grades are out, figured I'd do a quick recap. #Colts offense, Luck is highest grade (no surprise there), Ryan Kelly 2nd, Joe Haeg, Jamarcus Webb finish ahead of Quenton Nelson (unequal assignments to be fair). TY fares poorly.— Josh Boeke (@JoshBoeke) September 10, 2018
Eric Ebron, TE:
I did say in my preview article that Eric Ebron will be the X-Factor for this Colts offense as he has the athleticism and ability to be a matchup problem for any defense. Reich obviously thought the same way. We heard all offseason by multiple reporters and coaches that Ebron was going to be heavily involved in this offense. Well he definitely was involved this past Sunday with an impressive 4 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown stat line.
Ebron was deployed all over the place this weekend in order to get the best matchup possible. With Jack Doyle and Ryan Grant mostly being used underneath, Ebron was the main target in the intermediate to long game. His ability in space and athleticism were on full display on his 26 yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Overall, it was a very good debut for Ebron with the Colts and I expect his role to expand even more after this promising start.
Eric Ebron already has a touchdown with the Colts. pic.twitter.com/hurwqaMOU2— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 9, 2018
Darius Leonard, LB:
It may not have been the flashiest game by Darius Leonard, but he was very solid in his rookie debut. In his first career game, Leonard was credited with 9 total tackles and a fumble recovery. In run defense, he was pretty solid in general. He could’ve taken some better angles in some moments and filled run lanes a bit better in other moments but overall not too many negatives in that aspect of his game. He played his role well in pass coverage as well as he wasn’t noticeably beat at any point either.
This game was just really solid from Leonard outside of a few rookie mistakes. Leonard has been really impressive so far in his young career with the Colts and I fully expect him to continually progress into a really good starter. He will need to be on his “A” game this next week though as Washington rolls into town coming off a performance where running backs Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson are coming off of huge games.
Another turnover in Indianapolis. A.J. Green fumbles and Colts LB Darius Leonard recovers. Keep an eye on Leonard, because he has superstar written all over him! [#Bengals 3 @ #Colts 3] pic.twitter.com/2FeSK8Jzk7— Football Dungeon (@DuaneLively) September 9, 2018
Malik Hooker, SAF:
Hooker didn’t have a great game this past Sunday but like I mentioned last week a lot of his play doesn’t really show up in the box score. By that, I mean that his presence in the backend of the field brings an intimidation factor to quarterbacks and forces them to not take as many deep shots. Besides one long touchdown pass to AJ Green, who is one of the best in the game, Hooker’s effect was felt as the Bengals rarely attacked the Colts downfield. That touchdown to Green was the one lowlight for Hooker though. Overall, Hooker finished with 4 tackles in his first game back.
I fully expect Hooker to up his play as the season goes on. He was on pace for an excellent season last year before that horrible ACL injury that cost him his season. Although he did play well on Sunday, there is definitely room for improvement. As the season progresses though, I do expect Hooker to solidify himself as one of the NFL’s top young safeties.
AJ Green : 6 catches for 92 yards & a TD on 8 targets pic.twitter.com/HxcdaaSeZQ— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) September 10, 2018
Andrew Luck, QB:
LUCK IS BACK. Andrew Luck was dealing this Sunday. After a poor decision on his first pass which resulted in a red zone interception, Luck completed a career high 39 passes on 53 attempts for 319 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also boasted a 73.6% completion percentage and finished as Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked QB of the week. Not bad for a guy coming off of shoulder rehab and not playing for the last year and a half.
This was as good a start as anybody could have hoped for from Luck. Everything appears to still be there from pocket presence, mobility, and arm strength. If Luck can continually churn out performances like this last weekend, the Colts will have a chance to win each and every game this year. Overall, Luck playing as well as he did is reason enough to be hopeful this season as a Colts fan.