Football is back - and a whole lot of overreactions are back along with it. Sure, the Colts didn’t have the most inspiring of games in Buffalo. Losing by a generous 8 points, Indy showed very little life for roughly 3 quarters and were outplayed on both sides of the ball. With that being said, however, it’s still preseason. Andrew Luck wasn’t playing, T.Y. Hilton didn’t suit up, and there’s absolutely no reason to panic.
It’s important in games like this to focus on the individual rather than the collective, and the Colts showed a fair amount of individual promise. Let’s take a quick look at the players who impressed - and those that would’ve been better off sitting things out on the sideline.
If we’re just looking at the box score, Jonathan Williams wouldn’t be anywhere close to a “stud”. But when you watch the tape and see what he had to run through - you gain a whole new appreciation for his performance. Rushing 8 times for 24 yards, Williams worked for every single inch, showing fantastic contact balance and an aggressive mentality. The effort and power he played with reminded me of his Arkansas Razorback tape, and it’s refreshing to see the 5th Round pick being given a legit shot. With Spencer Ware hurt, Williams has a great opportunity to slide on the team as the 3rd back, and he certainly didn’t do anything to hurt himself Thursday.
The Colts D-Line was nothing short of abysmal, but Phillips was one of the lone exceptions. Seemingly always in the right spot, the edge defender showed off terrific burst, effort, and pursuit all game long. With 2 sacks and multiple pressures, last year’s waiver claim shone bright and took advantage of the lackluster performances all around him. He still may not make the team, but Phillips’ potentially made himself a whole lot of money with this showing. Stock up.
The Colts are likely to just take 2 QB’s on the final roster - Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett - but that didn’t stop Chad Kelly from putting on a show in the opener. A former 7th Round pick out of Ole Miss, Kelly moved the offense in the 4th quarter - and showed off some of the traits that got him starter hype in Denver. Dazzling defenders on a 33-yard touchdown run, the signal-caller was playing against third-stringers, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless. It also probably didn’t hurt that he came in after Phillip Walker completely laid an egg. Talent hasn’t always been the question with Kelly, however, (his list of off-field issues is massive) so he needs to keep his head on straight if he wants any chance of cracking the team.
With LB snaps up for grabs, Speed was a player I was looking forward to seeing in action. Thankfully, he delivered. Displaying his patented speed and explosiveness, the defender led the team in tackles (5) and provided the type of range and coverage ability that he’s impressed folks with in training camp. There was one play, specifically, that stood out for me, where Speed went toe-to-toe with Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie down the field. Sure, the pass was completed, but the fact an LB can stay with a 4.3 receiver is straight-up nuts - and showed the insane athletic ability he possesses.
It certainly wasn’t a perfect performance - there were times when Speed misdiagnosed plays or ended up in the wrong position - but it was a promising start. With rookies you’ll live with the mistakes. You just want to see the skills that made you draft them in the first place.
Besides Caroll Phillips (and potentially Grover Stewart), it was hard to find positives on the defensive front. Al-Quadin Muhammad had a chance to shine with Jabaal Sheard out but was continuously stonewalled by Ty Nsekhe. Kemoko Turay showed a nice speed rush occasionally, but was neutralized far too often, especially in the run game. Meanwhile, the likes of Jihad Ward, Gerri Green, and Dadi Nicolas didn’t impress - even against third-string offensive linemen. The front 4 depth was a major question-mark heading into camp, and preseason game 1 certainly didn’t ease any of those concerns. It’s not quite time to panic, but let’s hope the unit fares better next week against Cleveland.
Look. Phillip Walker didn’t get much help from his supporting cast. His O-Line was poor and his receivers dropped multiple balls. But gosh, was this a terrible showing for the former Temple QB. Unable to drive the ball, Walker looked like a fish out of water for most of the game, completing 8 of 18 passes for a meager 85 yards and 1 cringe-worthy interception. His roster odds were microscopic heading into Buffalo, and they got even smaller after the match-up. Even if Indy somehow manages to go with 3 QB’s due to Luck’s calf injury - unless Walker turns it around - Chad Kelly deserves the spot.
Phillip Walker is very bad— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) August 9, 2019
Let’s just say Jackson’s brother (Cody Barton) fared a lot better in his first NFL game. Drafted in the late 7th Round, the tackle out of Utah played extremely poorly, looking clumsy with his footwork and out of his element in all facets. It’s extremely hard for tackles to adjust to the pro game, but Barton, unfortunately, doesn’t have much time left to turn it around. If he can’t show significant improvement over the next couple weeks, I doubt he’ll make the final roster. With his size and athleticism though, he may look like a prime practice squad candidate - and I think the Colts are likely already looking in the direction. It’s becoming more and more of a possibility Indianapolis goes with only 8 or 7 offensive linemen, and Barton made no attempt to raise that number with his performance.
Ultimately, we’re one week in. Now’s not the time to overreact. Studs from this game could be duds in the next, and vice versa. It’s important to get the year started on the right track. Some players did just that, and others not so much.