However, the ultimate outcome isn’t as important as how the team actually looked and continued to progress in preseason from a week ago.
So without further ado, here are a few key takeaways:
While the latest news on Andrew Luck is encouraging regarding the increasing likelihood of his availability for the regular season opener, it’s still not a given.
The Colts needed a strong showing from Brissett with the first-team offense, and the young quarterback emphatically delivered.
Brissett was 8 of 10 (80%) for 100 passing yards—including a laser 12 yard touchdown pass to Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron in the back right corner of the end zone.
He finished with a sparkling passer rating of 141.7, and even flashed his ‘wheels’ a bit on a nifty 11-yard bootleg run early on.
Blessed with a big arm and some deceiving mobility, the 6’4”, 238 pound, big bodied Brissett has the natural talent to be a winning starting quarterback in this league.
However, at times, he has held onto the football for far too long and been slow in his progressions (or even too deliberate in his decisions)—something that a lot of young quarterbacks struggle with.
What the Colts saw on Saturday evening was a blossoming Brissett, who was efficient in his throws and made the right football reads. Aside from two passes that got away from him on the offense’s second series, Brissett was close to perfect in his performance (especially playing without stars T.Y. Hilton and Quenton Nelson).
He showed a keen ability to be able to extend plays in the pocket and looked incredibly poised as a passer—almost methodical at times.
Yes, Colts fans clearly still want #12 back for the opener, but Brissett’s performance went a long way towards instilling confidence that he can effectively start under center and give them a fighter’s chance to win—should Luck actually miss meaningful time.
The raw 2018 2nd round pick from Rutgers had an up-and-down debut campaign for the Colts. He came out hot from the gates before ultimately hitting a rookie wall.
The Colts plan to deploy Turay on the other side of veteran Justin Houston primarily in their 3rd down pass rush packages at defensive end.
If Saturday was any indication, the 24 year old pass rusher could be headed for a breakout season for the Colts.
Turay finished with 3 tackles and a sack—and a number of QB pressures, showcasing an inside pass rushing move that left the Browns offensive lineman often searching for answers, yet finding none.
The 24 year old speed rusher has repeatedly flashed at training camp, and he’s put in a lot of hard work—including with sackmaster mentor Robert Mathis.
It’s clearly paying off.
Turay really could have a big jump in production entering his second season of professional football—as he’s only been getting better.
The 2nd-year wide receiver has generated a lot of buzz already throughout training camp, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it has carried over into the Colts preseason games.
Cain was the Colts leading wide receiver on the evening, finishing with 7 receptions for 80 receiving yards—including a 38-yard long catch.
Yes, Cain did have a bad drop in the first half, but he was very impressive as a whole.
It’s pretty remarkable to think where Cain is at right now. Not just because he tore his ACL last offseason, but because of it, he’s essentially a rookie right now in playing experience.
It goes without saying, but it seems like the Colts have really found something with their 2018 6th round pick. Kudos to him and them.
With Parris Campbell sidelined, it’s not out of the question that Cain could see himself frequently in the Colts 3-wide receiver sets early on in the regular season. He’s quickly found himself in the 4-wide receiver conversation already—which is no small feat in itself.
Cain’s stock is clearly rising.
The young quarterback has said and done all of the right things since the Colts decided to take a chance on him as a reclamation project.
While Kelly still appears to be the 4th quarterback on Indy’s roster—even behind backup Phillip Walker, he’s made the most of his opportunities and could be setting himself up to at least stay within the Colts organization as a practice squad member.
Kelly finished the day against the Browns, completing 12 of 17 throws (70.6%) for 115 passing yards, a touchdown, and an impressive passer rating of 108.7.
In my opinion, Kelly offers more than Walker in overall potential and natural ability as a backup quarterback option. His talent has also very rarely ever been in question.
However, he also is saddled with a 2-game suspension to start the season—which could be highly problematic for his chances of making the 53-man roster—should Luck miss time.
Nevertheless, Kelly has consistently been one of the first players to hit the practice field during training camp, and he’s taken his second chance with the Colts very seriously.
Even though he’s often playing with the Colts third-string lineman and receivers, he’s risen to the occasion and simply made plays when called upon.
There’s quietly something to be said for that.
I can’t see the Colts keeping Kelly as a third quarterback—at least not initially, but he’s shown enough to stick within the organization as a potential taxi squad member.
Other Quick Hits:
Hentges might be the best bet for the Colts to keep their streak of having an undrafted rookie make their final 53-man roster for a whopping 21st consecutive season.
The 6’4”, 245 pound tight end from Alabama has been very consistent at training camp and showcased both reliable hands and blocking skills. He’s even drawn comparisons to Jack Doyle—but those expectations might be a tad unfair early on.
Although he did have a holding penalty on Saturday evening, Hentges also finished with 4 receptions for 34 receiving yards—catching all 4 targets. It’s going to be a tough battle between him and Ross Travis (who caught a touchdown) for the Colts 4th tight end spot.
Speaking of Travis, he’s had a long road to recovery just like Cain—having also suffered his own torn ACL last offseason. He caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Kelly in the 4th quarter of Saturday’s game.
While he faces a heated tight end competition with Hentges, good for him.
The young wideout had a few drops early, which could hurt his chances in an already crowded wide receiver room. To his credit, Johnson had a few catches later on, finishing with 3 receptions for 32 receiving yards (but was targeted 6 times).
The converted 5th round cornerback from USC is no doubt athletically gifted—with impressive physical measurables, but has taken his fair share of lumps learning his new position—at both training camp and in preseason action.
Tell got beat in coverage twice early on, had a suspect defensive pass interference penalty, but then later redeemed himself with a pass breakup.
The Colts are deep at cornerback with Pierre Desir, Rock Ya-Sin, Kenny Moore, Quincy Wilson, and special teams ace Chris Milton.
Has Tell shown enough to fight off say someone like Nate Hairston? Or is he this year’s Reece Fountain—with the Colts hoping they can quickly sign him back to their practice squad—should he be a part of their final 53-man roster cuts?
When Quenton Nelson is fully healthy, the Colts offensive line will be just fine. It’s hard to replace an All-Pro, and someone who is the catalyst for the team’s blocking.
Fill-in starter Josh Andrews tried his best but drew a holding penalty early on in pass protection—after getting soundly beat prior to.
Yes, the Colts have struggled consistently opening running lanes and with pass blocking lapses in preseason, but fans should still be plenty confident in their starting offensive line.
The Colts backup offensive lineman aren’t great, but offensive line play as a whole is watered down in the NFL—let alone the second and third string guys—who are far behind their defensive line counterparts.
Barring horrific injury luck, the Colts won’t be starting an entire offensive line of backups during any meaningful minutes however. Worst case it should only be 1 to 2 backups at a time. As such, there shouldn’t be much concern here.
Listen, I know it’s preseason. I know the play can be sloppy. I know there’s guys playing, who have only been on the team for a few short weeks (if not days). However, the Colts finished with 16 penalties for 164 total yards, which is way too high of a number.
Entering “the dress rehearsal” for the regular season opener next week, the Colts have to clean up those mistakes and ensure that they’re sharp—because they can’t have those type of plays when the action actually counts for something.
As part of head coach Frank Reich’s final ‘fine tuning’, I’m sure this will be a major point of emphasis as great teams do a lot of the little things well and simply don’t beat themselves.