Preseason Week 2 has come and gone, and Indianapolis stays winless. There’s no reason to overreact, however, as the team still had its fair share of bright spots. Let’s take a quick look through both the good and bad of the Colts home opener.
Andrew Luck’s Warm-Up
Hear me out folks; we’re grasping for straws here. Much has been made of Luck’s leg injury and his availability for Week 1, so it was a great sign to see him moving as well as he was pre-game. Working laterally through bags, he seemed confident in his cuts and didn’t appear to be limited. Yes, you can take it with a grain of salt, but at this point seeing any side to side work is a plus.
Andrew Luck was out warming up before the Browns/Colts game.— Indy SportsOne (@IndySportsOne) August 17, 2019
Good sign heading towards Week 1? - via Dan Graziano/ESPN (Instagram) pic.twitter.com/VGu2xraBai
With Luck being hurt, snaps at the QB position are (potentially) up for grabs. Jacoby Brissett is the clear back-up (and played quite well Saturday), but Chad Kelly has also taken advantage in Luck’s absence - performing admirably in both preseason games. Completing 12 of 17 passes for 115 yards and 1 touchdown this past Saturday, Kelly provided his typical swagger and confidence while slinging the ball with precision. Aggressive in the middle portions of the field, he also consistently attacked softer zone coverages and was able to develop a nice rapport with his tight ends on seam routes - highlighted by a 24-yard touchdown pass to Ross Travis.
Being suspended the first two games of the year - the time when Luck could potentially be unavailable - doesn’t make keeping Kelly an easy decision for the coaching staff (as the main reason Indy would keep 3 QBs is because of the Luck situation). One thing is for certain, though. If he keeps playing like this, Chris Ballard and company are going to have a hard time keeping the former Ole Miss signal-caller off the final roster.
Speaking of tough decisions, the quality performances from the tight end group this weekend didn’t make roster choices any easier. Eric Ebron picked up right where he left off last season, catching a beautiful 12-yard touchdown pass from Jacoby Brissett in the first half. Meanwhile, Jack Doyle also got in on the action with a nice 19 yard gain, excelling in limited action. Finally, depth pieces Ross Travis and Hale Hentges shone brightly, with Travis catching a beautiful 24 seam route in traffic and Hentges racking up 4 catches for 34 yards - drawing comparisons to Doyle in the process.
With the team likely to keep 4 tight ends, (and Ebron, Doyle, and Mo Alie-Cox seemingly locks for 3 of those spots) these strong performances put Indy in quite the interesting predicament. Travis’ basketball background makes him a high upside developmental option, but Hentges dependability and sturdy nature may be more appealing for the team. I’d expect the Colts try to stash one away on the practice squad, but if both continue to thrive, that option might not be available.
Ebron picking up where he left off. pic.twitter.com/6UqVU9Rcqp— Carter Donnick (@CDonScouting) August 17, 2019
This was a devastating week for fellow sophomore receiver Daurice Fountain, with the promising pass-catcher being put on injured reserve. Thankfully, Deon Cain helped lessen the blow with another quality performance. Catching 7 passes for 80 yards, Cain was the top target all night and displayed the tantalizing skill set this team has been talking up all summer. It’s unfair for a player of his size to move as crisply and fluently as he does, and Cleveland had a hard time containing him all game long. Once again he dropped a pass and failed to capitalize on a few opportunities, but the fact he’s open and creating so many opportunities is still positive in its own right. Ultimately, with the way he’s progressing, there’s no reason Cain can’t be one of Andrew Luck’s top 3 targets by the end of this season. He’s that good.
In Buffalo, the defensive line was one of the clear “duds”. This week they turned things around and find themselves in the “studs” column. Kemoko Turay was excellent all afternoon, racking up a great sack (even if Kareem Hunt helped push him into the passer), and showcasing the natural athleticism and unreal burst that made him a 2nd round selection. He also defended the run much better than usual, which was the main struggle in his rookie season. Meanwhile, Carroll Phillips continued his excellent off-season, showing off excellent patience as a rusher and a deadly long arm on several occasions. Margus Hunt, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and Caraun Reid also put in valiant efforts, and the unit as a whole looked drastically improved. With questions about depth being a main talking point for many analysts, it was nice to see the unit silence some doubters.
On the surface, when you see a player with the last name Penalties has 164 yards, you’d assume the performance goes in the “stud” part of this article. Unfortunately, I checked the depth chart, and no player named Penalties is currently on the Colts roster. That means the team racked up this yardage as a consequence of their sloppiness, not because of some cool person recently signed off the street. It’s preseason - tons of teams go through similar discipline issues - but it just reinforces that things need to be tightened and cleaned up before the real games start.
Foreman was just put on injured reserve with a torn bicep, which means he won’t be on the final roster. It makes a necessary decision a bit easier, as his performance this Saturday did nothing to indicate he deserved to be on the team. I know that may sound harsh - and it probably is - but Foreman honestly didn’t do anything for 60 minutes. Rushing 1 time for negative yards and catching 1 pass for 6 yards, the former Texan looked lethargic and sluggish, and simply isn’t what some fans were hoping for. Yes, he ran for over 2000 yards in a season for Texas, but that was 3 years and a torn Achilles ago. I’m rooting for the kid, but there are much better running back options currently available.
It’s not time to panic. I want to stress that. Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, and Ryan Kelly - three core pieces - either didn’t play at all or played limited snaps. Once again, however, the second string O-Line failed to establish any success - both through the air and the ground. Players like Jackson Barton and Jake Eldrenkamp played poorly, while Josh Andrews and Antonio Garcia performed even worse. Taking an expanded role with Ryan Kelly out, Andrews was consistently pushed back and couldn’t anchor all game long. Meanwhile, Garcia struggled with his footwork on the outside, getting beat BADLY by Wyatt Ray on the left edge during one particular rep. Again, I’m not worried right now. But if a few linemen get banged up during the year - something that’s a very real possibility - depth is proving to be a real concern.