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What We Learned: Colts vs. Bucs Preseason Week 3

What did we learn from the Colts’ victory over Tampa Bay in Week 3 of the preseason?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts closed out their 2022 preseason with a 27-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night.

Starters on both teams saw some playing time, and while there isn’t a ton to take away from Indy’s victory, a few different players and moments are worth noting.

  • Starting offense finishes strong after rough start:

Matt Ryan and the Colts’ offense got off to a slow start against Tampa Bay’s defense, going three-and-out on their first two possessions. The offense wasn’t able to create much of a ground attack behind a different starting offensive line that included Danny Pinter at center and backup offensive lineman Will Fries at right guard.

While the offensive line eventually figured things out, the unit struggled a little and the inexperience behind the normal starting five showed last night and is something that’s worth monitoring going forward.

Ryan was 5-of-7 for 59 passing yards on the night and looked much more comfortable during the team’s third offensive possession, which ended in a one-yard touchdown for running back Deon Jackson.

Keep in mind that what we saw on Saturday from the offense was very simple concept-wise. The Colts didn’t play running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines and aren’t going to “open the playbook” in the preseason. The offense is going to look much different against the Houston Texans in Week 1.

  • Defense stands out after slow start:

Much like their offense, the Colts’ defense was a little sluggish on their first series. Tom Brady and the Bucs’ offense marched down the field in a few plays, but Indy’s defense stood firm and held them to just a field goal.

While we didn’t see much out of the Colts’ pass rushers, cornerback Stephon Gilmore made a few nice plays, including a nice pass breakup against Tampa Bay’s Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans. Despite being called for pass interference, it was still an excellent play by Gilmore.

There’s a lot to like about the Colts’ depth at defensive back. Seventh-round pick Rodney Thomas played well, as he had four tackles for a second consecutive game. Nick Cross, who’s been a preseason standout, also played well in coverage and had two tackles.

  • Punter Matt Haack has strong debut:

After losing Rigoberto Sanchez for the season to a torn Achilles, the Colts went out and signed former Buffalo Bills’ punter Matt Haack.

Haack put together an extremely strong debut Saturday. Of Haack’s five total punts, four landed inside the Bucs’ 20-yard line, and he averaged over 50 yards per punt, including a 57-yarder, his longest boot of the night.

The Colts pride themselves on having one of the league’s best special team units, and while losing Sanchez is significant, Haack showed that he’s capable of stepping in and being a solid replacement in 2022.

  • Sam Ehlinger has stellar end to preseason:

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger has been nothing short of exceptional for the Colts this preseason. Ehlinger went 5-of-7 for 65 passing yards and kicked off the second half of last night’s game with a 44-yard touchdown run, adding to his impressive preseason performances.

Ehlinger finished the preseason with an 82 percent completion rate with 289 passing yards, and four touchdowns through the air; while rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown.

The former sixth-round pick has displayed a lot of growth in his play throughout the last three weeks and, in the mind of many Colts fans, has earned a spot on the team’s 53-man roster.