The preseason is finally upon us. This Sunday, Bills versus Colts, 1:30 Eastern Daylight Time on the NFL Network and locally on MyINDY 23. Finally, at long last, a football game, or at least something that closely resembles a football game – a real chance to see some of what this team, with so many new faces and a new offense, can do.
Training camp gives us glimpses here and there, but nothing shows what players are made of like full game speed. As excited as the fans are, the players are feeling the anticipation as well.
A couple of the second year guys talked about the difference between going into the first game now versus when they were rookies. “Last year was kind of butterflies,” said receiver-on-the-rise T.Y. Hilton. “This year is more excited. Ready to get back and finally hit somebody again and catch the ball and hear the fans cheer.”
The more verbose Chuck Pagano was asked if he still gets ‘butterflies’ on game day. “Yeah everybody gets them,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing or coaching, we all have a job to do, and we all have responsibilities. There is always butterflies but once you kick that thing off as a player, you have them but the first time you get hit or you hit somebody, the butterflies are gone and you are in the flow of the game and the same thing goes as far as coaching, once you kick the thing off and you get in the flow of things. Obviously having somewhat of a year under my belt, so to speak, I don’t think it will be as bad as it was the first time.”
As for Vick Ballard, the difference is more about when and how much he will play. “Yeah, last year I didn’t get into the first preseason game until the second half so I had to sit there and wait until I got my chance to play,” he said. “This year is a little bit different. They said I’m probably not going to play that much, so it’s a whole lot different.”
Since the moment Pep Hamilton and the Stanford offense arrived in Indianapolis, there’s been talk of fullbacks. Will we have them, how much will we utilize them, and this is Indianapolis – what the heck is a fullback? The way Hamilton likes using fullbacks seems to specify that the player the Colts keep at the position should be athletic, and not just a plodding human bulldozer.
In training camp, the fullbacks have looked all right, with Stanley Havili standing out (as much as a fullback can stand out) for his ability to catch out of the backfield. He even put a nice double move on linebacker Erik Walden in practice earlier this week. As far as Pagano’s assessment, he was careful to say something positive about each fullback, but he couldn’t help but to gush a bit about Havili when he was asked about how the position was coming along.
“I see it coming along really well,” Pagano said. “Stanley Havili has exceeded our expectations. We knew athletically what he was, again, going through the offseason and not being able to see the physical part but the guy is one tough cookie. He is not afraid to slam it up in there whether you’re running leads and trying to knock linebackers out of the hole, running off tackle plays, power plays, those type of things, and kicking big defensive ends, outside linebackers out of the hole. In the pass game, whether you displace him from a personnel standpoint, you line him up in different spots or you bring him out of the backfield, he’s got excellent hands, he’s a good athlete, he can run, he can make guys miss in the open field. He’s done a great job.
“Of course we’ve got Dominique (Jones) back there who’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades. He is going to have to fill in at the tight end spot for a while but he played it last year and he’s doing a nice job. Danny (Moore) was doing a nice job until he had the shoulder injury, so we feel good about the position and where we are at with it.”
Havili, once voted the most inspiring player at USC by his teammates, has been seen almost as a finesse-like player at a very hard-nosed position. Last month, I suggested he may look to make some statement plays to show his toughness and physicality in the preseason, but it sounds as though he has already been sending that message throughout training camp. (I also suggested that a backup tight end might hold down the fullback spot, and right now, it looks as though I was dead wrong.)
Roster Moves: New guys trying to overcome their respective pasts
The Colts added a couple players at positions where they have been dealing with injuries this week and waived WR Rodrick Rumble and G Justin Anderson. Anderson is classified as waived-injured, and can be in the Colts’ IR if he clears waivers.
At linebacker, they added former Merrimack College standout Shawn Loiseau (6-0, 239, 23 yrs. old), who spent some time on Indianapolis practice squad after being cut by the Texans last year.
Now that he’s with the team, you may hear mention of battery conviction that once kept Loiseau out of the big name football programs. According to James Hollingsworth of CBS Houston, there’s far more to it than just an arrest record (You can read the full article here):
When he was 17, Loiseau was jumped outside his house when he was walking home from the gym. He was hit across the forehead with a crowbar, and fought back against his attackers so violently that he put one of them into a coma. His attackers charged Loiseau with assault and battery with a deadly weapon, claiming that the ground was his weapon. Loiseau was put on probation for two years and kicked out of high school his junior year, but plead guilty so that he could return for his senior year.
(Warning, opinion alert) I don’t condone violence, but it sounds like someone simply attacked the wrong guy. Hollingsworth went on to mention that Loiseau has never been in another fight. Whether or not he can stick in Indianapolis, he looks like an interesting camp prospect. Click here for Loiseau’s 2012 NFL Draft profile.
At safety, where LaRon Landry, Larry Asante, and Joe Lefeged all missed practice today, the Colts signed former Illinois safety Ashante Williams, who has a checkered past of his own, according to dailyillini.com:
He graduated from high school a semester early to enroll at Illinois for spring ball, but nearly failed out of college. Adjusting to life as a student-athlete coupled with an ambitious course load wasn’t a recipe for academic eligibility. He was forced to redshirt his freshman year rather than carve out a role on the defense.
His troubles didn’t end there. He was suspended for one game in 2009 after testing positive for marijuana. Oversleeping for 6 a.m. workouts, arriving late to practice, bouncing on and off academic probation, missed meetings, it all added up. He had fallen out of favor with the coaches.
Williams isn’t known for his speed – he actually spent some time at outside linebacker in college, and he wasn’t a full time starter for the Illini. He is a strong tackler who will be working to prove his maturity as well as his football ability. Here is Williams’s draft profile (much shorter, since he wasn’t at the combine).
That’s all we have for today. Everyone have a good, safe weekend, and enjoy some Colts football, even if it is just the preseason.
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
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