No matter how little the final score matters in the preseason, it’s nice to see a win. The Colts first unit looked shaky for a minute, and then bolted out to a 17-3 lead, bookended by Andrew Luck touchdown passes, one a dangerous near-interception, saved by some amazing concentration on the part of Reggie Wayne, and the other a beautiful throw to the corner of the end zone to T.Y. Hilton.
Luck, playing most of the first half, finished 9/13 for 107 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a 133.7 quarterback rating. Darrius Heyward-Bey led all Colts receivers with 4 catches for 42 yards and looked downright legitimate in the process.
Reggie Wayne had 3 receptions for 37 yards including his touchdown. On the play, Luck threw the ball as he was going down, badly underthrowing Wayne. The pass bounced off a New York Defender’s hands near the goal line and right to Wayne, who batted the ball into the air momentarily, only to catch it in the end zone for the odd-looking, highlight reel touchdown. (more after the jump)
Luck made up for the broken play in the second quarter with a beautiful 18-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton, who finished with 2 catches for 36 yards and continues to look very, very good in practices and in preseason games. Hilton is by all accounts an exceptionally hard worker, constantly seeking out ways to be a better player, and his efforts are showing every time he takes the field.
Areas/Players that Demanded Attention
On defense, the Colts finished the game with 6 sacks, definitely a better showing in the pass rush department. On the first unit, free agent signee Erik Walden added a second quarter sack of Eli Manning during the 2nd quarter that helped turn the New York drive into a three and out that set up Luck’s second scoring drive.
Starting CB Greg Toler added an interception of Eli Manning in the first quarter on a play where both he and ILB Kelvin Sheppard had very good coverage.
With the backups on the field, DT Drake Nevis (2 tackles, 2 sacks), and OLB Caesar Rayford (3 tackles, 2 sacks) had stand out performances for the defense. Nevis was a 3rd round pick in 2011 who showed some noticeable promise before being hampered by injuries. Staying healthy will be the key for him moving forward.
As for Rayford, the former AFL star will either have to beat out Lawrence Sidbury for a roster spot, or hope the Colts keep a fifth player at outside linebacker. Rayford is 6-7, 267 pounds, and averaged 7 sacks per season in the AFL, a league built to be dominated by quarterbacks. Here’s a link to my story on Rayford from back in May.
On offense, reserve offensive lineman and UDFA Emmitt Cleary had a nice showing on the field, keeping his momentum from a strong training camp, and laid a huge block on the Giants’ 2nd round pick, DT Jonathan Hankins.
Areas/Players that Need More Work
The Colts had an up and down performance against the run, and struggled to run the ball themselves, finishing with 33 carries for 88 yards and 2.7 YPC. Take out Andrew Luck’s 14-yard scramble, and that total dips to 32/74/2.3. Indianapolis doesn’t need to be completely run focused, but they will be working toward a better result next week, when their starters will see their most action before the regular season opener against the Raiders.
Other than that, the second half looked like a preseason game, with some inaccuracy from the quarterbacks (Hasselbeck and Harnish combined for 8/15 for 55 yards and an interception (Hasselbeck), and several players playing for roster spots who have rarely played together as a unit.
This team’s starters looked very promising, and they have a few solid performers in the bottom half of their roster. No one should ever be too high after a win, especially in the preseason, but this one did feel pretty good.
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