Colts Rising and Falling: Preseason Week 3

The Colts’ loss to New Orleans in Week 3 was a bit disappointing, on many levels, but it’s only a preseason game. No matter the score, no matter the initial eye test, there are positives and negatives to be taken out of every game, and the preseason embodies that even more.

Risers

Zach Kerr

Once again, the undrafted free agent from the University of Delaware was a force in the middle, finishing with a grade of +3.2 from PFF. All three of Kerr’s tackles were defenisve stops, including a sack. That’s two straight games from Kerr with “green” grades in both run defense and pass rush, and it would be a shock for him to be cut prior to the season-opener.

With the highest defensive grade this preseason, and just one stop less than team leader D’Qwell Jackson, Kerr has managed to make an impact from the nose tackle position. He’s not just clearing space and holding the line, he’s shedding blocks, making tackles and penetrating as well.

Hugh Thornton

The second-year guard was the Colts’ only offensive starter to receiver a “green” grade from Pro Football Focus, with a combined +2.1 grade on screen and run blocks. Thornton did have at least one poor play, as he tripped on a pull that blew up a Richardson draw, but the rest of the day seemed like a net gain for the youngster.

The Colts need Thornton to be better across the board this season. They’ve invested in him and trusted him with a starting spot. They made no effort to bring in competition for him this year, and if he struggles they have no real replacement, at least not while Joe Reitz is stuck playing tackle. His game, along with reserve guard Josh Walker, will be fascinating to highlight in Ben Gundy’s charting.

Depth Running Backs

On a day when both Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw struggled, both Zurlon Tipton and Dan Herron strengthened their cases for the Colts to keep four backs on the final roster. Tipton had his best game of the preseason, running for 33 yards on just eight plays for a 4.1 average while adding a 16-yard screen reception. Herron provided the “Boom” that he is nicknamed after, running for a 43-yard scamper and finishing with 68 yards on eight carries.

Yes, these were against backups instead of starters. But they were also behind the second-team offensive line, which has been lacking. Neither of the two are going to compete with the veterans for snaps yet, but they (especially Herron) have advanced their causes.

Fallers

D’Qwell Jackson

The former Cleveland Brown has had a strong preseason, but he was picked on by Drew Brees on Saturday. Jackson allowed three catches for 62 yards and a touchdown, albeit to Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, hardly a fair fight for the veteran.

Jackson is a good zone linebacker, but he’s not quite quick enough to stay with the new bread of tight ends in man coverage, and the Saints took advantage of that. It may not be a problem every game, but it’s worth watching for. When Jerrell Freeman returns from injury, he may be the linebacker taking those man assignments.

Tight Ends

Outside of Coby Fleener catching a touchdown on the Colts’ best downfield play of the preseason (for the first-string), the tight ends have failed to make an appreciable impact this preseason. That catch was a result of scheme and defensive failure, rather than Fleener beating his man, which as been a theme for Fleener in his career.

The more concerning fact is how poor the run-blocking has been from the tight ends. When run plays are blown up, it’s often the tight ends at fault, both Fleener (expected) and Allen (knocking rust off?). If the Colts are going to run 2TE sets, they have to either be able to get separation or block well, if not both. Right now, neither are happening, and it’s holding them back.

Tyler Hoover

To be honest, former Michigan State defensive end was never going to have a great shot at making the roster. After the injuries to the offensive line, the Colts moved Hoover to the offensive side of the ball. Hoover started at tackle for a while at Michigan State, but it hasn’t worked out well in Indianapolis yet. Hoover allowed a sack and a hurry on Saturday for a -2.6 grade in pass rush from PFF in just eight snaps.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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