Indianapolis Colts vs. St. Louis Rams; My Thoughts

An encouraging sign: Somebody not named Freeney or Mathis hitting the QB

  I know, I know – I’m a little late to the party.  The Colts’ first pre-season game was played 3 full days ago, and most of what’s needed to be said has probably been said already.  I had an extremely busy weekend, and didn’t have access to the game until last night.  I tried to make up for my tardiness by watching the game 3 times, focusing primarily on the first 3 quarters.  Here are my thoughts about the Colts’ first pre-season game (and a few things to look forward to): -I didn’t think it was possible, but Chad Spann (#28) may have played his way off the roster in the 1st half of the 1st pre-season game.  As I mentioned earlier, I expected Spann to be competing for the return duties with fellow running back Devin Moore (who didn’t play).  However, Spann muffed 2 kickoffs, and failed to produce any quality returns with his 4 attempts. -Jeff Saturday has been a tremendous Colt on and off the field, and was instrumental in the CBA negotiations.  However, his days of being an elite Center are behind him.  He has, and will continue to hold up in pass protection, but he is simply out-matched in the running game.  On our 1st rushing play of the game, Saturday was pushed 3 yards into the backfield, and never generated much of a push in his limited time. -Mike Pollak (#78) is awful.  Terrible.  Disgustingly bad.  I don’t know why he’s an NFL player, let alone a potential starter.  He consistently missed his blocking assignments, was pushed backwards on most plays, and failed to open up any running lanes for the running backs. -Drake Nevis (#94) is going to be a great player in the NFL.  He has a quick burst off the snap, and is always finding himself in the opponents’ backfield.   He was constantly pressuring the QB in passing situations, something the Colts have been lacking from the defensive tackle position.  If he keeps this up, expect him to be an immediate starter. -Speaking of defensive tackles, newly acquired Tommie Harris had a good showing in limited time.  On a 3rd and 2, Harris pushed his blocker back a few yards, and made an athletic play to trip up the running back short of the first down marker.  He also drilled A.J. Feeley on a TD pass (that was later overturned), arriving just after the QB released the ball. -Maybe, just maybe, the Colts’ front office got a hold of my plead.  On multiple occasions, our CB’s played bump-and-run coverage.  They did play some zone (still too much for my liking), but overall they were lining up much closer to the line of scrimmage then in years’ past.   This is very encouraging, and I hope to see more of it. -Mixed reviews for Kavell Connor (#53).  He made a great play at the goal line, disrupting a running play for no gain.  But on the very next play, he gave up a touchdown pass to an area of the endzone that was his responsibility in zone coverage. -Couldn’t take a lot away from Delone Carter’s (#34) performance – 6 carries for 29 yards, but he did look good in pass protection and route running the few times he was asked to do so. -Philip Wheeler was impressive, but did make a few mistakes that stood out to me:  He played way too far off in zone coverage and gave up a 10+ yard gain in front of him, and lost outside containment on a running play that resulted in a 15 yard gain.  He did have 6 tackles and one nasty (potentially illegal) hit on Danny Amendola, leading to an incompletion. -Jim Caldwell actually said something on the sideline.  I’ve watched every game during Caldwell’s tenure, and I’ve never once seen him show any signs of emotion.  I’ve also rarely seen him say much at all on the sideline.  So when he was visibly upset at the officials for a pass interference on the Rams that wasn’t called, it actually put a smile on my face.  It may not make him a better or worse coach, but it will do wonders for his public perception. -Brandon King (#37) looked lost out there, I doubt he’ll make the 53-man roster.  He was beat on a 3rd down pass play, and missed tackles on a regular basis.  Kevin Thomas (#21) is a big guy.  He was beat for a 20 yard pass-play in the 3rd quarter, but he was playing off the line of scrimmage.  Still want to see what he can do in press coverage.  Also, Chris Rucker (#36) made a great play on the ball on a long pass attempt, running stride for stride with the WR, and knocking the ball out of his hands for an incompletion. -I thought our rookie offensive lineman (Castanzo & Ijalana) looked pretty good.  Nothing special in the run game, but some solid pass protection.  The few times the Rams created pressure from the outside had more to do with the QB’s (lack of) awareness – something we won’t have to worry about with Peyton Manning under center. -And finally:  Jerry Hughes.  Hughes has been blasted by the Colts media following his poor performance on Saturday.  While I too thought he played pretty bad, there were a few positives that I saw.  On a 3rd & 5 play, Hughes beat Rodger Saffold outside (pretty convincingly), but slipped up-field while trying to get to the QB on a quick pass-play.  If the QB held the ball a little longer, Hughes would’ve had a sack and possibly forced a fumble.  He also seemed to play the run better than Freeney and Mathis.  He wasn’t extremely effective at doing so, but he wasn’t just playing the pass on every snap.  He also had a nice sequence in the 2nd quarter: He nearly sacked Bradford on a stunt up the middle; then disrupted a run on the very next play.  I’m not suggesting that he played well, just that he didn’t scream “bust” to me. Things to look for on Friday: Kick Return Duties:  Let’s see if the Colts give Chad Spann another shot after his poor showing on Saturday.  I really like his potential (he had a nice 25 yard catch & run), but he won’t make the Colts roster unless he wins the kick returner job.  A lot will depend on the health of Devin Moore going forward – if he plays, I expect him to be the primary return man. The Offensive Line:  Castanzo and Ijalana played with 2nd and 3rd stringers on Saturday.  At some point they will need experience with the 1st team offense if they are going to be starters Week 1.  I’ll be paying close attention to the starting unit along the offensive line this pre-season, hoping that at some point, we see some continuity. Cornerbacks:  Jacob Lacey has been listed as the 2nd starter (opposite Jerraud Powers), but as I wrote about here, he was completely outplayed by Justin Tryon in 2010.  I’m still hopeful that Tryon will take over as the starter, and push Lacey inside as the slot/nickel CB.  Let’s see if any adjustments are made between now and the start of the regular season. Defensive Line:  It’s unlikely that Freeney or Mathis will play much, if at all, so expect to see a lot of Jerry Hughes again.  I’m really hoping he has an impact this pre-season, or I’ll lose any hope that he could be a valuable 3rd rusher for this team.  As far as the interior lineman go, let’s see if Tommie Harris and Drake Nevis can build on solid performances from their Colts’ debut. One player I’m anxious to evaluate on Friday:  Joe Lefeged (#35).  It’s hard to gauge a Safety’s pass coverage on TV, but he looked pretty solid against the run.  The Colts have a habit of finding hidden gems at the safety position (Bethea was a 6th rounder, Bullitt was undrafted).  Lefeged could play a major role for the team in 2011; he’s currently projected as the backup strong safety.      

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.