The Indianapolis Colts experienced déjà vu in their preseason visit to Green Bay. The last time the teams met — week 7 of the 2008 season — the Colts played poorly and were thoroughly defeated by the Packers 34-14. Their visit this season was much the same, only with a more lopsided 59-24 defeat.
There is no way to sugarcoat the disappointment fans, coaches, and the team feels after imploding in their 2010 dress rehearsal preseason game. There were too many mistakes. The play was too sloppy. The injuries to players like Gary Brackett, Joseph Addai, Tony Ugoh, and Jacob Lacey were the exact opposite of the kind of outcome fans needed to blow-off the shoddy performance and look forward to the future.
In the face of all this, fans should still not panic.
The biggest concern for Colts fans should be the NFL’s new placement of umpires behind the line of scrimmage. One of the most dangerous attributes of Indy’s offense is its unrivaled speed. Defensive coordinators and defenders go through much of each game playing catch-up and finding themselves winded from the break-neck pace. The outcome of this change is unpredictable and unsettling, and Paul Kuharky’s discussion with NFL spokesman Michael Signora suggests that the move is definite.
Joseph Addai’s concussion is a concern as well — less because the injury was serious or will result in Addai missing time and more because he has a history of concussions. Fans will have to hope that this injury will not become a pattern in the regular season.
*The Indy Star reports X-Rays on Brackett’s hand were negative and a source with knowledge of the injury said it was, “no biggie.”
While the news on Brackett’s hand is encouraging, there is no guarantee that he will be ready to play week one against Houston. This could push Pat Angerer into the starting rotation very early in his NFL career. The good news is that Angerer looked capable of filling in for Brackett against the Packers; though expecting him to play at Brackett’s level right away is unrealistic. Still, the upside to Angerer’s work in Green Bay and potential early christening in the regular season is that he will gain invaluable experience and could prove himself worthy of a starting spot, even when Brackett returns to middle linebacker.
Kelvin Hayden and Philip Wheeler were the two biggest first team defense disappointments. Hayden needs to step up as the leader of the cornerbacks; he should not get beat by his assignments and commit 48-yard pass interference penalties. Since he returned to good health late last year, he has not looked the same and will need to pick it up. Wheeler has done little to impress so far in the preseason and one has to wonder if there is a chance that Angerer could beat him out for a starting spot at some point this year.
That said, it was encouraging to see Fili Moala and Jacob Lacey play solid football with the first team, although Lacey suffered a concussion. Moala held up well is with the first team, which is a good sign for depth at defensive tackle. Lacey played a solid game, outplayed Hayden, and looked like the best cornerback on the field for Indianapolis.
Another positive note, was the re-emergence of Bob Sanders for the Colts defense. He was flying around the football field, registering five total tackles, four solo, and forced one fumble. The Colts plan to use Sanders where he excels this season, back away from the line of scrimmage, in space, which means fans will see more of his big hits like the one on Ryan Grant.
One continuing source of frustration for fans in Indy will be officials ignoring blatant holds on pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. There were at least three obvious holds on Freeney, two of which allowed Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to complete passes for first downs. If the league does not get this under control, the game will be hurt and the Colts defense will suffer.
Brandon James failed to make the most of his opportunity to shine in the return game. Muffing a punt, which was downed by Green Bay for a touchdown, is not the way to make a NFL roster. He was too indecisive with the ball in his hands, ran too much laterally instead of picking up yards downfield, and on one kick return completely missed a chance to run free up the middle.
Jeff Linkenbach continues to get a lot of work along the offensive line. When Tony Ugoh went out with a toe injury, Linkenbach came in with the first team at left tackle. For a rookie, Linkenbach played a very strong game, missing an assignment maybe once or twice through two or three full quarters of play. When he gets his hands on a defender, Linkenbach does a nice job holding the pocket and looked decent run blocking as well. Mike Pollak also played well at left guard.
While this was not the performance Indianapolis hoped for, the Colts have all the pieces to be dangerous this season. When players like Charlie Johnson, Jeff Saturday, and Dallas Clark return, the offense should look even better than it did early in the game. When Jerraud Powers and Gary Brackett return, the defense will be fine. It is unrealistic to think that Coyer and the defense will continue blitzing as much as they did in Green Bay. The blitzes are still in preseason form, so it makes sense to work on it.
Do not panic, everything will be alright.