Now that’s more like the Colts. Last Sunday night, all three units made amends for a lackluster performance against the Houston Texans. There were improvements to areas fans did not think possible and the errors (for the most part) were cleaned up.
1.) I think the Colts need to stay committed to the running game. When I say committed, I do not mean handing it off 43 times a game like the Colts did on Sunday, but balance the offense out. An average of around 20-30 times being split by Addai and Brown seems more feasible. By running the ball, the Colts accomplished three things as I had mentioned previously: They slowed down the Giants pass rush (Peyton Manning was not hit nearly as much as in the Texans game), opened up play-action passes (the touchdown to Dallas Clark), and kept the defense fresh (the pass rush was consistent all night). Mixing the run with the pass will benefit all three phases of the game.
2.) I think if and when Anthony Gonzalez gets back, he should return punts. The reason for this is not because Gonzo needs to prove anything, it’s because I would rather not have our best conerback, Jerraud Powers, increasing his risk of injury. Though the Colts secondary did a great job covering the Giants receivers, there were two mishaps by Jacob Lacey and Kelvin Hayden leading to long pass plays. The only constant in the secondary has been Powers who has yet to give up a long pass play. This is not to say I hope Gonzo increases his chance of injury, as I believe he will play a critical role in our offense once he returns, but I would rather use a player at a position we are deep at than one that is shaky if the best player goes down.
3.) I think we will see a lot more of Brody Eldridge. Against the Giants, Eldridge displayed the exact reason the Colts drafted him. He blew open holes for Addai and Brown and on the few times he was asked to do so, kept Manning clean when staying in to block. It is yet to be seen in the regular season how well Eldridge will do when asked to catch passes, but if the preseason is any indication, he is more than capable. By allowing Eldridge to get involved in the pass game, it will provide the offense with that much more versatility in the two tight end set because teams will not know whether the Colts are passing or throwing out of that formation.
4.) I think Jerry Hughes and Ricardo Mathews will make significant contributions either mid or late season. As Bill Polian and the coaching staff have mentioned, it takes time for linemen to develop in this league. There are a lot of techniques and adjustments that need to be made at the pro level. Unlike Fili Moala, Hughes and Mathews have shown flashes of their talent and ability in the preseason, which leads me to believe they are ahead of the curve. Do not be surprised to see them active sooner rather than later.
5.) I think people need to withhold judgment on a player until after three or four years. The college game has deviated far away from the pro game. College teams are now deploying more and more spread offenses which require little technique and execution to run. So when a college player enters into the pro ranks, the learning curve is a lot steeper than any of us realize. The schemes are more complex, the players are faster, bigger, and stronger than any of these players have seen.
It is for this reason that some take longer than others to develop as is the case for players like Mike Pollak and Fili Moala. Sunday (and throughout the preseason), we witnessed them beginning to turn the corner. Fili generated terrific penetration and stood his ground against the run, not allowing the Giants linemen to get any push. Pollak grated through Giants defenders, opening up holes for Brown and Addai to run through.
What people have to remember is that for all the measurables the Colts favor in a player, the one that is not listed is the character and desire of a Colts player.