Football is finally back and the first of four Colts preseason games is in the books. Lots of positives to take from the first game and a few… unpleasantries.
1.) I think the defense has the potential as potent as it has ever been in the Manning Era. Right off the get go, Antoine Bethea flew in, blasted Niners’ RB Michael Robinson, and separated him from the ball. This was followed by a quick three-and-out on the Niners’ next possession. The first unit’s final drive ended with a Jerraud Powers interception — aided by a Bethea tip.
The blitzes looked natural as holes opened up for pressure to come free, while the pass coverage remained stellar. Pressure came from all angles — up the middle from DT’s Fili Moala and Eric Foster, from blitzers Melvin Bullit and Pat Angerer, and from DE’s John Chick and Robert Mathis. It was a truly impressive performance. I can only imagine how much better this unit will be when Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney are inserted back into the lineup.
2.) I think the offensive unit is missing one component (and I’m sure you can guess what I’m about to say next). They still cannot run block. Too often I saw a stalemate, a small crease that would allow only 1-2 yards, or allow defenders to penetrate into the backfield. Addai had to make too many shifty moves, Brown ran into walls all day, and Hart had to truck his way through defenders.
Thankfully, the line was able to protect Manning and give him time (well at least the first unit). Injuries to Charlie Johnson and Jeff Saturday may factor into the running problems, but it’s pretty apparent that even those who are slated to be starters (i.e. Ryan Diem) did not help the cause tonight.
3.) I think Adam Terry is going to be on a short leash. He was horrendous today, allowing 49ers defenders into the backfield to harass Curtis Painter and the running game. Terry didn’t drive his opponents off of the line and was pretty stagnant in pass protection. Unless he straightens out his act, it will seem more and more likely that he was brought in as camp fodder.
4.) I think Curtis Painter is still a rookie. He doesn’t look very comfortable in the pocket (although i give him a bit of a pass given how poorly the offensive line played). He is unable to feel defenders around him. He rarely stepped up in the pocket or slid away from pressure. He simply stood there, making him an easy target for defenders.
Painter also holds onto the ball for too long, eschewing the check down for a bomb. His only nice passes occurred when he had a clean pocket, but in the NFL, you will not have flawless protection on every down. He must improve his poise and pocket presence.
5) I think we have the returners, now can we get some blockers? There weren’t any explosive plays out of the return game, but each player returning kicks and punts ran hard and didn’t hesitate. Blocking, to create a seam, was still missing.
On punt returns, defenders were immediately in returner’s faces, which forced Brandon James to fair catch and let several balls go by him. On kick returns, James and Giguere ran straight ahead with great speed, but there was no room when they got past the 20. Although there was a holding penalty, James’ longest return of the day displayed his speed, quickness, acceleration and shiftiness. We have our returners now, but like the running game, we still need the blockers.