For a dress rehearsal game, that was as bad as the Colts could have played. What made things worse was that the injuries piled up. Luckily, this is the preseason and the issues that plagued the team Thursday night can be corrected.
1.) I think the new umpire rule needs to be modified. I have no problem with moving the umpire to the offensive backfield. What I do have a problem with is the offense having to wait for a signal from the line judge. If the ball is placed and the players are set, that should be more than enough to give the OK to snap the ball. Positioning five yards behind the running back should not take a physical toll on anyone’s body so it should not affect the umpire’s speed to get back into position. Either modify the positioning of the umpire to get the ball placed faster or hire some younger, more athletic umpires.
2.) I think something might be wrong with Kelvin Hayden. Hayden has looked awful the last two weeks, giving up two big plays. The first was the 70-yard bomb from Trent Edwards to Lee Evans. The second was the pass interference call on James Jones. Since getting healthy late last year, Hayden has not looked the same. I am not sure if it is a system adjustment to man coverage that is bothering him or if Aaron Rodgers is just that damn good. Perhaps it is just that the Colts defense has not been able to generate pressure. Whatever the case, Hayden needs to find a way to work out the kinks. At this moment, it seems the secondary only functions when Powers is in the lineup. That needs to change.
3.) I think I cannot stress enough how bad the offensive line is. What we thought was a bad offensive line got even worse Thursday night. Tony Ugoh went down with a foot injury, leaving Manning with a group of second and third stringers to protect him. The result of this mess, Manning was running for his life. Other than one big run from Joseph Addai, both he and Donald Brown had to make great second and third efforts just to gain 2-3 yards. In order to get back to the Super Bowl, the offensive line has to at least perform as well as last year’s line. A healthy starting unit would be a good start.
4.) I think Devin Moore is firmly entrenched as the starting kick and punt returner. Unlike Brandon James and Ray Fisher, Moore has not fumbled or muffed a kickoff return, and has consistently produced. On top of that, he has added value as a running back, running hard between the tackles, is a willing blocker, and shows decent hands. This is not to say Brandon James and Ray Fisher will both get cut. I think one of them will make the roster. If I had to put my money on it, I would pick Fisher.
Despite his blunder in the Buffalo game, Fisher did a nice job, in limited action, against the Packers, and played tight in man coverage. He still needs work but the fact that he is able to stay with his man is encouraging.
This makes Brandon James the odd man out. For as much as he has shown in the return game, he does not offer much else. He has not shined on offense, which limits his versatility. If you are going to play for the Colts, you have to show the coaches that you are not one-dimensional.
5.) I think Curtis Painter is improving week to week. After a rough start against the 49ers, Painter has shown steady improvement, leading the second team offense on back-to-back touchdown drives. Though he still has a lot of room for improvement, Painter has shown better movement in the pocket and better touch on his throws. He looks calmer and confident. His interception and two fumbles were more indicative of receivers not catching the ball and bad snaps by Adrian Martinez. If Painter can light it up against the Bengals next week, I think we can all breath a little easier about the backup quarterback situation.
-Despite having trouble communicating plays to the defense, Pat Angerer looked good with the first unit. He was able to locate the running back through traffic and displayed decent coverage ability — he was not overly aggressive on play-action fakes.
-Bob Sanders looked good again on Thursday, running around and planting players with huge hits. The fact that he played several snaps without having to be taken out is very encouraging.
–Though there were injuries to a few key players, they do not appear serious. We need all the healthy bodies we can get for the starting units.