Indianapolis Colts: 10 Things We Learned Through Week 3 of Preseason
Three weeks of the preseason have already come and gone for the Indianapolis Colts, and we've learned a great deal from these three games.
The preseason is regarded by many as completely meaningless, but there are certain things you can take away from these games. The fourth game, however, is completely meaningless and has absolutely no value. A player could theoretically have a big game on Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but it likely won't help much if they're trying to fight for a spot on the final roster.
From starters embracing the new offense to third-stringers shining, we've learned a lot through three weeks about this Colts team. Let's take a look at some of the bigger things we've noticed.
1. Andrew Luck Looks More Comfortable in the New Offense
What sophomore slump?
Alright, that may be a bit of an overreaction, but Andrew Luck has looked comfortable in the new offensive scheme. Having his former offensive coordinator at Stanford in Pep Hamilton calling the shots will help with that.
The shorter passing routes combined with an improved offensive line has seemed to give Luck the opportunity to make more plays, and so far he's done just that. He's completed 65.9 percent of his passes for 322 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
The big number to look at is the completion percentage. Luck completed just 54.1 percent of his passes last season, and although the sample size is small at this point, seeing that number jump over 11 percent is a good sign of things to come.
2. The Power Running Game Isn't Going to Take World by Storm
Pep Hamilton may be committed to the power running game, but that doesn't mean it's going to blow people away in 2013.
The numbers haven't been that exciting from the running backs through three games. The team as a whole has averaged just 3.6 yards per carry on 83 attempts. Not exactly what you want to see from a team who seems to really want to run the ball.
Perhaps the running game will improve once Ahmad Bradshaw returns, but for the time being there are some concerns. A struggling offensive line and a couple of average running backs mean that the running game isn't going to be feared by opposing defenses any time soon.
3. Reggie Wayne Is Still Very Good
You probably didn't need me to tell you this.
With all of the change surrounding the Colts over the past few seasons, Reggie Wayne has stayed with the team and continued to be a very productive player. Even as he slowly approaches 35 years old in November, Wayne has a shot to be a Pro Bowl receiver in 2013.
So far, Wayne has had 11 receptions for 121 yards and a rather bizarre touchdown grab on what was essentially an alley-oop from Aaron Ross.
What will Wayne do in 2013? Chances are that he's going to have yet another great season.
4. T.Y. Hilton Is Going to Be Even Better in 2013
While Wayne's career is starting to finally wind down, T.Y. Hilton is just getting started.
Hilton has been fantastic so far in the preseason. He's had seven receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown in all three games. He already seems very comfortable in the new offense and still has the explosive speed we saw from him during his rookie campaign.
With how good Hilton has looked so far in training camp and the preseason, he could become an even bigger weapon this season and be a favorite for fantasy football owners.
Scouts said that Hilton would struggle at the pro level because of his size, but so far he has proved them all wrong thanks to an impressive start to his career.
5. Hugh Thornton Needs to Start over Mike McGlynn
The interior of the offensive line has not looked good during the preseason, but there's a move that could potentially change that by the start of the regular season, and that would be starting Hugh Thornton over Mike McGlynn.
Thornton had been dealing with an injury during training camp, but he was finally able to see his first playing time in the preseason against the Cleveland Browns while McGlynn was inactive. On one of the first plays he was in, Thornton was able to level a Browns linebacker, and he was very solid for the rest of the game.
It may be another overreaction, but with how bad McGlynn has played since last season, something needs to change quickly for the offensive line.
6. Erik Walden Struggles Making Tackles in the Open Field
There have been plenty of people, including myself, that have criticized the Colts' signing of Erik Walden, especially for so much. He has had a chance to prove himself during the preseason, but so far he hasn't looked too good.
Perhaps the perfect play to describe the past eight months for Walden would be from the game Saturday against the Browns. Walden was in the open field trying to take Trent Richardson down without anyone else around them. Instead, Walden looked lost, and Richardson got by him without much trouble.
This has been a problem for Walden for quite some time, and Saturday's game just reaffirmed the suspicion that he struggles making tackles in the open field. It's only preseason, but that needs to change soon.
7. The Defensive Line Is Shaping Up Nicely
This may not be an elite group in the NFL, but the Colts defensive line is looking like a very solid unit that could make a positive impact on defense.
The D-line is going to be a very fluid unit with a number of players subbing in and out, and most of them have looked pretty good so far. Cory Redding, Aubrayo Franklin, Ricky Jean Francois and Josh Chapman have all showed that they can plug up the holes and get penetration when needed. The line looked especially good against the New York Giants, making a number of big plays when it mattered most.
This will be an interesting group to watch throughout the season. There are a number of guys that will be playing, but so far it looks like most will do a fine job.
8. Bjoern Werner Is Learning His Role on Defense
Fans were wondering how Bjoern Werner was going to be used on defense for the Colts this season, especially considering that he was the team's first-round pick. While he has only played in two of the three preseason games so far, we are finally starting to understand how the team plans on utilizing him.
Werner has seen a lot of time on third-down situations, which hasn't been surprising. While he hasn't registered a sack at this point, he has shown that he can get pressure on the quarterback. He got close to taking down Eli Manning early in the game against the Giants.
Along with these pass situations, Werner has also seen some extra time subbing in for either Erik Walden or Robert Mathis. While he has looked good at times, there are some things he needs to work on. During one run play against the Giants, Werner tried to work on getting by the offensive lineman that was on him rather than setting the edge and keeping to the outside, and he got taken out of the play because of it.
This shouldn't be too concerning for fans. Werner is adjusting to his new position on defense after playing defensive end in college, and it will take time for him to understand what it's like to play as a 3-4 linebacker. Once he gets comfortable, Werner could be a real weapon on defense.
9. The Pass Rush Is Struggling
Some of the backups may have looked good in this department, but so far the first-string defense for the Colts hasn't generated much in regards to pressuring the opposing quarterback.
In the first preseason game against the Bills, there seemed to be almost no pass rush, with E.J. Manuel having plenty of time to find the open receiver. The team finished with one sack for the day.
In fact, despite grabbing 10 sacks through the first three games, only one has been from a first-string guy. Erik Walden was able to grab a sack against the Giants, but it was going against a struggling David Diehl, who recently was told that he needed to undergo thumb surgery.
The pass rush has been a concern for the Colts for a while now, even after picking Bjoern Werner. However, there has been one bright spot from the pass rush...
10. Caesar Rayford Needs a Spot on the Final Roster
It's hard to not like Caesar Rayford, and after such a productive preseason, he absolutely needs a spot on the roster.
This is one impressive guy to watch. First off, when you see Rayford, you realize how truly massive he is for an outside linebacker. Listed at 6'7'' and 267 pounds, Rayford towers over most players, and he uses that size to get through offensive linemen and get to the quarterback.
So far, he's been doing exactly that. He's already had five sacks up to this point, with two of those being sack-strips. He's been a dominating force that has seemed to get pressure frequently, even if it's just been against backups.
That kind of production shouldn't go unnoticed, and Rayford should have a spot locked up on this final roster by now. Considering he's been one of the few players capable of pressuring the passer, it simply makes sense to keep him around.