New York vs. Indianapolis: Report Card Grades for Each Colts Unit
The Indianapolis Colts came away with a disappointing 27-26 loss in their second preseason game against the New York Giants to move to 0-2, but it was truly a complete performance all around for the starters in the loss.
Andrew Luck and the first-string offense got to play a little past the first quarter and made the most of their possessions. Luck found Griff Whalen early for a touchdown and played well overall, completing two-thirds of his passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Hakeem Nicks seemed to already have his timing down with Luck and stepped up in the absence of both Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton, catching five passes for 53 yards. The running game wasn't very productive all night, but the passing game was consistent in the first half, even with Matt Hasselbeck under center.
The offense was able to produce, but it was the starting defense that really opened some eyes, completely shutting down the Giants and their offense. The Giants were unable to put up anything in the first half, giving up just 48 yards of offense and only seven passing yards. Eli Manning finished his day going just 1-of-7 with six yards and a sack.
Unfortunately, the backups were unable to hold onto a 26-0 lead. Ryan Nassib was able to come in and lead the Giants on some late drives, giving them the 27-26 lead.
The Colts will play the New Orleans Saints next week, but before that game, let's take a look at grades for each unit on the roster after the big win against the Giants. These unit grades are based off of the performances of everyone who played, but are weighted more heavily toward the starters.
After limited snaps in the first game, Andrew Luck finally got a chance to get some real playing time against the Giants and ended up playing quite well. He completed 12 of his 18 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, despite not playing with his top two receivers, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.
There were a couple of off throws, but Luck looked comfortable with his targets, especially with Hakeem Nicks. That's a great sign for Luck to already be on the same page with a new receiver, and that says a lot about his ability to get in sync with his weapons.
Second-string quarterback Matt Hasselbeck played well too. Despite some pressure, and thanks to a couple of New York penalties, he was able to lead the Colts down the field on his lone drive, finishing it with a 14-yard touchdown to Da'Rick Rogers. At 38 years old, he's nearing the end of his career, but Hasselbeck continues to look like a reliable backup.
Chandler Harnish didn't blow anyone away in the second half, but at the same time he didn't do anything to mess things up. Overall, the quarterbacks looked comfortable and in rhythm with their receivers, and that's exactly what you want to see.
Trent Richardson looked a lot like the same running back we saw in 2013 in this one, and that's not good news for the running game. He struggled to find the hole early on, getting just one rushing yard on his first two carries.
Things started to turn around later, with Richardson making pass-protection plays then making solid cuts to pick up yards on the ground. Still, his overall play left fans wanting more, as he ran for just 21 yards on nine carries.
Fans were hoping that Dan Herron would make a big impact in the running game, but he didn't get a lot of opportunities, putting up just three carries for 10 yards.
Overall, the running game was the least impressive aspect of the game for the Colts. They ran for just 75 yards on 30 carries with only one run for more than 10 yards, so they'll need to improve upon those numbers next week.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Despite not having the two top receivers in Wayne and Hilton, the Colts' receivers played quite well on Saturday, especially Nicks. He finished with five receptions for 53 yards against his former team, but could have had another big catch had he not taunted an opponent and drew a penalty.
Whalen and Rogers, who had both been forced into action in 2013, were able to grab touchdowns, but the winner of the competition between the two Saturday might have been Whalen. Rogers looked good, but an offensive pass-interference call isn't going to help him.
The two starting tight ends, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, didn't make much of an impact, combining for one reception and four yards. They'll make more of an impact once the season begins, but they didn't do a whole lot in this one.
Rookie Donte Moncrief had generated some buzz heading into this game and had an opportunity to make some plays with a less crowded group of receivers, but he finished with just one reception for nine yards. He'll have some more chances to prove himself before the preseason ends, but it would have been nice to see him make the most of the opportunity.
The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for the early offensive success, especially considering the injuries that have already hit the group. With Lance Louis and Jonotthan Harrison filling in on the starting line, they were still able to give Luck plenty of time in the pocket and prevented him from being sacked even once.
Once the first-string guys came out, however, the pressure started to appear. Hasselbeck was able to avoid being sacked, but Harnish wasn't able to say the same thing, as there was consistent pressure on him in the second half.
That could end up being a big problem for the Colts down the road. As we've seen in recent seasons, the offensive line has struggled to stay healthy, and there have already been a few injuries this preseason. If the starters continue to go down, it could end up being a long season for Luck, but for now, the starters looked pretty solid and kept him off of his back.
Defensively, the Colts came out and looked as dominant as they possibly could, with the defensive line contributing in a big way. The running game just couldn't get going for the Giants, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry in the first half. The trio of Josh Chapman, Cory Redding and Arthur Jones looks like a step in the right direction for the front seven.
The Giants weren't able to get much going on the ground for the rest of the game, thanks to the defensive line, but like the offensive line, there are some questions with depth. There was a bit of a scare when Redding went down, but he didn't appear too banged up. Still, if Redding goes down, the options are limited.
Ricky Jean-Francois will likely be a name that will be called upon throughout the year if either Redding or Jones go down, but there aren't a lot of big names besides him. Hopefully someone can step up in the next few games and emerge as a legitimate backup.
The linebacker unit is a spot that could make or break the Colts defense this season, and some of the starters looked like they came to play on Saturday.
D'Qwell Jackson gave the Colts an early spark with a sack on Eli Manning, but the big name for the first-string guys was Bjoern Werner, who looked more like an outside linebacker than he did in his rookie season. He made a couple of great plays, including catching up with Rashad Jennings on a screen play to keep him from breaking away.
It wasn't all good for the starters, however. Kelvin Sheppard played quite poorly and without discipline, drawing penalties time after time. His poor performance could hurt his chances of seeing the field as much in 2014 and maybe open up the door for someone such as rookie Andrew Jackson.
The backup linebackers weren't nearly as productive as the starters, but guys such as Andy Studebaker and Jonathan Newsome were able to make a few plays.
For as complete of a game as the Colts had, the secondary might have done the best of any unit in this one, completely shutting down the opposing offense. In the first half, the Giants put up just seven passing yards, while Manning went just 1-of-6 with six yards.
Both LaRon Landry and Vontae Davis were able to make their preseason debuts, and both played well while out on the field. Overall, the starting group seems solid, but there are still questions about depth that need to be answered before the season begins.
The secondary continued to make plays in the passing game once Curtis Painter was subbed in, holding him to just 6-of-15 passing with 64 yards and a touchdown, although the score came late. As an undrafted free agent, Loucheiz Purifoy impressed in his limited time on defense, even coming up with a tackle in the backfield.
There's still a question about safety depth, but with how little the Giants were able to do in the passing game, especially in the first half, this secondary deserves some recognition.
It's hard to complain about anything in the Colts' special teams department, as this group really played a complete game. Adam Vinatieri was automatic, even at 41 years old, hitting 53- and 43-yard field goals to go along with two extra points.
Punter Pat McAfee had a terrific night punting, averaging 48.2 yards per punt on six attempts, including two that went inside the 10-yard line. One punt was especially impressive for McAfee, as he had the ball bounce out of bounds at the 3-yard line. He had a chance to kick the game-winning 64-yard field goal, and while it had the distance, it veered just a bit to the left.
Even Cody Parkey had a solid night, making two field goals as a camp leg. Besides McAfee's near miss, the special teams played nearly perfect.
After such a complete performance, Chuck Pagano and the rest of the coaching staff have to get a good grade for how well they prepared everyone for this matchup. The first-string offense, defense and special teams all came to play, dominating the Giants in almost every category.
As far as play-calling goes, the Colts did a fine job in that regard as well. Obviously, the Colts weren't using their entire playbook on either offense or defense, but what they were calling definitely worked, and I liked the aggressiveness shown in this preseason game of not being afraid and going for it on fourth down.
Pagano also had a nice coaching moment with Nicks after he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, letting him know that won't fly in the regular season. The only problem might have been the fact that there were way too many penalties, but that's been the norm for most teams this preseason.
|Positional Unit||Overall Grade|
It was only a preseason game, but the Colts played as well as anyone could have expected. The AFC is wide-open this year, and the Colts are one of the teams people are looking at to challenge the Denver Broncos.
The starters looked good early on for the Colts, but the key for this team is staying healthy. Luckily, this game was much better in terms of injuries, with only Cory Redding going down among the starters, and that didn't appear to be a serious injury, as he walked off on his own power.
The backups hurt these grades a bit, but with how well the starters played, it was hard to knock them down too much.