Indianapolis Colts Preseason: Week 3 Stock Report
In what was a disappointing dress rehearsal, the Indianapolis Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints 23-17 on Saturday. The Colts remain winless in the preseason, a largely meaningless fact but a reality nonetheless.
But while the first team looked impressive during the first two weeks of the preseason, they were overwhelmed by the Saints on both sides of the ball in Week 3. Whether it was Drew Brees picking apart the Colts coverage or Cameron Jordan getting to Andrew Luck time and time again, the Colts looked thoroughly beaten on Saturday.
Now they must begin the process of trimming the roster and preparing for Week 1 of the regular season. Eleven players were cut Monday, with a few more moves to come Tuesday. With just one preseason game remaining, who is on the rise in Indianapolis, and whose stock is plummeting?
Stock Up: DT Zach Kerr
Arguably the biggest bright spot in Indianapolis this month, former Delaware Blue Hen Zach Kerr has been absolutely dominant in the last two games, racking up a positive-7.2 grade from Pro Football Focus in those two weeks.
Kerr was his normally disruptive self on Saturday, getting two run stops and a sack. Yes, this is where the disclaimer for preseason and playing against backups is placed, but the fact is that Kerr has eclipsed the competition. With no other viable option for backup nose tackle coming close to Kerr's performance, the undrafted free agent has crafted a role for himself on the Colts roster.
There is no reason for Kerr to be cut at this point. The stock is rising exponentially, it'd be best to nab some sooner rather than later.
Stock Down: ILB D'Qwell Jackson
Big picture, the former Cleveland Brown has been very good this preseason. D'Qwell Jackson has been playing more instinctively and has been quicker to the ball in this preseason than he was all last year with the Browns.
But against the Saints, Jackson was exposed in man coverage, allowing three receptions, including a touchdown. He also missed three tackles on the day, rounding out an off day for the veteran.
Jackson did finish with six tackles and still did a good job of flowing to the ball when the defensive line kept him free of blockers, but the damage was done. Jackson could have a very good year with the Colts, but there's a chink in the armor, and its name is man coverage.
Stock Up: ILB Henoc Muamba
The former Winnipeg Blue Bomber continued his strong preseason on Saturday with an all-around impressive performance.
This time, Muamba showcased his ability to rush the passer, picking up a sack and a hurry in just two pass-rush snaps. On his sack, Muamba looked a little bit like Robert Mathis, stripping quarterback Ryan Griffin to force a fumble. The Saints recovered, but the sack ended the drive.
With depth linebackers Andrew Jackson and Josh McNary both missing the bulk of preseason with injuries, Muamba seems to be a good bet to make the final roster. He has strong instincts and is quick enough to make plays across the field. Jerrell Freeman and Jackson will receive the bulk of the snaps as three-down linebackers, but Muamba could be a valuable replacement at times.
Stock Down: ILB Kelvin Sheppard
It was a down day for both starting linebackers, as Sheppard was picked on across the board on Saturday.
In coverage, Sheppard allowed several dump-off receptions to RB Pierre Thomas and TE Ben Watson for a total of 39 yards. Allowing those passes to be completed is one thing, but allowing them to gain big yards after the catch is unacceptable. Sheppard didn't necessarily miss tackles, but he was too slow and got beat to the edge multiple times.
With a negative grade in each category, Sheppard finished with a team-low negative-2.2 grade from Pro Football Focus.
Stock Up: RB Dan Herron
Quite easily the best-performing running back on the team in the preseason, former Ohio State product Dan Herron continued his strong month on Saturday with 68 yards on eight carries.
Sure, a bulk of that came on a 43-yard scamper, but Herron's been passing the eye test all preseason, running hard through holes and creating three-to-four-yard gains when there wasn't much there. His style is reminiscent of Donald Brown in 2013, who, of course, was wildly successful.
Herron has also been getting involved in the passing game, although his lone catch on Saturday was stopped before he could get back to the line of scrimmage. While pushing Richardson or Bradshaw would be a surprise, Herron has almost certainly made the roster.
Stock Down: Starting Running Backs
But while Herron (as well as fourth back Zurlon Tipton) had a strong performance on Saturday, the starting running backs continue to disappoint. Well, let's put it this way: The starting running backs behind the starting offensive line have disappointed.
Neither Trent Richardson or Ahmad Bradshaw could find room to run on Saturday, combining for just 19 yards on nine carries.
At this point, it doesn't really matter whether the Colts run out of the shotgun, Power-I formations or spread looks, because none of it is working. Hopefully the pending return of Khaled Holmes boosts the run game a bit, but until that happens, every run is a roll of the dice.
Stock Up: CB Greg Toler
After a rough 2013, both because of injuries and inconsistent play on the field, Greg Toler has put together an eye-popping preseason and training camp. Toler has looked as impressive as ever, keeping strong coverage in general but also showing quick closing speed and the ball skills to get his head around and knock the ball down.
Toler finished with five tackles, partially because he allowed a few catches through superhuman effort by Drew Brees, but also because he got involved in run support.
If Toler can stay healthy and effective the season, the Colts secondary has a very high ceiling. If he spends significant time on the bench, it will force some movement among the defensive backfield that could hamper its performance.
Stock Down: Tight Ends' Run Blocking
While both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen were able to get more involved in the offense on Saturday, their collective run blocking continues to be putrid, a bit of a concern for a team that figures to rely heavily on the pair's flexibility.
When running plays are blown up because of quick penetration, it's most often been the fault of Fleener, Allen or both. It's a bit expected from Fleener, who has never been a strong blocker, but Allen's negative-3.0 grade from Pro Football Focus in run blocking is shocking. It could be that Allen just needs to shake off the rust after missing an entire season, at least that's what Colts fans are hoping.
Without at least one strong blocker among the top two tight ends, the Colts will be very limited in what they can do with the two players. In the Colts' zone runs out of the shotgun, the tight end often has to be the kick-out block at the point of attack. If they can't do that, plays get wasted.
All statistics and snap counts come from Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. All training camp observations were obtained firsthand by the reporter unless otherwise noted.
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