Indianapolis Colts' Biggest Preseason Disappointments so Far
Preseason, as a whole, is hopeful.
It's a time when every NFL team has limitless potential, and the team's ceiling is where the team will end up in the eyes of the fans. Every player has a shot at making the roster, and every team is even.
But if one team has to win, one team has to lose. If one player impresses in the preseason, there's another who's getting beat. For the Indianapolis Colts, optimism is high. But even with that optimism comes individuals who have disappointed.
Excluding the players who have been cut already, which players have disappointed this preseason? These are players who the Colts need strong production out of in the regular season but who have not reached that level yet in the preseason. While the preseason, in the end, is just preseason, it still has value in how we judge players.
RB Trent Richardson
While some were encouraged by Trent Richardson's play in training camp, his performance didn't mean much to me. Training camp's half speeds and lack of physical contact meant that everything the run game was predicated on was falsified, and Richardson's improvement was not apparent in the least.
Once the games began, Richardson's struggles returned.
While Richardson has had a few impressive runs of eight or less yards, the majority of his touches continue to go for little-to-no gain. Richardson has rushed for 51 yards in 20 carries over a span of three games and has failed to get involved in the passing game, catching one pass for four yards.
Richardson has flashed his physical skills and occasionally will wow the viewer with a spectacular broken tackle. But the third-year pro is still setting himself up for failure by missing cutback lanes, hesitating at the handoff and struggling to anticipate his offensive line's movements.
There are some positives to be found in Richardson's performance, but they are spread too thin between abysmal stretches.
OT Gosder Cherilus
When the Colts signed right tackle Gosder Cherilus to a five-year, $35 million contract in 2013, the contract was the highest in the league for a right tackle. Cherilus, coming off a career year, was not one of the league's more highly regarded players, but there was no local outrage over the signing because of Cherilus' performance in 2012 with the Detroit Lions.
The idea that the Colts could sign a top-five pass-protecting tackle—which he was, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—was appealing, even if the cost was a touch high.
Cherilus was not nearly as impressive as a Colt in 2013, but he was still a solid yet unspectacular starter. However, if the Colts were to get their money's worth, Cherilus needed to approach his 2012 levels going forward.
Fast forward to the 2014 preseason, and it's not looking promising that Cherilus will have a bounce-back year. Instead, it's looking more and more like the former Boston College Eagle had an anomaly of a year in 2012.
Cherilus has a middling grade of minus-0.2 from Pro Football Focus this preseason but has concerned with a minus-2.8 grade in pass protection. Only Matt Hall has a worse pass protection grade on the team.
The struggles on the edge have been a notable factor in the Colts first-team offense, especially against the New Orleans Saints, when Cherilus allowed a sack, hit and two hurries, per Pro Football Focus.
On a team filled with young, unproved players, the Colts need their veterans, especially those with high salaries, to produce on a consistent basis.
DE Arthur Jones
There are a lot of things to like about Arthur Jones, including his personality and his consistent play on the field in 2013. The Colts, after all, liked him enough to sign him to five-year, $33 million contract.
Unfortunately, that play on the field has yet to manifest itself in the preseason. While the Colts defensive line has impressed, on the whole, Jones has failed to make much of an impact. Jones is the only Colt with more than 25 snaps to have failed to record a tackle, according to Pro Football Focus, and his grade of minus-2.1 is one of the five lowest on the defense.
The run defense has been much improved, but it can be attributed to Josh Chapman's emergence as a dynamic force in the middle and the linebackers' aggressiveness than Jones' presence.
Jones' play thus far isn't too concerning. Like Cherilus, he's a vet with some accrued respect. It's merely preseason, and the feeling is that both players will find their "groove" once the games begin to count. But like Cherilus, Jones' accolades are largely found in a single season (2013), and the Colts need him to prove that it was a sign of things to come if he's going to live up to his contract.
WR Donte Moncrief
After an impressive training camp in which he looked more polished than what was expected for the 21-year-old receiver from Ole Miss, the Donte Moncrief hype train took off. Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star named him as one of the top four performers at camp, for example, saying Moncrief was a "tough cover" and that the Colts expected him to contribute in 2014.
Once the actual games started, however, Moncrief faded into the background. The rookie has just three catches for 39 yards, along with one run for 11 yards. Just one of his receptions, a nine-yard catch against the New York Giants, has come with the first team.
A big, fast wide receiver, Moncrief certainly has potential, and the Colts could be creative in how they use him. But so far, he's struggled to create separation and also failed to haul in at least one target that was catchable.
Fortunately, the Colts don't need Moncrief to be a Pro Bowler right away, with Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks ahead of him on the depth chart and Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen available as depth. Moncrief can take his time and develop for the future. But his lack of production in the preseason is a reminder at how little training camp performances really mean.
S Delano Howell
The difficult thing about evaluating safety Delano Howell is his lingering neck injury, which has caused him to miss the last two preseason games. That injury is the most "disappointing" thing about Howell's preseason, and it could cause him to miss significant time down the road.
Howell was expected to compete for the starting safety spot alongside LaRon Landry and was the favorite coming into camp. But his neck injury, which seems to be lingering pain left over from his season-ending surgery last season, has put him in a difficult situation.
But even before the injury, Howell was not guaranteed a starting spot. Howell had been rotated with Mike Adams in the starting lineup and did not impress in his lone preseason game. Howell missed two tackles against the New York Jets in the first preseason game and failed to make the impact plays that made him a fan favorite in 2013.
Safety remains the Colts' most uncertain position in 2014, and Howell could be a significant part of the solution. But he needs to both be healthy and more sure-tackling before that happens, and his inability to get on the field will keep that from becoming reality for the foreseeable future.