Hits And Misses: Colts Win Preseason Opener
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INDIANAPOLIS – A new series on 1070TheFan.com this year will be defining ‘hits’ and ‘misses’ from the previous game.
Let’s get it started after the Colts won their preseason opener, 19-17, on Thursday night over the Seahawks:
-Learning To Win: I don’t care if it’s the preseason, the Colts need to learn how to win and learn how to finish. Sure, the vast majority of guys playing in the 4th quarter on Thursday night won’t be around a month from now. But for a team that squandered so many opportunities last season in finishing games, they did something different on Thursday. “It’s always fun to win,” Frank Reich said after the victory. “We wanted to come out here and finish with a win. That’s part of our definition of toughness. I was proud of the guys the way they finished it.”
-Ridgeway Impresses: The strongest individual performance of the night had to go to defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway. A 2016 fourth-round pick, Ridgeway is fighting for a roster spot. He made a strong impression on Thursday night with 2 sacks and 3 tackles for loss. Sure, he did it against second and third teamers, but the coaching staff has noticed his presence even at Grand Park. “That was no surprise,” Reich said of Ridgeway’s performance. “Really, the last week in practice he’s really shown up all over the field. Coaches have been talking about him. He’s been practicing like that every day."
-Adam Vinatieri’s Still Got It: Vinatieri, 45, ho-hummed his way to 3-for-3 on field goals. He knocked those home from 33, 51 and 45 yards out. It’s the preseason, but close games like this are exactly why the Colts sleep better at night knowing what they have in the kicking department. “It’s like he’s ageless,” Reich said of Vinny after the 19-17 victory. “He’s just clutch. When you are not able to convert, it’s nice to have someone like that, who’s nearly automatic, because there’s a lot of close games like this one. Obviously, each one of those kicks were very important.”
-Offensive Innovation: Things will be very basic from a schematic standpoint for the Colts in the preseason. But you saw a small glimpse on Thursday into the different elements that Frank Reich is using in 2018. You also saw some aggression, with the Colts going for an early fourth down, converting and getting 3 points out of it. The second half brought some more read-option looks.
-Rookie Jordan Wilkins Makes Some Plays: Little curious as to why we didn’t see Jordan Wilkins until the fourth quarter. But the rookie runner made chicken salad out of nothing on a couple of plays. It can be really difficult to evaluate skill guys late in preseason games. However, Wilkins is a guy that should factor into some playing time early in the season.
-Nyheim Hines Struggles: It was not a good night for the rookie punt returner. On 3 separate punts, Hines muffed or misjudged balls. Ball security is priority No. 1 as a returner and Hines failed in that on Thursday night. We will see if the Colts open this competition back up. “Obviously we have to handle the punts (better),” Reich said.
-Center/Quarterback Exchanges: For those that sadly stayed up for Thursday’s fourth quarter, you saw some horrific fundamental aspects of football. The center/quarterback exchanges were a brutal experience for OL-Mark Glowinski and QB-Brad Kaaya. Even third string QB-Phillip Walker had issues in the prior quarter. Frank Reich said after the game that Glowinski had not taken many center reps in practice. Still, it was embarrassing to see the Colts struggle with such an elementary aspect of the game and it killed their evaluation process for those back end of the roster guys. After 3 straight errant exchanges, the Colts decided to put Joe Haeg back in the game at center to finish the evening.
-Bend And Breaking On Defense: Both of Seattle’s first two drives reached inside the Indy 10-yard line, even though Russell Wilson quarterbacked just the opening series. The Colts could not find a pass rush and lacked playmaking in the secondary until they were gifted an interception from Seattle’s backup quarterback Austin Davis. Frank Reich liked the speed he saw from his defense, but it was a unit that struggled when 1s played against 1s.
-Tackle Depth: Really, no NFL team has quality backup left tackle options. The Colts definitely don’t either with both Joe Haeg and J’Marcus Webb getting beat 1-on-1 for a sack in the first half. Speaking of the offensive line, that right tackle spot didn’t look solidified either with supposed starter Austin Howard being demoted to the second team for Thursday’s game. The interior of the line protected well early, but the edges looked sketchy at best with Anthony Castonzo sidelined.
-Late hit: Just a stupid penalty by new safety Shamarko Thomas, which led to his ejection. The new leading with the helmet rule was called on Thomas late in the fourth quarter and he deserved to be tossed. Frank Reich said that, too, after the game. Just a boneheaded play for a guy trying to make the team. Thomas is the first player to be ejected under the new NFL rules.
-Injuries To Watch: Two important skill players went down in Thursday’s first half. RB-Marlon Mack injured his hamstring and rookie WR-Deon Cain injured a knee. The severity of either injury is not known. It goes without saying how vital Mack’s health is for the Colts, who are already thin at running back to start the year, particularly in experience. For Cain, he seems to be a rookie who could push for playing time, given the unique skillset he brings.