The Colts handled their business Saturday night, beating up the Browns 27-6.
This is exactly what a team of Indianapolis’ calibur should do to a team like Cleveland. The Colts are in the mix to make the playoffs once agains this season. The Browns are trying to break .500.
Overall, the team has looked very good the past two weeks and it will be interesting to see what happens when a few players on offense are healthy once again.
Here’s what we took away from Saturday night’s game:
- Hugh Thornton. The rookie was finally healthy and saw snaps with the first team offense at right guard. He was a clear upgrade over Mike McGlynn who was out with a knee bruise. The interior of the OL needs help and it looks like Thornton should push for the starting spot as he gets healthier. He was better in pass protection than run blocking, but pass pro is more important anyway. He was the second best lineman after LG Donald Thomas Saturday night.
- Caesar Rayford. This man is on a mission to make the Colts final roster. He is a sacking machine and racked up two more sacks and another forced fumble against the Browns (a third sack was taken away by offsetting penalties). He was very productive in Arena League football and the CFL. He has simply played his way into a roster spot. He doesn’t have a lot of pass rushing moves, and seems to get to the QB by sheer force of will (or bad blocking by a running back). If he doesn’t make the team, I’d be shocked.
- Reggie Wayne. This seems like a no brainer, but you can’t say enough good things about Wayne. He is catching (or nearly catching) everything thrown in his general direction. His “drops” were all to do well timed hits or good defensive plays. Moving him all over the field is going to play hell with defensive coordinators. He finished Saturday with seven receptions for 79 yards .
- Darrius Heyward-Bey. Its looking more and more like DHB doesn’t have a bad case of the drops. He caught all three passes thrown his way and has been getting big yardage after the reception. Its clear that there is more of an upside to T.Y. Hilton as a receiver, but DHB is making a case to get consistent looks his way.
- Griff Whalen. He led the reserve wide receivers with four catches for 57 yards. He continues to stand out among the backups. He has a knack for getting open and has very solid hands. In a pinch, he could be a good fill in at wide receiver for the Colts.
- The Defense. Overall, the defense was outstanding. They held the line of scrimmage and made plays in the passing game. Even the second stringers looked very good. This might actually be one of the better secondaries the Colts have had in years (if they stay healthy). You would like to see more of a pass rush, but it didn’t look like the Colts send Robert Mathis after the Browns QB all that often. Forcing two turnovers, and one for a touchdown, always makes for a great game.
- Gosder Cherilus. The right tackle was essentially a revolving door on Saturday. He gave up a lot of pressure and often times didn’t block the right person. It wasn’t just him, the tight ends, running backs (Donald Brown), and fullbacks kept in to block or chip were also missing their assignments or hitting the wrong man. Cherilus was paid far too much money to put up a game like he did Saturday night. It really looked as if the effort simply wasn’t there.
- Offensive Lull. The Colts had three bad drives in a row during the first half, starting with an interception in the redzone off a tipped pass. There were a lot of miscues, dropped pass, bad routes, and poor blocking that doomed these drives. The one thing that stood out was the lack of a competent tight end. Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are both out, and there is a serious drop off in talent. As solid as fullback Stanley Havili was (he caught a touchdown!), he isn’t a tight end. Even Fleener, and his drops, would have made these drives easier for the Colts as it would have forced the Browns to change up their approach.
- The Run Game. This is still a work in progress. If Thornton or Holmes can sneak in the starting lineup, it will definitely get better. Also having healthy tight ends will help with the blocking, especially on stretch plays. Right now, the rushing attack is very boom (little boom, like 3-5 yard booms) or bust. The stat sheet says the Colts can run the ball, but Vick Ballard had 10 carries for 33 yards, and that’s just an exercise in futility. Some have suggested the Ahmad Bradshaw will save the rushing attack, but he still needs blockers. I’m not sure Adrian Peterson could run behind this line…probably.
- Penalties. The Colts committed just three penalties for 15 yards all game. Just for fun, the Seahawks (a Super Bowl favorite) committed 14 penalties for 182 yards against the Packers. Last season, the Colts were one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. Cutting down on penalties keeps drives alive and doesn’t extend opponents drives.
- Bjoern Werner was solid in his second game, and looked pretty good against the run but his pass rush is still a work in progress. Expect to see him in a lot of situation plays, especially when he can line up in a three-point stance on obvious passing downs.
- CB Greg Toler looked very good in coverage. He forced a fumble simply by not giving up on the play, even as the receiver fell to the ground. He might be a high risk, high reward style player, but so far it appears to be working.
- Anthony Castonzo sprained his knee early in the game and didn’t return. The Colts optimistic that he will be ready to go by the season opener. This has the feel of an injury he might have played through in a more important game, but its the preseason.
- Not related to the game, but rookie offensive lineman Khaled Holmes returned to practice on Monday and Pagano hopes he can get some reps in Thursday final preseason game against the Bengals. Holmes could push center Samson Satele for the starting spot, or could compete with McGlynn and Thornton for the RG spot.
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