ISR Colts/Notre Dame Beat Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – If you were looking for an exciting game, or for the Colts to duplicate what they had done in preseason Weeks 2 and 3 then you were going to be sorely disappointed in this game. The Cincinnati Bengals were able to take advantage of the Colts 27-10. The Colts decided to give their marquee players the night off, as Matt Hasselbeck started the game at quarterback and Chandler Harnish finished it. Other players such as Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea also did not see the field. The resting of the key starters gave an opportunity for some young, “roster bubble” players to shine.
Here is how my Game 4 primer’s three main points turned out last night:
- Emmett Cleary/Ben Ijalana – We will have to sit and play the waiting game until Saturday’s cuts are announced to see if either of these players makes it. The offensive line as a whole has left much to be desired during the preseason, so it can be hard to tell the direction the coaching staff would like to go in. It depends on how committed to a youth movement on the offensive line they are, as fellow rookies Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton may both be starters by the time the season is over.
- Montori Hughes/Drake Nevis/Ricardo Mathews – The same can be said about this bunch what was said about Cleary and Ijalana. Montori Hughes is safe by proxy of being a 4th Round draft pick. They will also not risk placing him on the practice squad, as he would be claimed pretty quickly by another team. That leaves it down to Drake Nevis and Ricardo Mathews. Mathews helped his cause with a sack in the game, as well as with his ability to play special teams. However, we will just have to wait.
- Sergio Brown/Larry Asante/Daxton Swanson – Daxton Swanson pulled a hamstring during the contest and did not return. He also did not register any statistics during the game. That does not bode well for Swanson, as he needed a standout performance to get on the roster. If he does not make the roster, however, he is a good candidate for the practice squad. Between Sergio Brown and Larry Asante, Asante had, by far the better performance. In fact, Asante led all players in the game with 13 tackles – 6 more than the next closest (safety Delano Howell had 7 tackles). Part of Asante’s 13 tackles included a sack, to go along with a fumble recovery in the 2nd quarter. Sergio Brown had a so-so, pedestrian game with 3 tackles. His special teams prowess may give him a leg up on the other safeties when it comes to cut time, but it depends on how many safeties the Colts are comfortable with keeping on the roster. As Stampede Blue’s Josh Wilson suggests, perhaps Joe Lefeged is part of Saturday’s roster purge and they bring in Larry Asante to go along with Delano Howell (Howell already has a spot, in my opinion). That sounds like an okay plan to me.
- Kerwynn Williams – Kerwynn Williams really had a good showing tonight to the tune of 18 carries for 92 yards (5.1 YPC). He had another 20-yard run, which makes two games in a row.
- Donald Brown – Donald Brown is the NFL equivalent to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He can have a game where he looks great and runs for 120 yards, and then run for 12 yards the next game. He has had a great attitude about being third on the Colts’ running back totem pole now, and he is one of the best third running backs in the league, but I don’t know why they don’t just let Brown go to another team to start fresh. In my opinion, he needs to go to a successful zone-blocking scheme that opens up big holes. His running style does not fit here, and Kerwynn Williams has shown enough that I am confident he can be the third running back.
- Justice Cunningham, Dominique Jones – This is another battle where we will have to play the waiting game to see who becomes the third tight end. Both players have had a nice, consistent camp and preseason. But for my money, I would select Cunningham. However, due to injury concerns with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen (they are fine now), I would not be surprised to see the Colts bring four tight ends into Week 1.
- Mario Harvey – There is a great chance that Mario Harvey has solidified himself in the team’s inside linebacker plans. After another good showing, he has proven he is worth keeping around. He provides good depth and special teams presence which is always valuable.
- Bjoern Werner – Although he had just an average evening, Bjoern Werner did register his first career sack, so that is encouraging to see.
- Cassius Vaughn – Most people observing are waiting for Cassius Vaughn to stop allowing big plays so badly like he did on Cincinnati’s 3-yard fade route to Marvin Jones. The play resulted in an uncontested touchdown reception.
- Adam Vinatieri – The ageless one has still got it. However, after starting the preseason 6 out of 6 on field goals, he finally missed one from 50-plus yards out.
- It was good to see Khaled Holmes starting at center and Hugh Thornton starting at right guard. It happened tonight because the Colts rested the majority of their starters, but sooner or later that will be a regular thing on the Colts offensive line.
- Although it was just preseason, let’s hope the Colts starting defense does not all get hurt at once, or this pass defense is going to look bad.
- Aside from the second and third team pass defense as a whole not performing that well, I love the depth we are beginning to see in the defensive backfield. The Colts are legitimately five-deep at corner and about five to seven deep at safety if you include John Boyett and Sergio Brown.
All around, the Colts put on a good show during the preseason. We saw some good things and some bad things. Personally, I would like to see an improved offensive line both in the run and pass game. But overall, I think fans should be very encouraged by the product that will be on the field every Sunday starting next week.