Andrew Luck did it again by leading the Indianapolis Colts to their first 17 points against a Cleveland Browns team that was pretty good on defense during the preseason. It seemed that the Colts fired in all cylinders throughout the game by not allowing a Browns touchdown on offense and on special teams.
Let’s discuss the positive notes and negative notes from Saturday’s preseason game.
Defense coverage was amazing: When was the last time you heard someone say that the Colts defensive coverage was amazing? Yea I don’t remember either. However, that’s what actually happened on Saturday. The Colts coverage was aggressive but not too aggressive where they let big-yardage plays. Also, the defensive coverage made it hard for Weeden to complete a throw as the game progressed.
However it took some time for the Colts defensive pass coverage to take effect. Weeden, at one point in the game, made six throws out of seven attempts. However that all changed in the second quarter and half of the third quarter as Weeden finished the game completing 12 passes out of 25 attempts for 105 yards.
According to Reggie Hayes from news-sentinel.com, the Colts first team defense only allowed four first downs against the Browns first team offense. What more can you ask from the first team defense? Let me answer that for you, nothing. I can safely say, without any injuries, that the Colts defense will improved from last year.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton consistency: Bey’s career started horrible during his time at Oakland. However during his first three preseason games, Bey has really been a reliable target for Luck. Bey has caught, in the preseason, seven passes for 75 yards and has one carry for six rushing yards. I expect Bey to start the season as the second-wide receiver. However, his biggest test during the season is; can he keep the second-wide receiver job throughout the season without losing it to T.Y. Hilton?
Hilton didn’t catch many passes but the one catch that counted the most was a wide-open eight yard touchdown which made the lead to 17 points in the third quarter. Hilton had two catches for 17 yards for the night. This is Hilton’s third preseason game with a touchdown, so it showed his consistency by scoring a touchdown each preseason game.
Reggie Wayne was the top receiver in the game (no surprise). He did drop a catch or two — according to his standards — because the passes were difficult to catch. On the first touchdown drive, Wayne kept the drive going by catching a 15-yard pass on third down. It shows that even at his age, he can still be a reliable receiver to keep the chains moving. Then again, no one was questioning his reliability as a receiver.
Overall all three receivers stood out at the game as the top receivers for the Colts.
Run defense improved: As stated in my last article, the Colts run defense has been horrible against opponents’ starting running backs in the preseason. However, on Saturday the Colts did a fine job in containing Browns starting running back Trent Richardson. Outside of the 12-yard run in the Browns opening drive, the Colts contained Richardson to a 3.1 yards-per-carry average. With the 12-yard run, the Colts contained Richardson to a 4.4 yards-per-carry average therefore Richardson didn’t have his way with the Colts defense. Overall I was impressed with the aggressiveness of the Colts defenders and I’m hoping to see more of it during the regular season.
Run offense improved a little: With two games under their belt, the run offense did improve on Saturday. Even though there wasn’t a rushing touchdown, two Colts running backs had an average higher of four-yards-per-carry. After seeing three preseason games it seems that RB Donald Brown actually does better behind a fullback compared to without a fullback. Let’s see if the improvement continues to the regular season.
Pass rush was nowhere to be found in the first team defense: No member in the first team defense recorded a sack, and really the pass rush downright was bad. Even though Brandon Weeden’s completion percentage was low (48 percent), it wasn’t because of the pass rush. The reason Weeden had a low completion percentage was because of the combination of poor quarterback play and bad receivers.
The second-team defense recorded three sacks with two of those sacks coming from backup LB Caesar Rayford which shows that the second-team defense did better in pass rush. Overall I wasn’t impressed by the pass rush of the first team defense but then again their pass coverage was great.
Pocket protection was bad in the beginning of the game: The Colts coaching staff will do anything to protect Luck during the game but it doesn’t help that the offensive line can’t do that. In the first drive for the Colts, Andrew Luck was sacked which showed that the line still needs some work. It didn’t help that starting guard Mike McGlynn was injured last week with a bruised knee and starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo left the first quarter with a mild MCL sprain.
However, after both backup guard Joe Reitz (replaced Castonzo) and rookie Hugh Thornton (replaced Mike McGlynn) entered the game, the offensive line really beefed up the protection which triggered the Colts scoring 14 points after the field goal on their first drive.
Backup QB Matt Hasselbeck has not been impressive so far: I seriously thought that the Colts are going to have a reliable backup QB in Matt Hasselbeck but that has not been the case so far. Other than the 45-yard touchdown pass (which was overthrown) in the first preseason game, I have not been impressed on the production of Hasselbeck this preseason. Out of 27 pass attempts, only 15 of those throws have been completed (55.5 percent) in the preseason. Hasselbeck has only thrown one touchdown but has thrown two interceptions against the Bills (one INT) and Giants (one INT). Hasselbeck also had a fumble and didn’t threw for a touchdown on Saturday which shows he still isn’t comfortable in Pep Hamilton’s no coast offense.
These numbers are not really impressive for a long-time veteran like Hasselbeck. Remember this is the same player that took a Seahawks team to the Superbowl for the first time in their franchise history. Granted though, that was back in 2005 when he was in his prime and right now Hasselbeck is in the decline stage in his career. Let’s see if Hasselbeck can rebound on Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals.