The Colts New Era began just like the Old Era. On the Colts first offensive snap of the game, rookie QB Andrew Luck matched the performance of his predecessor, Peyton Manning, by completing his first NFL pass for a touchdown. The touchdown came on a well-executed screen play to oft-maligned RB Donald Brown. Brown, displaying the speed Colts fans had been hoping to see since he was drafted, took the pass 63 yards for the score.
In just 12 seconds, #12 turned to a Colts fan base who had endured an offseason of pain and uncertainty and said to them, "it's going to be okay."
While we must temper our excitement by remember that today's performance came during the preseason against one of, if not the worst, team in the entire NFL, no one would look at Luck's play (10-16, 188 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 142.7 QBR) and not believe that he will be a successful NFL quarterback. He played with a calmness and awareness you don't often find in season vets, let alone rookies. His throws were crisp and on the money, and he never once seemed overwhelmed. Barring injuries, the Colts seem set at the most important position in football.
Of course, it wasn't all good news. Not to be lost in the euphoria caused by Luck's great start is the reality that this Colts team has a lot of issues to deal with over the next 12 months. The biggest issue is clearly fixing an offensive line which looks destined to push Luck's mobility to its limits throughout the season. The line struggled constantly in both run- and pass-blocking, and looks to be the biggest source of any inconsistencies the Colts may experience on that side of the ball. If the Colts OL can find it in them to be even remotely average this season, there is nothing stopping the Colts offense from developing into the type of dynamic, dangerous offense we've come to expect from the Colts.
The other issue facing Grigson and Pagano is the defense. The Colts showcased their 3-4 defense for a majority of the game, but they were unable to leave behind the poor gap control and huge CB cushions that we've come to know under the old 4-3 cover-2 system. A legitimate starting cornerback and a top-notch safety to pair with CB Powers and S Bethea are big needs. The Colts are also dangerously thin at LB and DL, and will surely look be looking for more 3-4-oriented players to fill those positions next off-season.
Quick thoughts, the good:
- Donald Brown showing what he can do with a little time and space. He may not get much of that with this offensive line, but I get the feeling he'll make the most of his chances.
- Jerry Hughes with two sacks: just the preseason, but hopefully this is the boost he needed to take the next step. No excuses left for Hughes, he's playing in a system more suited to his talents and he's going to get more chances than he's previously had to show the world he's an NFL player.
- The Lounge Singer (Vick Ballard... come on, his name sounds like he should be singing in Vegas in the 60s) showed nice burst and vision. He won't start over Donald Brown this year, but he seems to have the tools required to develop into a viable NFL running back.
- TY Hilton and LeVon Brazil both made some nice catches. With WR Donnie Avery sidelined with an injury, there is a window for the young WRs to step up and showcase their ability, and both seem to be taking advantage of that.
- LBs Kavell Conner and Jerrell Freeman (who stepped up in Angerer's absence) both made some nice plays. It remains to be seen whether or the Colts LBers are suited for the 3-4, and I expect a lot of struggles from the LB group in general as the season progresses, but they have talent and can hopefully develop some consistency as they adapt to the new scheme.
- The Colts got a preseason win. It means nothing in the big picture, but you get the feeling that for this front office, for these players, for this fan base, it was a necessary moment. They had been waiting to exhale. Now to do it all over again, for real this time, against the Bears.
Quick thoughts, the bad:
- We already mentioned the OL, but let's mention it again. The OL was bad in every facet of the game. We'll never know how good Ben Ijalana would have been, but it feels safe to say that, at some point this season, he would have been a significant upgrade at either G or RT.
- Drops. The Colts WRs did Luck no favor, with drops accounting for 50% (3 of 6) of Luck's incompletions. With the OL being so bad, the Colts will have to take advatnage of every opportunity, which means they can't drop perfect passes from their QB.
- Injuries? LB Pat Angerer left the game early in the 1st quarter with a foot injury and was later seen on the Colts sideline in a walking boot. The Colts are already thin at LB, and while Angerer is not your prototypical 3-4 LBer, he's your prototypical football player. He can tackle, he can cover, he can get over the quarterback. If this version of the Colts defense is going to find any success this year, Pat Angerer is going to have to be a big piece of the puzzle. Hopefully the injury is not serious.
Quick thoughts, The Beautiful.
- Andrew Luck. This man sold a lot of season tickets today. Jim Irsay and the Colts couldn't have asked for a better start. Even the most hardened Colts fans had to crack a slight smile at Luck's stellar start. The Colts may not make the playoffs this year, they may not even win more than a handful of games, but it won't be because of inept play from the quarterback. The kid is the real deal, from brain, to demeanor, to mechanics. Now the Colts have to work on surrounding him with the talent that he needs in order to win the most important games.
And at that point, the New Era and Old Era will have a lot more in common than the start.
Shoutout to D.Brown and C.Harnish, really happy with what they did, Also secondary is really struggling, I think a lot has to do with them working together and building some type of chemistry.
Last thing, involving the secondary as well, there was a lot of dropping their heads and not wrapping up, I hope this changes in the near future.
Watching Dwayne Allen absolutely PLASTER Quintin Mikell on the Brown TD was really nice to see. If Allen can play like that on a regular basis and the OL can please please be competent, there could be some big holes for Brown and company.
@Lvl9LightSpell Yeah. Now I want to see how well he catches. I wish he'd get some targets. He's got a nice set of hands and some receiving ability; it'd be good to make use of them.
Great job Greg. It was a fantastic moment for the new era. Hopefully it's a clear picture of what's to come.
It was great afternoon at LOS! The crowd sort or grumbled in that familiar way as the Rams ran all over our 1st team D in the opening series. Then Luck to Brown and the 12th man went berserk. What a moment. The OL will struggle and the D will struggle, but I really think the offense will put some points on the board this year. The Colts have more pure speed than they've had in a long time. Brazill and Hilton were fun to watch.
Stanton and Harnish and the backups' backups showed they execute the offense. Same thing on the other side of the ball: Addison, Freeman, Anouby (sp?) all made plays. It proved to me that the coaching staff has been making the most of training camp. I'm soooooooo glad we didn't get Jeff Fisher
Tonight, Kravitz sits in his lair, stumped as to how he's going to run this Luck fellow out of town.
@pierrezombie You need to put this on Twitter. And address it to Kravitz. Just as a giant "Eff you, jerk" move. I would so applaud.
Yeah, I don't like Kravitz either.
@pierrezombie wait, do I know you?
Yes, it's preseason, but pending the Monday night game, the Colts scored more points and had the largest scoring differential in the first week! \m/
One more thought that just hit me. Here's a guy on a new team, new offense, in his first NFL game. Think about how much better than Painter and Orlovsky he played. I mean, not just better - but such a command and confidence. Smart plays, throwing the ball out of bounds, not forcing the ball. Just shocking to think of how we had to live with Painter and Orlovsky last year, wishing and praying we didn't go 0-16. Sheesh!
@buymymonkey While I agree to a point, you gotta remember that the offense wasn't made for Painter and Orlovsky, nor did they have a full preseason to work with the team.
I disagree on Hughes. On one sack he was uncovered. On the other, it looked like he might have jumped/gotten lucky. When confronted with another large human, I saw him as a non-entity on a lot of plays. He got manhandled on an end around to the right and never sealed the corner, he was blocked dead in his tracks from the left. I was hoping to see a new Hughes with the new scheme. I saw nothing new. Except for the lack of LBs, I think he is in real risk of being cut.
Agree the OL was bad, although interestingly seemed more on the pass defense than than the run defense. But doesn't it take time for those guys to get in synch? Didn't a lot of them come from run-oriented styles? Maybe it just takes some time to jell?
After the first series, thought the front seven did OK. Secondary was dreadful. We're going to give up a high % of completions again. Just don't know how to solve that this year.
Luck. Wow. And it wasn't the TDs. It was the pocket awareness - that rollout and toss out of bounds when the pressure came unGodly fast in the 2nd was veteran awareness. He stepped into the pocket smoothly. Even under pressure he kept his eyes downfield. He didn't stare down his receivers - on the Collie pass his eyes were on the other side of the field 90% of the play. It looked like he could just flick the ball long distances. The one thing I did not think I saw much of was ID'ing the defense and changing the plays. Maybe you don't do that at this point, but when the real season begins that will be an important skill and say a lot about his ability to succeed. That seemed to be the only question mark.
I agree the receivers looked really good too, though did notice the drops. Hopefully Reggie will impart on him his rule of four per season!
@Hogue It looked to me like Hughes got held on that end around as well, but I haven't had a chance to look back at confirm it.
@Hogue So you are going to ignore Hughe's almost constant presence and pressure in the backfield?
@Hogue Disagree about Hughes. Freeney and Mathis make getting to the quarterback seem easy. and we've been spoiled.
I thought Hughes played quite well. He frequently pushed the tackle back into the pocket and made the quarterback uncomfortable. He flew to the ball on running plays and got his hands up in the passing lanes. Is he as good as Freeney or Mathis? No. But few are.
@TrueBlue87 @Hogue Also thought Hughes was impressive. Sure, he got lucky on the one, but he also had his hands up, like TB87 said, and was disrupting the pocket on the majority of pass plays. After watching it once, I was pleased.
After watching the tape review, that could change, but I have higher (although it's not hard to have higher than 0) hopes going into the season for him.
@Hogue Hughes being uncovered is part of the plan, no? The switching the confusion, then BAM! qb in the dirt. This s how Freeney and Mathis are; you have no idea how well they're doing, battling double teams, and traps, until they break free and get there. The LB that caught my eye was #97, Addison. Hughes deserves credit, though, for bringing the heat during an actual game, imo
Great balanced article (as usual)! Ya, when he got that first TD I was running around the room, pulling all the books from the shelves. Still cleaning up.
The pass to Collie was a Peytonesque thing of beauty. Perfect spiral right into Collie's hands. Same for the pass up the seam to Brazil (was it?) Perfectly lobbed over the top and to the back of the defender.
One thing is for sure, we have a lot of potential. I'm all elated today and then I look to next week and think "ruh roh, the Steelers". That will be a better test of our team (at least for the first half). Speaking of that, great to see Luck playing the whole first half. Of course, since he kept driving for TD's, it took that long to get him the requisite playing time.
I love watching Donald Brown in the open field. No one can catch him. I mean, he just keeps accelerating, like if he kept running out of The Luke, he would accelerate all the way to Chicago.
Hope is all we have now. Hope and Luck!
Well, that went about as well as it could have.
OL will cause problems, but I'm a happy camper.
Can't get too high after this and too low after a probable beat-down in Pitt.
I am a die-hard Peyton Manning fan, have been for years, and my full allegiance followed him to the Broncos. Being such a huge Peyton fan, a big part of me wanted the man that was basically responsible for his ousting, Andrew Luck, to fail and to fail miserably. But watching him play, it is very clear he is the real deal and it is very hard not to respect him. I suspect I will slowly become an Andrew Luck over time once the pain heals, and after Manning wins multiple championships with his new team. So here's to Luck, the next great Colts QB.
@productive11 This is an interesting viewpoint. While I don't agree with your Manning > Colts stance, I've heard it before ... and I can respect it (my assumption is that you did not grow up in Indy and/or you were not a Colts fan pre-Manning, and Manning made you a Colts fan?).
It's the 'wanting Luck to fail' part that surprises me. Wondering if that was/is a common hope among the Manning > Colts crowd.
The flip-side to this is when you talk to the Colts > Manning crowd. Colts fans who love Manning for what he did for the franchise, the city, the league, etc. I'd hazard a guess that most of us will be just as disappointed if Manning succeeds in Denver as we would if he ended up not living up to his standards, albeit for vastly different reasons.
@matt_has Matt, you are right in your assumption that Manning made me a Colt fan. I have lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana my entire life, so the Mannings are pretty big around here. When I was a freshman in high school in 1997, I attended the Manning Passing Academy, which was then only in its second year. Peyton was about to enter his senior year at Tennessee and Eli was actually a fellow camper with me, though he kept entirely to himself even then. Peyton was so awesome as a coach and a person at that camp that I instantly became the biggest Peyton Manning fan ever (I was 13 at the time) and have followed him very closely ever since.
I am probably a little more vindictive than most. When it comes to sports, I am like Gore Vidal...it is not enough that my favorite player succeeds, everyone else must fail. I actively root against Brady, Rodgers, and Brees. Only grudgingly root for Eli. Since I associated Luck as usurping Manning's place in the house that Manning built, I especially am bitter towards him. When Manning eventually retires at age 46. then I will be open to rooting for other QB's, as long as they do not break any of Manning's records.
Good summary, I think you covered it all. Next week will show us a lot more. Major concern at O-line. I never expected much from the D this year to begin with, so anything better than average is a plus IMHO.
Boy, it seems like the WRs, after Reggie and Austin, are all about equal. That's going to be a tough position to cut.