[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="450" caption="Delone Carter looked good against the Skins on Friday"]
terrible pretty good, surprisingly. In fact, punter Pat McAfee was the only stand-out player among our starters - he averaged 57.3 yards per punt. A few quick points before I give a player-by-player rundown: I'll try my best not to judge the first-team offense; without Peyton Manning, the Colts' offense simply isn't the same (obviously). Also, Curtis Painter was essentially playing with second stringers since Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and Anthony Gonzalez were all inactive. That being said, it was painful to watch. Painter and the offense managed just 40 yards and 1 first down in the entire 1st half. If he makes the final 53-man roster, it's clear that the front office has a different agenda for the team's backup QB. As for the defense, I'm holding out hope that Larry Coyer, the team's defensive coordinator, was trying his hardest to call a "vanilla game-plan". In other words, our defense better play a helluva lot better come September 11th, and it starts with the play calling. But if they don't play better, not even a healthy Peyton Manning can save the season.
Finally, my thoughts on the Colts' 2nd preseason game (I'll try to focus on the positives):
- How is Jacob Lacey projected as a starting CB? As I wrote earlier, he was severely outplayed last season by Justin Tryon, and is better suited as a nickel/dime CB playing out of the slot. On a 3rd and 8 play, Lacey gave a Redskin's WR a 10 yard cushion. Yes, you read that correctly: a 10 yard cushion on 3rd and 8. As you may have guessed, the play resulted in a simple 9 yard completion from John Beck to Anthony Armstrong, and a first down for Washington.
- Tackling is a major issue for the Colts right now, but Gary Brackett is blaming it on the shortened off-season. I hope he's correct, but this team has always had problems tackling. In a related topic, over-pursuing is just as big of an issue: both Brackett and Angerer over-pursued on Hightower's 58 yard run, and Brackett and Joe Lefeged over-pursued on Roy Helu's 51 yard run.
- I'm sure you've heard this before, but DT Drake Nevis is a beast. He was credited with 4 tackles and 1 sack, but those numbers don't even do him justice. He was constantly disrupting running plays, and provided a consistent pass-rush from the DT position. He single-handedly stuffed a draw play for a 2-yard loss, Ben Savage did a great breakdown on the play over at Stampede Blue.
- Joe Lefeged was again impressive, especially against the run (minus the over-pursuit mentioned above). Of course, anytime you praise a safety for his run-stopping ability, it probably means your defensive line and linebackers aren't doing their job. He was only credited with 2 tackles, but his hit on Jabar Gaffney at the 1 yard-line saved a TD. Don't expect the Colts to bring in a veteran Safety, Lefeged should provide solid depth at both safety positions (he's slated as a SS, but replaced Antoine Bethea at a FS on Friday). He also looked natural on punt returns - a positive sign considering the health concerns surrounding Anthony Gonzalez and Blair White.
- Mookie Johnson's play was up and down throughout Friday's game - he clogged some running lanes, but was also beaten on Hightower's long run. He was pushed off the line of scrimmage, yet still had a chance to make a play, but his lack of awareness left him unable to stop the RB. Johnson's play, and health, will be key to the Colts' ability to stop the run. Bill Polian feels good about Johnson and Nevis as the team's nose tackles, but I firmly believe the two defensive tackles should start next to each other.
- Jerraud Powers has had a pretty poor preseason so far - he gave up a 7 yard slant pass on 3rd and 4, which is a play that the defense cannot afford to give up if they want to get off the field. He's also missed a handful of tackles. It could be a case of play calling, but Powers has also been giving WR's too much of a cushion; I really want to see him assert himself as a physical, man-to-man CB.
- Jerry Hughes' performance has been beaten to death, so I won't go into detail about him. While some have questioned his motor this preseason (and rightfully so), it was encouraging to see that his hustle helped stop a screen play for only a few yards - if Hughes doesn't make that play, it would have been a big gain.
- Ben Ijalana looked solid, but unspectacular, which is better than Ryan Diem. He's been effective in terms of pass-blocking, but hasn't played with the starters yet. If he doesn't get at least some reps on Friday with the 1st team, I doubt he'll be the team's week 1 starter at RT (sigh).
- Delone Carter looked very good on a 2nd down draw play. A combination of speed, quickness, elusiveness, and power turned a minimal gain into an 11 yard first down. A few plays later, he had a 9 yard reception out of the backfield, looking natural in the passing game as he made a defender miss. On the next play (3rd and 1), he bounced off a few tacklers for a 5 yard gain as he displayed his physicality. He should be the team's short yardage and goal line RB, and he's a solid bet to lead the team in rushing TD's (for all you fantasy football participants out there).