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INDIANAPOLIS – The preseason work for the starting units of the Indianapolis Colts is over.
That ended on Saturday after the Colts finished their third preseason game, with a 23-17 victory over the 49ers.
Frank Reich, like virtually every coach in the NFL, will be resting the definite starters of his during Thursday’s preseason finale.
With both units learning new systems in 2018, here’s a look at what we saw from the starting offense and defense this preseason:
Offensive Stats (with Andrew Luck quarterbacking 11 series):
-11 drives for 251 yards (22.8 yards per drive)
-16 first downs (1.45 first downs per possession)
-6 punts, 3 field goals, 1 touchdown 1 interception
- We focused on Luck yesterday and how impressive his last month of work has been. The biggest issue that Luck would point to with the starting offense’s performance is only one touchdown. The lack of sustained drives (look at that first down per drive average) was an issue.
- This offense was definitely not a complete unit this preseason. We didn’t see left tackle Anthony Castonzo at all in the preseason. Starting running back Marlon Mack played just the preseason opener in Seattle. No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton missed Week Two against the Ravens. This offense doesn’t have enough depth to have these guys missing for long stretches during the regular season.
- Where were the chunk plays? Luck’s two longest completions in the preseason were a 19-yarder to Chester Rogers and a 17-yarder to Marlon Mack. The pass to Rogers traveled about 2 yards in the air. The pass to Mack was behind the line of scrimmage. We’ve yet to see Luck truly air it out 20-plus yards down the field. The chunk plays vertically are a must with the Colts needing to keep safeties honest.
- The run game has been so ugly. The longest run is that 15-yard scramble from Andrew Luck where he injured his foot. Frank Reich pointed to miscommunication and missing on one-on-one blocks as the reasons for the stuck in neutral run game in Week Three of the preseason. Has the offensive line facing continuity issues from the constant rotating at right tackle led to the run game struggles?
- Looking for the Colts’ most consistent offensive success in 2018? It’s going to come from quick rhythm. Jim Irsay has been outspoken about the Colts knowing that using tempo and no huddle is their best recipe. The ball needs to come out quick with the Colts using the things below to move the ball down the field.
- Lastly, let’s certainly acknowledge how much Frank Reich was holding back from a playbook standpoint. The Colts didn’t call any read options, hardly ever split Eric Ebron out wide and kept things very simple from a motion/misdirection standpoint. All of those elements will be there in the regular season.
Defensive Stats (facing opposing starting quarterbacks for 9 series):
-9 drives for 412 yards (45.8 yards per drive)
-25 first downs (2.78 first downs per drive)
-4 punts, 2 touchdowns, 2 field goals, 1 turnover on downs
- Given these yards allowed numbers, the fact that the Colts gave up just 20 points shows that they did hold up inside the red zone. The defense has bent a lot, but it hasn’t broken as much, allowing 20 points despite the large chunk of yards given up per series. Frank Reich describes this defense as “bend, but don’t break” so it will need to be stingy when the field shrinks.
- We haven’t seen much from the pass rush, and certainly nothing really off the edge. The Colts still do not know what their best pass rush combination looks like, with the four-man grouping on passing downs likely something that will change throughout the regular season.
- The corner play did end the preseason on a nice note with Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir cementing themselves in the starting lineup with a couple of plays in coverage. While the rest of the playing time at corner is fluid right now, Moore and Desir are the team’s starters entering Week One.
- Seeing Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers playing alongside each other in Week Three of the preseason might have been the defensive highlight from the preseason. It was huge to get these two guys playing together and making plays in their respective preseason action. Both look healthy for the regular season opener.
- The Colts are on track to start two rookies at linebacker. That’s great when looking ahead to the future. Second-round pick Darius Leonard is a definite keeper at the WILL linebacker position. Undrafted free agent Skai Moore has had some nice moments, playing for the injured Anthony Walker at the MIKE position.
- Interesting to see how, on a roster filled with youth being relied on heavily, the starting defensive line for the Colts is rather old: DE-Margus Hunt (31), DT-Denico Autry (28), DT-Al Woods (31), DE-Jabaal Sheard (29). Those are 4 of the team’s 10 oldest position players in 2018.