INDIANAPOLIS – Welcome to the days of growing pains for inexperienced NFL quarterbacks.
Even with that on Saturday night, the Colts still beat the Minnesota Vikings, 12-10, in their second of three preseason games.
Here is what we learned from the Colts hitting the road on Saturday night:
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Sam Ehlinger Doesn’t Make Needed Statement: Sam Ehlinger entered Saturday needing to make a statement in this quarterback competition. The rookie did not do that. Ehlinger went 8-of-13 for 70 yards and 2 interceptions. The first INT was definitely on Ehlinger, getting a ball deflected at the line of scrimmage, which ended up as a turnover. It was another sign of Ehlinger’s lack of height (6-1) and pocket movement showing up for the rookie. Ehlinger’s second pick was trying to hit on a very well-covered timing route (wide receiver Ashton Dulin didn’t help Ehlinger out either in finishing the route). Even if you remove Ehlinger’s interceptions from his night, and count them as incompletions, he still completed just 61 percent of his passes with a yards per attempt of barely over 5. Those are awful numbers. It was a night filled with no threat of chunk plays in the pass game, as Ehlinger didn’t take advantage of a great opportunity with the first teamers.
2. Jacob Eason Struggles, Bounces Back: It was an ugly, ugly start for Jacob Eason, as he relieved Sam Ehlinger mid-way through the second quarter. Ball placement issues plagued Eason early on, going 2-of-8 for 0 yards. But Eason responded much better in the second half, finishing 14-of-19 for 132 yards after his rough start, including a nice third-down throw on the run to Dezmon Patmon to ice this victory. Yes, Eason struggled with his touch on Saturday night. Still, he was better than Ehlinger and that continues a trend we’ve seen over these last two weeks with them splitting first-team reps—Eason has been the better QB. Again, Eason should have been committed to as the ‘starter’ this past week. It’ll be interesting to see how Frank Reich handles this competition in the final week of camp and then in the preseason finale on Friday. Saturday was not a good night for either QB. But if you are picking one, it’s Eason at this point.
3. Kwity Paye, Ben Banogu Get After It: One of the clear bright spots on Saturday night was Kwity Paye’s debut. The first-round pick offered a big-time highlight with a sack against Vikings left tackle Rashod Hill (who is starting for the injured Christian Darrisaw). Paye just whipped Hill for a sack of Kirk Cousins. This was a move that Paye has displayed at Grand Park. In other positive pass rushing news, Ben Banogu had a very nice night as well in the pressure department. Banogu made plays in a variety of ways, with his activity leading to production we’ve yet to see in his NFL career. This was much better from the Colts young rushers than what we saw in the first preseason game against Carolina. We still have yet to see the Colts rushers play against starting level tackles this camp/preseason, but the pressure on Saturday night was a definite bright spot.
4. Better Left Tackle Play: It was a very quiet first half for the Vikings edge rushers, particularly off the left side. And that was Julie’n Davenport again manning the starting left tackle job. Davenport had a very sound night on Saturday. After trying Sam Tevi and Will Holden at left tackle for the majority of camp, Davenport has been the guy there for the past week or so. It’s not been squeaky clean for Davenport, but Saturday was important for some left tackle to emerge. It looks like Davenport will enter the final week of camp as the lead guy at left tackle, with Eric Fisher’s rehab starting to ramp up even more. Davenport has 28 career starts. He missed the start of camp on the COVID list. This position is still something the Colts need to monitor around cut downs.
5. Mix Of Good And Bad: Let’s empty the notebook a bit with some good and bad from Saturday night. A couple standouts from when the starters were in there: CB-Rock Ya-Sin and WR-Zach Pascal. It was Ya-Sin matched up against Vikings stud WR-Adam Thielen in the slot on a third down, with the third-year DB winning in man coverage. Pascal caught all 4 of his targets for 31 yards before being put in bubble wrap. And both kickers continue to be perfect, with Rodrigo Blankenship connecting on a 47-yard field goal, and then Eddy Pinero making his field goals from 31, 50 and 28 yards. In the negative category, the Colts run game struggled, especially early on (Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack combined for 27 rushing yards on 9 carries).
–Offensive Starters: QB-Sam Ehlinger, RB-Marlon Mack, WR-Zach Pascal, WR-Michael Pittman, TE-Farrod Green, TE-Mo Alie-Cox, LT-Julie’n Davenport, LG-Chris Reed, C-Joey Hunt, RG-Mark Glowinski, RT- Braden Smith.
-Defensive Starters: DE-Al-Quadin Muhammad, DT-Antwaun Woods, DT-Grover Stewart, DE-Kwity Paye, LB-Matthew Adams, LB-Zaire Franklin, LB-Bobby Okereke, CB-Rock Ya-Sin, CB-Kenny Moore, S-Julian Blackmon, S-Khari Willis.
-Injury Report: DT-Antwaun Woods left the game early with a hamstring injury and did not return
–Key Stat: Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 5-of-7 his 7 passes for 23 yards against the Colts.
–What’s Next: The Colts have 3 training camp practices left at Grand Park (Monday-Wednesday). They will have their final preseason game next Friday, in Detroit at 7:00 PM.