INDIANAPOLIS – Oddly, Friday’s preseason finale for the Colts had several rather important storylines emerge.
The Colts beat the Detroit Lions on Friday night, 27-17, going undefeated in the preseason for the first time since 1994.
Here is what we learned from the Colts preseason finale:
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
- Jacob Eason Solid, Sam Ehlinger Gets Hurt: Before we get to the unfortunate early injury diagnosis for Sam Ehlinger, Jacob Eason did enough this preseason to earn the backup QB job. Eason was 10-of-14 for 74 yards on Friday night, putting up a solid performance that should secure the QB2 position behind Carson Wentz. The real crime to Friday night for the Colts happened at the end of the first half when Sam Ehlinger appeared to injure his left knee. That injury “did not look good” to Frank Reich after the game, an indication that the rookie QB could miss substantial time. Even if Eason had ‘beat out’ Ehlinger for the backup job—something the Colts haven’t committed to publicly—-this injury is still awful for the Texas product. Ehlinger had the highlight of the night on Friday in scrambling to find Dezmon Patmon for a 60-yard gain. If healthy, Ehlinger starting the season on the 53-man roster, as the 3rd QB, wouldn’t be a surprise. But this early news from Reich doesn’t sound good. What does that mean for Brett Hundley? Or the Colts possibly adding a third quarterback next week?
- Kwity Paye Does It Again: You don’t need a full hand of fingers to count the starters the Colts played on Friday. One of those was Kwity Paye and he made his presence felt early for a second straight preseason game. Paye had a sack/forced fumble on the first third down of the game. Paye’s night didn’t stop there, as he added another two tackles and a quarterback hit. Since the night Paye was drafted, the thought was always there that he would be a Day One starter, likely impacting on all three downs. Nothing that’s been seen in the preseason has altered those expectations. Yes, the competition in camp and the preseason hasn’t been top-flight tackles, but you don’t often see a rookie string together the consistent production that Paye has already brought. The biggest question entering this season for the Colts, non-Carson Wentz division, surrounds an unproven pass rush. Paye is trying to do his part to quiet those fears.
- Quenton Nelson, Eric Fisher News: Following Friday’s preseason finale, Frank Reich did update the statuses of Eric Fisher and Quenton Nelson on the COVID-19 list. Fisher tested positive for COVID-19, but is asymptomatic. If Fisher is unvaccinated, his absence will be at least 10 days. If Fisher is vaccinated, he can return following two negative tests on consecutive days. Nelson has not tested positive for COVID-19, and falls on the list due to being a close contact to Fisher. With Nelson on the list, that indicates he is unvaccinated, and his absence will last at least 5 days. Let’s say Nelson misses 5 days. That means his absence would still leave him about 6-7 practices to participate in before the season opener on September 12th. That should be a sigh of relief to Colts fans, still giving Nelson a good amount of time to feel ready coming off his foot injury. For Fisher, him being away from the team does hinder that Achilles rehab. Fisher was always a long shot to start the opener and this news could delay his return a little longer into the season, too.
- Complicated Roster Cut Time: With the conclusion of the third and final preseason game in 2021, the Colts will now be busy sifting through all the possibilities surrounding roster cuts. And that list has grown in the past 48 hours. By Tuesday at 4:00 PM, NFL teams will have to cut their 80-man rosters down to the mandated number of 53. Once waiver claims take place the day following cuts, teams will then formulate 16-man practice squads, a number remaining that large due to COVID roster rules in place again this season. For the Colts, things have gotten a bit more complicated in recent days. You have the COVID situations with Eric Fisher and Quenton Nelson. Sam Ehlinger (knee) just suffered a potentially serious injury on Friday night. Sam Tevi (knee), George Odum (concussion) and Dezmon Patmon (foot) all got banged up in Friday’s preseason finale, too. For various reasons, these storylines might/will impact the 53-man roster. Besides these, the tougher decisions appear to be depth at wide receiver, defensive tackle and in the secondary. Remember, that first 53-man roster typically changes a few times leading up to the Week 1 opener (September 12th).
- All About No. 2 Now: The preseason has come and gone for the Colts without their new starting quarterback seeing any game action. Carson Wentz has returned to practice and the amount of work he did last week was more than notable (throwing 91 passes over three straight practices in 7-on-7 periods). Now, with two weeks left until the regular season opener, Wentz’s next hurdle is getting into 11-on-11 work. Once that happens, and Wentz starts to take the majority of those 11-on-11 reps, it becomes obvious that he’s the frontrunner so suit up and play in Week One. Of course, now that the Colts are done with their 2021 training camp, the media will no longer see the team periods of practice. So our next look at Wentz, in team settings, will be whenever he debuts in the regular season.
-Offensive Starters: QB-Jacob Eason, RB-Jordan Wilkins, WR-Ashton Dulin, WR-Dezmon Patmon, TE-Kylen Granson, TE-Jordan Thomas, LT-Julie’n Davenport, LG-Chris Reed, C-Joey Hunt, RG-Will Fries,, RT- Sam Tevi.
-Defensive Starters: DE-Al-Quadin Muhammad, DT-Taylor Stallworth, DT-Chris Williams, DE-Kwity Paye, LB-Matthew Adams, LB-Zaire Franklin, LB-Isaiah Kafusi, CB-Rock Ya-Sin, CB-Isaiah Rodgers, S-Shawn Davis, S-George Odum
-Injury Report: The following Colts got hurt on Friday and did not return: QB-Sam Ehlinger (knee), OT-Sam Tevi (knee), S-George Odum (concussion) WR-Dezmon Patmon (foot), TE-Andrew Vollert (ankle).
–Key Stat: With Friday’s win, the Colts finished the preseason undefeated (3-0) for the first time since 1994.
–What’s Next: The Colts will now look towards roster cuts coming on Tuesday and a week break from game action. The team will open up the regular season on September 12th.