INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are now entering their final week of training camp and the preseason.
Preseason game No. 2 took place on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium, with the Colts completing their week of work with the Detroit Lions.
Here is what we learned from the Colts losing to the Lions 27-26:
FIVE THINGS LEARNED
1. Some Starters Play: Frank Reich said on Thursday that the Colts would sit most of their starters against the Lions. Reich carried that statement out on Saturday, but it was interesting to see who played in the game. Parris Campbell played a couple of series, yet wasn’t targeted. Rookie Alec Pierce saw brief action, making a really nice catch and run, breaking a tackle to move the sticks on a 3rd down. Up front, Matt Pryor started at left tackle and played one series. This past week was a bit shakier for Pryor. Playing Pryor, even a little, makes sense given that he has hardly any experience at left tackle. Danny Pinter started, but was playing center, even though he’s the team’s starting right guard. Pryor and Pinter are the two new offensive line starters in 2022, and both had some struggles this week, so you could see Reich’s line of thinking in playing them on Saturday. Defensively, rookie Nick Cross started, playing a little deeper in coverage than his normal strong safety duties. Cross again made a nice impression as he tries to lock up the starting safety spot, over veteran Rodney McLeod.
2. Sam Ehlinger Making Strong Impression: Sam Ehlinger has such a great knack for extending plays and keeping things alive, which is a huge weapon when playing behind spotty offensive lines in the preseason. That was seen again on Saturday. Ehlinger was great against the Lions, going 9-of-11 for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. Now, Ehlinger will not be the backup quarterback this season. That will be Nick Foles. In more of a real, game-planned setting, Ehlinger’s weaknesses would be seen a little bit more compare to the backyard style of preseason ball. Still, Ehlinger has shown nice improvement in his second preseason. It’ll be interesting to see if the Colts feel the need to carry him on the 53-man roster as a 3rd QB or try to sneak him to the practice squad. Through two preseason games, Ehlinger is 19-of-22 with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. It’s great progress after a very shaky rookie preseason last year, one in which he was playing against better competition.
3. Tyquan Lewis Returns To Game Action: Saturday brought the return to game action for former second-round pick Tyquan Lewis. Last Halloween, Lewis suffered a devastating patellar injury and the Colts held him out of the preseason opener. But Lewis made his 2022 game debut against the Lions and put together several nice reps. The Colts re-signed Lewis to a one-year deal in the offseason. When healthy, Lewis is an important versatile piece that is needed to rotate in on game days. Lewis lined up at multiple spots on Saturday and made a really nice play stopping a screen for a loss to get the defense off the field on a 3rd down. The Colts have an open spot to round out their 4-man pass rushing group (to go along with Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner and Yannick Ngakoue. Lewis is probably the favorite over Dayo Odeyingbo, who also had some nice rush moments on Saturday.
4. Important Week For Mike Strachan: Mike Strachan simply returning to practice this week was a very important step in him trying to secure a roster spot. Strachan, who had a knee scope back late in the spring, not only got up to full speed right away at Grand Park, but he delivered in game action on Saturday. Strachan caught all three of his targets, with those coming on a trio of well-thrown first-half balls from Sam Ehlinger, including one for a touchdown. When Strachan returned from the sidelined from that touchdown, Matt Ryan was there to greet him with a reaction that said ,‘That’s what I’m talking about.’ The Colts desperately need someone to emerge in the wideout room. Strachan has a long way to go, but this was a very impressive first week of offseason work for the second-year pro. Saturday was also a needed afternoon for Dezmon Patmon, who has had a quiet camp so far. Could Strachan and Patmon be wideouts No. 5 and 6 to go along with Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce, Parris Campbell and Ashton Dulin?
5. Some Struggles In The Run Game: For the most part, Saturday was all about backups facing backups. With that said, the Colts really struggled in running the football and stopping the run. The Colts had 11 rushing yards on 8 first-half carries and success did no follow in the second half. While the Lions had 99 rushing yards on 18 carries in the first two quarters. For the game, the Lions amassed 174 rushing yards on 33 carries (5.3 YPC), while the Colts had an ugly 30 rushing yards on 18 carries (1.7 YPC). One other area the Colts also struggled with on Saturday was kick coverage, as Jake Verity handled all the placekicking/kicking off duties. Finding some more core special teams members is something the Colts need to do after losing George Odum, Matthew Adams and Jordan Glasgow.
-Offensive Starters: QB-Nick Foles, RB-Philip Lindsay, WR-Dezmon Patmon, WR-Alec Pierce, TE-Jelani Woods, TE-Kylen Granson, LT-Matt Pryor, LG-Will Fries, C-Danny Pinter, RG-Wesley French, RT-Jordan Murray
-Defensive Starters: DE-Tyquan Lewis, DT-Byron Cowart, DT-Eric Johnson, DE-Ben Banogu, LB-Forrest Rhyne, LB-Sterling Weatherford, LB-E.J. Speed, CB-Tony Brown, CB-Marvell Tell, S-Rodney Thomas, S-Nick Cross.
-Injury Report: The following Colts got hurt on Saturday and did not return: LB/special teamer Brandon King (hamstring), DE-Kameron Cline (concussion).
–Key Stat: The Colts 3 quarterbacks on Saturday combined to go 21-of-28 for 261 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Nick Foles went 5-of-6, Sam Ehlinger went 9-of-11 and Jack Coan went 7-of-11.
–What’s Next: The Colts will head back to Grand Park for 3 final camp practices this week (Tuesday-Thursday). They will have to cut the roster down to 80 by Tuesday. They’ll play their preseason finale next Saturday against the Bucs, in a 7:30 PM kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium.