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INDIANAPOLIS – Tom Brady was booed, and no Colts starer got hurt.

It was an abbreviated night for the Colts starters on Saturday, but the backups maintained the lead for the 27-10 victory over the visiting Buccaneers.

Here is what we learned from the Colts preseason finale:

 

FIVE THINGS LEARNED

1. Healthy Starting Night: Easily, the best news of the Colts preseason/camp has been the overall health of the football team. Sure, losing Rigoberto Sanchez is a tough blow and it was a shame to see rookie Drew Ogletree have his season end on a non-contact torn ACL. But you wouldn’t put either of those guys on the top 20/30 most important Colts entering this season. On Saturday night, the Colts played their starters, and it didn’t appear anyone got hurt. So, outside of Shaquille Leonard’s lingering/murky situation, the Colts could very well have 21 of their 22 available starters for their Week 1 matchup in Houston on September 11th. Remember this time last year? You had questions on if Carson Wentz or Quenton Nelson would be ready for Week 1. Having such a good health situation gives the Colts some really nice roster flexibility with final cuts coming on Tuesday (see more below).

2. Starting Offense Ends Night On High Note: Well, so much for the starters playing a full half on Saturday night. Matt Ryan and the starting offense exited after 3 drives (with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter). After two poor drives to start—with a Matt Ryan scramble accounting for the only first down—the starting offense put together its best series of the preseason, capped by a one-yard TD run for Deon Jackson. With Ryan Kelly out on Saturday, the interior of the OL (with Danny Pinter at center and Will Fries at right guard) had issues handling one of the stouter fronts in the NFL. Ryan’s accuracy was again there on Saturday, but the rushing offense this preseason (sans Jonathan Taylor) has not been productive. In 7 drives for the starting offense this preseason, the Colts produced 6 first downs, with 128 yards on 32 plays (4 yards per play). Sam Ehlinger’s preseason highlight reel added another one on Saturday night, and the team should have room for him on their 53-man roster.

3. Good Night For New Punter Matt Haack: Live in-game reps are always important for many reasons. On Saturday, it was the placekicking reps for the Colts with some extra eyes on them. New punter/holder Matt Haack is here for the 2022 season, and he got a chance to work with Luke Rhodes and Rodrigo Blankenship. Haack was outstanding in his punting duties on Saturday. He didn’t allow a single return yard on any of his first four punts, pinning the Bucs at the 9, 10, 15 and 14-yard lines. Hot Rod was 3-of-3 on extra points for the night, and connected on field goals from 39 and 46 yards. In terms of kickoffs, Blankenship handled those duties on Saturday, and he does have experience there in the NFL. For the first time in a long while, the Colts enter the season without the same amount of confidence they typically have in their special teams group. Core special teamers are gone. The dynamic punter is done for the 2022 season. And Hot Rod’s long-distance question will remain until he does it in games. But Saturday was definitely a good night for the new punter.

4. Defense Exits After Two Series: The starting defense played 2 series together on Saturday night (and 1 against Tom Brady). Tampa drove down the field on the opening drive, settling for a field goal. Grover Stewart dominated the second series, ripping through a banged-up Tampa Bay interior DL to record 3 straight tackles. It was a very quiet night for the pass rush in the first half though. Rookie Nick Cross again got the start at strong safety, as he tries to beat out Rodney McLeod and secure the job next to Julian Blackmon. It was another questionable night for the Colts backup defensive line, particularly with the interior group trying to stop the run.

5. Time For Final Roster Cuts: Now, all eyes for the Colts and the entire NFL, shifts towards roster cuts. By Tuesday afternoon, the Colts need to get their roster down to 53 players. Is it to fair to say the Colts have a better top end of their roster in 2022, but more depth questions than previous years? Where should they explore adding to their roster? In some order, these are the positions I’d be watching on the waiver wire: offensive line interior, tight end, wide receiver, defensive tackle and defensive back (special teams role). Those go along with potentially exploring punters and kickers.

 

QUICK HITTERS

Offensive Starters: QB-Matt Ryan, RB-Deon Jackson, WR-Michael Pittman, WR-Parris Campbell, WR-Alec Pierce, TE-Mo Alie-Cox, LT-Matt Pryor, LG-Quenton Nelson, C-Danny Pinter, RG-Will Fries, RT-Braden Smith.

-Defensive Starters: DE-Tyquan Lewis, DT-DeForest Buckner, DT-Grover Stewart, DE-Yannick Ngakoue, LB-Zaire Franklin, LB-Bobby Okereke, CB-Kenny Moore, CB-Brandon Facyson, CB-Stephon Gilmore, S-Julian Blackmon, S-Nick Cross.

-Injury Report: The following Colts got hurt on Saturday and did not return: S-Armani Watts (ankle).

Key Stat: If Saturday was the final time inside of Lucas Oil Stadium for Tom Brady, he exited after going 6-of-8 for 44 yards on the first drive of the game.

What’s Next: All attention now goes towards roster cuts, with the final ones coming Tuesday at 4:00. The cut to 53 will see some fluid roster construction for the next week as the Colts turn to regular season mode with the season opener coming September 11th in Houston.