With a new emphasis on player health during training camp, there was much speculation over how the Indianapolis Colts would perform against other teams. Were they prepared? Would they be tough enough? Fast enough? Aggressive enough?
After playing their first NFL preseason game against the New York Jets on Thursday night, I think we all took a collective sigh of relief. The Colts did remember how to hit. They did remember how to tackle. They came ready to play. And we saw what we needed to see from both the rookies and the veterans.
Right out of the gate, running back Trent Richardson showed he had something to prove. He’s impressed during training camp, finding holes on the field that eluded him last year and showing bursts of speed while doing it. Trent Richardson will have a much better season this year. I’ve been saying it all offseason and now I have evidence to back it up.
The first possession went something like this: Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck to Hakeem Nicks, Andrew Luck to T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck to Hakeem Nicks…with some strong runs by Richardson mixed in. Yes people, the Colts have weapons on offense…a stockpile of them. So many, it should probably be illegal.
But during the first possession, the Colts lost a player at a position they could least afford to. Center Khaled Holmes, who not only stepped in this season but has also stepped up as a leader on and off the field, went down with an ankle injury. In his place, came rookie Jonotthan Harrison who (predictably) had some first game jitters. Initial reports on Holmes are that it’s a high ankle sprain.
Backup running back Daniel “Boom” Herron impressed. So much so, that he brought the catch phrase, “Boom Baby!” from the Pacers to the Colts. I won’t take credit for it, but it was the first thing I thought (and tweeted) after his first run and again after his touchdown. And so appropriate with Bobby “Slick” Leonard, the man who coined the phrase, being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend. Boom, baby!
Not to be outdone, the Colts defense showed off much improved skills in stopping the run. The starting unit forced the Jets off the field in three and out their first possession. Linebacker Bjoern Werner showed he is ready to take the reins from Robert Mathis, at least for the first four games. And Andy Studebaker played like a total stud (maybe we should call him Stud-a-Baker). Rookies Jonathan Newsome, Loucheiz Purifoy, and Henoc Muamba also impressed.
If I missed someone, I blame the closed captioning running through the middle of the field on my TV screen. It is the preseason for WNDY too. Come to think of it, it’s always the preseason there. And that may be the definition of hell.
Bottom line: Coach Pagano is asking the team to DECIDE. The players decided. They came to play. And that’s going to make it much tougher for the Colts when they have to DECIDE who makes the final roster in the coming weeks.