With the Colts’ final preseason game now complete, all eyes turn to the regular season set to start on September 11. However, there are some great things we learned and some particular items to highlight from the Colts 27-10 victory over the Buccaneers.
At long last, the Colts have a preseason victory. Indy fans can rejoice, exhale, and turn their focus to the Houston Texans matchup at NRG Stadium, coming up during Week One on September 11th. Of course, there cannot be moving forward without revisiting how the team arrived at this moment. These are the biggest takeaways from preseason game three:
One – The Colts Special Teams Unit Has a New Identity
With Rigoberto Sanchez out for the year, the team brought in Punter Matt Haack, who recently spent time with the Bills. Haack’s specialty is strictly punting and that means Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship is covering kickoffs in addition to his kicking duties. Guess what? It works! Haack pinned four out of five punts inside the 20-yard-line.
A great pressure test for the new Punter that even earned him recognition from a former Colts Punter. Blankenship also did well in his handling of kickoffs, which he has stepped in to do before with Sanchez out. Once Haack and Blankenship get down their timing on field goals (with Long Snapper Luke Rhodes), this unit will be ready to roll.
Two – Colts Backup Quarterback Ehlinger Continues To Impress
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger continues to make his case for the Colts to keep him on the roster. Almost unbelievably, Ehlinger’s final preseason numbers included being 24 for 29 on passing attempts (with 289 passing yards). This includes four passing touchdowns and a wild 45-yard rushing touchdown. His passer rating was an impressive 147.8! A lot of good for the former Texan Longhorn. The question now is: will it be enough?
Three – The Colts Can’t Go Wrong With Jackson or Lindsay
Jonathon Taylor and Nyheim Hines did not start against the Buccaneers, leaving plenty of reps for other running backs to make a statement. Both Deon Jackson and Phillip Lindsay were the lead backs on a drive a piece. Jackson racked up 34 receiving yards and a short yardage touchdown in the red zone.
Lindsay had 23 rushing yards and a stretch-for-the-pylon touchdown of seven yards. What the stats won’t tell you is that both ran particularly well, especially Lindsay, who showed some unexpected burst. A very good sight to see after a few down seasons plagued by injury. In a rare opportunity, the Colts could actually keep both backs as Jackson also has some Special Teams capabilities.
Four – The Undrafted Free Agents Of The Colts Came To Play
In previous years, the Colts prided themselves on having an Undrafted Free Agent on the roster on opening day. The streak lasted an amazing 22 years, coming to an end last year. That could change this season as there are several players making some heads turn. JoJo Domann and Sterling Weatherford are a few that come to mind. Domann’s had a wonderful camp and has the potential to be some good depth for the Linebacker core.
Weatherford has also been great and has racked up a solid 15 tackles this preseason including nine in the Buccaneers preseason game alone. It’s hard to say which way the roster shakes out come Tuesday, but bet on the streak starting again.
Five – The Progress Will Come For The Colts Playcalling In 2022
Something to remember as the season starts: the progress will come. With the preseason, the Colts have called very vanilla plays on offense and little to no schemes on defense. The idea is to simply evaluate talent. Bearing this in mind, the scheming on both sides of the ball will come and so will the identity of this Colts team.
They are young on Defense, but even younger on Offense. The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends will need time to adjust to the level of play in the NFL at full speed and to adjust to playing with yet another quarterback in some cases. It’s the age-old adage: give it time. Trust the process and the progress will come.