Colts rookies get mixed reviews after 1st preseason game
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Center Ryan Kelly needed one play to get in sync last weekend. Safety T.J. Green wasted no time making a big splash in his NFL debut.
Two days after winning their preseason opener, the Colts pored through videotape and gave their rookie class solid grades.
''I think we're heading in the right direction as an O-line,'' Kelly said Monday. ''I think the effort was there, I think the communication was there. But you don't want to be a finished product in the first preseason game, and we've got to keep moving in the right direction.''
Coaches believe the first-round draft pick can stabilize a spot that has been a revolving door for Andrew Luck's first four seasons. The good news for Indy is that their revamped offensive line allowed no sacks against a stingy Buffalo Bills defense. But the overall results were mixed.
With Luck sitting out, coach Chuck Pagano lamented the Colts' slow start, a missed block in punt protection that led to a block and safety, and the fact that Buffalo held a 126-30 advantage in yards rushing, all areas he expects to see improvement Saturday against Baltimore.
Still, the first impressions from Kelly, who played 15 snaps after missing more than a week of training camp with an injured left shoulder, and Green, Indy's second-round pick who missed part of the first week of practice with an injured calf, went better than expected.
''I thought it was fairly good. I was able to evaluate myself and I saw some things that need to get better,'' said Green, who made some big hits. ''I think I can grow as a player, but that's how I play - I play fast and I play physical.''
If Green stays healthy and continues to punish ball carriers the way he did in the Colts' 19-18 victory, it could give the Colts' defense a major upgrade.
Of course in Indy, all eyes remain focused on an offensive line that used three other rookies for most of Saturday night.
Third-round pick Le'Raven Clark, a tackle, and seventh-round pick Austin Blythe, a center, played the majority of Indy's 63 offensive snaps, and fifth-round pick Joe Haeg turned heads on 33 plays he logged.
After an impressive throughout training camp, Haeg continued his progression and has emerged as a potentially versatile backup at tackle, where he spent the past two seasons at North Dakota State, and guard, where he is still getting acclimated.
''He had the one false start, but he battled his tail off,'' Pagano said.
After opting to bench Luck on a rainy night, Pagano implied Monday that the Colts' star quarterback is likely to suit up for the first time in nine months this weekend. The expectation is that the Colts will probably keep their starters on the field at least as long as Luck is behind center, giving more snaps to Kelly and Green who are still trying to grow into their new roles.
''I think once you hit somebody, you jump right back into it,'' Kelly said. ''I'd say if you're in the league and you've been here awhile, the guys who are here are great with their fundamentals. That's the biggest challenge.''
Notes: Pagano said linebacker Sio Moore has a ''pretty significant'' hamstring injury and is considered week to week. ... X-rays on offensive lineman Kevin Graf (ankle) were negative, Pagano said, but Graf also is listed as week to week. ... Everyone else that got hurt at Buffalo should be all right. Guard Denzelle Good (lower quad), defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin (dislocated finger) and cornerback Darius White (concussion protocol) could all play this weekend. Pagano said doctors found White did not have a concussion.
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