As they took the field at US Bank Stadium on Saturday night, the Indianapolis Colts were looking for guys to show up with solid performances at various positions.
A couple of young quarterbacks were looking to build on good performances a week ago. A trio of offensive tackles needed to step up after an abysmal training camp. Young pass rushers set out to prove their success in camp could translate to game action.
Two of those three groups certainly came to play as the Colts slugged out a 12-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, improving to 2-0 in the preseason.
Let’s take a look at how those donning the Horseshoe did in Minneapolis.
Both of the Colts’ young quarterbacks failed to impress against the Vikings.
Sam Ehlinger received the start and had the benefit of playing with the Colts’ starters for most of the first quarter. He did not take advantage of the opportunity as he finished his stint 8-of-13 (61.5%) for 70 yards and two interceptions. This gives him three interceptions through two preseason games.
The blame for both turnovers can be mostly placed on Ehlinger. The first was a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and wobbled high to Parris Campbell, who tipped it up into the air where Vikings’ linebacker Troy Dye took it 33 yards for a pick-6. This gave the Vikings a 7-3 lead.
The second interception came on a drive where Ehlinger was making quick decisions with the ball and strong throws to the sideline. He tried to force the ball to Ashton Dulin on a slant, causing the ball to be tipped in the air and picked by Vikings defensive tackle Armon Watts. One of the things that head coach Frank Reich always preaches is winning the turnover battle and Ehlinger has been a big part of why the Colts have lost the turnover battle in both preseason games.
Jacob Eason was not much better when he took the field. Eason was very inaccurate throughout his stint, missing receivers on routine throws that could have very easily kept drives alive. He also had some throws where he unnecessarily would rocket the ball to the receiver at short distances, causing drops.
Eason rebounded in the fourth quarter and put together a couple of drives that ended in field goals, just as Ehlinger did earlier. Eason finished 16-of-27 (59.3%) for 132 yards on the night, as he started to deliver the ball more accurately and on time to his receivers. His favorite weapon was Dezmon Patmon, who hauled in four catches for 60 yards as he tries to solidify his spot in the wide receiver group.
As far as the quarterback battle is concerned, neither quarterback helped themselves too much Saturday night. Eason came in as the favorite for the spot and Ehlinger did nothing to change that. Reich said after the game he would most likely need another week of practice and their final preseason game to determine who would win the backup spot.
Left Tackle Favorite Emerges
The left tackle play for the Colts this preseason has been suspect, to say the least. Julién Davenport, Will Holden, and Sam Tevi have all struggled mightily with neither standing out as a viable option. That may have changed tonight.
Davenport got the start and played pretty well against the Vikings’ defensive line. He was able to create some holes in the running game while holding his own in pass protection. Davenport wasn’t perfect but showed that he has the potential to be a serviceable option until left tackle Eric Fisher can return.
Holden also saw snaps at left tackle but had his struggles. He eventually moved inside to left guard in the fourth quarter and Davenport took over once again at left tackle. Tevi did not receive any reps at left tackle and instead played at right tackle where he was seen being overpowered on a few occasions by defensive linemen.
At this point, Davenport seems like the favorite to fill in at left tackle. His performance tonight along with the fact he has received the lion’s share of snaps at left tackle in camp lately point to the Colts’ liking what they have seen from him. Holden would have to be second in this battle with Tevi a distant third, signaling a huge disappointment out of the former Los Angeles Chargers starter.
Pass Rush Dominates
The Colts’ pass rushers have had great success in camp but the question remained if they could translate that to live-game action. They certainly proved to have that potential Saturday night.
Starting with Kwity Paye, the Colts’ first-round pick who made his debut against the Vikings, the kid out of Michigan tallied his first sack on Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins. Paye used his speed to make quick work of the offensive tackle and wrapped up Cousins for an eight-yard loss, stalling a Vikings’ drive. From all indications, Paye is going to be a major force for the Colts.
Ben Banogu was also a wrecking ball at rushing the quarterback. He had numerous QB hits and hurries all night, being a disruptive presence who seemed to live in the opposing backfield. The third-year pro is finally putting it all together and showing what the Colts were so excited about when he was drafted in 2019.
The Colts’ pass rush didn’t stop with those two. Al-Quadin Muhammad and Andrew Brown combined for a sack on the quarterback while also applying pressure throughout the night. Chris Williams continued to push the pocket up the middle. Isaac Rochell forced the quarterback out of the pocket quite a few times during the game.
The Colts have to be thrilled with what they have seen out of their pass rush so far and their defense as a whole. This unit has a chance to be a top-five group in the NFL this year, and they intend on achieving that.
Notable Standouts: WR Dezmon Patmon, TE Farrod Green, DE Ben Banogu, LB Zaire Franklin, CB Rock Ya-Sin, DB Andre Chachere
Notable Disappointments: QB Sam Ehlinger, WR Mike Strachan, TE Kylen Granson, OT Sam Tevi
What did you think of Saturday's game? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!
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