Welcome once again to the third incarnation of our preseason recap. This edition just so happens to resemble the drama in a soap opera, and if it was not for the fact it was so depressing to watch, it may very well inspire a laugh or two at the irony of the situation. This has so far been the most difficult game to establish any kind of real evaluations of most players. There were easy decisions regarding the good, however, many players who would be classified as the bad started out doing very well in the game, and individually, there were very few players who stood out as downright dreadful.
I will try to lead the casual observer through a game that yielded 17 first team offensive points in 15 minutes and 21 seconds only to be followed by 20 minutes of ineffective, penalty riddled play that was hard to watch. As always, we will start with the good news first…
Joseph Addai: There were very few bright spots in this game, and Addai was one of the brightest. His opening play was a 49-yard run, something we have not seen from him in a very long time. He cut well, made good decisions in holes, and looked like the rookie that impressed everyone. Addai also made a beautiful catch on a third-and-eleven that started as a last resort dump-off and turned into a 33-yard reception that ultimately led to a touchdown. He finished the night with 100 all-purpose yards, including an average of 8.6 yards per carry.
Reggie Wayne: Wayne started off hot, and stayed hot through the first quarter as the offense kept churning out yardage. Even after the line started caving, and as penalties started racking up against the starting offense, Wayne was getting good separation and making great catches. Wayne finished his night with seven receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Pierre Garçon: After a mysterious injury which led to the emergence of Austin Collie as a real option for number two on the depth chart, Garçon returned to his usual form with a couple of explosive catches in conjunction with a couple of drops. While the drops are frustrating, they are not out of the ordinary for him, so we’ll not count those against him. He played very well, especially after missing training camp and the first two preseason games. He finished the night with two catches for 42 yards.
Pat Angerer: Angerer took over for Gary Brackett in the most mentally and physically demanding position on the defense. Regardless of that pressure, and not to mention a complete lack of experience leading the first team defense, Angerer did very well. While the defense as a whole was a mess, Angerer stood out filling Brackett’s shoes, tallying eight solo tackles, a pair of assists, and was playing with the speed and strength we expect from our middle linebackers.
Mitch King: If it was not for the fact that neither Dwight Freeney nor Robert Mathis could make any sort of impact, the defensive tackles would deserve praise. They penetrated the offensive line numerous times, and appeared to be fairly sturdy. However, their overall effect was non-existent. Mitch King, on the other hand, filled in very well, getting the best penetration into the backfield, forcing a couple of quarterback scrambles. He finished the night with two solo tackles.
Blair White: For how well White has been doing in practice, he is getting very few looks in games. When he has had opportunities, he has had fairly good separation and has usually caught the ball. He only had one catch in the game, but when multiple parts of the offense were falling apart he seemed to be stable and consistent.
Bob Sanders: Bobzilla returned in a big way. Of all the players on defense, Sanders stood out most during the game. He stopped a couple of runs dead in their tracks and had one monster hit that drew a flag. Sanders was playing at full speed and with full effectiveness.
Antoine Bethea: Like Sanders, Bethea was stable on defense. He was always lurking near the ball and finished with eight solo tackles and one assist. Although the secondary played poorly, the starting safeties were not the major source of blame.
Curtis Painter: Without the last two or three series included, Painter had a quarterback rating of over 100. While he is one of the “alternately good and bad” players that made this analysis so difficult, Painter was solid for most of his time on the field. Painter has now had his second game that did not result in a total meltdown by the third snap. It is too soon to tell for sure, but maybe he is starting to move past his initial growing pains.
Pat McAfee: Before McAfee’s punt was returned for a touchdown due to poor coverage, McAfee was averaging over 49 yards per punt. Even after the long return, he finished the game with a 45 yards per punt average, which is very good. McAfee has been developing well and is proving to be a very valuable commodity.
Anthony Gonzalez: Despite an early miss, Gonzo was consistent the rest of the game, including a catch that was all of three inches off the ground. We have not seen fireworks from him yet, but he is slowly building himself back to what he used to be. He finished the game with three catches for 31 yards.
Colin Cloherty: Cloherty was good in kick coverage again, continuing to distinguish himself as a solid special teams player. Cloherty is also working with the second and third team offenses alongside Gijon Robinson and is outperforming the only other Colts tight end with significant game experience. Cloherty showed pass-catching ability and has nice run-after-the-catch potential, which showed during his 30 yard reception.
Brandon King: King made a couple of good plays in a secondary which universally stunk. He seemed to be sticking to receivers fairly well, and was able to come up and stop runs when needed. While his play was not exceptional, King gets a thumbs up and a gold star for a consistent if albeit lack-luster performance. He finished the night with a pair of solo tackles.
Adam Vinatieri: Vinatieri only kicked one field goal, but from 41 yards it was far enough to hint that he has some of his accuracy back. He also kicked three extra points and looked better than he has during much of training camp.
Sam Giguère: Giguère did not set off fireworks, which could affect his chances during cuts. He knocked up a pass, which he tried to catch across his body. His only other target was a nine yard reception. Giguère is not as hot and cold as Taj Smith, but for a player who has been in the system on the practice squad for as long as he has, the lack of explosion may spell doom for him.
Taj Smith: Smith is getting an inordinate amount of looks for the second team receivers, which is doing crazy things to not only his roster stock, but also that of Blair White and Sam Giguère. Smith had one big reception for 27 yards, but then had two drops on catchable throws, and one miss. He is coming off as a slightly more inconsistent Pierre Garçon with his ability to blow your mind one play, and then make you scream the next.
Brody Eldridge: Eldridge only had one catch for five yards. As the line played longer however, Eldridge stopped running routes to help block. Maybe it’s a fault of the system, maybe it’s a fault of the players, but one way or another, Eldridge did not shine like he was expected to.
Jacob Tamme: Like Eldridge, Tamme was a non-factor in the game. He did not get any passes, despite playing significant time in the receiving tight end role for Dallas Clark. When he was called back to help block on the line, it made very little impact.
Gijon Robinson: Robinson started in the game, but was quickly replaced by Eldridge. When he was brought in with the second team tight ends, he was as ineffective as Eldridge and Tamme. He did not block particularly well, and despite getting most of the reps as a receiving tight end, he only caught one pass.
Ryan Diem: Diem should have been the sturdiest most impressive lineman, but was at best average for the whole line. Diem required a tight end to help block and still managed to miss blocks he was supposed to pick-up on the inside.
Phillip Wheeler: Three words… Gary Brackett’s hand. I know it was not intentional, but the fact that he could have broken Brackett’s arm is enough for me to kick him to the naughty pile.
Donald Brown: Brown carried the ball five times and only managed six yards. His longest run was on the goal-line and theoretically should have reduced his production. When Joseph Addai, Javarris James and Mike Hart managed to break out at least a five yard open field run, it is disappointing to see a first round pick fail so badly.
Melvin Bullitt: Bullitt gets the can because of his poor performance at safety. Bullitt was called on numerous times to play alongside Sanders and Bethea, and instead of being the solid player we’ve known him to be over the past two years, he missed numerous tackles and was totally lacking in coverage. After all the drooling at the thought of Sanders/Bullitt/Bethea packages, Bullitt was a complete let down.
Adrian Martinez: Two botched snaps. While probably just as much blame falls on Painter, Martinez was supposed to ensure the ball got into the QBs hands in the first place. Martinez also was a part of an offensive line that seemed to play worse as the game progressed.
Brandon James: James muffed a punt and gave up a touchdown, which is worse than what Fisher pulled against Buffalo. He got a lot of work, struggled to get to the 20 yard line on kickoffs a number of times, and completely failed in punt returns.
Punt/Kick Blocking: In general, the blocking was extremely poor. Giguère only had one return and not only did he meet a wall of Packers at the 20, but he also had it called back 10 yards because someone couldn’t help holding on to their man. Brandon James was swarmed on his punt returns and barely had a chance to move because the blocking was so bad.
Every Offensive Line: Each offensive line unit started strong then began to let linebackers through on blitz packages. The longer Manning played, the worse the line got. The same happened with Painter.
Injuries: We lost Tony Ugoh, Joseph Addai, Jacob Lacey, Antonio Johnson, and Gary Brackett for the game to injuries. All five are members of the starting lineup, and all five play big roles at each of their positions. While none of the injuries seem serious, the rash of injuries was a dreadful aspect of the game.
Starting Defensive Line: We got didn’t have any pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Freeney and Mathis were completely ineffective. While Daniel Muir and Fili Moala were promising, the defensive line was effectively useless. Rodgers had plenty of time to throw. When our secondary was falling to pieces in coverage, pressure on the quarterback was a must. Given the fact that Rodgers was one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL last year, the inability of the defensive line to apply pressure was dreadful.
Terrail Lambert: Lambert was called for at least two special teams penalties. He was also unspectacular on the defense. He has been impressive in previous games so hopefully he’ll be able to bounce back.