5 takeaways from Colts’ 27-10 preseason win over Buccaneers

·7 min read

That is it for the Indianapolis Colts!

The preseason has come and gone after their 27-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night.

Indianapolis was able to escape the exhibition relatively healthy and can now turn their focus on their opening day matchup with the Houston Texans.

There wasn’t much to read into from the Colts last appearance in August but here are five takeaways from the final preseason game:

Starting offense starts slow but ends strong

AP Photo/AJ Mast

Matt Ryan and the starting unit had a rocky start against the Tampa starting defense. The offensive line minus Ryan Kelly (Danny Pinter at center, Will Fries at right guard) had their struggles. They failed to generate any push on rush plays and pass protection was subpar. Quenton Nelson and Danny Pinter had what looked like miscommunication, leading to a failed pickup on a delayed blitz by Lavonte David. David ended up sacking Ryan on a second down play that led to a stalled second drive.

The offense looked much better on their final drive of the night that came against the Bucs’ backups. It was kicked off with a 26-yard reception on a screenplay by Deon Jackson. Jackson did get the snaps with the ones over Phillip Lindsay.

Something that we will often see from the Colts this season is the Matt Ryan to Michael Pittman Jr. connection. The pair hooked up on a 17-yard catch to put them inside the five-yard line which led to Jackson’s one-yard touchdown run.

The majority of the play calling from Frank Reich was very vanilla so there shouldn’t be a lot to be concerned about. The question is what will this offense really look like when Indianapolis opens up the season in Houston?

Starting defense bends but doesn't break

AP Photo/Doug McSchooler

It was a quick night for the Colts’ starting defense. Tom Brady and the Tampa starting offense came out in hurry-up mode in their only series. Brady was able to do what he does, quick accurate passes, and was able to march down the field to get his team in scoring position. It did help when Stephon Gilmore got hit with pass interference on the second play of the drive. It looked like he made a great play on the ball but got a little touchy with Mike Evans before the ball arrived.

If that penalty doesn’t happen then the Bucs would’ve been in a third-and-10 situation. That led to a continuous drive for Tampa and they were able to get the ball within the 20-yard line. It came to an end when Kenny Moore II took down Cameron Brate on a screen play to help hold the Buccaneers to a field goal.

Their night came to an end on the following drive when Grover Stewart completely dominated the interior of the Bucs’ offensive line and blew up three straight run plays to force the three-and-out.

Overall it was an in-and-out night for the Indianapolis starting defensive unit. They got out healthy and that’s all that matters. One thing to note though, with Kwity Paye being out, that did lead to Ben Banogu getting some snaps with the ones. I believe that is a sign that he will be making the final 53-man roster.

Feeling comfortable with the safety depth

AP Photo/AJ Mast

One of the detriments to the team last year was the depth in the safety room. While George Odum was a serviceable backup, Andrew Sendejo hurt the team at times with his play and they even had to lean on Jahleel Addae at times. Despite the surprising retirement of Khari Willis, the Colts still are in a favorable spot with the safety room because of the work Chris Ballard did on it this offseason.

Unfortunately, the Colts did lose safety Armani Watts to a season-ending ankle injury on the opening kickoff of the game, but it still remained to be seen how much defensive work Watts would have had.

The emergence of Nick Cross looks like a Day 2 steal at this point and will be making a larger impact than expected when he was selected. It does look like he is the official starting strong safety opposite of Julian Blackmon. He got the nod over Rodney McLeod. McLeod was on the field when the backups took over.

The veteran safety gives Gus Bradley some reassurance if anything happens with his young safeties. Plus, he can help further their development. But, what really has me comfortable with the group is the play from Rodney Thomas II over the last couple of weeks.

The rookie safety flashed his athleticism and was flying all over the field to help make plays for his team. He’s showed off some sure tackling skills with his ability to explode up the field to make contact. Thomas II finished with four solo tackles but his most impressive play came in a third-down situation.

The receiver dropped the ball but if he would’ve caught it then Thomas II was in a perfect position to blow him up and tackle him ahead of the sticks. For the Colts’ sake, they hope they don’t have to lean on the depth in the safety room but if they have to then they should feel much better than they did at the end of the 2021 season.

What do the Colts do with Sam Ehlinger?

AP Photo/Doug McSchooler

Chris Ballard has a lot of calculations to do over the next couple of days as he looks to fine-tune his roster down to 53 players. One of the decisions that will be kept an eye on will be if he chooses to have two or three quarterbacks on the roster. While there is optimism among Colts fans that Sam Ehlinger could push to be the backup, that certainly isn’t the case within the Indianapolis organization.

So, what does Ballard decide to do with the quarterback that they were happy to draft on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL draft? Ehlinger went 5-of-7 for 65 yards in his final preseason performance but his most electric play came when he took off for a 45-yard touchdown run.

Ehlinger’s preseason numbers ended with going 24-of-29 for 289 yards and four touchdowns. He also had six rushes for 71 yards and a touchdown. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have three quarterbacks on the final roster but Ehlinger has done everything in his power to earn his spot in Indianapolis.

Feeling happy with the new punter

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the Buffalo Bills prematurely releasing Matt Haack, the Colts may have found their answer at punter after Rigoberto Sanchez tore his Achilles in practice. Haack had five punts against Tampa. He averaged 50.6 yards per punt and had four of them land inside the 20-yard line. His longest punt of the night was 57 yards.

While he does need to show he can continue this level of play during the regular season, Haack did give a sigh of relief that he can play at the standard that Indianapolis expects out of the position. Special teams can lose games with poor play so there should be some level of happiness after the disappointment following the Sanchez injury.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire