The preseason is over. A week from today at Soldier Field in Chicago, Andrew Luck and the rest of the "new era" Indianapolis Colts will take the field for meaningful football. Before we begin our usual week of breaking down the opponent and analyzing that week's game, let's take a look back at the preseason as a whole and make some observations about what the Colts showed us in the last month.
Offense (C+): There's no question that this unit will be much improved over last season's 30th ranked unit. It's not just the addition of Andrew Luck either, although Luck was certainly all that was advertised and perhaps more. Bruce Arians has put together a young, but versatile unit that looks to be able to score enough points to keep the Colts in most games.
Donald Brown will get the first crack at holding his job as the featured running back, but he can't be complacent as rookie Vick Ballard was impressive in the preseason and has shown that he's capable of providing some burst from the position. A healthy Delone Carter gives the Colts an effective short yardage and goal line option as well.
Reggie Wayne doesn't look like he's lost anything as he leads the receivers. Austin Collie's return from another concussion in unknown, but behind him are some youngsters who have shown themselves to be capable of big plays.
TY Hilton and LaVon Brazill both have the speed to beat defenders deep and undrafted free agent Kris Adams showed flashes of being a "highlight reel" receiver during the preseason. The rookie tight ends, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, were a big part of Arians' preseason game plans as well. Fleener's drops are an area of concern though.
The offensive line looks improved over last season, but not very deep. Fans will be holding their breath each week as Andrew Luck is likely to take more than a few shots early on while this unit continues to gel.
Defense (C-): This unit looked a lot better than the one we saw in 2011 too, but then again that bar was equally set pretty low to start. Like with the offense, some young play makers have made themselves known, but the depth of the overall unit will be called into question as the season wears on.
The defensive line was solid if unspectacular during the preseason. Generally, they held their gaps and allowed the linebackers to make plays, which is their new responsibility in the Colts' new scheme. If Cory Redding can get and stay healthy, that will help this unit immensely.
The linebackers were aggressive and performed well even without Pat Angerer, who was lost early to injury and probably won't be back until around midseason. Jerrell Freeman earned a starting spot on the inside and perpetual disappointment Jerry Hughes showed that the 3-4 alignment really does show off his talents. The biggest concern from this unit is them learning to play with discipline as a unit. Far too many times in the preseason did the outside linebackers crash down too far and allow runs to be broken outside for big gains.
The secondary looks better also. Jerraud Powers has shown his ability to be the shutdown corner the Colts badly needed. The question for him is can he stay healthy. They got Vontae Davis from Miami at the end of the preseason, but we've yet to see him on the field. He brings some question marks about work ethic. Behind those two still remains a lot of question marks. Cassius Vaughn and Justin King will be serviceable nickel and dime backs, but if either is pressed into full time cover roles, it could spell trouble for the Colts.
Special Teams (A): Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee resumed their typical consistency in the kicking game. That could be huge for this young team who is likely to find themselves in several games that are tightly contested and decided by either field position or late field goals. The Colts certainly have one of the better units in the NFL in that regard. Matt Overton takes over for long-time long snapper Justin Snow. If he does his job well, that's the last time you'll hear his name mentioned the rest of the year.
We didn't see any explosive returns during the preseason, but the Colts do have some depth in that department. The coaches got a good look at several players in that role during the preseason. It will be interesting to see who they settle on to handle those chores beginning next week in Chicago. If I had to fill out a depth chart for that now, it would be TY Hilton, followed by Cassius Vaughn and LaVon Brazill.
The Colts may not be in full "monster" mode yet, but they've shown us in preseason they're much scarier than they were last season.
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