What We Learned: Colts vs. Bills

Another week of preseason action, another loss. History has told us there's no reason for panic, but we still learned a few things during Thursday's game against the Bills. Brad Keller breaks it down.

Peyton Manning's timing is slightly off: Manning under threw Reggie Wayne on a fly route early in the first quarter, under threw Joseph Addai on a wheel route that ended up being a completion, and was slightly ahead of Anthony Gonzalez on an in route that he should have caught, but didn't.

That pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Buffalo cornerback Terrance McGee.  He was also behind Austin Collie on a deep post, but that pass could have intentionally been off target, as Collie would have been punished by the Bills secondary and that pass probably would have been intercepted as well.

Manning only played one quarter, so the timing issues may have been resolved throughout the course of the game.  The Colts also have two more games and three more weeks to get everything ironed out, but Manning and his receivers need to get on the same page before the season starts.

The defense was surprisingly vanilla: After seeing a number of exotic blitzes and a healthy dose of standard blitzes last week, Larry Coyer called a conservative game against the Bills on Thursday.  The first-team players played in mostly vanilla schemes and the second and third team players weren't given much more to do.

The first game, hopefully, provided a glimpse of what is to come for the regular season, but they could go back to plain vanilla.  Chances are that they'll play things close to the vest on defense for the first three quarters of the third game and turn things loose in the fourth game.  It will be interesting to watch.

A number of players did better in Week 2 than in Week 1: It would have been difficult for Curtis Painter to do worse in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, so there's that.  But, he looked sharper, went through his progressions properly, and the Colts were able to open up the offense for him.  He only executed one touchdown drive, but looked much smoother and more comfortable than Tom Brandstater and Tim Hiller.

Donald Brown looked more decisive and his pad level was lower than it was in Week 1, but Addai still looks to have a stranglehold on the number one job.  He showed enough in the first half of the first quarter that he was on the bench for the rest of the game as a reward, not as punishment.  Adam Terry could not have looked much worse in Week 2, either, than he did in Week 1, but he definitely improved between the two games.  Ryan Diem's job is more than safe, but what Terry showed on Thursday night makes the depth chart more secure.

Brody Eldridge is making himself a lot of money this preseason: Dallas Clark will have the starting job when the season starts, but Eldridge — not Jacob Tamme or Gijon Robinson, who had dropped passes on Thursday (though Tamme caught a pretty touchdown pass) — has been starting in place of Clark.  His blocking skills are well-established — which is supposed to be Robinson's forte — but he has proven himself to be a good route-runner and has soft hands.

If Indianapolis keeps six receivers, they will keep at least three tight ends: Clark, longsnapper Justinn Snow, and, at this point, Eldridge.  This is do-or-die time for Tamme and Robinson and Eldridge currently has the advantage.

Jerry Hughes needs to announce himself: Hughes has gone two games without making a "splash" play to bring attention to himself.  If he doesn't make one of those plays in the next two games, the wrong kind of attention will be paid to him.  In 2009, the Colts drafted Brown in the first round and he has not panned out just yet, they drafted Mike Pollak with their first selection in 2008 and he has since been benched, they drafted Gonzalez in 2007 and he has not been especially productive.

The team's last first-round bonanza was Addai in 2006, so Hughes needs to step up, lest he start to get lumped in with the other "first round" disappointments of the past five years.

Unfortunately, we got a long look at Pat McAfee: He looks good.  He looks very, very good.  Garrett Lindholm won't be needed, as McAfee can handle the kickoff and punt duties.

I would like to get a longer look at Brandon James: Devin Moore seems like a solid kick returner, but I would like to see what James can do on the other side of the field on kick returns and on punt returns.  James hasn't gotten an extended look thus far and could help the team — along with Moore — in a critical area that has been lacking the last few seasons.  James and Moore look like the two best options, so the Colts need to give them a shot.


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