ReFo: IND @ CIN, Preseason WK 4
As the second half of this one-sided affair took shape, it became apparent just how eager the two coaching staffs were to finish up the preseason by testing their depth in the run game. With efforts on the ground nearly doubling the number of passes after the half, it felt as if both teams were playing with a lead. The clock ticked, the reserve runners ran, and the final preseason game came to a close.
With the Final 53’s due in this weekend, it’ll be an ugly couple of days for many, but perhaps a player or two cemented a spot with what they showed in their last exhibition opportunity. Here’s a look at some of the performances that stood out:
Indianapolis – Three Performances of Note
Room to Grow
Given new coordinator Pep Hamilton’s desire to improve the run game and the transformation of the Colts’ offensive line this offseason, there had to be mixed reactions to the run blocking display by the line in this game. The good: many of the lower-roster offensive linemen graded well as run blockers and the team got a lot on tape to help with their final cutdown. The bad? Roster-lock rookies Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton brought up the rear with run blocking grades of -1.7 and -2.4, respectively.
While Holmes found life tough during his second-quarter matchup with Bengals DT Brandon Thompson, regularly being stood up at the line instead of generating push, Thornton’s introduction to Geno Atkins was a wake up. That matchup included a play at the 13:19 mark in the first where the All-Pro DT two-gapped the rookie, setting him aside to bring down the passing runner, making a difficult play look like a walkthrough. Early days for these two, but not a particularly impressive start at this point.
If it seemed like linebacker Mario Harvey was all over the field, it’s because he was. Harvey played every snap for the Colts’ defense and emerged with the top overall grade for any LB in the game (+3.5) — not a surprise considering the seven run stops he put up. He’s down the chart but doesn’t look out of place. If Kavell Conner is in fact finding a new home soon, Harvey could offer some reassurance that depth in the middle isn’t lacking.
On the other end of that inside linebacker depth game, the player being thrust ahead of Conner — and the reason Conner may become expendable — Pat Angerer (-1.8 run defense), continued a worrisome trend from his time as a starter in 2012. It’s tough to be an effective LB when constantly stuck on or eaten up by blocks and Angerer spent his evening in just that fashion (observe him absorbed by Kevin Zeitler at 9:49 in the first as an example). Angerer’s run of starts in Cincinnati’s final four games last year were each graded in the red with his run D being the key factor holding him down. For a player potentially being handed the inside job, that’s a trend to be concerned about.
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
If the choice hadn’t been made already in the ‘Conner v. Charles’ fullback competition, John Conner may have made a powerful statement in his favor just in time. If one of them has to go and any of it is based on this performance, Conner will still be a Bengal come Monday. His lead blocking efforts were dialed-in as he chalked up wins at nearly every turn on his way to a +4.0 mark in that department. Conner was equally adept at lining up defensive backs as he was at locating linebackers in this one and if there’s a role to be had as a throwback fullback tasked solely with destruction, I can’t see another fitting better.
Yay for Shaffer?
With Emmanuel Lamur unfortunately suffering a serious shoulder injury in this game, there appears to be an extra roster spot opening up for a linebacker. Jayson DiManche should be among those staying in town already, so does this opportunity mean there’s room for J.K. Schaffer as well? Shaffer’s easy to root for and posted a nice stat line Thursday night, but graded out at a flat 0.0 overall. How did that happen when he owned a couple of the game’s biggest highlights? Well, the sack and hurry he produced on blitzes were both unblocked, his interception was on an awful underthrow, and he didn’t show well against the run. So, with his positives not shining so bright, has there been enough since his first preseason game to convince the decision-makers?
Rookie defensive end Margus Hunt still hasn’t shown himself as much danger as a pass rusher. Putting up his third negative mark in four outings (-1.4 pass rush in this game), Hunt collected a lone hurry in 16 chances and boasts a total of six pressures on 78 preseason pass-rushing snaps. It can’t be for a lack of opportunity as he’s been given every chance to work on his game – that pass-rushing snap total is among the 10 highest in the preseason. His Pass Rushing Productivity rating, however, trails 17 other 4-3 defensive ends.
– Cincinnati QB Josh Johnson faced pressure on 10 of his 18 drop-backs, while his competition, John Skelton, saw only one pressured snap on 10 passing attempts.
– Indianapolis quarterbacks attempted just three passes targeted at least 10 yards downfield. They completed none.
PFF Game Ball
Mario Harvey’s whistle-to-gun, double-digit tackles night gets the call.
Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick