Indianapolis Colts vs Minnesota Vikings recap: QBs struggle as pass rush blossoms
As they stepped onto the field at US Bank Stadium on Saturday night, the Indianapolis Colts were looking for guys to show up with strong performances in various positions.
A few young quarterbacks were looking to build on good performances a week ago. A trio of attacking tackles was expected to escalate after a horrendous training camp. The young pass hunters decided to prove that their success at camp could translate into some action in the game.
Two of those three groups have certainly come to play as the Colts beat the Minnesota Vikings 12-10 to 2-0 in the preseason.
Let’s take a look at what those who wore the horseshoe were doing in Minneapolis.
The Colts’ two young quarterbacks failed to impress the Vikings.
Sam Ehlinger got the start and had the advantage of playing for the Colts starters for most of the first quarter. He didn’t take the opportunity to finish his stint 8 of 13 (61.5%) for 70 yards and two interceptions. That gives him three interceptions in two preseason games.
The main blame for the two turnovers can be placed on Ehlinger. The first was a ball that was knocked over over the line of scrimmage and wobbled high towards Parris Campbell, who knocked it over in the air where Vikings linebacker Troy Dye took it 33 yards for a pick-6 . This gave the Vikings a 7-3 lead.
The second interception came on a drive where Ehlinger was making quick decisions with the ball and strong throws from the sideline. He attempted to force the ball to Ashton Dulin down a slope, flipping the ball through the air and recovered by Vikings defensive tackle Armon Watts. One of the things head coach Frank Reich always preaches is winning the turnover battle and Ehlinger has been a big part of why the Colts lost the turnover battle in the two preseason games.
Jacob Eason wasn’t much better when he took the field. Eason was very imprecise throughout his stint, missing receivers on routine throws that could very easily have kept the discs alive. He also had a few throws where he unnecessarily propelled the ball towards the receiver at short distances, causing falls.
Eason bounced back in the fourth quarter and had a few practices that resulted in field goals, just like Ehlinger did earlier. Eason finished 16 of 27 (59.3%) for 132 yards on the night as he began to deliver the ball more accurately and on time to his receivers. His favorite weapon was Dezmon Patmon, who made four catches for 60 yards as he tried to solidify his place in the wide receiver group.
As for the quarterback battle, no quarterback used too much on Saturday night. Eason came in as the favorite for the place and Ehlinger did nothing to change that. Reich said after the game that he would likely need another week of training and their final pre-season game to determine who wins the save spot.
Favorite left tackle emerges
The left tackle game for the Colts this preseason has been suspect to say the least. Julién Davenport, Will Holden and Sam Tevi have all struggled mightily with neither emerging as a viable option. That may have changed tonight.
Davenport took the start and played pretty well against the Vikings’ defensive line. He was able to create holes in the running game while still holding onto his pass protection. Davenport wasn’t perfect but showed he has the potential to be a usable option until left tackle Eric Fisher can come back.
Holden also saw snaps on the left tackle but struggled. He eventually moved inside the left guard in the fourth quarter and Davenport again took over on the left tackle. Tevi did not receive any rep on the left tackle and instead played on the right tackle where he was seen to be overpowered a few times by defensive linemen.
At this point Davenport appears to be the favorite to replace on the left tackle. His performance tonight as well as the fact that he has received the lion’s share of left tackle snaps in the camp lately indicates the Colts like what they’ve seen of him. Holden is expected to be second in this battle with Tevi a third distance, signaling huge disappointment from the former Los Angeles Chargers starter.
Pass Rush dominates
The Colts passers were very successful at camp, but the question remained whether they could translate that into live action. They certainly proved they have that potential on Saturday night.
Starting with Kwity Paye, the Colts’ first-round pick who debuted against the Vikings, the Michigan kid scored his first sack on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Paye used his speed to do a quick job on the offensive tackle and buckled Cousins for an eight-yard loss, blocking a Vikings practice. From all indications, Paye is going to be a major force for the Colts.
Ben Banogu was also a wrecking ball to rush the quarterback. He’s had plenty of QB hits and hurries all night, being a disruptive presence that seemed to live on in the opposing backfield. The third-year pro is finally putting everything in place and showing what the Colts were so excited about when he was drafted in 2019.
The Colts’ pass race didn’t end with these two. Al-Quadin Muhammad and Andrew Brown combined for a quarterback sack while exerting pressure throughout the night. Chris Williams continued to push the pocket down the middle. Isaac Rochell forced the quarterback out of his pocket several times during the game.
The Colts must be delighted with what they’ve seen of their passing rush so far and their defense as a whole. This unit has a chance to be in the top five in the NFL this year, and they intend to make it happen.
Notable strengths: WR Dezmon Patmon, TE Farrod Green, DE Ben Banogu, LB Zaire Franklin, CB Rock Ya-Sin, DB Andre Chachere
Notable disappointments: QB Sam Ehlinger, WR Mike Strachan, TE Kylen Granson, OT Sam Tevi
What did you think of Saturday’s game? Leave a note in the comments section below to let us know how you feel!
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