Turning our attention toward Week 2, we focus on five Indianapolis Colts who need to show something on Sunday at Tennessee after playing like they were missing in action in the 30-24 overtime road loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Not to dwell strictly on the negative, a Wochit video above highlights the Colts’ top performers last Sunday: running back Marlon Mack, quarterback Jacoby Brissett, safety Malik Hooker, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and defensive end Kemoko Turay.
But, alas, the Colts lost because they made too many costly mistakes at the most inopportune times. The need for improvement starts with these five players.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri — Yeah, we started with an obvious one because “Mr. Clutch” has been talked about more than anyone else. Whether it was a lingering knee injury from preseason, the footing on that unfamiliar soccer pitch or whatever, Vinatieri missed two field goals and an extra point for the first time in his 24 seasons. Any time the 46-year-old legend misses, fans are quick to say it’s time to retire. But head coach Frank Reich reiterated on Monday that he’s not worried about Vinatieri. Nor am I. But even he knows that back-to-back bad games would be cause for greater concern.
Tight end Eric Ebron — Whether you agree or disagree with the ruling on the field that stood, Ebron let the football come lose on what should have been an 11-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter. Although he enjoyed a breakout season in making his first Pro Bowl last year, he also dropped some balls. And he needed to make that catch on quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s fine throw. Ebron had only one 8-yard reception in the opener. It’s a contract year. He’s looking to get paid. In light of wide receiver Devin Funchess breaking his clavicle and landing on injured reserve, Ebron needs to be more involved.
Weakside linebacker Darius Leonard — By his own admission, he had a bad game. Strictly by the numbers, it also wasn’t up to his standard. The NFL’s leading tackler from a year ago had seven tackles, which doesn’t sound like a huge drop-off, but consider that Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis had 14. What stood out more is Leonard’s missed strip on Austin Eckeler’s 55-yard touchdown reception. “The Maniac” set the bar high for making impact plays as a rookie, be it forced fumbles, sacks or interceptions. Season two started without any. The Chargers rushed for 125 yards, averaging 6 yards per carry, and Leonard had plenty of company when it came to missing tacklers or being caught out of position. But he’s the defensive leader. The example starts with him.
Running back Nyheim Hines — The second-year pro became quite a capable reserve as a pass receiver, getting into open space and utilizing his speed to keep defenses chasing. And he had a modest number of decent rushes, too. Against the Chargers, he caught four passes for just 4 yards while rushing four times for 13 yards. Marlon Mack had a monster game and carried the load, but he’s going to get spelled so he stays fresh. Hines needs to be a bit more impactful with the snaps he’s given.
Defensive tackle Margus Hunt — Three assists shows the veteran played, but that’s about it. After having his best season a year ago and being among the league leaders in tackles for loss, the Colts re-signed him to provide veteran leadership on the D-line. The fact that second-year pro Tyquan Lewis was a healthy scratch indicated the Colts were convinced that Hunt is the best option at tackle. So the fact that the Chargers ran through that line too often and the Colts defense basically was pushed aside in overtime means the defensive front didn’t do its job. Hunt needs to make some plays.