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Five Things Learned

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5 Things Learned, Colts vs. Lions Preseason Week 2

The Colts didn't play the majority of their starters in Saturday's 27-26 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions as Lucas Oil Stadium, but there were plenty of important developments and moments during the afternoon. Here are five big things we learned from the Colts' second preseason game:

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1. Alec Pierce is always working on his craft.

With about four minutes left in the first quarter, running back Phillip Lindsay took a handoff and gained one yard. But that's not why we're here.

Check out what wide receiver Alec Pierce did against Lions cornerback Jeffrey Okudah:

"(Wayne) likes to get a feel early in the game for the corner, so run plays, you can try some things," Pierce said. "It doesn't matter if you win or lose on the release, you can see what they're going for. That's kind of when you can experiment and see how you're going to be able to beat them for when the pass play comes where you actually have to beat them."

The question about Pierce – and just about every other rookie wideout – is how he'll handle press coverage in the NFL, since wideouts don't often see it in college. And with an attention to detail every opportunity he gets against press – like this run play – Pierce is making gains in that area of his game. He also did it pretty well on this play last week against the Bills:

Pierce didn't wind up needing to use the release he tried against Okudah during the game, but he did catch one pass for nine yards on which he fought through a tackle by Lions safety Kerby Joseph to pick up a first down.

"He's an outstanding young player," quarterback Nick Foles said. "I think has a bright future ahead of him. He does things the right way and he's obviously freakishly talented. Any time we can get the ball in his hands to see what he can do is a good thing."

2. Sam Ehlinger continued his preseason hot streak.

Sam Ehlinger nine of 11 passes for 136 yards with two touchdowns, and is now 20 of 23 for 241 yards with four touchdowns over two preseason games this year.

"The guy has worked as hard as anybody on our roster in the offseason, in training camp," head coach Frank Reich said. "He is a relentless worker. He is so determined to get better in every aspect of his game. I've mentioned to you guys a couple of times during camp, I think his arm not only looks stronger, I think he's throwing the ball more accurately than he was last year. Not that it was bad last year, I just think he's had a really good training camp."

Ehlinger, at the recommendation of general manager Chris Ballard, spent time during the offseason working with quarterback guru Tom House. Like Reich, he feels like his arm strength has improved, and it showed on his 50-yard touchdown to Dezmon Patmon. He explained, in technical detail, how he's working to improve his arm strength:

"I think that starting with my shoulder and the way that it's shaped and the muscles that are dominating – you have accelerators and decelerators in your shoulder, and so really working on both of those things but having a balance and knowing what I need to do," Ehlinger said. "So, that's just from a functional fitness working on the muscular stuff and then from the biomechanical signature, working on timing, the sequencing of from when you want to start to throw all the way from the ground up. So, working on all those things and then working on mechanical variables within that signature. So, there's been a lot that's gone into it."

3. Dayo Odeyingbo brought power to the Colts' pass rush.

Odeyingbo, the Colts' second-round pick last year, leveled Lions quarterback Tim Boyle twice for sacks and added three other pressures. He now has 10 total pressures in two preseason games as he works his way through the first training camp and preseason of his nascent NFL career.

For Odeyingbo, the opportunity to get after quarterbacks in preseason games – when they can actually be hit – is helping him with the adjustment to Gus Bradley and Nate Ollie's attack-oriented focus for the Colts' defensive line.

"I feel like it definitely makes a difference, like getting to the passer in practice versus in the game," Odeyingbo said. "In practice, power rushes and some rushes might not necessarily look like wins, which in the game work better as far as affecting the quarterback."

4. The Colts still plan on playing their starters next week against the Buccaneers.

A handful of players who've practiced and played with the first-team offense and defense got on the field Saturday, including left tackle Matt Pryor (10 snaps) and wide receiver Parris Campbell (nine snaps). But the majority of the Colts' starters did not play after two consecutive days of physical, competitive joint practices with the Lions last week.

The Colts' plan has always been to play their starters for the first half of next weekend's preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lucas Oil Stadium, and that plan remains unchanged.

"The mindset is going to be go for a half, we'll adjust as we go," Reich said. "Just going in there thinking that we're playing a half and then we'll adjust. If we get done what we need to get done sooner than that, then maybe we adjust, but maybe we don't. Maybe we need to work to get ready. I know we're going to have a tough matchup on Week 1. I know Houston's going to be ready to play. We're going to need to be in sync. We'll play as long as we need to play to get ready for that game."

5. Other quick observations.

  • Defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis got his first game action since suffering a season-ending patella injury in Week 8 of the 2021 season. "I just cherish every moment," Lewis told Colts Media's Larra Overton. "It was great to be back, grateful for everything, everybody that supported me throughout the whole process. I'm just happy and ready to contribute."
  • Rookie safety Nick Cross had a fantastic pass break-up in the end zone on Detroit's first drive.
  • Reich said his snap judgement of left tackle Bernhard Raimann was positive, with the caveat that he needs to watch the tape to get the full scope of the rookie's game. But Raimann allowed just one pressure in 17 pass blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, which came when the Lions' defensive line ran a stunt in the third quarter.
  • Cornerback Tony Brown had a box score-stuffing day, with an interception, a tackle for a loss, a pass break-up and six total tackles.
  • Undrafted rookie linebacker Sterling Weatherford logged two pressures on blitzes – the first on a well-timed "coffeehouse" blitz.
  • From Saturday on The Colts' wide receiver competition kicked into high gear; Marcel Dabo discussed his experience playing on defense in an NFL game for the first time.

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