In the Wake of Loss in Preseason Finale, Caldwell Says There Were Things to Like
INDIANAPOLIS – A day later, Jim Caldwell found positives.
Caldwell, entering his first season as the Colts' head coach, said while there were troubling areas in a 38-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2009 preseason finale Thursday night, there were bigger issues than the score. The Colts, he said, needed to make decisions on the final 53-player roster.
He said they got a lot of the information to do so.
"The main objective is to really take a look at individual performance," Caldwell said Friday at his weekly next-day news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"Often, the scoreboard and circumstances sort of skew how you feel. Anyone in our profession, when you have a situation where you don't win, you don't feel real good about it – regardless of who's playing for you. What you have to do is look at really what you're trying to get accomplished. You're trying to learn something about individual players and you assess it that way.
"You look at how they can fit in or how they can help our squad and how we construct the best 53."
The Colts rested all but two starters in the game, with linebacker Philip Wheeler playing a few early plays and defensive tackle Ed Johnson playing a bit more extensively.
The Bengals outgained the Colts, 389-205, and outrushed the Colts 296-75. Cincinnati sacked Colts quarterbacks six times.
"We certainly had a lot of things we could have done better," Caldwell said. "But we had some pretty good bright spots as well."
Caldwell outlined those areas:
• Quarterback Jim Sorgi, who made his first appearance of the preseason, completed 11 of 19 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. "He did a real nice job in terms of managing the offense, and moving the offense," Caldwell said. "I think he functioned very well with the limited amount of time he has had in practice. He did a nice job in that setting under those conditions."
• Running back Chad Simpson, who returned six kickoffs for 158 yards for a 26.3-yard average, including a 45-yard return. "He certainly added a little spark to our return game," Caldwell said. "He looked pretty good."
• First-year wide receiver Taj Smith, who caught five passes for 59 yards and a 22-yard touchdown from Sorgi. "He made a couple of plays for us out there," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said mostly the Colts gleaned information on players to use in the coming days, when the team must trim its roster from 75 players to the NFL-mandated 53. The team has until Saturday afternoon to make the moves.
"We learned a lot about a number of different guys we were looking at down the stretch, trying to make some decisions," Caldwell said. "The decisions are going to be tough, but I think we had a great opunity to kind of look at our younger players and see where they fit. . . .
"The tough thing is it's going to be across the board, to be honest with you. There are going to be a lot of real fine football players that we won't be able to keep because of the numbers.
"It's not going to be an easy decision."
Caldwell said he changed the Colts' schedule slightly Friday to allow players additional rest. Friday, he said, was about focusing on the roster and making the best possible decisions on Saturday.
"That's kind of what this day is for," Caldwell said. "We get an opportunity to take a look at every aspect of our team. We'll start to condense our thoughts and make some final decisions in that regard."
Caldwell also spoke highly of several rookies who didn't play Thursday:
• CB-Jerraud Powers, who started the first three preseason games. "He's an instinctive player and a heady player," Caldwell said. "He has a pretty good grasp of our defense and continues to improve constantly. We're certainly pleased with his progress."
• WR-Austin Collie, who caught eight passes for 69 yards in the first three preseason games. "He continues to get better every day," Caldwell said. "He has great work habits. If you were out there early yesterday, you saw he and (quarterback) Peyton Manning out there working a good 40-to-45 minutes prior to everyone else. He is a guy we are certainly pleased with."
• RB-Donald Brown, the first-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. He has rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. "He's a guy we've seen mature and continue to get better and blossom," Caldwell said. "We expect that to continue to escalate as time goes on."
Caldwell also praised punter Pat McAfee, and adding of the rookies, "You know how this league is. You can't stay status quo."
"We anticipate these guys will continue to (progress)," Caldwell said. "They're going to have to if they're going to be the kinds of players we expect them to be."
The Colts finished the preseason 1-3, with the victory coming over Philadelphia, 23-15, in Week 2, but Caldwell said the record was not what mattered.
"I feel good about where we are," Caldwell said. "We've been able to work and really improve in some areas I think need improving. Some of them may not be completely obvious to you right now, but to us, in terms of watching the practice on a daily basis, we can see it improving.
"We have to be able to carry it from the practice field into the games, but where we are right now we feel pretty good about. We're excited about what we have in terms of our team."