Five Things Learned

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5 Things Learned: Colts vs. Lions (Preseason, Week 3)

The Colts finished their first undefeated preseason since 1994 with a 27-17 win over the Detroit Lions Friday at Ford Field. Here are five big things we learned from the Colts’ final tune-up before Sept. 12’s season opener. 

1. Kwity Paye is building confidence.

Paye's strip-sack of Lions quarterback Tim Boyle in the first quarter was his second sack in as many preseason games, and the first-round pick looks every bit ready for the regular season in two weeks. 

"I think it brings me great confidence, really trust what coach (Brian) Baker's telling me and coach (Matt) Raich is telling me going into the season," Paye told the Colts' Larra Overton. 

Paye got his strip-sack against the Lions by quite literally running past Lions left tackle Tyrell Crosby, which was the result of both film study and how the Colts have coached Paye since drafting him 21st overall in April. Paye said he knew the Lions' tackles would set high, so his goal was to use his speed to shorten the edge to get to the quarterback. On that particular play, Boyle had a deep drop, making it "kind of an easy rep," Paye said. 

Paye's ability to recall the details of play like that sack is something that he's been doing every day in practice, helping him pick things up quicker. 

"He has a great, what we call, camera," defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said on FOX 59's "Blue Zone" pregame show. "So he can recall everything that happens on the field and bring it back to the coaches on the sideline. So he's just a big sponge and working every day to get better. So we're excited where he is." 

The sack was also a testament to the work Paye, Baker and Raich have put in to get the Michigan product to rush with more speed. Paye was mostly tasked with rushing with power in college; the Colts liked Paye's speed and quickness off the snap when they drafted him and have worked to mold those skills into effective pass rushes and edge sets. 

And what saw from Paye again on Friday is what we saw on the practice fields at Grand Park over the last month. The next challenge? Doing it in the regular season. 

"I'm really excited to have a real game where I'm going to have (DeForest) Buckner and Grover (Stewart) inside," Paye said, "where they're just pushing the pocket and it's going to be way easier for me to come over the top and get some sacks."

2. Mike Strachan and Dezmon Patmon both made plays, again.

The Colts' hyper-competitive wide receiver room saw Strachan lead Friday's game with seven targets and five catches; Patmon had two catches for 64 yards to lead the team in that category. Both big-bodied receivers have been consistent playmakers in the preseason, and that did not change on Friday. 

Strachan and Patmon each played three special teams snaps — Strachan was penalized for running out of bounds while playing gunner on punt coverage — but didn't make things easier on coaches ahead of Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline to trim rosters to 53 players. 

"It's going to be tough, and we feel very confident in our receiver group," coach Frank Reich said before Friday's game. "We have a lot of guys that can make plays, that we feel good about. A lot of things factor into it including special teams, but then also the role that they play – certain guys you use in different ways. So that will be a tough decision."

3. Good news, bad news about Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger

The good news about both quarterbacks vying to back up Carson Wentz is that they both had impressive moments on Friday in Detroit. The bad news is Ehlinger suffered a knee injury during the only possession he had — on which he threw an eye-popping 60-yard strike to Patmon — with Reich saying after the game the injury didn't look good, but that he needed to wait for the final word from team doctors. 

Still, the Colts came away from this preseason pleased with how the competition between Eason and Ehlinger played out while Wentz was sidelined following a foot procedure. 

4. Rodrigo Blankenship was perfect.

Blankenship connected from 36, 43 and 42 yards at Ford Field and made his lone PAT of the night, giving him a perfect seven-for-seven preseason on field goals and PATs. Unofficially, we didn't see Blankenship miss a kick during training camp practices, either. 

The Colts released kicker Eddy Pineiro before the Lions game and will enter 2021 with Blankenship again as their kicker. 

"I'm feeling good," Blankenship told the Colts' Larra Overton after Friday's game. "I'm incredibly blessed the team is wanting to go with me and trusts me to be the guy for the team this year. I'm just hoping I can continue to perform well and continue to take it one kick at a time and hopefully elevate my performance from last season."

5. A few players made strong final impressions.

Deon Jackson, the undrafted running back from Duke, ripped off a 42-yard touchdown to seal the game in the fourth quarter and finished the night with 81 yards on 10 carries with both a rushing and receiving touchdown. Running back Benny LeMay also churned out 44 yards on 11 carries.

And on defense, defensive end Isaac Rochell and defensive tackle Andrew Brown both had late sacks while undrafted linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi led the team with nine tackles and one pass break-up. 

The Colts' snap count leaders for the final preseason game, too:

Offense: Center Joey Hunt (62), guard Will Fries (62), tackle Will Holden (56), guard Jake Eldrenkamp (56), wide receiver Mike Strachan (50)

Defense: Linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi (51), defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (49), safety Shawn Davis (48), defensive tackle Chris Williams (48), cornerback Marvell Tell III (45)

Special teams: Linebacker Jordan Glasgow (19), safety Shawn Davis (18), linebacker Curtis Bolton (16), cornerback Anthony Chesley (14), defensive back Andre Chachere (14).

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