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Five Things Learned

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5 Things Learned, Colts vs. Bills Preseason Week 1

The Colts opened their 2022 preseason with a 27-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday at Highmark Field, but there was plenty more to the game than the final score. Here are five big things we learned from the Colts' preseason curtain-lifter:

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1. The Colts got what they wanted from Matt Ryan and the first-team offense.

Ryan played 19 snaps – 10 drop-backs, eight handoffs and one play nullified by a penalty – in his first NFL game for a team other than the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan said he was pleased with the experience of working with a new playcaller and new teammates in live game action, while head coach Frank Reich liked what he saw from the veteran quarterback, too.

"I just thought he looked poised in the pocket," Reich said. "I thought he looked accurate. The way he threw it in pre-game, the way he threw it in the game, I thought every throw was pretty much right where it needed to be. I expected that, I expected to see him do that, but he certainly delivered there."

The Colts haven't had an opportunity for a new starting quarterback to work on operational stuff during a preseason game since Andrew Luck's rookie year of 2012. The COVID-19 pandemic knocked out Philip Rivers' preseason in 2020, while a broken bone in his foot sidelined Carson Wentz for most of training camp in 2021.

So with an eye on winning their regular season opener for the first time since 2013, the Colts had Ryan get valuable game experience with every member of the first-team offense except for running back Jonathan Taylor.

"We kind of came in with a plan of how much we wanted to play him," Reich said. "At the end of the day, when the preseason's over, it's not going to be a ton. He played one quarter today; they're not going to play next week at all. Then, they'll play more than a quarter in the last game.

"We got to do that to get ready to play winning football. So, that's really the biggest concern. You just can't play scared. So, we got to have a plan and stick to that plan and do what we have to do to get ready to get off to a fast start."

2. Jonathan Taylor didn't play Saturday, and likely won't play this preseason.

Taylor was the only member of the Colts' first-team offense to not play on Saturday; Reich said it's "likely the case" the All-Pro running back will not see the field during preseason action.

"That's really what Chris (Ballard) and I talked about," Reich said. "I can't see that changing for any reason. So, he's looked good, he's in shape, I feel like we're getting good work in practice versus our defense. We'll get good work this week against the Lions, he'll get to see a different defensive scheme and players. We'll thud that up a little bit. So, he'll get some work there and I think that'll be enough to get him ready."

3. There were two injuries to report.

Cornerback Isiaah Rodgers – who had an interception, a fumble recovery and a 40-yard kickoff return – is in the concussion protocol, while wide receiver Keke Coutee suffered a groin injury.

4. Gus Bradley's defense got off to a good start.

The Colts' defense played fast, physical and aggressive on Saturday, with that play highlighted by five takeaways during the game:

  • Safety Rodney McLeod hauled in a tipped pass for an interception in the first quarter.
  • Safety Julian Blackmon forced a fumble that was recovered by Rodgers in the first quarter.
  • Defensive end Kameron Cline ripped around the edge for a strip-sack, with defensive tackle Curtis Brooks picking up the loose ball, in the second quarter.
  • Rodgers had an interception in the second quarter.
  • Linebacker Sterling Weatherford – a native of Cicero, Ind. – picked off a pass in the fourth quarter.

"Great energy on defense, a lot of speed on defense and great mentality about getting the ball out and turning it over," Reich said. "That was a great sign today getting those five turnovers with Shaq (Shaquille Leonard) not even being in there. So, we have to keep building on that."

And like with the offense, the experience gained by the Colts' first-team defense was valuable, too.

"Even the younger guys were playing full speed and I liked the intensity and the hunger that they had," cornerback Kenny Moore II told Colts Media's Larra Overton. "I think with the vets, when we were out there, we were all trying to get our wind, figure out how we feel over the course of a drive, 12 plays, whatever it is, trying to put everything together.

"I know for me preseason is always bigger for myself because I like to feel a certain way when the season comes around. Week 1 last year, Week 2 last year, I didn't really feel like I was playing my game because I'm so used to really feeling like myself in October, November. So as fast as I can get to where I want to play, then the better I think I'll be to help the team win. I felt very good out there today moving around."

The Colts return to action in the first game of the preseason in a matchup against the Buffalo Bills.

5. A few other rookie updates.

  • Drew Ogletree, the sixth-round rookie tight end who's flashed quite a bit during training camp, rebounded from an early dropped pass to bring in two receptions for 22 yards. After the game, Ogletree said this to Colts Media's Jeffrey Gorman: "I think I do belong here. I've been saying it. I definitely belong here, I belong on the 53-man, I belong in this league for a while and I intend to stay here for a while."
  • Left tackle Bernhard Raimann played a team-high 43 snaps and will have plenty of film to work off back in Westfield over the next week. Raimann said he wants to keep improving his hand placement and his consistency with pass sets while playing with good pad leverage. "Definitely a lot to work on, a lot to learn from," Raimann said, "but it was an awesome experience to play in the NFL. It's a dream come true."
  • Tight end Jelani Woods caught his first career (preseason) touchdown, which the Colts hope is the first of many.
  • Wide receiver Alec Pierce played 21 snaps – second-most among Colts pass-catchers – and caught two passes for 27 yards.
  • Safety Nick Cross played sticky coverage early in the game to help keep the Bills out of the end zone on their first drive, which ended with a fourth-and-four incompletion from the Colts' five-yard line.
  • Defensive tackles Eric Johnson II and Curtis Brooks each recorded a pressure.
  • Undrafted rookie cornerback Dallis Flowers picked off Bills quarterback Matt Barkley on a two-point conversion attempt.

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