INDIANAPOLIS — John Simon and Jabaal Sheard might have played limited snaps Sunday in the Indianapolis Colts' preseason opener against the Detroit Lions, but the high-level sample they provided is a major source of optimism for the defense as it continues chugging towards the regular season.
Simon logged an interception on just the fourth play of the game, while Sheard was seemingly in the Lions' backfield every single snap he played. Of course it's early, but head coach Chuck Pagano likes what he saw when he looked over the game film on Monday.
"I'm encouraged with that outside group," Pagano said in a conference call with reporters. "Simon and Jabaal only played a few snaps there, but got some good push. Jabaal had a couple good rushes. I like that group. I like the direction that they're heading."
Simon had the aforementioned flash play of the day for the Colts' defense on Sunday. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford at first looked poised to quickly move his troops down the field on their opening drive, connecting on passes for 14 and 22 yards on two of the first three plays.
But Stafford might've gotten a little greedy on the next play, throwing into a tight window to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. Instead, Colts cornerback Vontae Davis was able to tip the pass straight up into the air before it fell into Simon's waiting hands.
While Simon has yet to record a regular season interception as he enters his fifth season in the NFL, he certainly takes pride in his coverage skills, and appreciates the help of those around him as they try to continue working on the overall goal of creating more takeaways as a unit.
"Vontae did a hell of a job just being able to put that ball in play for the rest of the defense, getting his hands on the ball," Simon said. "It was, pretty much, just great coverage and trying to capitalize on our opportunities and put our offense in good field position."
Sheard, meanwhile, displayed the explosiveness on Sunday that makes Pagano believe he can be a double-digit sack guy for the Colts and defensive coordinator Ted Monachino.
According to Pro Football Focus, Sheard was in on just five pass-rushing plays against the Lions, but was able to log two quarterback pressures on those snaps. But he also set the edge and made a play against the run, logging a tackle on one of the three run snaps in which he played:
In all, the starting defensive unit did not allow any points in its two series on Sunday, but that's not to say the players don't have work to do this week as they continue preseason play on the road Saturday against a talented Dallas Cowboys offense.
But so far, so good for the new Colts' pass-rushing duo.
"I think we came out there and did some good things; obviously did some things poorly that we'll have to go on the film and correct," Simon said. "Gave up zero points, so that's a plus, but gave up some big plays here and there, which we'll have to limit.
"I think next week we'll be playing more and more reps, so we're going to have to treat it more like a game week going into next week," Simon continued. "They're another good team that we're going to have to go up against, and it's going to be a good challenge for us to see where we really are."
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