INDIANAPOLIS – When Matt Hasselbeck rode off to ESPN this offseason, more than 5,000 career passing attempts disappeared from the Colts' quarterbacks room.
With Hasselbeck gone, the NFL experience behind Andrew Luck for 2016 has combined to throw one NFL pass over the last two seasons.
For fans watching the team's preseason opener on Saturday night, the disappointment was obvious in not seeing Luck return to the field.
For the Colts, watching Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris each quarterback a half of football was massive for evaluation.
Tolzien has been in the NFL for six seasons, primarily playing as a backup in Green Bay.
The last time he threw a meaningful pass was 2013.
So even if the calendar read 'August,' Saturday was still valuable.
"There's one thing that sticks out to me about this game," Tolzien said after going 12-of-23 for 140 yards and a touchdown on Saturday night. "It's just how close contested catches can be. How location of every throw really can make a difference, whether it's just a foot short or a foot high. In this league, that makes a difference.
"So there's no better teaching than these games and realizing how sharp you have to be."
For Morris, the reps against Buffalo were the first time he had played in a game since last preseason.
It was clear following Saturday night, Morris knew what was at stake in Buffalo.
His playing time the next two weeks will diminish, so two quarters of quarterbacking on Saturday night was pivotal as he tries to push his way onto the 53-man roster, if not securing a practice squad spot.
"It was great just being out on the field, with teammates, executing plays and trying to put points on the board," Morris, who went 5-of-9 for 104 yards, said of the game action.
"I was really excited we got to play first of all. Last week was frustrating for all of us. I was happy to go out there (Saturday), rain or shine, and just put some film on."
No one needs to remind the Colts what a quality backup can do for a team.
Last season it was Hasselbeck helping the Colts maintain pace atop the AFC South before injuries took its toll in the final month of the year.
This year the veteran presence works for ESPN.
Saturday night was a small, small dry rehearsal for a scenario the Colts hope doesn't arise again this season.
"They looked real calm," Pagano said of Tolzien and Morris after the team's 19-18 victory.
"Obviously it wasn't too big for either of those guys."