INDIANAPOLIS – Less than three weeks away from the regular season opener, Chuck Pagano and his staff have to be very pleased with what they've seen from the starting units.
Even with several key starters missing time this preseason, the starters have impressed in their limited action the last two weeks.Let's start on the defensive side of the ball.
-The rush defense has been stout in the six defensive series played by starters. Opponents have 46 rushing yards on 16 carries (that includes a 10-yard scramble by Geno Smith) against the Colts first team defense. Chuck Pagano lauded what he's seen from Josh Chapman and Art Jones in the middle of the team's 3-4 scheme.
-The starting defensive unit was particularly impressive in coverage against the Giants. Eli Manning was just 1-of-7 for six yards in his four series of work. On the preseason, opposing quarterbacks are 5-of-13 for 29 yards against the Colts starters.
-In the six drives with a majority of starters on the field, the Colts defense has forced five punts and allowed just three points.
"Any time you look up and the safeties' numbers are not big in stats, tackles and those things, they want to make plays but it's a good thing because runs aren't getting through," Chuck Pagano says.
"I think we're 2.7 (yards allowed per rush) in the first game and then 2.9 for rush (Saturday) night, so obviously very excited and pleased at the direction we're going with that."
Now, onto the offensive side of the ball.
-After two preseason games, Andrew Luck is 16-of-23 for 142 yards, one touchdown and a passer rating of 100.3. The first team offense is 5-of-9 on third-down and obviously that comes without the services of Reggie Wayne for two games, and T.Y. Hilton for a game.
-The Colts rush offense is still trying to get on track. Trent Richardson has 14 carries for 34 yards in two games of work. Pagano said on his Sunday conference call that the Giants had an extra guy in the box on around 80-90 percent of their first 30 defensive snaps. Of course once the Colts get Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton back in the fold, that's going to force defense's hands a bit. If you play nickel to try and account for Wayne, Hilton and Hakeem Nicks, then that should open up running lanes for Richardson.
-In five offensive series with the starters this preseason, the Colts have scored on four drives (one touchdown, three field goals) and have piled up 10 first downs. That's with the Colts offense still missing about four starters each game.
"Obviously, it'll be great when they're all back," Luck says. "We're potent with whoever's on the field. That's the beauty of it. There's a bunch of guys that can play football and step up and make plays."
This Saturday night the starters are expected to play through the first half and probably into third quarter for their final true test before the regular season.