Still, Head Coach Jim Caldwell is seeking consistency across the board, and this week of practice as training camp at Anderson University concludes is important. The team is looking to develop its talent throughout the roster.
Indianapolis absorbed a 33-10 defeat at St. Louis in a game where the team trailed after the first three minutes and never tied the score or led thereafter.
After employing its first-team offense largely for one possession only and its front-line defense for two possessions, Indianapolis yielded 10 quick points off turnovers and trailed by 20 points at halftime. The turnovers were interceptions that allowed the Rams to start two of their first three drives at the Colts' 16-yard line. Sandwiched between the miscues was an 80-yard scoring drive before most of the offensive veterans departed for the evening.
Though the team had a few brighter moments, the performance was one the club looks to improve in its second game. Caldwell, after reviewing the tape on Sunday, gave some impressions of his team's play.
"We thought we did some things fairly well. One of the things when you look at the tape after a game, oftentimes turnovers can kind of cloud some pretty decent play from individuals. Some of that was hidden," he said. "After we got through that little shaky start with our number one offense, we came right back and drove the ball down the field nine plays and got us in a position to score to end up with a field goal. Defense, I think we did a pretty good job. We were really backed against the wall there the first drive (after the interception). We were back deep in our territory (on the third drive), but they came back and had a three-and-out (to force a field goal). So, there was some pretty good play in there in the brief time some of the guys (first-teamers) were in there. Even with the younger guys, some of the younger guys played pretty hard and played well and showed up in a number of different places. It's a team game. Some of the turnovers kind of threw the game out of balance and made it a little difficult for us to put as many points on the board as we'd like."
One area that has drawn significant attention during camp and certainly for the first preseason game is the quarterback position. With Peyton Manning on PUP with a neck injury, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky have seen most of the camp work. Painter has two games playing experience heading into his third season with the team. Orlovsky has attempted 272 passes in his six-year career, completing 150 for 1,679 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. The bulk of his playing time came in 2008 with Detroit, when he started seven of 10 appearances. He played in two games for the Lions in 2005, then spent the last two seasons with Houston, playing in one game.
Painter played the first two possessions at St. Louis. He directed the 80-yard scoring drive after his interception three plays into the game. Painter hit three-of-six passes for 55 yards before giving way to Orlovsky, who played through the third quarter. Orlovsky completed four-of-10 passes for 111 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. He teamed with wide receiver Taj Smith on a 44-yard scoring play in the third period.
The club's offense is one of the most complex ones in the league. Caldwell much prefers a course of work before assessment. He notes the big shoes both younger players are trying to fill.
"I can just tell you we're not going to make any real hard and fast assessment," he said. "From what we've seen, those guys have practiced extremely well. They're coming along and doing a nice job. You cannot expect them to be Peyton Manning on the first night out. I will never see another one (Peyton Manning) in my lifetime and you may not see one in yours. These guys what they have to do is develop their own comfort level where they're consistent. They both have the ability to move the ball. Both of them had pretty decent drives during the course of the game but nevertheless, it wasn't consistent enough. … We're going to be patient and work and develop and keep working with them because I think in both cases it's too early to make an assessment, and we think they're making good progress."
After the contest, Painter talked about how important the preseason has been because of his work with the starters and how important this next week is in preparing to meet Washington.
"It's going to be huge," said Painter. "I've been fortunate enough to get a lot of reps so far in camp so just to kind of use that and continue to get better is going to be big for me. It's kind of my goal I guess from here on and just continue to build and to improve each week."
Orlovsky, too, is doing as much as possible to get familiar with the offense. The message Caldwell voices about patience and an approach for development can only help as Orlovsky readies himself with the Indianapolis offense.
"There's a part that's encouraging because I did feel comfortable doing a lot of it," he said to reporters at his locker after the game. "There's a part that's not discouraging but kind of grabs your attention and puts your mind to say, 'How do I really want this to be run?' Not that it was run wrong, but how do I make it run to be as successful a play (possible) in certain situations. There are encouraging moments. There are moments that are challenging. It will be good to go watch (tape) and get another week of practice. Only having one week of practice going into this one (game), so another week of practice, every single practice will be big."
The quarterback position is just one area Caldwell and his staff will work with this week. The Colts were out-rushed 169-114 by St. Louis, who played veterans more liberally through the first half in gaining a 20-point lead. Indianapolis also was limited by field position, originating eight of its 12 drives at or inside its 20.
The remedy for a difficult first week is going back to work and focus on details. The Colts will start on that Monday afternoon in Anderson, and Caldwell much prefers it that way rather than to make premature judgments on his team.
"You can't make huge assessments about the first outing of the year," said Caldwell. "That's one of the things that you can make a big mistake that way. We have to be able to develop, and you usually see a lot of room for development between the first preseason game and the second, so we'll certainly be looking for that. The practices leading up to our next game against Washington are going to be huge."