Colts’ HC Reich optimistic despite pedestrian preseason performance

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tuesday’s film session only confirmed Frank Reich’s initial suspicions.

Indianapolis‘ offense was largely out of sync Monday night against Baltimore. The defense made some big plays, but still needs to find consistency. And he expects everyone to start cutting down on penalties over the final two preseason games.

He also knows it’s early and all those things can be fixed.

“It was more on the there’s a couple things to clean up,” he said Tuesday as he evaluated Indianapolis’ starting offense. “It was not terrible, but it was not our best day.”

Clearly, fans at Lucas Oil Stadium expected to see a better showing from Andrew Luck than the mediocre one he delivered.

He missed his first three throws, the last ending a scoring chance when the Ravens intercepted Luck inside their 10-yard line. Luck later described the play as a bad decision compounded by an inadvisable throw.

But judging what went right and wrong becomes eminently more difficult given all the missing pieces.

T.Y. Hilton, a four-time Pro Bowl receiver, longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo and the Colts‘ top two running backs, Marlon Mack and Robert Turbin, sat out with injuries.

Plus, Reich acknowledged the Colts have been intentionally rather vanilla in their play-calling.

Besides, Reich still has some position battles to sort out.

Rookie offensive lineman Braden Smith, initially projected to be an NFL guard, played into the second half at right tackle — the one open spot on the offensive line — and Reich said he liked what he saw out of Smith with the exception of two holding penalties.

The other positive sign: Luck has been sacked three times, taken at least two big hits on his surgically repaired throwing shoulder and remains pain-free.

“I was like, `Oh, I landed on my right elbow, sort of reminiscent of how I injured my shoulder a couple years ago,'” he said. “I didn’t feel anything. Didn’t give it a second thought, so I think it’s actually a big deal for me and being able to sort of lose that thought bubble.”

Defensively, there were others signs of progress.

Rookie linebackers Darius Leonard and Zaire Franklin played well for the second straight game and veteran defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway is starting to look like a potential playmaker in the new 4-3 defensive front.

Franklin and Leonard lead the Colts in tackles with 12 and 11 while Ridgeway has now recorded eight tackles, 4 sacks and six tackles for loss.

Defensive end Tarell Basham, a third-round pick in 2017, also may have helped his cause by blocking a punt and recovering it to set up the Colts’ final score — giving them a chance to rally in the final 2 minutes.

Phillip Walker connected with Zach Pascal on a 9-yard TD pass, but Walker was stopped short on a 2-point conversion run that would have given Indy a 21-20 lead.

“It was a huge play, a great effort by him,” Reich said before explaining why Basham appeared to be sliding down the depth chart. “The defensive line has been very fluid. It can go hot and cold and a guy can go out and have a couple sacks in a hurry.”

Reich also sounded optimistic about getting some injured players back.

He’s hoping Castonzo (hamstring) returns to practice before the Sept. 9 season opener against Cincinnati and, if all goes well in practice this week, starting safety Malik Hooker could play Saturday against San Francisco.

But Reich also knows he can’t be sure exactly how things will fit together — until the key players return.

“I think it’s like putting a puzzle together,” he said. “I don’t know what the best analogy is, a puzzle, putting the furniture in a room. You have a vision for what it can be, and even though it hasn’t all been in there at one time, you still feel like, `Hey, when it all gets in there, it’s going to look good.'”

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