Jerry Langton's "Observations"

There were moments this preseason where I was literally horrified. No kidding. When you see some guy named Constanin Ritzmann flash by our left tackle, who looked like his feet were nailed to the ground, or a guy named Larry Tripplett seemingly revert to a fetal position at the sight of a ballcarrier, it gets scary.

But as hard as it was to watch at times, the first two exhibition games allowed Colts fans to get a better idea of who's ready to play in the NFL and who isn't...

...It's hard to see why Peyton Manning is in there against Buffalo for even three plays — one of them was a sack for crying out loud. The guy needs tuning like an electric piano. I remember once Tim Raines held out all spring training and signed a few hours before Opening Day. Lots of people said he wouldn't be ready to play. In the first game he hit two doubles and a triple in four trips to the plate. Manning's at least as good as Raines...

...Jim Sorgi's stats may not be impressive -- actually, they're terrible -- but he's looking pretty good to me. While running for his life, he's made some good decisions and decent throws, although he has held onto the ball too long. He still looks like No. 2 to me (and I mean that in a good way)...

...Travis Brown has made some nice passes, but it's hard to judge any quarterback against some of the defenses he's faced and the line he's been behind. The standard complaint about him is that he lacks a feel for the rush, but he's shown a quicker release than I've seen from him in the past...

...I'm getting tired of begging to see Tom Arth in action. First NFL Europe and now here. I know what's gonna happen. They give him a series or two, his stats won't be great, but he'll electrify the team and move 'em down the field. Then they'll cut him because they didn't see enough of him. It's not fair...

...If nothing else, the play of the Colts' backs who are lower on the depth chart has made me appreciate Edgerrin James even more. You can point fingers at the scrubs playing in front of them all you like, but they rushed 19 times for one single, solitary yard, while Sorgi and Brown have completed passes for 502 yards with the same inadequate protection. There's no real winner here — how could there be when they are collectively averaging 1.89 inches per carry — but there appears to be a slew of losers. People will point at Ran Carthon as the worst because his six "runs" actually pushed the Colts back nine yards, but nobody really expected that much out of him. I'm even less impressed by Dominic Rhodes, who some consider James' equal. Four of his five rushes have resulted in lost yards for the Colts and he fumbled on one of them. Now that the calls to trade James and hand the ball to Rhodes have thankfully subsided, let's limit his contributions to kick returns and fourth quarters when teams are tired of chasing the premier back around...

...I still hold out hope for Anthony Davis, though. He had the magic in college and may re-ignite once the line play comes together and he gets a better mental handle on how Tom Moore's offense works... ...Poor Marcus Williams. I saw him on one play when he laid a pretty good lick on a linebacker and they cut him. He must have been atrocious in camp to get cut from this group...

...Although their numbers have been decent, I'd be wary of putting too much faith in the preseason efforts of wideouts John Standeford (8-78-1) and Aaron Moorehead (7-84-0), as both have been pretty much what I've expected. Everyone knows Standeford has great hands, but he's been living off the fears of young, inexperienced defensive backs who are leaving big cushions, then making nothing after the catch. Hold off the comparisons to Steve Largent for now....

...I've got nothing against Moorehead, who's been working very hard, but I'm not ready for that bandwagon yet. Neither he nor Standeford has distanced himself from Montiese Culton (5-87-0) and Levon Thomas (8-100-0) yet, despite significantly more playing time...

...Culton has made some drops, but I'm surprised at how easily he's managed to get behind defenders. With improved concentration, he could be a contributor...

...I'm disappointed we haven't gotten a chance to see Roscoe Crosby play yet, but I have a feeling he's not afraid of being unemployed right away...

...Brad Pyatt has surprised me on punt returns, he could actually be the answer there. Not really much of a contributor at wide receiver yet (2-18-0), but he could have some success on end-arounds right away...

...So, ye of little faith, are you down with Ben Utecht (3-56-0) yet? Put him in on third down when Manning's running hot and he will create a little bad craziness. His understanding of how defenses work is just phenomenal. You may end up seeing more of him than Ben Hartsock (2-16-0)...

...Although Bryan Fletcher (2-40-1) did catch that one big pass (and another less impressive one where he failed to make a first down on 2nd and 10), he's had five others thrown to him that he hasn't caught. Jury's still out...

...I'd rather not criticize the offensive linemen because the key to line play is stability and, probably because it's just preseason, they have been thrown into all kinds of crazy positions and situations and their play has been, to put it kindly, uneven. Even with that disclaimer, even the biggest homer would have a hard time saying they have looked adequate...

...David Porter has some skills, but when he looks like Frankenstein's monster when he's playing left tackle. Makoa Freitas has not adjusted well at guard and has sometimes whiffed at defenders like Mr. Magoo. I had high hopes for Lou Lombardo, who is surprisingly athletic for a big man, and Jason Russell, who dominated in small-school play, but both have looked awful in preseason...

...Only one offensive lineman, Jake Scott, has really impressed me so far, and he's suffered from trying to do too much. It's amazing to think that they already miss Dylan Gandy, who has yet to play an NFL down...

...Considering that the entire starting line (Dwight Freeney, Montae Reagor, Josh Willams and Raheem Brock) has yet to play, the defensive line has played pretty well. Jason Stewart has always been a high-energy guy and he's had some results, but he's streaky. He'll get a sack on one play and be a doormat on the next two. Still, he's been worlds better than Tripplett...

...Three players have impressed me, though. Robert Mathis is an occasional bolt of lightning, but we all knew that. Josh Thomas is stout at the line and knows how to contain and get moderate pressure, but we knew that too. The surprise has been undrafted rookie Darrell Reid. The kid hasn't exactly been Herb Orvis, but he's done a nice job getting behind the line and holding his ground. Williams' injury may have opened a roster spot for him...

Neither middle linebacker has been good enough yet to be called adequate, but their competition has turned out predictably: Morris is mystified by cutbacks and a step or three behind in coverage, while Brackett is thrown back a few yards every time a member of the other team touches him...

...The team's flirtation with Solomon Bates shows that they're at least thinking of improving the position. But even if he'd passed the physical, it wasn't as if he would have done more than compete for a back-up role. The team also looked at veteran Mike Barrow, but decided not to sign him, at least not today.

The outside linebacker positional "battles" have been unfolding exactly as I feared — all four top prospects have played about as well as each other. Nobody has really won a job, but nobody has lost one either. David Thornton remains at the top of the class, but you can see that he's still having problems with the tight ends and right tackles he's seeing regularly on the strong side. He'd be better off on the weak side, but then Cato June, who's not bad, would have to be on the bench...

...Gilbert Gardner and Kendyll Pope have been running around a lot, but haven't done all that much disruptive. I still like Pope better though Gardner has better stats. The other guys (Thomas Houchin, Andre Sommersell, Nick Hannah and Chris Laskowski) have had their moments, but none has emerged from the "keep his agent's number handy" category.

Both top draft choices, Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, have exceeded my expectations at cornerback, with Jackson looking like an old pro from snap No. 1. He is a big hitter on the outside and is efficient in coverage, especially on crossing patterns. He'll need safety help on deep coverage, but who doesn't these days?...

...Jason David still looks slightly overmatched as a starter, but he'll do fine as the third man when Donald Strickland returns. Converted wideout Eric Hill has played at least as well as Willie Ford and Jermaine Mays, the Colts' two NFL Europe stars...

...When the starting safeties, Bob Sanders and Joseph Jefferson, are in there, I have no complaints. Okay, neither is much of a threat to intercept a lot of passes, but both do everything else well, and Sanders has star-quality as a tackler and run stopper...

...Matt Giordano has a lot to learn, but has shown some promise. Waine Bacon has been all over the place and making some hits. He's playing better than I've ever seen him before. Maybe someone told him his job was on the line.

Opinions expressed in Jerry's commentary column are his own, and are meant to stimulate discussion and debate amongst are fans. Premium members can discuss this column with Jerry in our Premium Members Forum!

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