Rookie Review: Hall of Fame game

Even though a couple of draft choices could not play due to injury, there were still a number of rookies for Colts fans to keep their eyes on. Brad Keller has the breakdown of who succeeded and who fell short in Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins.

Offensive Linemen:

With three linemen selected in the 2008 draft and another undrafted free agent — Darren Marquez, who did not play — there were a lot of new faces and players to analyze along the front five.

Indianapolis substituted liberally and, true to line coach Howard Mudd's philosophy — particularly when it comes to backups — they played a number of different positions. 

Mike Pollak seems to be settling in at right guard and saw significant time there after starter Charlie Johnson took a relatively early exit.  For his position, the fact that nothing jumped out about Pollak's effort is good news.  He played solid and mistake-free and, for the most part, stood out because he didn't stand out.  He's going to have an interesting competition with Charlie Johnson.

The one player that did stand out was Jamey Richard, primarily because he committed a penalty near the red zone while playing guard and sailed a shotgun snap over Quinn Gray's head for a safety while playing center.  He clearly was more comfortable at guard, but with so many quality and emerging players at that position, he will need to prove himself at his natural position to improve his chances of making the roster.

It doesn't help Richard's cause that Steve Justice played well when given his chance under center.  Although Richard did have his moments when lined up at right guard, he definitely needs to improve and eliminate mental mistakes to survive the final cutdown to 53.

According to Mudd, though, moving past mistakes and improving on them is what this young group does best.  "They still mess things up, but one thing I like about them is they're not hanging on the edge," Mudd said.  "When they don't do something right, they're not getting down and staying down ... They seem to be able to get rid of it and get on with life."


Curtis Johnson takes down Colt Brennan during Sunday's game
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Defensive Line:

Marcus Howard and Curtis Johnson both got a good deal of playing time based on the fact that Robert Mathis was limited and, somehow, the coaching staff feels comfortable with what Josh Thomas and Jeff Charleston bring to the table.

Both rookies made the most of their time on the field, combining for two sacks — 1 1/2 for Howard, half a sack for Johnson.  Both showed tremendous quickness and the ability to diagnose and stay with play, as well as the ball carrier.  They hustled and played to the whistle, also demonstrating that they diminutive statures would not hinder them from being effective.

They also showed that there may be a changing of the guard if they keep up this level of production, since Johnson and Howard fit the mold of what the Indianapolis is looking for in a defensive end more than Charleston and Thomas.

Eric Foster saw limited action and did not do much to impress during that exposure.  With defensive tackle depth now weakened after Quinn Pitcock's apparent retirement, Foster has a chance at making the roster — or at least the practice squad — but needs to show more in order to hang on.

Mike Hart:

All enthusiasm for the rookie tailback out of Michigan should be tempered by the fact that he was running against the third- and fourth-string defense for the Redskins on Sunday night.  The fact remains, though, that he showed good burst, excellent vision, exploded into the hole, and finished off runs very well — all of them, not just the one where he lost his helmet and kept going.

He ran with determination, violence, and authority, which is precisely what Indianapolis needs from their third-string running back.  In addition, he displayed sure hands and made himself available to Jared Lorenzen as a safety valve.

And, while you can show all the disdain you want to for the level of competition he faced, even the scrubs for Washington are better on defense than Appalachian State and Eastern Michigan.

Linebackers and Defensive Backs:

Brandon Foster and Jamie Silva, both undrafted free agents and both slated to work primarily on special teams, given their expertise in those areas and the depth at their respective positions.

Foster saw some action in the kicking game, but didn't register a tackle, whereas Silva played on teams and defense, recording one special teams tackle and three tackles overall. 

Silva, like fellow rookie Jordan Senn, seems to have a knack for being around the ball and completely selling out on the play in order to get to the ball carrier.  Senn finished with 11 tackles, but often looked flat-footed and out of position, frequently making the tackle from behind, trailing the play.

The good news is that it looks as though both men are simply overwhelmed by the system and haven't assimilated it yet.  The bad news for them is that they may not get many more opportunities to prove that they are getting more comfortable with the defense before Tony Dungy needs to make some cuts.

All three players, due to the depth at their positions and the fact that this version of the Cover 2 stresses reaction — you need to be comfortable with your responsibilities in order to make the correct reaction fast enough — need to become more familiar with the system and they need to do so very quickly.

None of them are playing badly, per se, they're just playing worse — and much stiffer — than the people ahead of them on the depth chart.

Receivers:

Jacob Tamme gets lumped in with Samuel Giguere and Pierre Garcon since Tom Santi sat out with an injury.  Garcon was certainly the best of these three and actually looks like he could challenge for a roster spot.

Although Onrea Jones made the biggest play of the game for the Colts offense, Garcon was the most consistent receiver not named Reggie Wayne or Anthony Gonzalez.  He ran crisp routes, his hands were reliable, and he showed an uncanny ability to find the soft spot in coverage and settle in, making himself an easy target for the quarterback.

Giguere looks like he hasn't yet adjusted to the speed, rules, and other general differences between the Canadian brand of football and the American brand.  Although he has amazing physical abilities, it seems unlikely that he will be able to use those to overcome the huge obstacles in his way — not the least of which are the other men on the roster.  It will take a big effort on his part to make the team, but stranger things have happened and he definitely has the ability to make an impact if he improves.

And, for as many targets as the rest of the tight ends received, Tamme certainly disappointed.  He seems as though he would be more comfortable playing the role that Gijon Robinson played on the first two drives, lined up next to the tackle with Dallas Clark split wide.

We'll see if the Colts coaches try to use him that way against Carolina to see if that improves his results.  He's one of a limited number of talented players at his position on the roster, so he has time to learn and adjust, but he shouldn't get too comfortable on the roster just yet.


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