Rookie Review: Buffalo at Colts

It wasn't the prettiest game by far, but there were some impressive performances turned in by the rookies against the Bills on Sunday night. Who excelled and who took a step back? Brad Keller breaks it all down for you here.

Offensive Line:

Surely the Colts hoped that Steve Justice wouldn't need to take a snap all night if it meant they could ensure that Jeff Saturday would remain healthy.

Jamey Richard may be called on with Jeff Saturday hurt
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Justice would appear to be the heir apparent at this point, but Jamey Richard, Mike Pollak, and Ryan Lilja could all move to the hub position depending on who Howard Mudd thinks is best suited.  Judging by Justice's performance — he played more than any of the other rookies because of Saturday's injury, but also showed the most improvement from last game — he is buying whatever Mudd is selling.

It has been said before that this is a solid, talented young group that should occupy the middle of the offensive line for the next decade, but both Richard and Justice re-affirmed that on Sunday night, showing better awareness and finishing off plays — Justice in particular.

Although losing a player of Saturday's caliber certainly stings, it is not the end of the world and certainly not the end of the season given the versatile rookie talent pool to choose from.

Darren Marquez, however, once again showed that he is not ready.  It would be difficult not to improve upon his abysmal performance against Atlanta, but he didn't show enough improvement to warrant more than a practice squad invitation.

He'll be gone when Indianapolis cuts the roster to 53, but it's kind of an upset that he wasn't cut on Tuesday.

Defensive Line:

No one is ever going to suggest that players injure themselves further by playing in the preseason, but the stocks of Curtis Johnson and Marcus Howard were hurt by the fact that they were not in the line-up and Josh Thomas and Jeff Charleston played well &mdashl both rushing the passer and playing the run.

Dwight Freeney is still rounding into shape and Robert Mathis has yet to suit up, so the Colts will need to keep one or both of Thomas or Charleston, which certainly is going to have an adverse effect on the odds of both rookies making the roster.

The big story of the defensive line — though not the night, more on that in a moment — was the play of rookie undrafted tackles Dan Davis, Colin Farrell, and Eric Foster.

Buffalo, with their massive offensive line, rushed 42 times against the undersized front seven of the Colts and managed only 100 yards, or 2.4 yards per carry.  That performance was significant enough, but it is all the more impressive considering that run stuffer Ed Johnson and fellow starter Raheem Brock were inactive.

Davis was fairly stout at the point of attack and made one play in the backfield, but the big big story of the night was Foster and Farrell.

Farrell got the start, but Foster was more of a force on the inside, occupying blockers, using his hands well, and penetrating the Bills line.

Both men were fooled early in the game on a screen pass and a draw play, overpursuing and losing contain, but both learned their lesson and stuffed a similar draw play to the opposite side in the third quarter.

Davis is still a longshot make the roster, but the coaching staff will have a tough decision trying to decide between Foster and Farrell.

Running Backs:

Mike Hart saw limited action, which is good news for the former Wolverine.  It means that the coaches know what they have in him — he's in the same situation as the rookie offensive linemen in that his spot on the roster looks secure for the moment, so they're testing other players to see what they have.

In his time on the field, he showed the coaches what they needed to see — he stoned defensive lineman Chris Ellis in pass protection on one play, then displayed nifty hands adjusting to a pass that was low and to the outside in the passing game.

The Indianapolis staff knew that he could run, but they needed to make sure he could pass block and catch the ball well as a safety valve.

Add in the fact that Clifton Dawson was released on Tuesday and that pretty well locks up Hart's place on the 53-man roster.

Chad Simpson did not play, which probably leaves him close to being cut as well, since, given the fact that Hart has been so impressive, leaves him in competition with Kenton Keith, whose veteran experience will be needed along with Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes.  This is also working under the assumption that the Colts will keep four backs.  That's a safe assumption, since they kept four running backs on the roster last year and Luke Lawton was traded to Philadelphia.  But, Keith and Simpson could end up released, since it also looks like they will keep three quarterbacks.

Jordan Senn may have clinched a roster spot Sunday night
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Linebackers and Defensive Backs:

Hart wasn't the biggest story of the night, either, though.  That honor goes to Jordan Senn, who ended up with five tackles on the night and started the game.

Not only did he not seem to wear down after starting and seeing a lot of action, he also shined on special teams, busting the wedge on a kickoff coverage in the third quarter.

Kyle Shotwell got the camera time for the big hit he delivered after Senn cleared the way for him, but the biggest play on that return was Senn's, sacrificing his body and taking at least two Bills out of the equation.

Even if Tyjuan Hagler does not return, Clint Session has the inside track to the his starting job, so Senn needed to show he could handle regular action as well as contributing in the kicking game.  He showed that on Sunday and likely made the roster with his performance.

Jamie Silva defends against Felton Huggins Sunday
AP Photo/AJ Mast

Jamie Silva was very active and had a nicely timed pass breakup, separating the receiver from the ball, but, unless the injury to Matt Giordano is a serious one, he looks to be a practice squad player at this point.

That is not a negative reflection on Silva, who has developed nicely and is playing aggressively within the system, but is a positive reflection on the Colts depth at safety. 

Brandon Foster was once again largely nonexistent and, with the improved played of Tim Jennings, will be on the outside looking in.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:

Jacob Tamme didn't see the field much, but he is in a similar situation to Mike Hart in that he has proven what he needs to prove and the staff did not want to risk an injury in favor of getting Dallas Clark and Gijon Robinson some reps.  Even with limited exposure, he still caught one pass for 12 yards and adjusted well to a high pass on that reception.

Pierre Garcon was in an unfortunate position on Sunday — he muffed a punt and tipped a pass from Quinn Gray that was intercepted.  He looked smooth in the return game otherwise and, with no one having claimed the return job on punts or kickoffs, his spot on the roster is probably safe.

But, Tony Dungy, like any coach, hates players that turn the ball over, so he still has work to do and needs to get back to being his old, reliable self on Thursday.

In another upset, Sam Giguere stays on that roster another day, despite the fact that he was once again not a factor in Sunday's game.

He has had to overcome a great deal in getting this far, so this is not a knock on Giguere.  It's just that there are more talented, more NFL-ready players ahead of him on the depth chart.  Barring a miraculous performance on Thursday, he is on his way out.

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