What We Learned: Eagles at Colts

The Colts picked up a rare preseason win over the Eagles, and we learned a little bit more about the 2009 version of the team. Find out why Eric Hartz thinks the Colts showed a different attitude vs. Philadelphia, why the big questions of the offseason aren't resolved yet, what young players distinguished themselves, and more inside.

The Colts had a different attitude against Philadelphia: The Colts' approach towards the preseason has been well-documented, so no one really batted an eye when the team fell flat in its preseason opener. But From Peyton Manning's steely glare into the FOX cameras before the game began to his 7-of-11, 71 yards passing on the game's opening drive for a touchdown, it was clear right away Thursday that the Colts and Manning felt they had something to prove against Philadelphia.

After he was sacked one three of his six plays in the preseason opener against Minnesota, Manning's offensive line protected him much better — although Charlie Johnson did give up a sack which led to a fumble on the team's second possession. Manning would later add a long TD to Reggie Wayne and finished with 167 yards on 10-of-14 passing and two scores — a stellar 150.9 quarterback rating.

And after the Vikings ran all over the Colts to the tune of 198 yards, the defense did an about-face, allowing just 23 yards on 17 carries. However, the Eagles were missing four of their five starting offensive linemen, which leads us to our second point . . .

The two biggest question marks for the Colts at the end of last year are still the two biggest questions marks at the beginning of this year: Specifically, the offensive line — namely, running the ball — and stopping the run. The Colts ran the ball effectively against Minnesota (14-for-77, a 5.5 average), which was a good sign, but regressed against Philadelphia (29-for-62, a 2.1 average). There are still questions regarding Johnson at the left tackle position, and second-year guard Mike Pollak has not impressed so far — had Johnson's man not gotten the sack on Manning, Pollak's man would have.

Similarly, the run defense was awful against Minnesota, but stellar against Philadelphia. But the fact is that the Eagles couldn't be expected to run the ball well with their missing personnel and never committed to the run (just 17 runs vs. 49 passes).

So, which is the "real" Colts running game, and which is the "real" Colts run defense? Fans are tired of the Jekyll-and-Hyde act — particularly when it comes to the defense — but the fact is, these are the questions that will define the Colts' 2009 season, and we won't know the answers for a few months.

It happens every preseason, but young unknowns are starting to emerge and are worth getting excited about: From the draft until the first preseason game, the new draft picks get talked about incessantly. Yes, Donald Brown has looked very impressive, and Austin Collie looks ready to step right into the offense. But, like most years, a few less-heralded players begin to make a name for themselves, and often make the final roster and see plenty of playing time.

Two years ago, it was Ed Johnson and Melvin Bullitt. Last year, it was Eric Foster, Jamie Silva and Jordan Senn. This year, it could be players like Ramon Humber, Mike Tauiliili and even Jacob Tamme.

Fast forward to the third quarter. After a Shane Andrus field goal made it 20-7, Indianapolis, Humber fought his way across the face of a blocker to get a shot at punt returner Jeremy Maclin's midsection. He jarred the ball loose, then nearly fought his wy through three Eagles to recover the ball.

Tamme needs to show the Colts can count on him as a receiving option
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Just six plays later, Humber again found himself on the bottom of a pileup, but this time came up with the ball after Dante Hughes slapped it from Eldra Buckley.

In addition to the forced fumble and fumble recovery, Humber also recorded two tackles on defense and added three on special teams. He also defended a pass.

Earlier this offseason, ColtPower introduced you to Humber, who played strongside linebacker at North Dakota State, saying he would need to excel at special teams in order to have a shot on the roster. Thursday night, he did, and certainly got the attention of the coaches. Over the weekend, the Colts released free-agent signee Adam Seward, which could pave the way to a roster spot for Humber or Tauiliili, who also had three special-teams tackles in the preseason opener.

With both men listed as third-stringers — with Humber at strongside linebacker and Tauiliili at middle linebacker, respectively — they could very well be battling for a single roster spot. Keep an eye on these two on special teams over the next couple of weeks.

Tamme is certainly more well-known to the Colts faithful than either Humber or Tauiliili, as the second-year tight end was the team's fourth-round draft pick in 2008.

Tamme led the team in receptions in the 2008 preseason, but missed four games during the regular season and ended the year with just three catches for 12 yards, with the first coming in the season opener against the Bears and the other two in the season finale against the Titans.

Tamme missed the preseason opener, but with Gijon Robinson sitting Thursday, he showed on the game field what he has been showing on the practice field — that he has the tools to be a solid pass-receiving tight end.

Tamme was targeted nine times and came up with a game-high five catches for 60 yards. While that's not a great percentage, one of those passes was an errant throw from Curtis Painter that was intercepted. Tamme also nearly had a touchdown on the game's first drive, but the ball was knocked away by Hakeem Jordan at the last instant.

It certainly was a catch a more experienced player might have made, and one he's made in practice. It's also a catch the Colts will need Tamme to make if he wants to push for more playing time. Overall, however, Tamme's game Thursday certainly gave the Colts another option to consider. He's a tall, big target that can go up and get the ball, and he's certainly a more natural receiver than Robinson.

Reggie Wayne looks primed for a big year: I've been saying this to anyone that's asked me about the Colts since the Colts' minicamp practice at Franklin College, but it bears repeating, since fans got their first real look at the ever-dangerous Wayne Thursday.

The word I've used most often to describe Wayne's game this summer is "smooth" and his 76-yard touchdown was just that. Wayne took advantage of a blown coverage by the Eagles Ellis Hobbs to get open down the left sideline, and was able to cruise into the endzone, juking out Quintin Demps with a effortless-looking move and dive into the end zone. Wayne seems to have a knack for making defensive backs look silly, and he did it to both Hobbs and Demps on this play.

In May, Scout.com NFL Expert Ed Thompson speculated that Wayne could duplicate his 2007 season with over 100 receptions and 1,500 yards. The way he has looked so far this year, that seems like a perfectly reasonable prediction.

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