The Herald Bulletin

August 16, 2011

Indy’s youth is served

Scoreboard matters, but Indianapolis values evaluation above all else

By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Saturday’s 33-10 loss to the St. Louis Rams was the Indianapolis Colts’ seventh straight preseason defeat.

The games don’t count, but head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday he is not ignoring the scoreboard.

“When they stop keeping score, I’ll stop paying attention to it,” he said. “They keep score so we want to try to win. But we also know that we have to try to evaluate our team as well. I think that’s key. But no matter who’s in there, we should try to get some things done and put points on the board.”

Evaluation certainly has trumped competition of late.

The Colts haven’t finished with a .500 record in exhibition games since 2004. During that span, the team is 4-23 overall and posted winless preseasons in 2005 and 2010.

New faces dotted the stat sheet Saturday.

Rookies accounted for 18 of the 23 carries by a running back against the Rams, and 19 of the team’s 25 pass attempts were thrown by a player who wasn’t on last year’s roster. The story was the same in the receiving corps, where seven of 10 receptions came from newcomers.

It’s part of a philosophy that preaches patience.

Wins might be hard to come by in August, but the fruits of all that labor are evident throughout the roster.

Melvin Bullitt, Gary Brackett, Jeff Saturday and Blair White each went undrafted before the Colts gave them their big break. Each benefitted from a wealth of preseason playing time.

So when their number was called once the games started to count, they were ready to answer.

It’s far too early to predict who might emerge from this year’s rookie crop, but Caldwell liked what he saw overall against the Rams.

“I think they responded pretty well, for the most part,” he said. “It’s always a little different sort of an atmosphere than they have been accustomed to. Bigger (and a) faster collection of guys. More so than anything else, they have to adjust to the speed of the game, and I know they got a taste of it. Now that’s usually when you see a pretty good jump and improvement. So hopefully this week they will make that jump.”

The Colts have a short week to prepare, with the home opener scheduled for Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

They’ll practice twice today — at 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. — and then once each Wednesday and Thursday before breaking training camp.

Brackett said he and his teammates need to make the most of that time.

“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We just want to get back to playing some sound football, get better in our run defense and try to create some turnovers. We played a lot of snaps out there (against St. Louis) and didn’t get a sack or a turnover. So we definitely want to get better in those areas.”

Caldwell said the Colts’ own turnovers skewed the evaluation process.

But after he studied the game film, Caldwell found some things to take pride in — like the fact the Colts did not commit a penalty on offense or defense.

“We did see a lot of guys that played well, came along and made some strides,” Caldwell said. “But we just got to make certain we take care of the little things.”

The coach might not be ignoring the scoreboard Friday against the Washington Redskins, but it’s not the only measure for preseason success.

“It’s a competitive game but at the same time, it does not count against your record,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said after Saturday’s loss. “It’s basically something you can learn from and try to get better in certain areas. Next week, we want to be better than we were this week.”