CINCINNATI — Parris Campbell’s NFL debut turned into an extended engagement.
The second-round wide receiver caught three passes for 42 yards while playing the entire first half of the Indianapolis Colts’ 13-6 win against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday.
The highlight came on a 31-yard completion early in the second quarter. Campbell showed the separation he’s flashed throughout the offseason to get open, then turned upfield and ran away from the Bengals defense.
The Colts just missed another big play when Campbell had a step on his defender, but Chad Kelly under threw a pass that was intercepted at Cincinnati’s 5-yard line.
“He looked good,” Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich said on the TV broadcast. “He caught that crossing route, and you could see his speed, accelerate, pull away. I thought for a second that was gonna end up on a touchdown.
“And then his other deep one, we had him. We had him deep. We just under threw the ball a little bit. So (he) looked good.”
Campbell missed the final three weeks of training camp with a hamstring injury but nearly returned for a Week 2 loss against the Cleveland Browns.
A setback late that week kept him on the sideline.
He instead returned to practice this week and said he felt like his old self.
Reich gave no indication how long the former Ohio State star would remain in Thursday’s game, and Campbell said he was fine with however long the coaches and training staff determined was necessary.
Getting a chance to see live NFL game speed was important to the rookie.
“It was huge,” Campbell said on the TV broadcast. “I definitely needed those reps being out for three weeks with the hamstring. But I felt great. I felt like myself again out on the field, and it was a lot of fun today.”
Rookie linebacker E.J. Speed again showed a nose for the football and good game-day instincts.
He finished with eight tackles in the first half, including seven solo stops.
The linebacker position is deep this season, but Speed seems to have locked down a spot on the 53-man roster.
TIGHT END BATTLE
One of the most interesting roster decisions will come at tight end, where undrafted rookie Hale Hentges is fighting with Ross Travis for the final spot.
Neither did much to gain separation Thursday, though both played the entire game.
Hentges caught one of his two targets for 18 yards. Travis had three catches for 20 yards on seven targets.
Hentges is more of the traditional in-line tight end, with strengths as a blocker and versatility to line up as a fullback if needed.
Travis is capable of big plays in the passing game but isn’t as strong as a blocker.
The final cuts will come Saturday.
Chad Kelly finished a strong preseason with a second straight solid start.
He made one mistake on the deep ball to Campbell, but he finished 13-of-16 for 138 yards overall. He also rushed three times for 20 yards and a 7-yard touchdown.
Kelly must serve a two-game suspension to open the season, but he’s done everything that’s been asked of him since signing with Indianapolis in May.
Though the Colts are likely to add a backup quarterback to the roster at some point this weekend, Kelly certainly has made his case to be the No. 2 man behind Jacoby Brissett upon his return.
“Chad has played well,” Reich said Tuesday. “He has carried himself well. He has done everything right. That will be an evaluation that (general manager) Chris (Ballard) and I will make at the right time, but he has done well.”