5 things we know from Colts, Bengals in preseason
CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton felt good after his only pass was completed and his only drive ended in a touchdown.
The Colts? They just wanted to get off the field without getting hurt.
Cincinnati’s 27-10 victory over Indianapolis in the final preseason game Thursday night sent both teams into their final days of roster cutting with a reason to feel good about how they stack up overall.
Five things we know about the Colts after the preseason:
1. THE 3-4 WORKS: Coach Chuck Pagano wanted the Colts’ defense to start looking more like the Ravens. After two years of tinkering, the Colts finally appear to have it right. The Giants went 0 for 4 in red-zone possessions and settled for four field goals in Week 2, and Cleveland managed only two field goals and didn’t even get into the red zone in Week 3.
2. STRONG SECONDARY: Indianapolis has bulked up in the secondary, and it’s made a difference. Vontae Davis and Greg Toler played like a solid cornerback combination. With Pro Bowler safeties Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry behind them, Indianapolis now has two of the league’s better tacklers, too.
3. PATIENCE UP FRONT: Indianapolis signed two starting offensive linemen as free agents and drafted two more linemen. After four preseason games, the group is still a work in progress. Part of the problem has been injuries. It takes time for a line to jell, and the Colts will be watching to see if this group improves over time.
4. RUN, RUN, RUN: Indianapolis hired Pep Hamilton to install a power-running game. It had some problems in the preseason, but the Colts showed they’re committed to the philosophy. Getting Ahmad Bradshaw back from injury should help. Indianapolis also should be helped by the expected return of tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener for the season opener. When they’re at full strength, the Colts’ ground game could look much more efficient.
5. GOOD LUCK: Andrew Luck has shown no signs of a sophomore slump. Rather, he heads into the season with more confidence and more at ease than he was a year ago when he produced one of the greatest rookie seasons in NFL history. The new offense may limit some of Luck’s numbers, but at this point, Indy’s franchise quarterback appears to be ahead of where he was in 2012.
Five things we know about the Bengals:
1. DALTON’S READY: Much of their focus is on developing a diversified passing game around their third-year quarterback. He completed 66 percent of his passes in the preseason, using every available receiver. He wanted to finish the preseason sharp and did so, completing his only pass for 18 yards to Mohamed Sanu while leading a touchdown drive on Thursday night.
2. JOHNSON CAN SCOOT: One of their few significant decisions at the end of camp involves the backup quarterback spot. Josh Johnson and John Skelton opened camp competing for Bruce Gradkowski’s spot. Both struggled at the outset. Johnson missed some open, short passes. Skelton, who had never run a West Coast offense, was slower to pick it up. Johnson made the biggest impact with his ability to scramble. He ran twice on Thursday for 38 yards during a touchdown drive. Overall, he ran 12 times for 143 yards.
“It’s an advantage that I have that I can bring to the game,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to be able to show these coaches and this organization everything I can do on the field.”
3. EIFERT CAUGHT ON FAST: Tight end Tyler Eifert, their first-round pick from Notre Dame, caught just about everything thrown his way during training camp. A wrist injury limited him at the end. But his ability to run routes and use his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame to his advantage made an impression. Look for Dalton to find him often.
4. GIO HAS BIG THINGS AHEAD: Second-round pick Giovani Bernard is technically the second-string running back behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but he’s going to be on the field a lot. His ability to catch a short pass and make defenders miss brings a new element to an offense that’s been overly dependent upon A.J. Green the last two seasons.
5. ONE PLAY CAN CHANGE A LOT: When Green bruised his left knee during the first day of training camp, practice stopped and everything looked like their worst nightmare had happened. As it turned out, Green was able to return for the third preseason game and looked fine. Although the Bengals have their deepest roster during coach Marvin Lewis’ 11 seasons, Green is the one player who can take the offense to a different level.
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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