If that’s what fighting for a job looks like, no wonder the unemployment rate is skyrocketing. Because the Colts were so comprehensively lacking in their 35-7 loss in Cincinnati, let us not focus on that particular waste of a Thursday evening. Instead, this edition of Good, Bad and Ugly will focus on the preseason as a whole.
>> They may have unearthed a couple of players that might actually help. Boom Herron was by far the MVP of the preseason, leading the team in both rushing (112 yards on 22 carries) and receiving (11 for 55 yards). Whether this means he’s ready for the Donald Brown role or just this year’s version of Mike Hart remains to be seen but at the very least he locked down the No. 3 job in a backfield in which Nos. 1 and 2 are not exactly absolutes.
>> A pair of undrafted rookie running backs from the MAC, Zurlon Tipton and David Fluellen, both looked like strong practice squad material, at the very least. Tipton wound up with 93 rushing yards and 54 receiving. Fluellen carried 17 times for 53 yards in Cincy after joining the Colts last week.
>> A couple of undrafted rookie corners also look like keepers. Marcus Burley covered a lot of ground, tackled well and generally kept No. 42 around the ball. Louchiez Purifoy had some electrifying moments as a punt returner. Another undrafted rookie, defensive tackle Zach Kerr, also played his way into strong consideration.
>> What about the drafted rookies? Jack Mewhort was tough to evaluate because he was in and out of practices and games with a sore knee, Donte Moncrief and Jonathan Newsome were encouraging, Andrew Jackson was hurt a lot and Ulrick John is on IR.
>> Veteran free agent signees D’Qwell Jackson, Arthur Jones, Hakeem Nicks all look like solid upgrades, while Colt Anderson could emerge as a starting safety.
>> The defense was pretty good against pretty bad offenses.
>> Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen and Bradshaw all appear to have come back strong from major injuries.
>> Andrew Luck emerged healthy, as did Matt Hasselbeck.
>> Trent Richardson didn’t do much to bolster anyone’s confidence in the running game, managing 51 yards on 20 carries (2.6) and looking very much the same hesitant, choppy and uncertain runner of a year ago.
>> Despite making turnovers its top priority, the defense was a virtual bust in that area, coming up with just two in four games – one interception and one fumble recover.
>> The Colts also had just seven sacks, so the pass rush apparently will suffer at least as much as feared from Robert Mathis’ absence the first four games.
>> Way too much friendly fire in the form of turnovers (six) and undisciplined penalties. Last night’s biggest offender was wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers who, for some reason, punted the ball into the stands after scoring the Colts’ only touchdown, earning a personal foul and an ear-chewing from Chuck Pagano, who called the action “unacceptable.” Rogers has talent, but that move may have handed the fifth wide receiver roster spot to Griff Whalen.
>> The swarm of Colts-employed vuvuzelas has been quick to point out how meaningless those winless preseasons have been in the past. Let’s examine the truth. They were 0-4 in 2010 and went 10-6 during the regular season, but that was a big disappointment coming off a Super Bowl trip. They were 0-4 in 2005 and went 14-2, but then went belly up in their first playoff game. They were 0-4 in 1990 and went 7-9, a step backward from the previous year. Which is to say: since moving to Indianapolis, the Colts have never won a playoff game after going winless in the preseason.
>> The two biggest things you want from a preseason: improvement and health. The Colts wound up with neither.
>> In terms of performance, they actually deteriorated. Both the starters (against the Saints) and the reserves (against the Bengals) saved their worst for last.
>> And then there were those injuries, with the biggest hits coming where the Colts can least afford it, the offensive line. Joe Reitz (high ankle sprain) joined Khaled Holmes (ankle), Hugh Thornton (wrist), Jonotthan Harrison (thumb), Xavier Nixon (knee) and Matt Hall (elbow) on the sidelines. Mewhort has been dealing with residual effects of an offseason knee scope. And of course Donald Thomas is out for the year. It’s gotten so bad, they had to use a converted defensive lineman (Tyler Hoover) at tackle for 56 snaps last night.
>> What’s Pagano’s level of concern? “Probably the same as yours,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of injuries. We don’t have a lot of time. And you know what? Nobody really cares, and nobody really feels sorry for us.”
>> Which means the cut to 53 will be anything but a final roster as the Colts scour the waiver wire for live bodies that can help them, or at least not hurt them too badly, up front. All of a sudden, Richie Incognito doesn’t look quite as repulsive, does he?