Shane Steichen elucidated the rationale behind his decision to rest the majority of his starting players.
For the Saturday night game, both the Colts and Bears opted to keep a significant number of their primary players on the sidelines. It has been customary for coaches to refrain from deploying their starters in games following consecutive joint practices, and this week adhered to that pattern.
Steichen expressed contentment with the impressive efforts exerted by rookie Anthony Richardson during the comprehensive two-hour practices on Wednesday and Thursday at Grand Park. He also commended the performance of the first-team offense and defense.
“I view those practice sessions as equivalent to actual games,” Steichen remarked. “Richardson received ample repetitions, and given that numerous starters were absent on both sides of the field, the decision was made accordingly.”
Bears’ head coach Matt Eberflus concurred with Steichen’s perspective, citing the team’s decision to rest Justin Fields and their starting players due to the intensive preparatory work undertaken during the joint practice sessions.
As the Colts prepare to travel to Philadelphia for a joint practice with the Eagles on Tuesday, followed by the preseason finale on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field, Steichen remains undecided about the participation of Richardson and the Colts’ starters against the Eagles. However, he leaned towards the possibility of them making an appearance.
Irrespective of the outcome, Steichen emphasized that the joint practice sessions in Westfield have provided substantial development opportunities for the team’s starting roster.
“We received a plethora of repetitions, which holds significant value,” Steichen affirmed. “Given that numerous starters were absent on both sides of the field, it was a considered choice to hold Richardson out, and we will assess the situation next week.”
Shaquille Leonard Enters Concussion Protocol.
Following his absence from Thursday’s joint practice with the Chicago Bears, which marked the first time he missed a practice session since the commencement of training camp, it was revealed that Leonard is undergoing concussion protocol.
“During the practice on Wednesday, Leonard sustained a minor injury,” Steichen explained. “However, we anticipate his return in the near future.”
Josh Downs Continues to Showcase Exceptional Open-Field Prowess.
Throughout training camp, Downs’ adeptness at finding open spaces has been conspicuous, and this trend persisted on Saturday night as he secured two receptions for a total of 20 yards. Both catches were executed from the slot position, mirroring his collegiate success at North Carolina.
In the initial reception, Downs successfully manipulated the situation when the cornerback covering him blitzed, leaving a single deep safety to cover him. Employing a clever feint towards the outside as though he were heading for the flat route, Downs deceived safety, Adrian Colbert, into moving downward on his trajectory. Then, capitalizing on his agility, Downs swiftly veered inside, outfoxing Colbert and creating substantial separation. Minshew connected with him for a 10-yard gain.
Downs replicated this maneuver in his second catch, luring the Bears’ safety toward the sideline with his apparent momentum, before executing a slant route back across the field. Minshew’s throw was in sync with Downs’ movement, converting a crucial third-and-three situation.
Steichen lauded Downs’ performance, stating, “He exhibited remarkable skill, securing receptions from the slot position and contributing with significant plays. It’s encouraging to witness his progress and development, as he consistently enhances his abilities.”
Both of Downs’ receptions yielded first downs, with the second reception extending a drive culminating in a touchdown pass from Minshew to wide receiver Juwann Winfree.
Downs expressed his reliability, asserting, “I’ve established trust with the quarterbacks and the coaching staff. Whenever they call my number, I aim to advance the chains and initiate successful drives. My objective is to fulfill whatever role is required.”
James Washington Makes Swift Impact Following Quick Integration.
In an expeditious sequence of events, wide receiver James Washington participated in a tryout on Friday morning, secured a contract by Friday afternoon, and promptly contributed to Saturday’s game with a remarkable 42-yard reception during the fourth quarter.
Upon his entrance to the huddle after the pivotal play, quarterback Sam Ehlinger conveyed his approval: “Nice job.”
Ehlinger emphasized Washington’s exceptional adaptability, citing his capacity to rapidly grasp the playbook’s intricacies and translate them into effective plays on the field. Despite joining the team recently, Washington demonstrated an acute understanding of the plays during morning walkthroughs, impressing his peers.
Washington’s commendable performance was fortified by his diligent study of the Colts’ play-calling, facilitated by the guidance of wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne and offensive quality control/wide receivers coach Brian Bratton.
Reflecting on his journey, Washington acknowledged the challenges he surmounted since sustaining a significant injury last year. He expressed gratitude for the opportunity to return to the NFL field and emphasized the importance of resilience throughout his arduous path.
Notable Observations from the Defensive Front.
The return of defensive end Tyquan Lewis to the field was a noteworthy highlight, marking his first appearance since a patellar injury ended his season in October. Having also endured a similar injury to his other knee in 2021, Lewis’ participation in Saturday’s game underscored his perseverance. Playing eight snaps against the Bears, Lewis’s journey from the PUP list to on-field action showcased his resilience.
All five cornerback contenders vying for starting positions on the outer edges of the field participated in the game: Dallis Flowers (11 snaps), Darrell Baker Jr. (11 snaps), Darius Rush (14 snaps), JuJu Brents (27 snaps), and Jaylon Jones (27 snaps).