When comparing himself to his other offensive teammates drafted in April’s NFL’s Draft, running back Vick Ballard is flying under the radar.
He wasn’t the No. 1 pick, isn’t part of a rookie tight end tandem and isn’t a wide receiver that is making plays in the return game.
Yet, through two weeks of the preseason, Ballard has made his name known to Colts fans.
Ballard leads Colts running backs with 16 carries for 62 yards and has seen a good amount of time with the first team offense.
“I think I’m doing pretty good but I think I still have a long way to go,” Ballard said. “As far as like making my pre-snap reads, I feel like I can be a lot better at that. As a whole, I think I’ve done pretty well.”
This past Sunday against the Steelers, Ballard saw some extended playing time with running backs Delone Carter and Mewelde Moore sidelined with rib injuries.
The opportunity to take meaningful reps was beneficial to Ballard, who made sure to play within himself even though he was running with the first team.
“I don’t want to try and do too much because that causes you to make a mistake,” Ballard said. “Whenever I have the ball in my hands, I just think of it as playing football. Do what got you here, be consistent.”
Inside the running backs meeting room, Ballard said he has picked the brains of both Moore and starting running back Donald Brown.
During minicamp, head coach Chuck Pagano called Brown the ‘bell cow’ of the running back position but also pointed out that the team would call on more than one running back during the regular season.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ system seems to fit to Brown’s strengths and Pagano is pleased with what he’s seen out of his starter.
“He’d be the first to tell you from a scheme stand point, it’s basically what he did in college. So he feels very comfortable running the plays we’re running now. So it doesn’t surprise me to see him make the plays that he’s making,” Pagano said.
“Plus I watch him step up and protect on third down and hit these big linebackers from the Steelers last Sunday night and protect his quarterback. So from a protection standpoint, running the football and catching the football out in the backfield, he’s having a great camp and he’s well on his way to having a great year.”
It is the art of pass protecting that most rookie running backs struggle with in adjusting to the NFL.
Ballard now has the opportunity to watch Brown’s work in the pass blocking game and with a little more time, the Colts will have added another weapon to an already productive offense.
“You watch a guy like Vick Ballard run and a guy like Donnie Brown, what he’s been able to do with this new system. There’s some guys that obviously we’ve surrounded Andrew with, offensive linemen that you’ve brought in, the free agent guys are starting to mesh and gel. I feel really good about where we’re at offensively,” Pagano said.
Tags: bruce arians, chuck pagano, Delone Carter, donald brown, Mewelde Moore, vick ballard
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Not many questions stir up a reaction out of Colts safety Antoine Bethea.
But even the ever stoic Bethea cracked a bit of a smile on Tuesday afternoon when commenting on the play of outside linebacker Jerry Hughes this preseason.
“Jerry has an extreme amount of talent. Seeing him in this system, he’s just flourishing. He’s out there making plays, making sacks, dropping in coverage, making tackles,” Bethea said.
Those same sentiments echoed throughout the Colts locker room on Tuesday as teammates glowed when talking about the production that No. 92 has had in opposing backfields the past two weeks.
“With Jerry coming in and not having the success that he probably thought he would have early on, and for him to start getting that success now, it’s always good to see,” Powers said.
Hughes has seen significant playing time from his new outside linebacker position this preseason and has thrived in his new role.
He led the Colts with seven tackles on Sunday evening and upped his team-leading sack total to three.
“It’s helped my confidence a lot, tremendously,” Hughes said of the preseason. “First two years, I wasn’t really doing much of anything so even though it’s still the preseason, just going out there and helping the team win, going out there and playing with the guys is helping out.”
During his time at Texas Christian University, Hughes was a successful pass-rushing defensive end. Just like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, the move to outside linebacker was a little foreign.
Seeing different sight lines is one of the major differences Hughes said of switching positions.
For Hughes, the on-the-field talent hasn’t gone anywhere, but it’s learning to become a complete NFL player that he is starting to figure out.
“Coming in from college, you get to get away with a lot more things, being a college player versus being a pro. Being a pro, it’s a 9-5 job,” Hughes said.
“You’ve got to come in early, you’ve got to put in extra work to get (fluent) with the film, get (fluent) with the playbook, things like that. Once you kind of get that down and you’re able to make that transition, things will come real smooth.”
Head coach Chuck Pagano has seen his fair share of standout outside linebackers during his days of working in 3-4 defenses. Pagano knows the physical talent is there for Hughes and the more comfortable he becomes in the system, the more he should be able to produce.
“I think he’s just flourishing right now doing the things we’re asking him to do,” Pagano said. “He’s getting better at playing the run and doing what it takes to set the edge and he’s got natural pass-rush ability.”
Tags: antoine bethea, chuck pagano, Dwight Freeney, jerraud powers, Jerry Hughes, LaVon Brazill, robert mathis
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The hype surrounding Saturday’s preseason match-up with the Washington Redskins will be focused on the quarterback position.
For the first time since 1999, a preseason game will boast two rookie quarterbacks that were selected No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in that year’s NFL Draft.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is 9-of-14 for 119 yards and a touchdown through two preseason games.
The Redskins are 1-1 on the preseason splitting their two road games by beating Buffalo 7-6 and falling to Chicago 33-31 last week.
Here is a look at how the Redskins have performed in the preseason outside of Griffin III:
-Rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins is 27-of-45 for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the preseason. Last week, Cousins was 18-of-23 for 264 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears. Cousins led the Redskins on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives against the Bears.
-Rookie running back Alfred Morris leads the team in rushing with 25 carries for 88 yards.
-Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson leads the Redskins in receiving with eight catches for 132 yards and a touchdown.
-Former Colts wide receiver Pierre Garçon has five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown through two games.
-The Redskins defense has eight sacks and 25 quarterback hurries through two weeks of the preseason.
Tags: Andrew Luck
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