One of the most intriguing positions heading into the 2017 season for the Indianapolis Colts has been the cornerback unit. With only Rashaan Melvin sitting out in their first preseason game, the rookie additions in Quincy Wilson and Nat Hairston were primed to get a significant number of snaps on Sunday.
The depth guys also had a lot to play for as they attempted to work toward gaining a roster spot. Tevin Mitchel, Dante Blackmon and Chris Milton are all fighting the same battle, but it was largely a mixed bag of play from the position, and some glaring issues that have been longstanding problems for years.
Vontae Davis made a really nice play closing quickly on the ball early in the game forcing a tipped-ball interception by John Simon that resembled the level of play we’d seen from him a couple of seasons ago. There were some additional plays from this group that were nice, in terms of working well in basic coverage, but a lot of what we saw were either rookie mistakes, or simply inexperience and poor technique showing themselves.
Early on we saw, both, Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston working with the first team on the outside, especially on third-down situations. For the most part they put forth good coverage down field, but their real issue was tracking the ball – something we saw a lot from the position last season.
Wilson gave up a touchdown to Kenny Golladay while suffocating him in coverage. The difference in the result being a pass breakup or a touchdown was simply that Wilson wasn’t able to turn to find the ball and Golladay did adjust.
A similar situation occurred with Mitchel in the second quarter. Golladay again wasn’t able to separate from Mitchel until the very last moment in the end zone when he – again – adjusted to the ball in the air and Mitchel failed to get turned around and was off balance. This too ended in a score for the Detroit Lions and put the Colts down 14-3.
Mitchel struggled due in large part to technique and oversights when in off-man coverage. He gave up easy receptions and yards after the catch as he offered huge cushions to the opposing receivers, at times up to 15 yards. He did have a few moments where he closed nicely and made quality tackles, but there was also poor tackling issues from the rest of the unit.
Wilson gave up multiple missed tackles, Dante Blackmon showed really poor technique in run support, and another who is a bit of a safety/corner hybrid and struggled in tackling is Tyvis Powell. Powell has a unique skill set, but if he can’t tackle, he can’t play – simple as that.
Early in to the fourth quarter Mitchel’s issues again reared their ugly head. A quick pass to Lions’ receiver Dontez Ford at the nine yard line and Mitchel being in good position looked to stall the drive. Mitchel couldn’t wrap up, and Ford scooted through another tackle before getting the ball across the goal line for another touchdown.
That puts all three touchdowns on the shoulders of the corners in this one. Poor tackling, poor ball and reactionary skills ultimately were the detriment to the team today. It’s understood that these are preseason Week 1 issues, but for Colts fans, these are problems the team has had for five years now, problems that are expected to be a strong focus by the coaching staff – and that should be cleaned up by now regardless.
These are simple issues that can be fixed with repetition in practices; however, they are also fairly rudimentary learning points of the game and can’t continue through the preseason. Right now, a position that appeared to have taken a step up in talent has very real limits much like years past. Chuck Pagano is going to have to earn his paycheck with the depth at cornerback from here on out, or look elsewhere for some help at the position.
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