The Indianapolis Colts‘ preseason started bad and ended worse against the Cincinnati Bengals, from an overly hard-working Pat McAfee (eight punts and one touchdown-saving tackle) to an end-of-game injury to Andrew Jackson. It certainly makes me less than excited about playing the Denver Broncos next week, or facing this Bengals team again in Week 7.
There wasn’t a lot of good news. The only upside was that the game was over relatively quickly. During the offense’s downward spiral, it was hard to tell cause from effect. Was third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish positively Curtis Painter-esque? Or was did he look worse than he should have due to his protection, or lack thereof? The offensive line featured rookie Jack Mewhort, playing out of position at third-string center while technically recovering from knee surgery, and Tyler Hoover, who until a couple of weeks ago was playing defensive end. It’s enough to make Colts fans strongly consider their opinions regarding Richie Incognito and maybe the price tag of Alex Boone.
With all the carnage, it was hard to tell how any of the other offensive position battles were shaping up. I couldn’t even tell for sure if Harnish earned a practice squad spot. I spent the second half Googling Harnish, trying to decide whether his performance was a cause or effect, or (most likely) some combination thereof.
Harnish was the last player taken in the 2012 draft, No. 253, Mr. Irrelevant, the bookend to Andrew Luck. That Harnish is still in the league at all says a lot about him. He’s been with the Colts (on the practice squad) his entire career. He’s from Ossian, Ind. (south of Fort Wayne). According to his Colts bio, he placed sixth in the discus at the Indiana State Championships as a junior. That bit of trivia honestly made me like him more.
Poor Chandler’s highlight reel looks something like the battle of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, except he’s mumbling (instead of shouting) when he says, “It’s only a flesh wound.” But given that even preseason bright spot Boom Herron couldn’t get anywhere, it’s hard to say that the fault was entirely with Harnish.
The Colts probably don’t want to think about needing a third quarterback for game situations. But some pundits have argued that Harnish would be a practice squad luxury, especially in taking some of Matt Hasselbeck‘s reps, given his age, or possibly even giving Luck some rest in practice, should he need it. In truth, some of the usual line starters rested tonight, so there’s always that excuse. But if the Colts haven’t secretly figured this offensive line thing out (including injury prevention, for the love of all things good and holy), it won’t matter how many quarterbacks they keep. It won’t be enough.