Everybody is under a microscope in the NFL. Every player gets evaluated before, after, and during games, as well as before, after, and during the season.
During the preseason however, this evaluation is going to determine the future of hundreds of players across the league, and the room for error is extremely small.
For the Colts, there are probably 25-35 guys who are pretty locked in to a roster spot. They other 65-55 guys? Their futures are wide open. These preseason games will be an incredibly important factor in where and in what role the rest of their career. These are the types of guys who will be playing for most of the game on Sunday.
While the starters have plenty of questions to watch for, whether it’s Andrew Luck, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, or the shaky offensive line, their roster spots aren’t in question.
These guys’ are.
They’re all players who I’d like to see on the roster, and contribute to the 2012 Colts, but the first step is making the roster. Preseason performance is the first step in that task.
So, here are eight players that I’ll be watching intently on Sunday, from my nosebleed seats in Lucas Oil Stadium, to see if they have what it takes to make it in Indianapolis.
Jerrell Freeman, LB
If you’re tired of hearing about Freeman, I understand. I’ve talked about him a few times this offseason already.
To be honest, I’m probably overdoing it on the praise. I don’t expect Freeman to make any Pro-Bowl lists in 2012, or even to be a full time starter. But I do think he can contribute at an ILB position, and could split time with Kavell Conner, especially if Conner struggles in coverage.
But, Freeman has no experience in an NFL game, and we’ve yet to see if he can handle NFL speed and physicality. We’ll get our first clue on Sunday afternoon.
George Foster, OT
Out of all of the scrubs the Colts have brought in for offensive line depth, I think Foster has the biggest chance to make an impact. Foster is a huge guy, at 6-5 and 338 pounds, and has the most experience in the NFL as a seven year veteran. Foster was listed as Anthony Castonzo’s backup at left tackle in the first unofficial depth chart, and could be an important piece if Castonzo goes down with an injury.
With Foster, it’s going to be interesting to see if he can return to the NFL after playing in the UFL during 2011. It’s a considerably tougher level of talent that he’ll be facing, even when looking at the Rams’ second team on Sunday.
Kris Adams, WR
Of all of the undrafted and raw players the Colts have at the bottom of their depth chart, Adams may be having the most impressive camp. It seems like after every practice, a media member is mentioning another great catch or big play that the first year player made. He has the size that other Colts receivers do not, and could be an interesting addition to either the final roster or the practice squad.
Ricardo Mathews, DE
After being a rotational defensive tackle in the Tampa-2, Matthews is now looking to back up Cory Redding at the 5-tech defensive end spot. Matthews, a seventh round pick in 2010, has showed promise at defensive tackle, but the 3-4 is completely new to him. He will definitely be looking at snaps this season, and with Cory Redding injuring his elbow at Thursday’s practice, Mathews may be looking at some extended playing time.
Mewelde Moore, RB
Moore is going to make this team, I don’t question that. I do, however, question what he has to offer. I know Bruce Arians loves him, but he’s aging and has never been a heavy workload guy. He has been a fairly efficient runner throughout his career however, and shouldn’t make for a bad rotational guy as Ballard and Carter develop. Look for him Sunday to show what he has left running the ball, we already know he can block well.
Korey Lindsey, CB
Lindsey was claimed off waivers from Arizona this offseason, but has yet to show that he’s worthy of a roster spot. He’s gotten beat several times during camp for long passes, but he’s still listed as the fourth corner back right now, backing up Jerraud Powers. Watch him on Sunday to see what the coaching staff sees in him. If he doesn’t perform well, he could very well lose his spot to one of the 587 other unproven corners.
Chris Rucker, CB
A sixth round draft pick from a year ago, many fans had Rucker ahead of the Colts’ other young corner, Kevin Thomas, after the 2011 season. But, Thomas is in Philadelphia now, and Rucker is at the bottom of the depth chart for corners. Rucker wasn’t drafted for a Greg Manusky defense, but it would still be disappointing for him to get cut after just one year. It seems he hasn’t shown much in camp, so the preseason games may be his best chance.
Drake Nevis, DE
Nevis excited a lot of fans last season, showing a strong burst and propensity to penetrate the offensive line in limited time in 2011. Nagging injuries kept him sidelined for a large portion of the season, and his sophomore season is one that hopes to see a bit more production. Unfortunately, the 3-4 isn’t a perfect fit for Nevis, who will be a defensive end in the new scheme. However, in Pagano’s hybrid scheme, the right defensive end often lines up in the 3-tech spot, similarly to a 4-3 3-tech defensive tackle. Hopefully both Fili Moala (lined up as starter currently) and Nevis can transition successfully.