It's finally time.
Colts football is back. The Colts will host the Buffalo Bills in their first preseason game of 2013 at 1:30 this afternoon.
While the preseason is largely useless to judge teams by, there is valuable information to be gained by watching certain players. Training camp practices can only tell us so much, and preseason games give fans, media and coaches a rare view of what players look like when going up against real opponents.
Remember, the final score doesn't matter. A blowout, one way or another, doesn't matter. What matters is how individual players, especially those fighting for their jobs, perform when given the opportunity.
WIth that in mind, here's what I'm watching for in the Colts' first preseason matchup.
Backup Tackle: Can Ben Ijalana get back to 2011 levels? Is Emmett Cleary the 2013 UDFA find?
The 2011 second round pick hasn't seen the field since his first and last game during his rookie season. Ijalana played well in that game, but has been kept off the field with injuries ever since. If he can showcase his natural talent in these preseason games, he may be able to continue his football career in Indianapolis. Meanwhile UDFA Emmett Cleary has been practicing with the second-team offensive line, and may be able to make the roster at tackle, where the Colts are thin after Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus.
Wide Receiver: Is Griff Whalen for real? Is LaVon Brazill improving in his second offseason?
Former Stanford Cardinal Griff Whalen has been the talk of training camp, and is looking to solidify his roster spot as a depth receiver. With injuries to Dwayne Allen and Darrius Heyward-Bey already, Whalen may be needed earlier than expected. Hopefully we get to see him work with different units to see what his limits really are. Meanwhile LaVon Brazill is heading into a four-game suspension to start the season, and needs to show both the coaches and fans that he is worth being patient with.
Cornerback: Can Cassius Vaughn translate strong practices to game play? Is Marshay Green the front-runner for the final CB spot?
The depth at cornerback isn't particularly strong, and Cassius Vaughn should see a fair amount of playing time in 2013. He struggled in 2012, but the Colts' coaches have been raving about him during camp. If Vaughn can be a decent dime corner, the Colts' secondary could be a very capable group. The more interesting battles, for me, are the ones for the depth corner positions. Marshay Green has looked good in training camp, but Josh Gordy still looks like the Colts' favorite behind the four established corners. Between those two, three UDFAs and Teddy Williams, the battle has many different potentilal outcomes, and preseason games may go a long way in determining the winner.
There are an infinite amount of story lines for this first preseason games, but I certainanly can't cover them all. What are you most intrigued by?