Colts Notebook: Preseason Dress Rehearsal and the Search for a Starting Safety

Preseason Dress Rehearsal Time

Week three of the preseason is the closest thing you’ll get to an entertaining game. For most of the first half, the preseason will shed its scrimmage-like appearance and become something that looks a more like football than anything we’ve seen since February.

Some might even say it has the feel of a regular season game (at least early on). “It absolutely does,” Andrew Luck said. “The organization of it all, the rhythm of it all, that’s what’s great about this third game. You really can sort of test run how your week goes during the season. We’re definitely approaching it like a game.”

Approaching it like a game. That just about says it all about the preseason, and while it isn’t a real football game no matter how badly we all want it to be, Luck, like many quarterbacks, sees the value in it. “It gives you a chance to get better,” he said, “go out and work on technique, fundamentals, and work on things as a team. When you have the opportunities to work, you better take advantage of them, and I think we do.”

As the starters for both sides see their first extended playing time since last winter, there are a few things to watch. Besides, it isn’t like you’re going to be watching the score.

First, watch for a crisp, efficient offense. They may still have a few bugs to work out here and there, but overall, they’ve been working together since late July and should be nearing their regular season form.

Watch for the defense to appear to regress a little against a stronger offense than they’ve faced thus far. They’ll probably give up a few more yards to the Saints than they did against the Jets and Giants (before the big practice squad comeback, that is), but a strong overall showing would plant some real optimism going into the regular season.

Watch the kick and punt coverage. Both have been solid this preseason, which is impressive considering the revolving door on preseason special teams units. They haven’t been perfect, but if the coverage units can put together another good game, it could be a sign that this area is going to be a rare strength for Indianapolis.


Across the Board, Starring Greg Manusky

Okay, the Colts’ defensive coordinator only said “across the board” four times yesterday. It seemed like more than that.

Manusky feels the defense had improved greatly overall, especially in the turnover department. When asked if he agrees that they’re close to what he and Chuck Pagano envisioned back in 2012, Manusky said, “Yeah, I mean across the board. It’s usually that first year it’s always a hard thing to develop in a team, different call system, totally different than the Tampa 2 system that they had here before. In the second year they start to get their feet underneath them, and then in the third year you start to see success. With Arthur (Jones) and D’Qwell (Jackson) playing in the same system, similar, kind of helped out as well.”

While that may sound as though they’ve taught a bunch of rag-tag Tampa-2 defensive players to come together under a new system, it’s more accurate to say they’ve gotten rid of all but one of those guys. Robert Mathis is the only Colts defender left who played in the old system.


Safety Search

Meanwhile, as the defense improves, it still needs a starting safety. With Delano Howell, the presumed starting safety, seeing specialists about his injured neck – it’s rarely a good sign when an athlete seeks out a second opinion – the battle at safety has narrowed a bit.

Most people have expected the team to look for a faster, more coverage-oriented player to compliment LaRon Landry’s hard-hitting, in-the-box playing style. A reporter asked Manusky if that is indeed what they’re seeking in a starter, a compliment to LaRon Landry’s skills.

“I think so,” Manusky began.” You want the same type of safeties that can come down in the box and then also play the post. We’re going to try to see, from a communication standpoint is vital. Both guys have got to be communicating and work well together as well.”

Yes, you’re right. It did sound like he did an about face on that answer. Sure we’re looking for a complimentary player. Then again, we want a guy who is the same and can play in the box. It appears Manusky liked having somewhat interchangeable safeties with similar skillsets last year. They may be looking for another guy who makes it difficult for defenses to tell which player is the strong safety.

Either way, unless Howell’s injury turns out to be something that will heal quickly, the Colts will have to find another starter, and he’s probably already on the roster. We’ll be watching the play of Mike Adams, Sergio Brown, and Dewey McDonald (McDonald has had a solid preseason but likely needs to face some second stringers at least to prove himself) closely.

Quick Notes

Khaled Holmes, Xavier Nixon, Ulrick John, Josh McNary, David Sims, Delano Howell, and Montori Hughes all were held out of practice yesterday.

Marcus Dugan

About Marcus Dugan

Marcus is a husband, dad, twitter geek, and all around average guy who covers news, game recaps, and additional material for The Colts Authority, while working even harder as an Indy area real estate broker. He's been known to overuse parentheses while editorializing (but who doesn't?)