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Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints: Three Things to Watch

When I sat down to do my “Players We Watched” this week, the players I chose kept being extremely boring. Basically, it would have made for a waste of a post. With the Colts facing the Saints in the most important preseason game of the year, I decided to highlight that game instead today, and include some scattered thoughts from the Giants game.

So this weekend, here’s what I’ll be watching for as the Colts face the Saints.

Trent Richardson

Basically, Richardson has a continual spot on this list until he either gets it together or the coaching staff benches him.

Richardson continued his struggles last week, running for just 21 yards on nine carries. So far this preseason, Richardson is has 14 carries for 34 yards. That’s an average of just 2.43 yards per carry. Somehow, Richardson has actually been worse than last year. Granted, the run blocking has been bad, as usual (although the pass protection has actually been decent), but Richardson has shown little improvement, if any.

The excuse that Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson have gotten behind is two-fold. The first part is that defenses are stacking the box (IF DEFENSES ARE STACKING THE BOX AND IT’S NOT WORKING, ADJUST YOUR OFFENSE. YOU HAVE A TALENTED QUARTERBACK).

The second part (parroted by Wells in the above piece, merely alluded to by Pagano/Grigson) is that Richardson is going to get more space in shotgun. I don’t really buy that. In traditional shotgun, Richardson has run for 14 yards on 7 carries (2.0 YPC). In a singleback or I-formation, he’s run for 12 yards on six carries (2.0 YPC). Richardson’s best run of the preseason, and best run of his career as a Colt, came from a Pistol formation.

Watch the video linked there, it’s everything that you want Richardson to do. He makes a defender miss in the hole he chooses to go to, then bursts through the hole without a second thought. Richardson had five-yard run from a singleback formation against the Giants in which he timed his cut well. On the play, he cuts outside to avoid a defender in the desired hole, then cuts back between the left tackle and the tight end for a gain of five.

TRichCut

So, yes, there are some positive signs from Richardson. There are also some not-so-positive signs. I expect to see more positive signs from Richardson this year, the question is just how often. So far, he’s just as inconsistent as last season. How long he can stay that way in the regular season before change is implemented remains to be seen.

Starting Tight Ends

As much as the Colts offense was supposed to be “tight-end” friendly, it hasn’t shown through two preseason games. Andrew Luck has targeted Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen five times in those two games, resulting in one catch for four yards (a quick flat route to Fleener).

It’s just the preseason, but the emphasis being placed on the tight ends hasn’t resulted in production yet on the field. What’s been more effective for the Colts’ first-team offense is short, dump-off passes to running backs or wide receivers running shallow crossers. Of Lucks 23 passes, 17 were aimed less than 10 yards down the field. Five of his passes were aimed more than 10 yards down the field, and just two were completed for 32 yards. The remaining pass was batted at the line.

The intermediate zones, especially in the middle of the field, are prime spots for tight end usage. Maybe the Colts are just hiding their playbook, maybe the tight ends are just not on the same page as Luck at this point (seems to be the case with Allen).

Either way, it’s something to watch for as the preseason continues.

Secondary

The Colts’ secondary wasn’t tested much against the Jets. I thought Eli Manning and the Giants would provide a bit more of a test.

I was wrong.

Manning, and the Giants’ passing offense, was putrid, and the Colts remain untested against a legitimate passing offense. Manning and Geno Smith combined to go 5/13 for 39 yards.

Drew Brees presents a much different challenge, one that is akin to the offenses the Colts will face in the first two weeks of the regular season. The starting secondary is (knock on wood) healthy at the moment, aside from Delano Howell, and their performance against the Saints will be telling. Can LaRon Landry step up and be the leader in a secondary that desperately needs one? Can Vontae Davis continue his lights-out play from 2013? Will Greg Toler’s solid camp translate to on-field performance?

And that’s just the first team.

On the second team, keep an eye out for Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Burley, the two corners locked in a battle for what may be the final spot on the roster. Another to keep an eye on is Dewey McDonald, who has been stellar against third-team offenses, and may get a chance with the second team this week.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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