It’s football, it’s football! Do you remember football? It’s back…in preseason form… Okay, so what we’re about to see at 7:00 p.m. EDT (broadcast locally on WNDY 23) is a step above a scrimmage from a fan perspective, but after nearly eight months without any Colts football, we’ll take a glorified scrimmage and all the camp battle drama that keeps our attention in the second half.
The value of the preseason is in cohesion player evaluation (Injury risk is an issue, but that’s a different article for a different time), and the latter can be very interesting to observe. We could go on about whether the Colts and their reserves can beat the New Jersey Jets, a team struggling to figure out how not to be a high profile train wreck. We could talk about how the team with the most depth, or the best backup quarterbacks, or the most NFL-ready fringe players, will win the day when many have dozed off in the fourth quarter.
All that would be silly, however, because we’ll be watching two main things: 1. How sharp do the starters look against another team’s starters? 2. The battles – player versus player for a starting job, player versus player for a spot on the depth chart, or any job at all, and the Colts offensive personnel versus old timey 1895 run-and-run football philosophy. (#UnleashAndrewLuckPlease)
And with that, here we go: a preseason preview. It’s not like a regular game preview, more of a glorified article scrimmage (which means I should probably find a backup writer/blogger with poorer grammar to fill in for the second half of this thing).
Knocking off the Rust
Watch for the Colts starters to look sharper than the Jets. If they don’t, it isn’t the end of the world, but decent execution and a couple good plays are what we’re looking for from the first unit. We want to see good timing on passing routes, good protection and run blocking. We want the defensive line to get a push up front and for some kind of pass rush to show up. Anything more is icing on the cake – unless you don’t like cake, in which case you can come up with your own weird sugar and gluten free analogy, you cake-hater.
Along with the rust, we’ll be watching for the offense to look like an offense in 2014 and not the leather helmet era. A team with so many passing weapons needs to use them. It’ll even make the running game they love so dearly function to greater affect.
Let’s keep the fullback and six linemen formation on the back burner for specific situations – not first and ten. My opinion: Based on late last season, Pep Hamilton is ready, and this should be fun to watch. (Hey, it’s August. Who isn’t optimistic in August? …besides Jets fans)
Trent Richardson versus the World
The Colts are all-in with Richardson. We all know the ransom they gave up for him only to find themselves being questioned from the start. Richardson needed only to prove his doubters wrong, but it hasn’t happened for him yet. Is the jury still out on him, or is there already a verdict? There certainly was in Cleveland, but this is a new season.
The (football) world says T Rich runs to the wrong holes, is indecisive, and seems to lack a burst. Richardson and the Colts see it differently. The good news is that things like indecisiveness and field vision problems are correctable issues, but Richardson must certainly feel the pressure to give everyone a good showing right away. He may not have expected to have much to prove at this point. But he does, and he has the physical tools to be a great bounce-back story if he can get off to a good start.
Khaled Holmes and Anyone Else Who Plays Center
Ryan Grigson has been clear – ever since he signed a free agent center that hadn’t played much football lately, and 38 days later, said center decided he just couldn’t do it anymore due to injuries – that Holmes is their guy.
Holmes does possess the potential to be The Guy. He’s smart, athletic, and has had a good camp by most accounts. His main issue as a rookie supposedly was strength, and he’ll have his work cut out for him tonight, lining up directly across from New York’s top nose tackles (starter Damon Harrison is 350 pounds, and backup Kenrick Ellis comes in at a slightly more svelte 346).
If Holmes fares well – or even looks average – while taking on run stoppers the size of a ‘75 Lincoln Town Car, then this, my friends, is a very good sign.
Behind Holmes will be rookie UDFAs Jonotthan-with-two-t’s Harrison, a former University of Florida team captain, and FN Lutz III, a bearded, shouting wild man and former purveyor of mullets (mulletry?) who was the heart and soul of Indiana State football during his time in Terre Haute (click here for Lutz’s strange, funny campus ad for ISU basketball). Both of these guys are the kind of players you tend to want to see succeed, but barring unusual circumstances, only one of them will. So, it’ll be interesting to see their battle play out against the opposing reserves this month.
Who is the Strong Safety?
For now, it appears to be Delano Howell. Sergio Brown, who said in March that he wants to compete for the starting job, is backing up LaRon Landry at free safety, while veteran and former Broncos starter Mike Adams is behind Howell at SS.
The Colts kept four safeties last season, which doesn’t bode well for David Sims, Colt-named-Colt Anderson, or Dewey McDonald. Their best hope is that the team opts to keep an extra safety who can play as a dime cornerback if the corner depth isn’t very good, or to vastly out play Adams or Brown. Watch for three safeties playing all-out for their NFL dream in the second half tonight. As they say, for some guys, this it. This is their Super Bowl.
Da’Rick Rogers vs. Griff Whalen vs. a Bunch of Other Guys
Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, and Donte Moncrief aren’t going anywhere unless something horrible occurs. That leaves one job open, two if they decide to keep six wide receivers.
Vying for the spot will be former Stanford slot receiver Griff Whalen, and the talented but raw Da’Rick Rogers, as well as dark horses Josh Lenz, Ryan Lankford, Eric Thomas, and Tony Washington. Unless one of the bottom four turns out to be an astounding find and sets himself apart, this likely comes down to Rogers and Whalen. I can’t make a prediction either way at this point. Whatever happens, there will be some NFL-caliber talent at this position leaving on cut day.
DE/DT’s Cory Redding, Ricky Jean Francois, and Arthur Jones
Well, they’ll all play quite a bit, but they can’t all start. The Colts’ unofficial depth chart currently has Redding as the starting DE (left end, next to Eric Walden) backed up by RJF (originally signed to be a starter) and rookie Tyler Hoover. Jones is the starting DT (next to rush linebackers Mathis/Werner) backed up by Jeris Pendleton (from off the street signing to second string – nice work, sir), Zach Kerr, and Ndamdi Obukwelu.
Yes, they like to rotate, but make no mistake; Jean Francois would love to be a starter. Who wouldn’t? The smart money is on Jones and Redding to head up a rather talented group; barring injuries of course, with RJF settling into a backup role that entails near starter-level playing time.
At the bottom, Kerr (who can also play NT), Hoover, and Obukwelu will fight it out for the last one or two roster spots. A standout performance by one guy, setting himself apart from the other fringe players, would go a long way toward living the NFL dream.
There are some good battles for backup spots at nearly every position. Feel free to share what you’ll be watching for in the comments (or who you think will…win tonight). And, if you’re awake when this one ends, we’ll give you a brief recap. Meanwhile, welcome back, Football, even if it is just the preseason.
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