A Few Things to Watch Friday Night: Colts vs. Packers

Hopefully, the defense can show some resistance tonight.

The Offensive Line:  The Colts will once again shuffle their offensive line starters, with Ryan Diem expected to start at RG and Jeff Linkenbach at RT.  Regardless of who is playing where, this unit is young and inexperienced.  Whether it’s Peyton Manning or Kerry Collins under center week 1, the O-Line must gel as a unit, and quickly.  Anthony Castonzo is a rookie at LT.  Joe Reitz, the starting LG, has yet to appear in an NFL regular season game.  Jeff Saturday is the line’s anchor in the middle.  Diem has only played a handful of games at RG, his last start coming in 2002.  And Linkenbach has only started 4 career NFL games, none of which came at RT.  It should be noted that the long-term plan is to insert 2nd-round rookie Ben Ijalana into the starting lineup at RT in place of Linkenbach, but that move doesn’t appear to be imminent.

The Quarterbacks:  With the Kerry Collins signing, the Colts can’t afford to keep both Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky.  Orlovsky has been the superior QB thus far in preseason, but the Polians really like Painter (it’s worth noting that Painter was badly outplayed by Tom Brandstater last preseason, but was still kept).  Painter will once again take the 1st team reps in the absence of Peyton Manning and Kerry Collins (who won’t suit up), and Orlovsky figures to be the odd man out.  However, with another solid performance, Orlovsky might play his way onto the roster as the 3rd-string QB. Pass Defense:  So far this preseason, the Colts’ pass defense has been torched by Sam Bradford and John Beck;  they face a much tougher test tonight against Aaron Rodgers and the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.  The two teams met last preseason, and Rodgers had a field day: 21-29, 195 yards and 3 TD’s.  Jim Irsay said it best: “defense has 2 pick it up, big time!”  Antoine Bethea isn’t expected to play, which means undrafted free agent Joe Lefeged (#35) could be making his first start for the Colts.  He seems to be the only depth the Colts have at safety, so I’ll be watching his play very closely. Welcomed Additions:  Tommie Harris, Ernie Sims, Jamaal Anderson, and Tyler Brayton were all encouraging signings for Colts’ fans.  However, they’ve combined for just 1 preseason appearance (Harris against the Rams).  All 4 are expected to suit up Friday night, and they all probably need to make a case for their 53-man roster spot.  Sims, recovering from an appendectomy, could challenge Kavell Connor as the starting weak-side LB with a strong performance.  Jerry Hughes’ lackluster preseason has left the door open for Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton, let’s see who emerges as the team’s 3rd defensive end. Injuries:  Despite Peyton Manning’s neck concerns and minor injuries to Antoine Bethea, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Ernie Sims, Tommie Harris, and Jerraud Powers, the Colts enter the 3rd week of preseason relatively healthy (::knock on wood::).  While some players are fighting for roster spots, our 1st team’s top priority should be to avoid injury at all costs.  Easier said then done, I know, but the Colts will need to stay healthy throughout 2011 to make a serious Super Bowl push.  And as you all know, that starts with Peyton Manning.

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.