Colts vs. Packers: Step Up or Shut Up

Coaches and trainers are down to their final two preseason games, and while that is still plenty of time for most of the new guys to make an impact and put their name up for a roster spot, it is also a window closing on a number of other players who, for one reason or another, are now on the chopping block. While some of the UDFA rookies can gain a practice squad berth, or possibly even a roster berth by showing flashes of skill and solid play these final couple of games, there are a few who can no longer survive on just one good game. These players will require multiple productive games to earn a spot at this point, and for them its time to step up or shut up and go home.

QBs Curtis Painter & Dan Orlovsky

With the signing of Collins, both of these guys are now technically outclassed at the backup QB spot. There has been a few rumblings that Collins is actually a backup to Painter, but unless Painter can show that he is more than just a good practice field QB, he could be getting the axe very soon. Fans turned against him for nearly 2 years now, and while his work at training camp was promising, he has failed to do anything more than he ever has.

If Orlovsky can turn in a stellar performance, then its possible he can still usurp Painter, but his door is closing even faster. The Colts may very well carry 3 QBs if one or the other can make a good showing in the next two games, but if both continue to be dismal, it is possible that both will unemployed in the next couple of weeks.

2nd/3rd String WRs

This group includes Taj Smith, Chris Brooks, David Gilreath, Larrone Moore, and Joe Horn. With Blair White essentially heading towards the waived/IR list at this point there is at least one WR slot left open, possibly two given the injuries to Collie and Gonzalez. While Gilreath has been the best of the bunch thus far, guys like Moore and Horn still have plenty of time to make some good catches, run good routes, and prove themselves on special teams.

Above all else, any work these guys get on special teams may ultimately determine if the make the roster. The Colts won’t keep a 6th WR that can’t pull double duty on special teams, but it is equally doubtful they’ll keep a WR who can’t actually catch the ball either – I’m looking at you Smith and Brooks.

RBs Javarris James, Darren Evans, & Chad Spann

If you are detecting the theme of third string guys needing to step up their game, you would be right. While Spann and Evans have shown flashes, their pass protection hasn’t been all that good, and Evans has looked rather bad as a receiver. Javarris James is listed as the 3rd RB, and while he has really come along as a pass blocker, he needs to show he is capable of more than just a 2.2 YPC average.

RBs, like TEs, and LBs are very valuable in the Colts system as ST players, and given the injury history of both Addai and Brown, showing talent at this point can help guarantee the Colts keep them around when the worst is bound to strike. If Spann or Evans has successful night as a RB or KR, they may vault themselves into a comfortable practice squad spot. Outplaying Devin Moore and Javarris James both this week and next week could even give them a berth to the final 53-man roster.

OG/Cs Mike Pollak, Kyle DeVan, Jamey Richard, & Jake Kirkpatrick

Roster space is going to get tight and with the offensive guards generally healthy, having multiple backups will be rather redundant. While Mike Pollak is likely to lose his starting spot, he did show some signs of life last week at center. Kyle DeVan has continued to be the primary backup at OG, while Richard continues to be Saturday’s primary backup.

Kirkpatrick has been rather impressive, but since he’s still just a rookie, he is likely playing for a practice squad spot. Pollak and DeVan, on the other hand, have to show that even though they may not be the desired flavor of the month, they can still go out and be effective. DeVan has a history of showing that from the past two years so will likely have an easier time than, Pollak who has continued to disappoint despite his 2nd round pedigree. Richard must simply hope that Pollak fails miserably so he remains the most viable backup center for Saturday.

Veteran Free Agents

We have not seen Tommie Harris or Ernie Sims on the field yet, but they are expected to be with the first team defense tonight. Sims was very impressive in training camp, and Harris is still considered a top DT in the NFL. Both of these guys have very legitimate shots at making the roster, but injury has slowed their efforts. If they don’t come back to form and show flashes of their worth, they could be on the wrong side of the cut line.

The same goes for Jamaal Anderson. Anderson was known already to be a poor pass rushing DE, but he needs to step up his game as a run stuffer to upset the likes of John Chick and Eric Foster who have both been very impressive. This also goes for recently signed veteran Tyler Brayton who will more than likely rotate between DT and DE. These guys will command a larger contract than the assortment of rookies and scrubs, so they need to show they’ve earned it.

Secondary Backups

Corner and safety depth have both looked rather weak. With Bethea hurt, and the history of injuries at corner, the Colts will likely keep 10 or 11 defensive backs. As with every position, they will have to earn it.

Backup Cornerbacks like Brandon King, Terrance Johnson, and Cornelius Brown will be challenged against the very deep Packers receiving corps. If they can help limit the damage they will help solidify their phone numbers staying close at hand for when someone gets injured. The same goes for David Caldwell and Mike Newton who haven’t been overly impressive at safety but still have time to make their names more prominent in coaches’ minds.