Colts at Rams: Players to Watch this Saturday
By Evan Reller
The Indianapolis Colts are headed into their third preseason game of the 2015 season. This is usually the game where the starters get the most work and we can expect them to be on the field for at least the first half. The Colts will travel to St. Louis to face the Rams, as they continue their preseason tour of the Midwest.
We can expect anyone with a nagging injury, no matter how minor, to be held out of a meaningless preseason game this Saturday. The Colts are 0-2 so far in the preseason, but it hardly matters. They played slightly better against the Bears in Week 2, but are still lacking in a few areas.
Tomorrow we’ll have our game preview, and what we expect to see out of a few extra series from the starters. Today, we look at a few individuals (and one unit) who need to step up their game or build upon what they’ve already accomplished over the past two weeks.
Grades from Pro Football Focus are on a plus/minus system with 0.0 being average.
Aug 16, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Duron Carter (9) makes a catch past Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jaylen Watkins (37) during a preseason NFL football game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
He’s on the watch list once again due to his under whelming performances over the past two games. He’s gone from a sure thing to make the final 53, to a bubble player due to poor efforts in actual games. He’s been on the field for 61 snaps and has a -3.3 grade from PFF. Carter has been targeted five times in the two games and has just one reception for 16 yards, in addition to two drops.
This is the same player that was routinely pulling in multiple touchdowns in scrimmages during training camp. While the passes thrown his way haven’t been that accurate, Carter hasn’t shown an ability to get open or attack the ball to come down with a tough catch. Given his skill set he should be consistently beating second and third string corners thus making him the favorite target of Matt Hasselbeck or Bryan Bennett
It certainly doesn’t help that Carter has been most dominant in the red zone, but has made very few trips to that end of the field over two games.
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If Carter wants to make it in the NFL, he’ll have to prove that he can be valuable anywhere on the field and not just inside the 20-yard line. Carter’s snaps might be reduced on Saturday due to the starters being on the field longer. It is also possible they will give him a few reps with Phillip Dorsett sidelined due to a mild knee injury.
Carter’s snap count on Saturday will go a long way towards letting you know how the coaches feel about him. It will certainly be interesting to see if he gets even a few plays with the first team offense, if only to have an accurate pass or two thrown his way.
Aug 22, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselback (8) hands the ball off to running back Josh Robinson (34) against the Chicago Bears during a pre season game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
The hype train for the rookie running back rolls on after another great performance. Robinson’s led the Colts in rushing in back-to-back weeks and brings a physical style of play to the position that most fans haven’t seen in Indy. Robinson has carried the ball 23 times for 105 yards and a touchdown over those games. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry at that pace and has forced six missed tackles. He has a +3.0 PFF grade in rushing and has shown he’s not a liability in pass protection either.
While some might say he isn’t facing top tier opponents, running with the second and third team units, he’s also not getting that top tier (or whatever that might be with Colts) blocking. The Colts starting unit is hardly a group of road pavers, and the talent almost leaps off a cliff after the starters rotate out. Even still, Robinson manages to get yards with relative ease.
Robinson runs hard, and pushes the pile even after the play is over. He manages to get low and squeeze out that extra yard or two at the end of a play, much liked Edgerrin James did. It might not happen, but with the starting offense being on the field longer this week there is a good chance he’ll get a few carries.
Aug 16, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow (11) is hit by Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle David Parry (54) in a preseason NFL football game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Colts, 36-10. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Recent reports indicate that Parry is starting to press Josh Chapman for the starting nose tackle position. The Stanford rookie was a force against the Eagles, earning a +4.3 grade overall. His Bears play wasn’t nearly as good and PFF gave him a -2.2 (although that felt a bit harsh to me). Parry doesn’t quite seem like the prototypical NT in a 3-4 scheme, mainly in that he doesn’t look as big as his listed 308-pounds suggests.
It is interesting that he has supposedly jumped Zach Kerr on the depth chart for the NT spot, and Parry had nearly double the number of snaps over Kerr against the Bears. That could just be the coaches testing his ability, and considering the two players had basically the opposite grades, maybe Parry will be relegated back to third string.
It isn’t always easy to watch interior defensive linemen, but fans should watch for pressure up the middle against the Rams QB as well as running backs being forced to change direction due to a break down in the blocking.
The Starting Offensive Line
The line has yet to put together a full game this preseason. In Week 1, they couldn’t run block to save theirs lives. In Week 2, it was the pass protection which struggled. Most of the struggles in Week 2 were from Todd Herremans and Jack Mewhort, the later of which is making the transition to right tackle in his second year and the former who is just bad at pass protection.
Mewhort was always going to have some growing pains, but Herremans hasn’t been a great pass blocker in the past, which could be could be concerning going forward. This unit will be tested on Saturday by the Rams who have what might be the best front four in the NFL. Two years ago, that unit alone basically defeated the Colts in Indianapolis. Robert Quinn might have a timeshare in Anthony Castonzo’s mind after how thoroughly he worked him over during that game.
The single most important thing for this season is keeping Andrew Luck upright and healthy. This game is a test of that concept and if he takes too many hits early on, I’d pull Luck and make the offensive line walk home.