Colts at Rams: What to Watch For


The Indianapolis Colts head west to face the St. Louis Rams Saturday night in Week 3 of the Preseason. We’ll see the starters for at least the majority of the first half as team’s tend to almost treat the third preseason game of the year like it is in fact a real football game.

The Colts currently sit at 0-2, but it hardly matters since the games don’t count for anything. They do have a number of players with lingering injuries who likely won’t play on Saturday. Coach Chuck Pagano recently spoke about home much he intends to play the starters, but was cryptic about the actual details.

It is reasonable to say that Andrew Luck and the starting offensive line will play for at least a half (or possibly less if they happen to have an inordinate number of possessions). I would expect players like Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and T.Y. Hilton to play a more limited number of snaps.

Here’s what fans should be on the lookout for:

  • Running Back Rotation. Gore is obviously the starter at the position, but he hardly needs extra reps in the preseason to remember how to carry a football. That means more work for Dan Herron, Vick Ballard, and the rookie Josh Robinson. Herron has the inside track on the backup job, but Robinson has been thoroughly impressive during the preseason. Ballard should get a few more carries as he tries prove he can still play, and then there is also Zurlon Tipton. Tipton and Ballard the two players on the bubble in this group. The carries for each (with the exception of Gore) will tell you where they stand with the coaches and it seems clear that one of these players won’t make the team (no way they take more than four running backs on the 53-man roster).
  • Offensive Line. We highlighted this group yesterday in our players to watch, but it bears repeating. Keeping Luck upright and untouched is the single most important thing for a successful season. The Colts have great weapons, but it won’t matter if Luck is running for his life or getting hit on every pass. Last week we saw the right side collapse on a few early plays and the best lineman on the roster (Anthony Castonzo) got burned for a near sack on third down, killing a drive. The fact that the five players have been on the field for all of training camp and through two preseason games is already a win, but they need to do a better job in pass protection. With extended time, and against possibly the best defensive line in football, watch to see how well this unit performs and if they get better or worse as the game progresses.
  • Pass Rush.

    The Colts got a boost earlier this week when

    Robert Mathis

    returned to practice. He won’t play in the preseason, but it is a step in the right direction.

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    For now, his job is being done by

    Trent Cole

    , and he’s been pretty good through two games (earning a +2.7 from PFF in that category). Overall, the Colts have done a decent job pressuring opposing QBs, generating 29 pressures and four sacks. If the Colts can manage to rush the passer with just four players successfully, it will go a long way towards improving the run defense and this unit overall. Blitzing often leaves players out of position when it comes to a run play, something the Colts had to rely on heavily last season. With better individual pass rushers, this decreases the reliance on blitzing (remember how often the

    Tony Dungy

    Colts blitzed? Me neither, they never did it because they had Mathis and

    Dwight Freeney

    ). Pay attention to how Cole and

    Jonathan Newsome

    play, as well as

    Erik Walden

    . They haven’t been blitzing as much in the preseason and hopefully that will continue going forward.

  • Special Teams Coverage. Pat McAfee is the best punter in the NFL, but his special teams unit hasn’t been as great as it has in the past. He’s had a number of punts where he outkicked his coverage while other times players have completely whiffed on their tackles. McAfee’s All-Pro season last year was an underrated part of the defense last year. If an offense has to move the ball further downfield, their chance of success is greatly reduced. The coverage has to get better, if the Colts are going to maximize the talent of McAfee’s Boom Stick.
  • On the list of cuts today…The Colts have to cute the roster from 90 players to 75 on Tuesday afternoon. That means this is the final chance for a lot of players to standout if they’re going to make the roster. These bubble players won’t get as much of a shot with the starters playing extended minutes, but there are quite a few camp standouts who are running out of time to make an impression. Ryan Grigson pointed out how those guys have to make themselves relevant and this will be the last shot for 15 such players.
  • Make sure to follow us during the game for live updates and reactions.

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