Colts at Bills: Preseason What to Watch For
A debacle at the Hall of Fame has pushed the Indianapolis Colts preseason opener to Saturday when they’ll head to Buffalo to face the Bills.
The Colts managed to luck out of an unnecessary extra pregame due to ineptitude by the Hall of Fame grounds crew last week. Congealed paint shouldn’t be an issue in Buffalo, but you never know. Hopefully (I guess?) we’ll get to see the Colts in action Saturday night.
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Unlike last week, the Colts plan to play the majority of their starters and a few key members will be able to play this week (like rookie center Ryan Kelly). The Colts opened up the 2015 season with a regular season loss in Buffalo and this should be a good test for the offense against a talented defense (albeit one that is being hit hard by injuries).
The Colts have move past last week’s mess in Canton, but we are still looking at a lot of the same facets of the team moving forward. Injuries are testing depth at key positions (like defensive line) and other units are hoping some young players step up to give the Colts a deeper, more well rounded team.
Here’s what fans should watch for:
- How many series for Luck? We’ve seen conflicting reports on how much Luck will play. The line injuries suggest he’ll sit until they have better protection while coach Chuck Pagano implied they want to get Luck some more work. He’s got quite a bit of rust to knock off and has a new offensive coordinator to contend with as well. Luck only had one game with Rob Chudzinski calling the plays before he was out the rest of the season in 2015.
- Backup running back. Who will split carries with Frank Gore this season? Rookie Josh Ferguson has made a number of big plays in camp and seemingly everyone in the organization has gushed about him. Robert Turbin has the experience, but he really isn’t that great a player. The player who comes in to spell Gore likely has the inside track on the backup job.
- Wide receiver depth. Outside of T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett the Colts are awfully thin at wide receiver. That is the extent of their proven depth, and Dorsett is still very much a question mark. Reports out of camp on Quan Bray are encouraging, in that he’s more than just a (very good) return man but he’s in the mold of Dorsett or Hilton (read: smaller and fast). The Colts need someone with size to stand out during camp (if only Duron Carter had panned out). Don’t expect much work from the top three (or four) but plenty from the other receivers on the roster.
- Injuries creating opportunity. The offensive line has a number of minor injuries to starters and a few others are just coming back from injury (like Kelly and right tackle Joe Reitz). Right guard Hugh Thornton and you have to wonder how many more chances he’s going to get with the team. This will give players like Joe Haeg, Denzelle Good, Austin Blythe, and LeRaven Clark more reps this evening. The Colts are banking on some of these young linemen standing out, and evaluating their abilities is best done at full speed in game situations.
- New defensive approach. There has been some buzz about new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino and the efforts to simplify the defense. Pagano wants streamline the defense and improve communication, which is what he brought in Monachino to do. From the IndyStar:
- “What Ted is going to do is we’re going to accentuate our strengths,” Pagano said. “We’re going to put those guys in position to make plays, and we’re not going to over-coach them. Meaning we’re not going to bog them down with so much information and ask a lot from them from a communication standpoint where we paralyze those guys. We don’t want to do that.”
- Pass rush? The Colts are far from full strength right now, and we likely won’t see everyone on defense until the season opener (if not later depending on Art Jones, whose suspended, and Henry Anderson, still recovering). Couple that with Kendall Langford having his knee scoped and the defensive line depth is being tested. Robert Mathis says he’s feeling great, but it has been him or bust for the team’s pass rush the past few years. They desperately need someone to stand out in the preseason to spell Mathis (and give hope for the future).
The Colts are going to run their starters for a limited amount of time and that probably means roughly a quarter (depending on the number of snaps they get on offense especially). Make sure to follow on twitter for analysis and check back on Sunday for our postgame recap.