The annual tradition of letting a bunch of guys who won't be on the Colts roster after this weekend play against a bunch of guys who won't be on the Bengals roster after this weekend is renewed tonight when the Colts travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. The two teams always end the preseason against each other, mostly because they are only about 120 miles apart, and since it is Week 4 of the preseason, the starters almost never play.
For the first time in a while, however, I expect to see the first team for the Colts, including new QB Kerry Collins to play at least one series on offense, with a gradual process of replacing guys through the middle of the second quarter. My hope is that everyone plays in series 1, with Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Pierre Garcon, and Jeff Saturday coming out after that single series, just to get a feel of how it would go with Collins. A three-and-out might change my mind, but I think everyone needs a little work together, just in case.
On Defense I wouldn't expect the starters to play at all, but if I had to guess Pat Angerer may see some time, as well as Ernie Sims, at least for a quarter. There is going to be a lot of tough decisions defensively for the coaching staff/front office, so I'm going to guess the less you see of a guy tonight, the better chance he has to make the team. If they aren't on the field (unless there is another Chip Vaughn incident), it means they've made up their mind on that guy, and don't need to see any more of him.
What I'll be watching for tonight:
- Kerry Collins: Can he start in Week 1? - I expect Collins to play into the second quarter, as the staff got an extensive look at Curtis Painter last week. If things go well, I could see the Colts leading another preseason game into the second half. Pay close attention to the 10-15 yard out routes, if they run any, as those are how you tell what he's got left in terms of arm strength and accuracy. Personally, he'd have to play worse than Painter did against the Redskins to have any consideration of playing Painter in the opener if Peyton Manning can't go, but I don't expect that to happen.
- Who will be WR #4 and WR #5? - We talked at length yesterday about Anthony Gonzalez, and whether he should or should not make this roster. I think at this point, he can only be counted on as option #5 at best, until he can get healthy. Either way, another WR is making this team, as I can't see them taking Blair White off the PUP now. If they do, Gonzo will definitely not be on the roster. Based on last week, I think Chris Brooks will become WR #4, and if he comes out before halftime it'll signal he's made the team. Same could be said for David Gilreath, but I'm less sure about him. Remember, Brandon James scored three touchdowns in this game last year, and was still cut.
Second Team Interior Offensive Line - With Ryan Diem moving inside, and the emergence of Joe Reitz to the First team, one of the three guys that were on the Interior of the OL last year will be cut, whether it's Jamey Richard, Mike Pollak, or Kyle DeVan. Tonight these guys need to show why they should make the team. If I were calling plays, I'd run the ball right up the middle behind these guys, and see how well they do. I'm sure it won't happen often, but I can dream, right?
Defensive End Play - There are going to be 2 or 3 pretty good players cut from the Defensive Line, and I expect them to get picked up by somebody after they are cut. I think, at this moment, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are the only two sure things. They are going to be playing against back-up Offensive Linemen. These guys should be causing havoc in the backfield on whoever is playing QB for the Bengals, even with just rushing four guys.
- Overall Pass Defense / Tackling - This was much better last week against the Packers than the first two weeks. I think at both Linebacker and in the secondary, the roster is pretty much set, save for one LB spot, but I think that should and will go to Adrian Moten. I hope we get to see more of Chris Rucker this week too.
What I want to see, but probably won't:
- Going for it on 4th Down all the time - The punt team, surprisingly, has been quite good this preseason, and has gotten lots of practice. I think more can come out of actually going for it on 4th down, no matter where the Colts are on the field, than just punting it away like normal. It'll put guys in high-pressure situations, which you cannot replicate in practice. See if they can get that 4th and 4 backed-up. If the offense misses it, see if the defense can hold the Bengals to a field goal. Practice these real game situations when the consequences are minimal. Please. I love Pat McAfee, but he's had plenty of work this preseason.
- All short yardage plays should be runs - It does no good to have Dan Orlovsky throw to random WR on a 3rd and 2 to try and get the first down, as neither guy will be on the team after Saturday. What they could do, though, is get Delone Carter in there behind those Offensive Linemen playing for a job, and see what they can do. This applies inside the 10 yard line as well. Valuable situations that don't have the same pressure as in practice.
- Let the Cornerbacks play a little Man Coverage - Again, it's good to see this in a preseason game, to see if these guys could break out of the Cover 2 and cover somebody one on one in live action. Doesn't have to be often, but the preseason should be to see who can do what. You don't get that luxury during the regular season. Better to find out now than pay for it later.
Kickoff is schedule for 7:00 pm ET tonight, and it's being broadcast live on NFL Network. Not sure if here locally we'll be forced to watch the grainy Channel 23 standard definition broadcast, but I hope not. What else will you be watching for?