Aug 12, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano watches the Colts warm up before the game against the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Every preseason, I pick four or five Colts players and focus on their development; from training camp on through game four to the final 53-man roster cutdowns. In the past, we saw good players get cut and bad players retained because of the egos controlling the front office. It drove me nuts. This year, the front office is more concerned with winning, player development, and finding the absolute best 53 players possible for the 2012 season. Thus, it makes my job of singling out four or so players easier, which I appreciate.
Players To Watch In Game Two
, RBVick Ballard, RB
Moore is crossed off the list for this game because he's dealing with a rib injury sustained against the Rams last week. He's unlikely to play this evening. However, we'll keep it in the backfield and focus instead on rookie Vick Ballard, a guy the Colts coaching staff has raved over since day one.
Ballard showed speed, quickness, and toughness last week against St. Louis' second string defense. Against Pittsburgh, he'll likely see action against their No. 1 unit, which includes Troy Polamalu. This is a good thing. The Steelers and their defense are going to blast Ballard, and how he reacts to it will tell us a lot about him. Their zone blitz scheme will also test him as a pass blocker, something he has surprised the coaching staff with during OTAs, training camp, and in the first preseason game.
LaVon Brazill, WR
Had a follower on Twitter tell me that Brazill reminded him too much of Pierre Garcon, and not in a good way. Too many drops last week. I think it's a little too early to be saying that about Brazill. To me, he's shown great quickness, speed, and his hands are about what I would expect from a kid drafted as late as he was.
Pittsburgh's corners aren't anything too challenging, save maybe Ike Taylor. They are, however, better than what Brazill faced last week. If Donnie Avery plays, Brazill will see more action with the second unit. He should be able to get open against them.
Also, Brazill should see more time as a punt returner this week.
Jerry Hughes, OLB
I'm not ready to start believing in Jerry Hughes. If he dominates during all four preseason games, yay. He can throw himself a parade. Hughes' issue has always been playing poorly when the lights are on. If he starts doing what he was drafted to do, that's not something I will get excited about. It's about two years too late. That said, if the Colts are to be anything decent on defense, Hughes must continue to play up to his potential.
The Steelers offensive line features two rookies, a gaggle of nobodys, and Maurkice Pouncey. To put it bluntly, they suck at pass blocking. Hughes should dominate whoever they single block him with, and if he doesn't, we've got problems.
Even though I've practically given up on Hughes, I want to see him show continuous improvement. If he plays well, this defense has a chance. If he plays average, they're screwed. If he plays like he's played the last two years, they're REALLY screwed.
Look for Hughes to be in the QB's face tonight, because if he isn't... oy vey.
Cassius Vaughn, CB
Vaughn hasn't done enough to impress the coaching staff. He can't even beat out Justin King for the starting job. Greg Manusky seems content to use Vaughn as the nickel corner, playing on the outside while King plays the slot. Vaughn, King, and Powers face a very potent, fast Steelers WR corps. It's a great test for them to prove their metal, but on paper this is a mismatch that heavily favors the Steelers.
Vaughn has the speed to run with guys like Antonio Brown, but speed is only part of playing coverage. I'll be keeping a very close eye on the DBs in this game.
If there is a player you are watching or interested in, toss his name and a write-up in the comments below.