Five Third-String Players To Watch Against The Bills

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The next four games will decide the fate of dozens of players on the Colts roster. Here are five players who could use good games to convince the coaching staff to keep them around.

If you're the type of person who turns a Colts preseason game off after the first quarter, we probably wouldn't get along.

I love the preseason. And not to see Andrew Luck run a few plays before taking a clipboard and putting on a cap. I love watching the players at the end of the roster fight to keep a job, and for some of those players to eventually contribute to the team.

It's unlikely that a Gary Brackett or a Dominic Rhodes will emerge from this year's group. But if the Colts can just find someone like Jacob Lacey or Jeff Linkenbach, I'll be doing backflips over it.

I just want players that can help push this team to a Super Bowl championship. As coach-speak as it may sound, all 53 players matter is reaching that goal.

With that being said, below are five players for you to watch during the second half of today's game. Chandler Harnish and Kerwynn Williams will stick out easily, but you may learn more about the final cuts by watching these five players as well.

Caesar Rayford, OLB, #49

Remember the community reaction when Daniel Adongo was signed?

6'5 and 257 pounds? He's got the size! He's got the athleticism! He can be one hell of a player!

It's been three weeks since then, and it's become pretty apparent that if Adongo ever develops into a useful player for the Colts, it won't be for a long time.

So if you were initially enamored with Adongo, here's my suggestion: Turn your attention to Caesar Rayford instead. The 6'7, 267-pound OLB is just as much a physical specimen as Adongo is, and he's actually played football before.

Rayford's freakish athleticism should be clear to anyone who attended last Tuesday's evening practice. Once the backups were on the field, Rayford pinned his ears back from the left OLB position and made OT Bradley Sowell look bad in pass protection. Really, really bad.

Whenever Chandler Harnish dropped back to pass, Rayford was usually in his face within a few seconds. Using his length and surprising speed around the edge, he put together one of the most dominating pass-rushing performances of training camp.

So in the words of Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained, Rayford has my curiosity. Now I want to see if he can get my attention.

That starts with today's game. If he can even come close to replicating his performance from Tuesday, then I'll start to take his chances of making the roster seriously. It's going to be tough for him to do so since he's playing behind Robert Mathis, Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner, Lawrence Sidbury and Justin Hickman, but Rayford is at least doing everything he can right now to change that.

Jeremy Kelley, WR, #84

It's been pretty easy for Jeremy Kelley to stick out at training camp. Picture a fifth grader playing basketball with a bunch of second graders and you've got the same situation as the 6'6 Kelley playing football with the other Colts wide receivers. Or something like that.

Kelley has been impressive for qualities other than his size, though. He's been consistent catching the football and has become a reliable target for Chandler Harnish in practice. The only problem is that he tends to disappear from time to time during more intense drills, like 11-on-11 with pads.

I want to see Kelley's production finally transfer to live action today. Winning 1-on-1 battles and beating cornerbacks in padless practices isn't good enough anymore. He's one of a few receivers at the backend of the roster who could have a real shot at making the final roster, at least until LaVon Brazill returns from his suspension.

When Harnish and the third-team offense is on the field for the second half, I hope Kelley takes advantage of that extended opportunity and proves he isn't just a great player in practice only.

Ben Ijalana, OT, #71

Ben Ijalana is the black sheep of this group. Unlike the others who all came in as street free agents, Ijalana is a 2nd-round draft pick. And yet in a way, he has more to prove than anyone.

Being a high draft pick hasn't meant much for Ijalana over the past two weeks. He's worked primarily as the third-string left tackle, playing behind other players like Bradley Sowell and Emmett Cleary, who are on the second-team offensive line.

But Ijalana's low status on the depth chart hasn't translated into poor play. He's actually been one of the most impressive players on the third-string offense, showing good pass protection and looking recovered from his two previous ACL tears.

Sometimes you can just see why this player was at one point considered a great offensive line prospect.

So why hasn't Ijalana moved up the depth chart when Sowell has, for the most part, been busy getting owned in practice? My guess is the coaching staff either doesn't agree with me or wants to see Ijalana do it in a real game before they make any moves.

I want Ijalana to make this team and prove he has a future to be a good player. It starts with playing well in today's game, both in pass protection and in run blocking. That's why I'm focusing on him whenever the third-team offense is on the field today.

Marshay Green, CB, #25

Outside of an athletic interception by Sheldon Price last week, all of the undrafted free agent defensive backs have been disappointing and basically invisible during this training camp.

I'd love to put one of those players on this list to try and beg them to show me something, anything, in today's game, but I'd rather go with two guys who I've become more interested in watching.

The first is Marshay Green.

Green first grabbed my attention in the seventh practice of training camp when he made a good read on a comeback route to intercept Matt Hasselbeck. While other cornerbacks have been burt occasionally, Green has stuck out less for his mistakes.

I think Green is in a battle right now with Josh Gordy and Teddy Williams for one of the last cornerback spots on the roster. A good game from him today could give him a comfortable lead in that competition.

Delano Howell, S, #26

Considering the several injuries to the Colts' safeties at the moment, Delano Howell will be more of a third-string player in name only today.

He could possibly see some time with the starters and should at least see more extended playing time than any of the other players on the list, even with Sergio Brown returning from his injury a few days ago. That gives Howell the best opportunity among the group to prove he deserves a roster spot.

Howell hasn't made enough plays in practice for me to consider him a legitimate candidate for a roster spot yet, but he's at least done enough to intrigue me heading into today's game. After Antoine Bethea, LaRon Landry and likely Joe Lefeged, the last safety spot seems pretty wide open. And keep in mind that I think rookie John Boyett will be put on injured reserve this year.

Seniority would say Brown should hold onto that spot if each second and third-string safety doesn't make much of an impact over the four preseason games. If Howell builds on his decent training camp with a good game today, however, he could make that final decision interesting.

For both him and Green, that decision could come down to how they play on special teams. That means that if you care about which players make the end of the roster, don't treat kickoffs and punts like bathroom breaks. They could make or break the jobs of the above two defenders, as well as many other players.

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