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Pre-season Preview 2009: Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions

This third pre-season game will feature both team's offensive and defensive starters playing into the third quarter. We Colts fans will have a first hand look at #1 overall pick Matthew Stafford and the #2 overall pick in the 2007 draft, Calvin Johnson. The Lions also sport a new coaching staff headed by former-Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Schwartz ran a 4-3, Cover-2 style defense in Tennessee. They rarely blitzed, and often got pressure with their front four. However, their corners often played a bit more man-to-man, making it not quite a Tampa-2 defense, but pretty close. But in Detroit, with former-Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham calling the shots on D, I think we shall see more blitzing from the Lions.

Unlike last year (where the "third" pre-season game was more of a "let's get this over with" game than an evaluation game), this game will hopefully showcase a few new wrinkles that we Colts fans have been buzzing over this entire off-season. So far, both the offense and defense have been pretty vanilla. Now, with starters getting cemented a bit more into their roles and an entire training camp come and gone to digest the new wrinkles, we should hopefully see of of these new things Larry Coyer and Jim Caldwell have been talking about.

My list of things I'll be looking for during the 1pm Eastern pre-season game tomorrow is after the jump...

  • Charlie Johnson needs to show me something. The Lions do not have an impressive defensive front. They are rebuilding, but likely will be well-coached. If CJ has trouble controlling the likes of Cliff Avril, we have some very, VERY serious problems.
  • Tony Ugoh needs to win his job back. Detroit's starters aren't anything great. Their back-ups are even worse. If Ugoh is inconsistent against the back-ups for the Lions, then join me in a collective "Oy vey!"
  • One of the side effects of an overly aggressive defense with new blitz packages is the chance for giving up big plays in the passing game. One of the reasons the Colts pass defense was so dominant under Ron Meeks was because they rarely, if ever, gave up big plays in the passing game. This is why I've always stressed that running the ball and stopping the run are secondary to the pass. If you have a great run defense but surrender points and yardage in the passing game, you haven't got a prayer. This is a passing league, folks. And in a passing league, a team cannot surrender big plays in the passing game to the opponent and expect to win. Detroit's Calvin Johnson is arguably the best WR in football. I'd like to see how Indy's back-ups defend him.
  • Donald Brown. I'd like to see him get more touches.
  • Pierre Garcon. This is his moment to shine, to show something. We know Austin Collie's role. He's the slot receiver. Now, I want to see Garcon actually live up to the buzz. He has all the tools, and has had some great practices. I want to see him play a game where he doesn't drop an easy pass.

What are all of you looking for and evaluating?