Though most Colts fans are too busy focusing on the Trent Richardson trade, there's actually a game to be played this Sunday. A rather big one, at that. The Colts travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers, and David Fucillo of Niners Nation and I decided to put together a few posts previewing the game. So let's take a look at some notable under-the-radar players to watch for from both teams on Sunday.
First up, here's Fucillo with his take on the 49ers:
The 49ers under-the-radar guy to watch could prove to be tight end Vance McDonald. The 49ers drafted McDonald in the second round this past year as a potential replacement for Delanie Walker. The 49ers have ended up using Vernon Davis and fullback Bruce Miller in a few more ways, but McDonald remains a solid threat in the receiving game. Where this gets interesting is the fact that Davis is dealing with a hamstring strain. He left last week's game in the fourth quarter because of it. He said he just needs rest and should be fine Sunday, but this could be McDonald's chance to take a step forward. He won't surpass Davis on the depth chart, but he could find himself seeing more targets in the passing game. He's a big guy who seems to enjoy running over defensive backs, so the Colts secondary will want to keep an eye out for him.
Glenn Dorsey is this week's under-the-radar guy. He entered the season as the backup nose tackle, and general utility defensive lineman. Starting nose tackle Ian Williams broke his ankle in his first series against the Seahawks and is out for the season. Dorsey will take over as the starting nose tackle, and will work with Demarcus Dobbs in rotating along the defensive line when the 49ers get into some of their four-man fronts. Dorsey was a high draft pick for the Chiefs and never really panned out. The 49ers will probably spend more time in their four-man fronts than their base 3-4, but given the Colts commitment to the run, Dorsey should see a fair amount of playing time on Sunday. The nose tackle is frequently overlooked by fans, so keep an eye out!
Here's my take on the Colts:
I too am going to go with a tight end as the Colts' under-the-radar guy for this Sunday's game. Originally I was going to say Coby Fleener, as he is going to need to step up big time now that Dwayne Allen is out for the season with a hip injury. Fleener is a big threat in the receiving game that the 49ers will absolutely need to account for, but I'm actually going to go with another tight end as an under-the-radar guy for the Colts: Dominique Jones. Jones' role in the offense just greatly increased with Allen out, although the Colts played without Allen last week in the game against the Dolphins. In that game, Jones saw significant playing time in the base two tight end offense that the Colts run. Although he enters the game on Sunday with just two career receptions to his name, he doubled his career catch total with a reception last week and almost had another one too, but couldn't hang onto it. I would expect him to get a couple of passes thrown his way on Sunday, and also he will be counted on to be the blocking tight end. Fleener is clearly the receiving tight end and that's not changing, so Jones will be the one needed to block for both running and occasionally passing plays. He may not dominate the stat sheet or anything, but Dominique Jones is an under-the-radar guy to watch for on Sunday from the Colts.
I'm going to bend the rules a bit and look at this from a slightly different perspective, and that is that should the Colts win, who will be a guy that people don't expect to be a big reason why but that who would be. And that player is outside linebacker Erik Walden. 49ers fans probably remember him well, as he is one of the main reasons that Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards in that playoff game against the Packers last year. Yep, that same guy playing outside linebacker then is now in Indianapolis on a 4-year, $16 million deal. He's an average player against the run overall (not worth the contract, but that discussion is for another time), but when it comes to the read option - he's terrible. Just awful. If the Colts are going to trot Walden out there on Sunday to "set the edge" and all that stuff (which they are going to), then he will be a huge key in the success of the Colts. If they do have success, he will be an under-the-radar guy as to why (though I'll do my best to make sure his performance isn't under-the-radar for long, if that happens). Stopping Kaepernick is a tough task for any team, and this is a Colts team that let Terrelle Pryor run for 112 yards and throw for 217 on them in week one. And clearly, Kaepernick is better than Pryor. The key to the Colts' defense having success against Kaepernick's rushing attack and the read option is going to lie largely with Erik Walden, and that's why he's the under-the-radar player for the Colts defense. He will be a huge, yet largely ignored, key to the game on Sunday for the Colts.