This afternoon, the Indianapolis Colts begin their 2015 preseason by taking on the Philadelphia Eagles. The team's two week training camp has ended and now it's time for the actual games to start. With this being the first preseason game, it will be our first opportunity to see this year's team in actual game action, so there's a lot that we'll be looking for. Here are a few of the biggest things in particular that we'll be watching:
Henry Anderson and David Parry
I was asked the question, "how's Henry Anderson doing? I haven't heard much about him" so often over the past two weeks that he was one of the players I actually heard about the most from fans. And that's because there's a lot of optimism surrounding the defensive lineman, but it's hard to get an accurate idea on the guys in the trenches in training camp. That's why both Henry Anderson and David Parry, draft picks by the Colts out of Stanford, are at the top of this list. They both have talent and potential and could make an impact on this defense, but in particular Anderson right away. Anderson has worked quite a bit with the second team defensive line in training camp and has appeared to know what he's doing, but now we'll get the chance to watch him in a game. The same thing with Parry, who is listed as the team's third-team nose tackle. Both players could potentially be great fits in the Colts system and help their run defense, and Anderson could have a significant impact this year even. They are two players who I think will be better in-game players than practice players, and since we can't tell a whole lot from camp about either of them, we'll be watching them closely on Sunday.
The Offensive Line
Similarly, it's also hard to get an accurate assessment about the players on the other side of the ball in the trenches, the offensive line. Throughout training camp the team had the same starting five: Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Lance Louis at left guard, Khaled Holmes at center, Todd Herremans at right guard, and Jack Mewhort at right tackle. They took nearly every rep together (minus Friday, when Herremans had a veteran's day off) and the Colts are committed to consistency up front. That's a great thing, but here's perhaps an even bigger question: how will they do? How will Louis do at left guard? Is Holmes finally ready to step in and be the team's starting center? How will Mewhort do moving to tackle? How much does Herremans have left? These five players need time playing with each other, and that's why I'd play them longer than some of the other starters (though I'm not sure if the Colts will do that or not). For media and fans, it will be interesting to get our first look at how they are doing individually and as a unit.
You might have heard about the Colts' rookie safety during training camp, and it's for good reason: the Colts really like him, and that's understandable. He has starting safety potential, and while he won't open the season as the team's starter, it will absolutely be worth watching him at safety this afternoon when he gets reps with the second team. Furthermore, he has been working at inside linebacker in dime situations, and while we might not get a ton of chances to see that specific situation today, it will be worth keeping an eye on - as that could be where his impact comes early on. Regardless of where he's playing today, Geathers will undoubtedly be one of the players to keep an eye on because, of all the rookies, I think he's the most likely to have a significant impact early on.
The Wide Receiver Depth
Sure, it will be great to see T.Y. Hilton back out there again, and it will be awesome to see Andre Johnson suit up for the first time in-game for the Colts. But my eyes will be on the depth at the wide receiver position - on number three wideout Donte Moncrief, yes, but more specifically on rookies Phillip Dorsett and Duron Carter. Both of those guys have a lot of natural skills and a lot of potential, and both of them had strong training camps. It is likely that the two will get quite a bit of playing time today, and they are two playmakers who will be fun to watch. And then even backups like Quan Bray, who had a great camp, will be worth keeping an eye on too as the actual games start.
How could we forget to mention one of the stars of training camp? Jalil Brown had a fantastic camp and was all over the field making plays, and he seemed to solidify his hold on the fifth cornerback job. Make no mistake: doing well against the Colts' passing offense, even in a practice, is significant, but it's still a bit different to translate it to a game. That's what we'll be looking for with Brown, and if he continues to impress then the depth at the cornerback position for the Colts will be looking pretty good. It's his job to lose right now for the fifth corner spot, and we'll be watching to see how he translates from the practice field (where he starred) to the playing field.