The Indianapolis Colts return to action this evening with their second preseason game - the home opener against the Chicago Bears. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET from Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Colts are certainly hoping not to have a repeat of last week's game in which they lost 36-10 to the Eagles.
There are plenty of things to watch tonight, but here are five of the biggest ones that we'll be keeping an eye on:
There are several interesting components to watch for when it comes to the running back position for the Colts. Firstly, it is possible that veteran Frank Gore will make his Colts debut tonight. He typically doesn't play much at all in the preseason and he didn't play last week, so if he does play tonight it wouldn't be too long, but he still might be out there. If so, it will be good to see him playing for the Colts for the first time. Secondly, it is likely that Vick Ballard will return for the Colts tonight, which would mark his first game action with the team since September 8, 2013, as since then he has suffered a torn ACL and a torn Achilles. We'll be definitely watching how he plays (because, after all, he is competing for a roster spot) but regardless it will just be nice to see him on the field again after all he's fought through to come back from. And then thirdly, the star of last week's preseason game for the Colts is a guy to watch tonight as well, as we're excited to see what Josh Robinson can continue to do with, hopefully, a bit of a bigger role.
Depth Defensive Linemen
When I originally started writing this article, this section was limited to David Parry and Henry Anderson, but I began thinking about last week's game and how several depth defensive linemen made nice plays, so I expanded the category to include them. Of course, we're most interested in seeing the two rookies out of Stanford. Both Parry and Anderson played well last week and made plays, and Parry even received several first team reps in practice this week. How will they do this week? Will Parry work any with the first team? We'll definitely be watching those two closely. But others, like Zach Kerr, Earl Okine, and Kelcy Quarles, also made some really nice plays last week in a depth role. Was that because of quarterback Tim Tebow holding on to the ball too long? Perhaps - but that's part of the reason we want to see them play tonight. Can they repeat some of their success? Or, the more important question, can they play well enough to make themselves necessary and earn a roster spot?
It was a mixed bag for the starting offensive line last week, as they looked very good in pass protection but not so good in run blocking. There has been a lot of attention focused on the line in the past few weeks (and entire offseason), and now that Hugh Thornton is out with a knee injury (he's week to week), that likely locks in the starting five, barring an injury. That's 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. That starting five has the potential to be a solid group, and we saw that in their pass protection last week. Hopefully that continues tonight. On the other hand, however, they didn't look good in run blocking, so we'll be watching to see if that improves. Ultimately, I hope that the linemen get more playing time tonight to work together and to continue becoming one unit, working through some of the issues that may be present right now. I understand that it's always a risk to play your starters a bit more in the preseason and that the Colts don't have a ton of depth along the line right now, but I do think this unit needs to see some playing time together. With the starters expected to get more reps tonight, hopefully we see exactly that with the starting line.
It'll be great to see T.Y. Hilton out there again, as well as Andre Johnson, but when I say I'm looking forward to seeing the wide receivers play, I'm mainly meaning the guys after those two on the depth chart. We know what to expect from them. Donte Moncrief is likely to play for the first time this preseason after a very strong camp in which he looked improved from a year ago. Will that translate to the field? Phillip Dorsett had a good debut last week (besides the fumble) and did some good things. Can he keep that up? Duron Carter didn't do a ton last week but was one of the stars of camp, so we'll be watching to see whether he gets it going this week (or perhaps I should wonder whether the quarterbacks can get it to him). The same goes for Quan Bray, the undrafted wideout who looked very good in camp but didn't look good last week. Can he translate it to the playing field? I'm really interested in seeing some of these depth wide receivers.
Lastly, it will be nice to see the starters getting some more playing time tonight. Obviously, week three is when they play the longest, but head coach Chuck Pagano said they will play more tonight than they did last week. What does that mean? Nobody really knows. Last week, many of the starters played somewhere around 11 snaps, or about two drives. Some played more, certainly, but it was around that area. So we'll likely see more than 11 snaps and more than two drives tonight from the starters, though we don't know how much more that will be. I'd still recommend tuning in early if you're hoping to see Andrew Luck and company because I don't expect them to play a ton or as much as they will next week, but they'll still play more than last week. And however long they do play, it will be nice to see them on the field as a complete unit (or close to it).
Your turn: what are you most interested in watching when the Colts take on the Bears tonight?