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Colts-Lions Thursday Joint Practice: What to Watch

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, the Indianapolis Colts will host the Detroit Lions for the first of two joint practices (Friday) before the two teams open their preseason this Sunday.

Joint practices are something that the Colts have started to do more of in recent years, as they hosted the Chicago Bears in 2015. The idea is to raise the competition level, get a barometer for how your team looks in a different practice setting as well as to have your players go against someone other than their teammates.

I am at the Colts’ Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center today. Here are some things I am going to look for at today’s practice.

  • The Colts released defensive end Kendall Langford yesterday with a failed physical designation. The 31-year-old failed to return to form following a relatively routine knee procedure last preseason. However, as Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star pointed out, that’s not the only reason the Colts let him go: “One of the reasons this happened had nothing to do with his injury, but everything to do with the young defensive linemen really coming on strong.” From what I have seen, the Colts’ new-look defensive front has been getting into the backfield consistently. This is honestly an excellent sign for the Colts.
  • The Colts waived-injured wide receivers Tevaun Smith and Chris Briggs yesterday. They replaced them on the roster with veteran running back George Winn and wide receiver Valdez Showers. Winn is now on his eighth team, so I don’t expect much. However, this will be the first chance I get to see Showers and another young receiver that the Colts signed this week, Marvin Bracy.
  • The Colts’ offense understandably looks like a shell of its normal self without Andrew Luck under center. However, there have still been some young bright spots in running back Marlon Mack and wide receiver Bug Howard, for example. How will they look against a completely different team?
  • The Colts have an overhauled linebacking corps, but something that killed them the last few years were running backs who could catch the ball out of the backfield. Detroit has a pair of the best in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Will the Colts’ linebackers be able to hang? They’ve struggled with tight ends also, and Eric Ebron had a great game against the Colts last year.
  • Another thing that has hurt the Colts in recent past has been big, rangy receivers. Lions rookie Kenny Golladay (6-4, 213) has been blowing up in the red zone in training camp. Can the Colts’ young defensive backs step up to the plate?
  • Piggybacking off of the last point, Colts rookie defensive backs Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson have steadily progressed in camp. Can the duo force the quarterbacks into questionable decisions and keep opposing pass-catchers in check?
  • Detroit is forced to rely on Greg Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio with left tackle Taylor Decker out. Colts outside linebackers John Simon and Jabaal Sheard have done a great job getting after the quarterback so far in camp. Do they harass Robinson and Kouandjio also?
  • The Colts’ offensive line had a tough time with the Lions’ defensive front in last year’s regular season opener, particularly with defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. I’d love to see if the Colts’ improved offensive line can keep the pocket clean for Scott Tolzien.
  • Simply put, the Colts defense has been abysmal the past several years, and Detroit’s offense has been exceptional. Does Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford carve the Colts up, or can they hold their own?