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Colts Preseason Week One - 6 Defensive Players to Watch

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Colts preseason football is upon us and there are a lot of things worth watching. Colts training camp has been what Stephen Holder of the Indy Star has called, “the team’s most physical under Pagano.”

All the same, there is a big difference between training camp and actual football. Some players simply show up in a different way for games, and this is their chance to put some solid play on film.

Also, some players really light it up in training camp and then fizzle out when facing real competition. *cough* Duron Carter *cough*.

With that in mind, here are some players to keep an eye on during Sunday’s game.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Tarell Basham

The Colts pass rush plan over the past couple of years has essentially been to hope that the quarterback just gets tired of standing and sits down at least a couple times a game. It became routine to see quarterbacks taking their sweet time going through their progressions against the defense last season.

The Colts are hoping 3rd round pick Tarell Basham can help to change that. He has not garnered any significant buzz so far. He recognizes that he is not where he’d like to be. Zak Keefer of the Indy Star talked with him about what exactly was the biggest struggle.

“It’s the technique more than anything else,” Basham said. “In college, you can out-hustle guys. You can get away with a whole lot in college. You can’t get away with it here. Everybody’s good. You gotta develop fundamentals.”

That kind of self-awareness is good, but ideally, the Colts need to see him come along quickly. It is understandable that a rookie would struggle and it might be unfair for the Colts to expect so much of him so early. The reality is, though, there is a good chance the Colts are thinking pass rusher in the first round next year and if he wants to be around to contribute he needs to make his mark early.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Quincy Wilson

The word on Wilson has been mostly encouraging. Cornerback is a tough position to learn and the Colts system puts you on an island when playing that number two spot. Wilson has had flashes, but he will need to continue to show growth on the field. Ideally, the Colts would like to see him stake his claim on the starting spot, but he has a long way to go.

The first depth chart released has him playing with the 3s. That means we really need to see him showing something in game situations that would indicate he might be able to at the very least unseat Tevin Mitchel, as the Colts hope he will. The opportunity to get physical plays to his strengths, but he will have to be cautious not to draw flags which he had a tendency to do at the college level.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Hassan Ridgeway

Ridgeway is a player that Colts fans hope can make a big jump this season. After having shoulder surgery in the offseason, Ridgeway made it back after only missing a couple days of camp. As a rookie, Ridgeway started in five games and played in 16. He definitely showed some promise and even got some pass rush pressure.

Year two will be a big year for him, and he still has the luxury to develop as a rotational player in the Colts’ deepest position group. The preseason will be a chance for Colts fans to see if he has continued to develop and is as healthy as he needs to be to start the season. Given his surgery, it remains to be seen how much we can expect to see him play during the preseason.

Tevin Mitchel

One surprise on the first depth chart was Mitchel. The 6th round draft pick of the Redskins was picked up on waivers by the Colts in 2015. The Colts saw something in Mitchel and had hopes that once healthy he could make an impact. He has clearly lived up to that expectation so far through training camp. Mitchel has a history of struggling to stay healthy but he has been opportunistic in camp and if that carries over to the pre-season, he has a chance to earn himself a more significant role in the defensive backfield.

The nickel corner spot is up for grabs, as well as depth at corner. If he can generate a turnover or make some big plays that will certainly help him stand out.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Darryl Morris

Darius Butler’s move to safety leaves big shoes to fill. He has been a consistent player at the nickel corner spot. Darryl Morris was on the receiving end of some of Pagano’s praise regarding his performance filling in, and that is good. However, we need to see him do more than receive empty praise from a coach who is known for giving it. He needs to go out and earn it.

Personally, I would feel more comfortable seeing Butler play the nickel and putting Hooker and Farley together for nickel packages, but that does not seem likely. That means that we need to see Morris lock down that spot as well as make an impact on special teams to really increase his value on the roster. Nothing at this position is set, so slipping up is not an option if he wants to keep his spot on the depth chart.

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Sean Spence

When Sean Spence was brought in, many thought that he would likely end up with a starting spot on what might be the worst position group on the roster, ILB. Given how thin the position is, Spence has been remarkably quiet during training camp. He finds himself at the bottom of the depth chart and looking like he needs to really make a big impression on coaches if he wants to claim one of the depth spots at linebacker. He is definitely a player who warrants watching closely because the Colts can use all the quality depth they can get at the linebacker position.