If anyone has been living the Colts mantra of creating turnovers it is John Simon. He grabbed an opportunistic interception in week one of the preseason against the Lions. In week two against the Cowboys, he got a hand in and got the ball loose from Darren McFadden before Matthias Farley popped him and forced the fumble. In week three he had a sack fumble against Ben Roethlisberger.
This is exactly the kind of consistent turnover production the Colts will need in the absence of Andrew Luck. Given the talent on the offensive side of the ball, the Rams are not a team that should be difficult to beat, but if Scott Tolzien cannot run the offense it will be critical that the defense create some opportunities. Look no further than John Simon as the likely candidate to do that, since he has been in on at least one turnover in each game he has played.
We have said surprisingly little this offseason about the guy who led the NFL in receiving yards just last year. That will change come week one. T.Y. Hilton shows up when needed and he will be needed on Sunday. While the Rams have a very good defense, Hilton was nearly uncoverable for much of last season. He and Scott Tolzien don’t have the same kind of chemistry that he and Luck do, but you can expect that the game plan will call for Hilton to stretch the field so that the running game can make an impact.
Speaking of the running game, did anyone else notice that Frank Gore was looking pretty sprightly in his snaps against Pittsburgh? He may not be able to carry that kind of speed and burst deep into the season at his age, but he doesn’t have to in order to do some damage against this Rams team.
The battle on the ground will be critical to keeping the pressure off Scott Tolzien, and Gore has made a living running the ball down the Rams throat. If Aaron Donald is still holding out, look for the Colts to have much greater success on the ground. If Gore can get the ball moving on the ground it will open up the playbook for the play action and let guys like Hilton and Moncrief do their thing.
Additionally, it will be interesting in a game where the Colts will really depend on the run, to see just how much they use Gore. I am inclined to think on the year he sees a big drop in his carries, so this game could be revealing.
Ballard said about Quincy Wilson and Malik Hooker that they would “get a little trial by fire” due to some of the injuries to the secondary. That means that whether or not they both start, they’ll likely see significant time in this game. Wilson will have big shoes to fill with Davis out, but he couldn’t draw a better matchup to start with.
Jared Goff has not looked like an NFL caliber player so far, but he was being coached by Jeff Fisher, so we can’t take that completely at face value. With Sean McVay, he might see improvement. Still, in the NFL a rookie corner can’t do much better than facing a young and unproven passer.
Wilson is an opportunistic guy and a risk taker. He likes playing tough press coverage but has struggled with locating the ball tracking guys on deep routes. In short, he will make some mistakes. But, he might make some really big plays too. Against some of the better quarterbacks the Colts will face, Wilson may have some rough stretches. Jared Goff might be just the welcome to the NFL that Quincy Wilson needs.
Whether or not Aaron Donald is suited up for Sunday’s game, how the Colts offensive line plays will likely determine whether they leave with a win or loss. Anchoring that line is Castonzo, never praised, only reviled when he makes a mistake. That is a tough place to be, and the life of an offensive lineman.
He will be pitted up against the likes of Robert Quinn and expected to keep Scott Tolzien upright. If he does not win that battle the Colts will spend a lot of time punting and a lot of time on defense. This has been the killer for the Colts teams over the past two years.
When your defense spends a ton of time on the field it gives the opportunity for guys like Todd Gurley to break big runs against tired defenses. That makes the offensive line and Castonzo specifically, crucial parts of this game.
What players will you be watching? Let us know in the comments.