The Indianapolis Colts will face their second preseason game tomorrow afternoon against another ascending AFC team, the Cleveland Browns. In their preseason home opener, the Colts will face a far more talented group of players than they did last week, and they’ll have a degree of familiarity with one another after this week’s joint practices.
While week two cranks up the pressure at the bottom of the roster, it is ultimately still a preseason contest. That means that the results themselves don’t matter nearly as much as gauging individual performances. Even those must be viewed through a very critical lens given the limited playing time of starters and the lack of a game plan or competitive play calling.
However, with a few roster spots still being determined at the bottom, there are still plenty of things to keep an eye on during this game. Here are a few players to watch in Saturday’s action.
Colts fans love Deon Cain. He has a great story, and his 2018 camp performance had everyone buzzing about his potential. Then came the ACL tear and a missed season. He worked his way back, and the coaching staff praised his progress heading into camp this year.
The reality is that Cain hasn’t proven anything yet in game action. While there have been flashes of his potential, his in game contributions as a pro are minimal. 3 catches on 6 targets, for a total of 19 yards.
Getting through the hurdle of that first game safely will likely have unburdened Cain’s mind a little about his knee-a lot of the recovery process from a major injury is mental. Now, we need to see him look in game action like he has in practice. The Colts believe he can be a valuable part of the offense going forward, and he got time this week with the first team for the first time in camp this year. He is one to watch closely.
The rookie cornerback has been the talk of training camp with near daily takeaways and a generally physical and competitive presence on the field. Right out of the gate, the guy has looked like he belongs on the field, and he and Wilson spent time rotating in on reps with the first team defense over the past few days.
Wilson has looked good and even improved in camp after changing his physique in the offseason. Regardless of that, Ya-Sin has steadily been making a case that he needs to be on the field to make this Colts team better. That is great for the team, because it indicates a kind of depth in the secondary they haven’t had in a long time.
The question is, can Ya-Sin be a difference maker on the field in games in the same way he has consistently been during camp? Answering that question makes him a player worth keeping a close eye on throughout the remaining preseason games. The answer could determine how much and how early we see him involved on the defense once the games count.
One of the more intriguing battles going into camp was between rookie linebacker Bobby Okereke and Anthony Walker for the starting MIKE spot. Walker has had a good camp and looked great against the run particularly, so it seems likely that he will keep his spot for now.
That shouldn’t seen as a poor reflection on Okereke, who has also looked good and could very well see himself getting time on passing downs as the season gets under way. While it seems like Walker has the starting spot in hand, there is no guarantee he keeps it if Okereke is outplaying him. That’s what makes him an intriguing watch.
The coaching staff will be looking for flashes that indicate that the long, speedy linebacker could take on a greater role on the defense. If the team can get to a point where they can rotate players in and out more regularly, it keeps the team fresher on defense and gives them better matchups against their opponents.
With the very real possibility looming that Brissett could get the start against the Chargers in week one, he is one to keep a close eye on. His offseason has been frustratingly inconsistent. He follows practices where he plays like a potential NFL starting quarterback with ones where he looks totally inadequate to carry an NFL team.
Given the nature of game planning and play calling in the preseason, it is tough to evaluate Brissett’s pre-snap decision making. However, he still seems to struggle with making reads downfield, feeling the pocket, and getting rid of the ball quickly. The offensive line hasn’t looked quite as sharp this season as compared with last season, and quarterback play may be a part of the reason why.
Against a talented defense, he’ll need to prove he can get through his progressions quickly, get the ball out on time, and avoid pressure in the pocket. If he can do that and make good decisions, it will instill more confidence that he can guide the ship even if Luck has to miss a couple of games.
The undrafted rookie free agent from Alabama looked good in his first preseason action, and his versatility at the tight end position has been a pleasant surprise. Given how tight the team is on spots left for the 53-man roster, Hentges faces an uphill battle to make it. His ability to catch the ball well in addition to being a solid blocking tight end might give him a leg up on the competition, though.
Last year, the Colts used TE Ryan Hewitt in a blocking tight end, H-back role consistently, and with a stated focus on running the ball, it would not be surprising to see them do something similar in the coming season.
Hentges will need to play well enough throughout the coming preseason games to convince the staff that keeping 4 tight ends is worth their while. That means he needs to continue to show versatility in the passing game as well as showcasing his blocking abilities. It shouldn’t be a hard sell, Frank Reich loves to utilize tight ends in his game plans. That sais, Hentges will have several talented players to compete with there, and consistency throughout the preseason will be what wins him a spot.
Who will you be watching in tomorrow’s game?