The Indianapolis Colts wrapped up training camp with their second of two practices with the visiting Cleveland Browns on Thursday. The competition was quite “spirited” at times and a few skirmishes broke out ahead of today’s game. It will be interesting to see if any of that carries over to game action.
The coaching staff set the expectation that projected starters will likely stay on the field longer than they did a week ago. Fans may get to see the first team units play for a quarter. Whether the team will continue to hold out some starters is yet to be seen.
While the Colts and Browns got a chance to face off against one another for a couple of days this week, fans shouldn’t confuse that with game planning for a specific opponent. A full week of opponent specific work will likely happen next week when the team returns to West 56th Street. It is fair to think that individual players should benefit from additional reps against their opponent, but this game won’t resemble what you can expect in the regular season.
The team will continue to be primarily focused on observing how individual players develop, ensure each player understands their role and is in proper position, and reach some decisions about limited roster spots. It may make the contest more enjoyable if viewers spend more time focusing on players who they are interested in seeing perform and less on winning the game.
Two of the top starting position battles on the team are still at middle linebacker and cornerback.
Last week, Bobby Okereke will got his feet wet against Buffalo’s first and second team offenses. He showed the athleticism scouts and coaches have raved about and did a nice job of covering a lot of the field. He has continued to split first team reps with Anthony Walker, depending on match-ups and groupings. Can he build off of his first game and push Walker over the last two weeks of the off-season?
Rock Ya-Sin put together arguably the most impressive defensive performance of training camp. No player had their hands on the football more, creating turnovers and wreaking havoc against a laundry list of receivers. He is making it very hard for the coaching staff to determine who will take the third and final starting position at corner.
What makes the situation even more difficult is that Quincy Wilson put together an impressive training camp performance of his own. He is in great shape, continues to look comfortable in man coverage, and has been used all of the field. No player in Indy’s secondary has more versatility. Can he hold off the rookie to start across from Pierre Desir or will he rotate in on a match-up basis?
I will continue to keep a close eye on the development of E.J. Speed. He had a mixed showing in Buffalo but his athleticism is eye-popping. He has been pushing Matthew Adams for snaps at strong side linebacker and needs preseason games to stake a claim for more time on the field. I will also continue to keep an eye on the fight for final roster spots at cornerback between a veteran like Nate Hairston and rookie converted safety Marvell Tell. An ongoing general observation will also be around signs of an improved pass rush. Young players need to step up if the Colts defense hopes to take a step forward this season.
Jacoby Brissett needs to have a better performance than he did against the Bills a week ago. If Andrew Luck is unable to take the field at the start of the season, he is the presumed starter and will need to be sharp if the Colts want to get off to a strong start. The offensive line didn’t make life easy for Brissett, and they also need to show signs of life, but this preseason could be the last meaningful tape he can put out to the rest of the league as he hopes to earn a sizable contract and starting opportunity in 2020.
With the injury to Daurice Fountain, and the likelihood that he will be placed on injured reserve, the fight for the last spot at wide receiver becomes more interesting. At this point, one has to assume that T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell and Deon Cain are all tentatively safe. Do the Colts keep one or two more?
If one, the battle will be between Chester Rogers (who the coaching staff has gushed over) and Zach Pascal (who does just about everything). Rogers may have the slight edge as the team’s primary punt returner but Pascal returns kicks and serve as a special teams gunner.
If two, the battle will be between Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, and local prospect Krishawn Hogan. This trio has been productive at various times over the last couple of years and have shown the ability to produce on offense. Pascal’s special teams value could push him to the front but Johnson suffered a season ending injury last season just as he looked to be breaking out a bit. Hogan is another big body who could give the Colts a replacement for Funchess’ role if he has to miss any time.
While Jordan Wilkins misses time with a foot injury, Jonathan Williams has a chance to continue making a claim for his spot on the roster. He was one of the most impressive offensive players on the team against the Bills and has had a strong training camp.
The battle for the last tight end spot, assuming the Colts keep 4, will continue to heat up with the return of Ross Travis to the field. Travis and undrafted rookie Hale Hentges are very different players. Travis is a downfield receiving threat, in same type of mold as an Eric Ebron. Hentges is a strong blocker, possible H-Back, and has been more reliable than expected as a receiver without the athleticism, in the mold of a Jack Doyle. Arguably, Mo Alie-Cox is more of a Doyle-type player as well. Could that give Travis an edge?
As mentioned previously, the offensive line needs to show signs of improvement. They have had plenty of opportunities to develop a distaste for some of the players they will be facing today and they need to show some of the same bully mentality they did a season ago.
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4pm PM ET on Saturday August 17, 2019
Lucas Oil Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
Courtesy of 506 Sports, here are the local television listings:
WXIN (FOX/59 - Indianapolis)
WBKI (CW/58 - Louisville)
WFFT (FOX/55 - Fort Wayne IN)
WCWW (CW/25 - South Bend IN)
WTWO (NBC/2 - Terre Haute IN)
WPBY (ABC/35 - Lafayette IN)
WEHT (ABC/25 - Evansville IN) [delayed to 7 PM CT]
WCIA (CBS/3 - Champaign IL)
Play-By-Play: Greg Rakestraw
Color Analyst: Rick Venturi
Sideline: Larra Overton
WFNI (107.5FM/1070 The Fan) and WLHK (Country 97.1 Hank FM)
Play-By-Play: Matt Taylor
Color Analyst: Jim Sorgi
Sideline: Jeffrey Gorman
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