Brandin Cooks Vs. Stephon Gilmore / Kenny Moore II
Brandin Cooks played one third of his snaps from the slot position last year, so both Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore will be tasked with stopping him come Sunday. It is not an exaggeration to say that Cooks is the only weapon the Texans have, racking up over 1.000 yards while adding 6 scores last year despite being the main and only option for rookie quarterback Davis Mills. Gilmore and Kenny will have a tough assignment, as the electric Cooks has proven to be a handful in the past for the Colts, despite Indy’s defense managing to hold the Texans to just 3 combined points in last season’s affairs. Take out Cooks, and the Texans have no viable options to hurt the Colts through the air.
Davis Mills Vs. Gus Bradley
Davis Mills had a solid rookie campaign considering he was on one of the least talented offenses in the NFL, posting 16 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. The Texans’ offensive cast does not look much improved this season, so Mills will once again be tasked with leading a subpar unit. Gus Bradley is the new Colts’ defensive coordinator and he will have a perfect chance to show the fans what he is able to do Week 1, going off against one of the worst offenses in the NFL.
Laremy Tunsil Vs. Yannick Ngakoue
If the defense is to have success, then the Colts have to get to Davis Mills. New addition Yannick Ngakoue will have a tough first matchup against one of the top left tackles in Laremy Tunsil. Before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 5, Tunsil had allowed just 7 pressures in 150 pass blocking snaps (4.50% pressure rate), which is really good. It remains to be seen if Tunsil is not a bit rusty in his first game back, but managing to put consistent pressure on a quarterback like Mills is going to be really important to stop their offense.
Braden Smith Vs. Jonathan Greenard
Greenard took a big step forward last season, racking up 8 sacks (two in a game against the Colts) and 27 total pressures. Smith struggled a bit, dealing with some minor injuries throughout the year. Matt Ryan is much less mobile than Carson Wentz, but what he lacks in athleticism he more than makes up for it with poise and proper decision making, so Greenard will have a tougher time getting to him. Containing Greenard is going to be big for the offense, as of right now the young edge rusher is among the few players I am worried about in the Texans’ roster.
Michael Pittman Jr. Derek Stingley Jr.
Pittman Jr. is the only Colts’ wide receiver with a proven track record, and he is undoubtedly the #1 receiver on this offense heading into the season. Derek Stingley Jr. has inmense potential, but he played just 10 combined games in his sophomore and junior seasons. If Pittman can beat Stingley Jr. consistently, then it is probably game over for a Texans’ secondary that is thinner than paper right now.
Parris Campbell Vs. Desmond King II
Slot cornerback Desmond King II had his worst season as a pro last year, being targeted over 90 times and allowing 63 catches for 729 yards (by far his worst numbers yet). Parris Campbell is clearly on a make or break season right now, and what better chance than against a struggling cornerback and a thin secondary. Campbell has reportedly looked really good in training camp and has developed good chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan, it is time for him to start showing what made the Colts draft him with a second round pick.