The team is halfway through the preseason and have concluded training camp. What can we take from this, and who has separated themselves from the rest? The preseason has shown both the good and bad; mostly good for the first team, but mostly bad for the reserve players. Let’s take a look at those who are trending up, down, or neutral.
Andrew Luck: So far in his limited action in preseason Luck has shown total command of the offense. That shouldn’t surprise anybody but it’s good to know that we are set at QB for the future.
Matt Hasselbeck: This also is not too surprising. Hasselbeck has played sparingly in preseason but well enough to put the fans at ease that if needed to step in there wouldn’t be a huge drop-off in talent. Despite nearing the end of his career he is still mobile and able to move around.
Reggie Wayne: By all accounts Reggie is looking like the old (young) version returning from the ACL injury. Although he has yet to play in preseason those with knowledge have raved about his conditioning and of course his ability to catch anything thrown his direction. The only question that remains is how much time he has left on his football clock.
T.Y. Hilton: Again, he has been limited in preseason but has been impressive by all accounts. Hilton even went as far as to say that he feels the team has three number one receivers, himself included.
Donte Moncrief: Although he is only a rookie he has already shown enough for many to assume he will get some touches in the regular season. Donte in preseason has been reliable and has also shown versatility in the return game.
Hakeem Nicks: Nicks was the primary topic of discussion during training camp, especially when talk centered around his “conditioning.” But after the preseason game against the Giants the only negative thus far has been his stupid taunting penalty.
Griff Whalen: This one is hard to categorize; not because of ability but because of what many perceive as his “ceiling.” Griff has done just about everything the team has asked of him. Good hands – check. Knowledge of the offense – check. Versatility and dependability – check, check. He has played well in preseason and probably should be on the roster, but due to the cluster of depth at WR he will likely be one of the last spots/cuts.
Dan Herron: Going into training camp I thought Boom was a long shot to make the final roster, but Ballard’s injury and Rainey’s immaturity suddenly has Herron in the driver’s seat. He has shown ability and determination and has all but cemented his place on the roster. He was given an opportunity and literally ran with it.
Jonotthan Harrison: Most didn’t expect Harrison to be starting but due to Khaled Holmes’ sprained ankle that is precisely where we are. Up to this point it’s been fairly successful except a few bad snaps after coming in cold and unexpected against the Jets. Another start against New Orleans and from there remains a question. Harrison has basically locked up a spot on the final roster, but will he supplant Holmes as the starting center? Most likely not, but depending on Holmes’ health, he could be the only viable option.
Bjoern Werner: Probably no one has been talked about more during the off-season on the defensive side of the ball than Mr. Werner. He has big shoes to fill during Robert Mathis’ four game suspension and so far, his off-season work seems to be paying off as he looks much more comfortable on the field. He is consistently pressuring the quarterback, which is an improvement. Will this translate to the regular season? I’m seeing enough goods things to think so.
D’Qwell Jackson: Game 2 of the preseason really showcased what we can possibly expect to see from DQ. We witnessed his blitzing ability as well as his tackling skills. I suspected that he would bring a necessary toughness to the defense but was really impressed and surprised by his blitzing ability; add him with Freeman and suddenly it looks as though the Colts could turn into a sacking machine.
The Defensive Line: I didn’t want to single out one because all three have played well. Arthur Jones, Cory Redding, and Josh Chapman look to be a good fit and seem to be one of the best lines the Colts have lined up in recent memory. Yes it’s early, but I can’t recall a combo that seems to be so effective in stuffing the run while still applying pressure. If the trio continues this impressive play in the regular season then the sky is the limit for this unit.
Henoc Muamba: The totality of his work has been impressive up to this point. He stood out in his game against the Jets. I definitely see talent, but the only issue he will face is earning playing time due to the crowded linebacker corps. The final two preseason games should paint a clearer picture of what he can really do.
Greg Toler: So far, Toler’s brief tenure with the Colts has been a disappointment, but through camp and preseason he has been quite impressive. Toler has the ability and style the Colts need in their press coverage, and if he can remain healthy it should go a long way to bolstering the secondary.
Injuries: The injury bug seems to have bitten the Colts again. Although it doesn’t seem as severe as last year, the team lost a few key players for the season while others are fighting through various injuries with various degrees of severity. Hopefully the worst of it is behind them and the rest will prove to be minor.
The Safety Situation: The off-season provided many questions that needed to be answered. One of the biggest surrounded the loss of Antoine Bethea. We knew that LaRon Landry would be starting, but the other spot would be up for grabs. So far, no one has separated themselves from the pack. Add the fact that Landry is healing from a “Soft Tissue” injury, and we have a situation where the potential duo could become an even bigger question mark than we anticipated.
Vontae Davis: Similarly to Landry, Davis has been struggling with his own “Soft Tissue” injury while sitting out most of training camp and playing only a few plays in preseason. The issue could be and is mostly likely minor, but it’s not the way you want to start off after signing a new contract that pays him like an elite CB. Last year his counterpart Greg Toler was injured which resulted in relying on depth guys to start. Hopefully by the opening game Davis is full strength and showing why he was worth the money and faith the front office put in him.
Trent Richardson: Right now I would categorize T-Rich as trending down, but that’s not to say he can’t and won’t turn things around. Also factor in that the first string interior of the offensive line is missing two projected starters, but his work is definitely cut out for him. What many are seeing is Richardson dancing around in the backfield instead of immediately hitting the hole that is supposed to be there. It’s hard to say if it’s the line, him, or a combination of the two, but whatever the case, he must improve over last season. As mentioned earlier, there may not be much in the way of holes opening up, but he will need to do something to change things up.
Chandler Harnish: It saddens me to include him on the list but he has not looked good. In his defense, most of the time he is relegated to third and fourth string players at his disposal, but he hasn’t been accurate enough to be a viable back up. Game three will give him some time to show improvement, but game four against Cincinnati will give him his biggest opportunity. It seems the odds are stacked against him, but maybe next year he cracks the final roster as Luck’s back up, but a lot needs to happen for that scenario to play out.
Khaled Holmes: The second year center finds himself in this category. Last season he was injured in training camp with a bum ankle and this year he finds himself…wait for it…with another ankle injury which occurred just 6 snaps into the first preseason game. Holmes started off well enough in the game and by all accounts looked good in training camp (for those who judge in training camp). The good thing is he should return (hopefully) in time for the season opener against Denver, but the question now is do we stamp the “injury prone” label on him? The center is the backbone of the offensive line and needs to play, but if the player is not dependable – that generally leads to negative results. Let’s all hope that all of this is behind him after he heals. I have my fingers crossed.
Robert Mathis: Another name that seems strange to be on this list, but he landed here purely because of his suspension and not being involved with the defensive first team rotation to better acclimate Bjoern Werner. Don’t take this as negative connotation; it’s just been decided that it is more useful to concentrate on what they have when the season starts. I don’t think it will affect Mathis in any significant way. In some ways if you can get past the suspension, it might provide him with some extra time to protect his body before throwing caution to the wind once he gets the green light.
Ahmad Bradshaw: Another name that lands on here because really we haven’t seen much from him due to his spine fusion surgery during the off season. As of Monday, August 18th, he finally was able to remove the red protective jersey during practice. Also, word came down that he should expect some playing time, albeit limited, during the next preseason game against the Saints. Bradshaw, if healthy, may be called upon to carry the load if Richardson fails.
Da’Rick Rogers: I think he is just about the definition of neutral – he looks good at times, especially when in pertains to his strengths (running the deep route). However, the Colts offense is largely predicated on precise timing routes and therefore you have to know your routes and be very precise. That was his biggest knock last season and seems to have carried over to this season as well. This doesn’t mean I think he isn’t talented or won’t find a spot on the roster, but he definitely needs to improve in these areas in order for his progression to the next level which has shown natural capabilities.
Week three of preseason continues Saturday August 23 against the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium. It will be interesting to see who changes, continues, or stays the same after the results. This team has a lot of good things going for it and with just two preseason games remaining all will get a chance to improve their position and role with the team. Don’t write anyone off yet as there is time for last minute pushes, but this is the time when coaches place extra importance before deciding the fate of those lucky enough to make the final 53.