Week 2 of the preseason is upon us though I’d prefer to think of it as 2 weeks closer to real football being played. Much has been debated about the quality of preseason football, yet fans who crave the NFL just can’t get enough.
The next preseason test is the home opener at Lucas Oil Stadium for the Colts and is a rematch of Super Bowl XLI when they host the Chicago Bears. Obviously, much has changed since that game eleven years ago. Changes like the exit of two beloved Colts, Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy. The Bears have had a similar, yet more chaotic, change to their roster when they lost their faces of their franchise, Brian Ulacher and Lovie Smith. The Colts are considered to be a favorite to make the Super Bowl by many experts while the Bears are struggling to find their place in the NFC North. In 2015 what can we expect out of this game? Here is my primer.
The second game of the preseason normally gives us a good dose of the starters whom we’ll see when week one of the regular season rolls around. Andrew Luck, in his limited action against the Philadelphia Eagles, looked to be in mid-season form and I expect to see more of the same from him. Expect him to play into the second quarter and then be shut down.
Something else to watch for will be how the offensive line has started to come together. Last week the tackles proved to be the strength of this unit and the interior proved to be a work in progress. Khaled Holmes played well at center, but the guards were continuously getting backed up or beat, no matter who was in. Did the game footage provide the coaching staff enough information to work out some of the kinks during this week or will we see a repeat of the same lackluster performances?
More concerning than the poor play of the offensive line was the defensive unit as a whole. I have seen words thrown around like “disastrous”, “poor”, “unmotivated”, and “lethargic” to describe the effort of the defense against the Eagles. The performance from Greg Toler became the latest to be magnified by fans and critics alike. He has a history of getting burned, but he is the starting cornerback opposite of the elite Vontae Davis, yet he got burned by a rookie playing his first preseason game. Ouch! This will be very interesting to watch to see how much, if any, improvement he was able to make. Amarlo Herrera was one of the bright spots and I’m sure we’ll continue to see him get more time that he deserves.
Finally, I was mostly impressed by a Colts running back wearing #34 in Josh Robinson (most of us are still trying to remove the bad taste of the former #34, Trent Richardson left in our mouths). Robinson came in and looked the part of a starting NFL back and we are sure to see more of what he can do. Also, look for Vick Ballard to get some playing time in the game as he looks to be finally getting back on the field after almost two injury ladened years. So much has changed after his impressive rookie season as he looks to be on the outside trying to get a chance back on the roster after looking like a surefire starter after his rookie campaign. Some may think he is “damaged goods” at this point and don’t expect much. The fan inside me is looking for him to receive a fair shot, but as I mentioned earlier, time and injury really have caused his stock to drop drastically.
I didn’t mention the receiving unit as most of the spots have seemingly been determined already. The only question remains how many will the team keep? Right now, barring injuries, the players who I think are locks to make the roster are T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett. That leaves Duron Carter, Vincent Brown, Griff Whalen, Quan Bray, and Ryan Lankford fighting it out for one or maybe two spots. Look for these guys to get some significant playing time against the Bears.
One last thing to remember is that the teams practiced against each other prior to the game so it should be a case where the teams are familiar with each. It shouldn’t be the case like the Eagles where it is hard to prepare because of the offense they ran. The Colts have played against the Bears so they will know some tendencies from the practices they held against one another. Look for the offense to come out and set the stage for the night. An opening touchdown would be a welcome sign as to where the team is as a collective unit.