When: 7 PM EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium
How: WNDY23, Vectren Radio Network
The Indianapolis Colts will take on one of their Midwestern rivals today, when they play the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are 1-2 this preseason, and the Colts are still winless. However, as the 2005 Indianapolis Colts can attest, a team that went winless in 5 postseason games (now shortened), that hardly matters, as they eventually finished the regular season with a regular season record of 14-2.
Still, it’s the final tune-up for this Colts’ squad because after this, each game matters. It’s also the last chance to showcase the talents for many players on the roster bubble, as the roster must be trimmed from 75 to 53 by 4 PM Saturday.
Things to Watch for:
1) Cohesion of the Colts’ Interior Offensive Line: It’s easy to forget that the Colts’ young interior has 12 career starts between rookies LG Jack Mewhort and C Jonotthan Harrison, as well as second-year RG Hugh Thornton. They’ll face a tall task tonight going up against one of the better defensive lines in football, anchored by 2x All-Pro DT Geno Atkins, and the rock solid NT Domata Peko.
2) Who’s Behind Herron: With Richardson still a question mark and Bradshaw’s injury history, it may be prudent for the Colts to carry 4 RB’s. Undrafted rookie free agent RB, Zurlon Tipton, is in the driver’s seat after a strong bounceback performance last weekend against the Saints, in which he rushed for 33 yards on 8 carries (4.1 ypc). He showed some burst in actual game action that we had previously not seen outside training camp scrimmages. It doesn’t make much sense for the Colts to “ride their horses” too much in Richardson, Bradshaw, and even to a lesser extent, Herron, so Tipton will likely get a lot of carries tonight to further show his stuff.
3) 4th CB: The Top 3 CB positions are locked up with Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Darius Butler, but who’s the 4th CB in line and which guys will ultimately stick on the 53? Josh Gordy is the incumbent from last season, but Marcus Burley and Sheldon Price have seen extensive playing time this preseason. The talented, undrafted rookie from Florida, Loucheiz Purifoy, was the early favorite to win the job after impressing in training camp, but he’s now listed as 4th on the depth chart and his kick return prowess alone may not be enough to save his spot.
4) Chemistry of Colts’ Receivers: While Luck likely won’t play more than a half, expect see a lot of Chandler Harnish folks (who must convince the Colts that it’s worth keeping 3 quarterbacks, unlikely at this point), it’s still imperative that the offense flow during #12’s few drives. He’s still ultimately developing rapport with his young receivers like T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener, recovering what he had with veteran Reggie Wayne, and igniting sparks with free agent acquisition, Hakeem Nicks. It’s also hard to believe, but it’s entirely possible that someone like Griff Whalen could be on the roster bubble. My guess is he’ll survive, but it will be a bit of a luxury for the Colts to carry 6 receivers in 2014. Whalen’s kick return ability may be his saving grace.
5) Zach Kerr: Kerr has been the best 3-4 DE overall in the NFL in his 3 preseason games, according to the advanced stats provided by ProFootballFocus. The 6’2″, 335 behemoth, an undrafted rookie out of Delaware, is the story you simply love to read about in the preseason. He’s had 10 tackles and 1 sack already in 3 games, dancing his way to the opponent’s backfield. He’s shown incredible quickness and agility for a big body of his size. While he’s a lock to make the roster at this point, he should see quite a bit of playing time with the second unit tonight. He could be a special gem for this team going forward. Outside of RB Boom Herron, he’s been one of the big surprises for this team and a star of the preseason.