INDIANAPOLIS – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ preseason meeting with the Detroit Lions Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium:
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Hopefully folks were able to find their way to Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield Wednesday and/or Thursday for the joint practices between the Colts and Lions. That’s when we were able to see 1s vs. 1s for an extended period of time. Matt Ryan and his offense were exposed to different looks and skillsets by the Lions defense, and Gus Bradley’s defense was tested by Jared Goff, who not that long ago directed the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl.
A byproduct of those two spirited practices? Few front-line players are expected to play Saturday afternoon. That was agreed upon by Frank Reich and Dan Campbell when they were structuring the joint practices.
And that reduces Saturday to a preseason game only diehard fans, family and friends of players or members of each team’s personnel staff can truly enjoy. Rosters must be trimmed to 80 on Tuesday, and decisions must be made regarding the non-starters.
The final roster cut to 53, by the way, is Aug. 30.
Reich mentioned a few starters might see action, primarily because of depth at various positions. Maybe rookie Nick Cross or veteran Rodney McLeod at safety. Maybe left tackle Matt Pryor or right guard Danny Pinter, although we’d keep both on the bench.
For those who missed the QB rotation news, Nick Foles is expected to play about a quarter, followed by Sam Ehlinger for more than a quarter, followed by rookie Jack Coan.
And we feel it our duty to mention this: Camp is all about competition, but Foles is the backup and Ehlinger sits at No. 3. End of discussion.
Sorting out the WRs
We’re in favor of having the top four wideouts – Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, rookie Alec Pierce, Ashton Dulin – go through pregame workouts, then trade their helmets for baseball caps. Maybe the team believes Pierce needs as much exposure as possible, but he had two solid days of work against the Lions.
With the Sept. 11 opener at Houston looming, Reich, Chris Ballard and their personnel staff must settle on that fifth wideout. No one has emerged thus far, and that’s a good thing for Mike Strachan. The 2021 7th-round pick missed the first 10 practices while recovering from offseason knee surgery but joined practice Tuesday. He thrust himself into the discussion with three strong days.
Time is running out for others to make a difference: Dezmon Patmon, Keke Coutee, D.J. Montgomery, DeMichael Harris, Samson Nacua, Ethan Fernea. Coutee probably won’t play against the Lions after suffering a groin injury in the opener at Buffalo.
Sorting out the TEs
First things first. It was difficult watching Drew Ogletree go down and clutch his right knee in Wednesday’s practice. It appeared bad at the time, and it was: a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He’s done for the season and faces a nine-month rehab.
On a grander scale, Ogletree’s loss is a major hit to the position. And that magnifies the importance of Kylen Granson and rookie Jelani Woods continuing to develop heading into the season opener. Mo Alie-Cox can’t do it by himself.
A reminder of the other tight ends on the roster: Michael Jacobson and rookie Nikola Kalinic. This is a position that might be addressed when rosters are cut league-wide to 53.
There were some rough moments for the No. 2 offensive line against the Lions. Too much pressure on the edges allowed, and too much penetration up the middle. The only backup who seemed to hold his own was rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann.
The idea over the next two preseason games and three camp practices isn’t for position coach Chris Strausser to mold a solid second unit. It’s to settle on two or three players who can be reliable backups. It will help if veteran Dennis Kelly is able to return after having a recent procedure on a knee. He and Raimann would represent acceptable depth at tackle. But who emerges as viable interior depth? Will Fries? Alex Mollette? Wesley French? Josh Seltzner?
If the Colts hold out their starting five – Pryor, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Pinter, Braden Smith – the others will have ample opportunity to step up, or step back.
We’ve been impressed with the starting defensive line for quite some time: Yannick Ngakoue, Grover Stewart, DeForest Buckner and Kwity Paye. The strength of the unit, though, will be the veracity of the depth.
Kameron Cline and Ifeadi Odenigbo flashed as pass rushers at Buffalo. So did Dayo Odeyingbo. Tyquan Lewis didn’t play last week, but he might return to the field Saturday for the first time since tearing his right patellar tendon in October. Lewis, by the way, hasn’t practiced like someone coming back from such a major injury.
Someone has an opportunity to be a top backup on the interior, perhaps rookie Curtis Brooks.
Running back depth
Jonathan Taylor won’t step on the field during the preseason, and we’d keep Nyheim Hines out against the Lions. The No. 3 spot has yet to be determined, but we’re looking at Phillip Lindsay. The former Pro Bowl back for the Denver Broncos – two 1,000-yard seasons, remember? – has shown excellent vision and acceleration during camp. Deon Jackson has had ball-security issues but could be in the discussion for a roster spot if the Colts opt to carry four backs.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.