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Colts-Bears preview: Roster battles coming into focus in second preseason game

The Colts will host the Bears for their lone home preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m.


After two joint practices with the Chicago Bears closed out training camp, the Colts still have plenty of questions to be answered ahead of Aug. 29's roster cut-down to 53 players. Over the next six days, the Colts will face the Chicago Bears, then travel to Philadelphia for a joint practice and preseason game – time that will be critical in solidifying the team's initial roster.

A few things, position-by-position, to keep an eye on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium:

Quarterbacks: Beginning this season, teams are allowed to carry an emergency quarterback on gameday who does not count against the limit of 46 active players. That quarterback, though, must be on the 53-man roster – so the next few games will be important for Sam Ehlinger, who completed eight of nine passes for 72 yards last weekend against the Buffalo Bills.

Running backs: Deon Jackson and Evan Hull took reps with the first-team offense last weekend, and there's been strong competition with Jake Funk, Kenyan Drake and Jason Huntley for touches and/or roster spots.

Wide receivers: With Ashton Dulin out for the season, there should be a heated battle over the next few weeks among the group of Mike Strachan, Malik Turner, Juwann Winfree, Amari Rodgers, Vyncint Smith, Breshad Perriman, Cody Case and Tyler Adams to be the Colts' fifth and/or sixth wide receiver. Dulin, who re-upped with the Colts this spring, has proved himself to be an ace special teams player in addition to being a valuable speed threat on offense.

Tight ends: Tom Manning's unit has been in flux for a large chunk of training camp with Mo Alie-Cox, Jelani Woods, Drew Ogletree and Will Mallory missing time at points. Both roster spots and depth chart pecking orders don't feel settled here yet.

Offensive line: The first-team Colts' offensive line performed well during training camp, and the team is sorting through the depth behind that starting five. Guys like fourth-round rookie tackle Blake Freeland and the versatile Arlington Hambright – who played left tackle in Buffalo and slid into right guard after Will Fries exited practice this week – are among the guys to keep an eye over the next week.

Defensive line: Building an eight-deep rotation is a priority for the Colts, with defensive ends Adetomiwa Adebawore, Samson Ebukam, Khalid Kareem, Titus Leo, Tyquan Lewis, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Dayo Odeyingbo and Kwity Paye part of that group. At defensive tackle, McTelvin Agim, Taven Bryan, Eric Johnson II and Caleb Simpson are battling to rotate in with DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart.

Linebackers: The Colts feel good about their three starters – Zaire Franklin, EJ Speed and Shaquille Leonard – and are working to find depth behind those guys. Segun Olubi sustained a concussion in Buffalo last weekend and didn't participate in practice this week, while Grant Stuard has been a physical presence during training camp. JoJo Domann and Cameron McGrone are back for his second year with the Colts, too, and undrafted free agents Liam Anderson and Donavan Mutin are in the mix, too.

Cornerbacks: We've seen flashes from the five primary guys competing to be the Colts' top outside corners – Darrell Baker Jr., Dallis Flowers, JuJu Brents, Darius Rush and Jaylon Jones have all had their moments in training camp practices and last weekend's preseason opener. That's a competition that'll continue, perhaps even into the regular season with four of those five players having never played on defense in an NFL game.

Safeties: Nick Cross has played both strong and free safety during training camp, and the team recently brought in veterans Ronnie Harrison and Teez Tabor to compete along with Henry Black, Marcel Dabo and Trevor Denbow.

Special teams: If you really want to know how the Colts are going to fill out their 53-man roster, watch who makes plays on punt and kickoff coverage units.

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