2019 Colts Preseason Preview: Colts/Bills, Week 1

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WESTFIELD, Ind. — The Indianapolis Colts (0-0) and Buffalo Bills (0-0) get their 2019 preseason started out in New York on Thursday evening, giving fans relief from months and months of being without football.

In this first preseason matchup, it is likely that many established starters either play very few snaps if at all, so it will be a great chance to get a look at each team's rookies and other budding, young players.

Here is everything you need to know to get you ready for Thursday's preseason kickoff.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

  • Thursday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. ET
  • Buffalo, N.Y.; New Era Field
  • TV: FOX59 (WXIN) — Greg Rakestraw (play-by-play), Rick Venturi (color) and Larra Overton (sideline)
  • To find out what games will be on in your area, check here.
  • Radio: WFNI “1070 The Fan” and WLHK “HANK FM” — Matt Taylor (play-by-play), Jim Sorgi (color) and Jeffrey Gorman (sideline)

ALL-TIME SERIES

  • Bills lead, 32-37-1. In the preseason, the teams are tied 4-4.
  • Last game — Week 7 of 2018. Colts won, 37-5. The Colts won the last preseason matchup in 2016, 19-18.

COACHING STAFF

Colts:

  • HC Frank Reich
  • OC Nick Sirianni
  • DC Matt Eberflus
  • STC Bubba Ventrone

Bills:

  • HC Sean McDermott
  • OC Brian Daboll
  • DC Leslie Frazier
  • STC Heath Farwell

KEY NEW FACES

Colts:

Bills:

  • WR Cole Beasley/John Brown/Andre Roberts/David Sills
  • OL Jon Feliciano/Cody Ford/Spencer Long/Mitch Morse/Ty Nsekhe/Quinton Spain/LaAdrian Waddle
  • RB Frank Gore/Devin Singletary/T.J. Yeldon
  • CB Kevin Johnson
  • TE Dawson Knox/Tyler Kroft
  • DT Ed Oliver

OTHER SIGNIFICANT CHANGES

Colts:

  • Overall, this was a pretty quiet offseason for the Colts for a change. It was about building onto and shaping the current roster rather than shaking things up or making sweeping changes.
  • Former starting receivers Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman both departed in free agency, and veterans Mike Mitchell and Al Woods also were not re-signed by the team. Offensive lineman Matt Slauson retired following a 10-year career.
  • The Colts did do two big things through acquisitions, and that was to add dynamic playmaking on offense in the form of wide receivers Parris Campbell and Devin Funchess, and they added a ton of speed on defense with Ben Banogu, Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed.

Bills:

  • The offseason was much more about addition for Buffalo, although they did see some familiar faces depart in guard John Miller and tight end Charles Clay, who both joined other teams as free agents, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who retired after 13 seasons with the team.
  • In general, the team is obviously loading up around second-year quarterback Josh Allen as it added a ton of offensive linemen, running backs and receivers to protect and complement him.

STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH

  • Hitting Someone Else — Training camp is more than halfway through, and after being in pads for several of those days in 85-plus-degree weather, tempers start to get shorter. With an obvious discouragement from tussling with your own teammates, players on both teams are almost certainly ready to hit guys in another uniform. “Yeah, totally. Yeah, you could feel it out there today too," Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters recently about players being ready to go against a different team. "So yeah, it is that time. We will go to Buffalo and have a chance to be tested in that way.”
  • Who Won't Be Playing For The Colts — It's already been the plan for several key players for the Colts not to be playing in this first matchup. Outside of quarterback Andrew Luck, we don't know many of the others who won't play. However, this will be a great opportunity for the players behind those who won't play to earn important in-game reps. Asked specifically about a few players, Reich said he expects quarterback Jacoby Brissett to play about a quarter, wide receiver Deon Cain — who will be making his official return after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason opener last year and missing the 2018 season — will play about a quarter or a quarter and a half (see more below), while running back Marlon Mack is not expected to play.
  • Versatility Of The Offense — Because of the coaching, the quarterback, the line and the weapons the Colts have, their offense should be dynamic and capable of doing just about anything an offense can do. We likely won't see that in full swing during the preseason because of a lack of scheming and playing time for key players, but the diversity of talent on the offensive side of the ball should be plenty evident.
  • Time To Cut The Defensive Youngsters Loose — The Colts have some talented, hungry rookies and other young defenders who have been showing out in camp, and Thursday is our first chance to see them in a live game situation. "Yeah, you are looking at really just the young guys this first time out, you want to see those guys perform and tackle. You want to see if they can execute and do the basic fundamentals of each defense that we call," defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said about what he's looking for on Thursday. "We’re not going to run a lot defenses like we did last preseason and that’s by design. We want to see guys play their fundamentals (and) techniques at the d-line level, linebacker level and then the secondary level. Then, can they make plays to their relative positions? Can they do that? So that’s just really basic, real simple. Then from there, looking at the hustle – the hustle and the hitting. That’s a big part of our defense and that’s going to be on display here Thursday. We’ll see how good they do."
  • Will Development Translate To The Game Field? — There are some young guys who we've seen clear development from in camp. Some that quickly come to mind are Josh Andrews, Daurice Fountain, Krishawn Hogan, Al-Quadin Muhammad, George Odum and Kemoko Turay. Will we see the growth they've shown on the practice field, on the actual game field on Thursday? For those who are playing, it sounds like a pretty good possibility.
  • Deon Cain's Return — Colts' second-year receiver Deon Cain tore an ACL in last year's preseason opener after turning heads throughout training camp to that point. With him now back in the lineup, this game represents an opportunity to check-off any mental hurdle he may have about his previous injury as well as a chance to show what he's capable of as a player. “Yeah, no, we’d like Deon to get out there and play a quarter, a quarter and a half, something like that, would be the plan for Deon," Reich said Tuesday. "And I think it’s important for him, and he’s ready. Obviously we wouldn’t put him out there if we didn’t think he was ready, and it’s that time, and looking forward to getting him out there.”

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

While I would love to see particular individual matchups, there are certain key players on both sides who we don’t know whether or not they’ll play Thursday. Therefore, here are some position groups to keep an eye on.

  • Colts WRs vs. Bills CBs — We've mentioned guys like Cain, Fountain and Hogan, but this is also a big opportunity for Marcus Johnson. He suffered his own season-ending injury last year in Week 6. He's looked smooth in camp, and the team was very high on him last year before his ankle injury occurred. Which Bills corners will be playing is up in the air, but they have some definite talent in that group.
  • Colts DEs vs. Bills OTs — The Bills have a ton of new players on the offensive line, so it's hard to tell what that lineup will be on Thursday, but it is a chance for us to see Colts rookie defensive end Gerri Green, Muhammad, Carroll Phillips and Turay take on Buffalo's tackles. Each has had their moments in Colts Camp, but you can't get a good grasp on offensive and defensive line play until you see it in a game. We may even get our first look at newcomer Justin Houston in a Colts uniform if he plays.
  • Colts LBs vs. Bills RBs/TEs — We know what linebackers Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker bring to the table for the Colts, but what about rookies Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed? They've earned quite a few first-team reps during camp, and matched with Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin could form a potent linebacker corps during the preseason.

INJURY UPDATE

Since official pregame injury reports are not required until the regular season, these are simply players who have been declared to be out indefinitely, for a period of time beyond this game or have missed some practice recently. Whether or not they will play is not yet known.

Colts:

  • LB/DE Ben Banogu (hamstring), WR Parris Campbell (hamstring), TE Jack Doyle (oblique), TE Eric Ebron (not disclosed), WR Penny Hart (hamstring), C Ryan Kelly (shoulder), QB Andrew Luck (calf), DE Jabaal Sheard (knee), TE Ross Travis (not disclosed), K Adam Vinatieri (not disclosed) and RB Jordan Wilkins (not disclosed).

Bills:

  • Active/Physically Unable to Perform — TE Tyler Kroft (foot)
  • TE Jason Croom (hamstring), G Jon Feliciano (shoulder), E.J. Gaines (groin/hip), S Micah Hyde (neck), TE Dawson Knox (hamstring), Spencer Long (knee), Mitch Morse (concussion), LaAdrian Waddle (quad-IR)

REFEREE ASSIGNMENT

BETTING LINE

RETURNING STATS LEADERS

Colts:

  • Passing — QB Andrew Luck (4,593 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Marlon Mack (908 yards)
  • Receiving — WR T.Y. Hilton (1,270 yards)
  • Touchdowns — TE Eric Ebron (14)
  • Tackles — LB Darius Leonard (163)
  • Sacks — DL Denico Autry (9.0)
  • Interceptions — CB Kenny Moore II (3)

Bills:

  • Passing — QB Josh Allen (2,074 yards)
  • Rushing — RB Josh Allen (631 yards)
  • Receiving — WR Zay Jones (652 yards)
  • Touchdowns — QB Josh Allen (8)
  • Tackles — LB Tremaine Edmunds (121)
  • Sacks — DE Jerry Hughes (7.0)
  • Interceptions — S Jordan Poyer (4)

COMPARING 2018 STATS

Colts:

  • Total offense — 7th (386.2 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 5th (27.1 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 6th (278.8 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — 1st (18)
  • Running offense — 20th (107.4 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 1st (48.6%)
  • Red zone offense — 5th (67.1%)
  • Total defense — 11th (339.4 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 10th (21.5 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 16th (237.8 YPG)
  • Sacks — Tied-19th (38)
  • Running defense — 8th (101.6 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 23rd (41%)
  • Red zone defense — 11th (55.1%)
  • Time of possession — 18th (30:05)
  • Turnover differential — Tied-13th (2)

Bills:

  • Total offense — 30th (298.6 YPG)
  • Scoring offense — 30th (16.8 PPG)
  • Passing offense — 31st (174.6 YPG)
  • Sacks allowed — Tied-17th (41)
  • Running offense — 9th (124.0 YPG)
  • Third down offense — 30th (32%)
  • Red zone offense — 16th (59.5%)
  • Total defense — 2nd (294.1 YPG)
  • Scoring defense — 18th (23.4 PPG)
  • Passing defense — 1st (179.2 YPG)
  • Sacks — 26th (36)
  • Running defense — 16th (114.9 YPG)
  • Third down defense — 8th (36%)
  • Red zone defense — 30th (70.8%)
  • Time of possession — 16th (30:29)
  • Turnover differential — 24th (-5)

NOTES AND QUOTES

  • Reich on players still needing to compile preseason snaps despite not playing in the first game: “Yeah, I mean we do feel like we get a lot – as we talk about all the time – full-speed reps out here, game-speed reps out here. I do think the preseason games are the best opportunity for the youngest players to really shine. But it is really a good test for every player, right? You are competing so you have got to show yourself well.”
  • Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on how much playing time he needs in the preseason: "However much Frank gives me (laughing).” Hilton then answered a question about if he needs a certain amount of snaps or if we could hit the ground running in Week 1 of the regular season: “I showed y’all I could do that when I didn’t practice, so it’s cool (laughing).”
  • Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni on how he evaluates players in this upcoming preseason game: “We’re looking for what players can do with the plays that are being called, with the plays they’ve been running in camp. We’re just looking to see how they execute, how they execute their techniques. How they execute, if they can win their one-on-one battles. And if they’re busting their butts and really knowing we can count on them to give everything they’ve got. You’re right, it’s not (about) the score. We always want to win. I think everybody has that innate want-to to win but we are evaluating every player on every play just like we are in practice. It’s just a little bit bigger stage, on TV, with lights on and sometimes we see guys that we don’t know if we’re that high on and then bam, they do something that’s pretty incredible in that situation. So, besides it being live, as far as live tackling, it’s really very similar to how we’re evaluating every single day out at practice.”
  • Friday, Aug. 2 — The Colts signed free agent defensive end Dadi Nicolas and placed running back Spencer Ware on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List.
  • Saturday, Aug. 3 — The Colts signed free agent tight end Zach Conque and waived-injured tight end Billy Brown. Brown cleared waivers and has been reverted to the Colts' IR list.
  • Monday, Aug. 5 — The Colts claimed running back D’Onta Foreman off waivers (from the Houston Texans) and waived running back Keith Ford.
  • Thursday, Aug. 7 — The Colts brought back running back Aca'Cedric Ware and placed wide receiver Steve Ishmael on Injured Reserve.

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