INDIANAPOLIS — Much of the offseason — and, really, the preseason — is spent trying to develop depth for a football team.
With rosters expanded to 90 players — almost double the size of a normal regular season roster — those towards the bottom of the depth chart at various positions get plenty of opportunities to show their worth and earn a spot.
But Week 3 of the preseason, traditionally, is all about the starters.
That doesn't change for the Indianapolis Colts, who take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in both teams' third preseason game of the year.
Traditionally, most starters play at least a half of football in Week 3 of the preseason, and Colts general manager Ryan Grigson says he's more than ready to see where his No. 1 units stack up against a talented Eagles team's starters.
"That's really the pinnacle of your evaluation process at this point — to be able to see your best against their best," Grigson said this week. "We all want to have a good showing and compete out there and put out a good product on the field."
The Philadelphia defense, particularly, is expected to give fits to opposing offenses all year. Under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the Eagles have plenty of talent across the board, but just need to be able to bring it all together to avoid succumbing to many of the problems that plagued their defense last year, when they ranked 28th in points allowed and 30th in the NFL in total yards allowed.
Fletcher Cox should play a big part of that, as the talented defensive lineman — who signed a reported $63 million contract this offseason — will have his best opportunity to get in meaningful preseason reps on Saturday against Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense.
"That defense, their front is pretty serious," Grigson said. "And there's some really good talent on the defensive side of the ball. So … it's going to be a great test, and it's going to give us an indication of where we're at at this point."On Cromartie
Facing potentially serious depth issues at the cornerback position after No. 1 corner Vontae Davis went down with an ankle injury, the Colts this week signed veteran free agent Antonio Cromartie to bolster their secondary.
The Colts agreed to terms with free agent cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
In 10 NFL seasons, the 32-year-old Cromartie has collected 403 total tackles, 114 passes defensed, 31 interceptions — third-most among active NFL cornerbacks — with five fumble recoveries, three defensive touchdowns and two forced fumbles.
Despite not being with a team throughout the offseason, and missing key training camp and preseason reps, Grigson said Cromartie is "going to have to" be ready for the Colts come Week 1's matchup against the Detroit Lions.
"He's a formidable corner," Grigson said of the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Cromartie. "You know, we brought him in for a workout to make sure and did the medical, and he's next man up in that respect. And you can't dispute his length and his play history."
With so many injuries at the cornerback popping up over the last few weeks, Grigson said it's been difficult to really get a proper evaluation of those fighting for spots at the position.
"We have so many guys that are nicked up and that had been banged up that it's hard to even have a competition, to be honest with you," Grigson said. "We just need people that can be available."