ANDERSON, Ind. — By no fault of their own, the Indianapolis Colts already lost one prime opportunity to see a good chunk of their 90-man roster in actual game action for the first time all year.
So Saturday's second chance at a first preseason game for Indianapolis will undoubtedly be a welcome sight for those playing between the lines, as well as those on the sidelines.
But the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium will also be a huge opportunity for the Colts' player personnel staff, which has been anticipating getting the chance to evaluate the team's roster beyond the practice field for quite a while now.
"We take it as an opportunity to evaluate, especially the back-end of our roster, to see who is going to, you know, 'adapt or die,' as Coach (Pagano) says," Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson said. "So the (preseason) games are all about showing up there and producing on the film, so that we can figure out who the heck to keep."
Grigson and his staff have been tested at times throughout this year's training camp in Anderson University, where some injuries have brought about changes at a couple positions, most notably at safety and along the defensive line.
Whether those injuries are just day-to-day issues or more long-term losses, it's up to the talent evaluators on staff to ensure the team doesn't miss a beat, no matter who is missing.
"We've had some losses — you know, guys getting banged up — and that's to be expected, because we're pushing these guys out here," Grigson said. "It's kind of the approach this year, to come out here, know that we're going to go to work, and Coach (Pagano) has done a good job of making sure that these guys are motivated every day to put the work in, because without the hard work and without the grind, you're not going to see the results or build a culture we're after."
The Colts' theme for the 2016 season has been evident on T-shirts worn by both Grigson and Pagano at certain points throughout camp: "Humble & Hungry." Grigson said he's seen both qualities throughout the roster during training camp, including within the 2016 Colts draft class, which has responded well to an overload of information since the beginning of the offseason workout program.
"Now you're getting a sense of who will push through things," he said. "We're seeing that toughness and kind of that mentality that we drafted Antonio Morrison for — that's coming forth. He just is a young guy that just needs time. T.J. (Green), the athleticism, that's shown right away — his speed and his length. And he's shown some toughness, too, coming back from some things, and (is) making plays."
At its simplest of terms, Grigson said "it comes down to making plays" for the rookies and younger players on the team, and Saturday's game against the Bills will be another huge stepping stone for those guys trying to make an impression.
"They realize that, to be able to make plays or to be able to put the kind of film out there you want, you've got to know what the heck you're doing, or otherwise you're going to be hampered by that lack of knowledge and know-how to present those traits that you did on the college film," Grigson said. "So I think as a whole, we're happy with the progress, but again, this is a grind."
It's also a grind for those creating and shaping the roster.
"Right now is such a critical time for myself and the operation, because there's so much in flux right now," Grigson said. "Like I said, we're dealing with a lot of dings — a lot of injuries — that we're trying to maneuver the roster as best we can to be able to function for the coaches, but also cultivate the talent on the 90 — even the back end of the 90.
"It's been really hot — it's as hot as I can remember here in Anderson — and it's day in and day out, that sun beating down on these guys," he continued. "So I think the whole kind of mindset from the beginning with Coach (Pagano) is about separating the wheat from the chaff, and that's what's going on here."