Final Preseason Game Means Final Chance For Young Players to Make Statement
INDIANAPOLIS — With the starters not expected to play much in their final preseason game, the Colts will get a final chance to evaluate some of their younger players fighting to make the team.
On Monday, Head Coach Jim Caldwell said the team's first-unit offense and defense would see "limited play" against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday.
"What that limited means, I don't know," Caldwell said. "It could be hardly any for some and a little for others, so it just depends."
But what it does clearly spell out is an abundance of playing time for the team's reserves and rookies. With a short week ahead, the Colts will try to simultaneously correct some of their mistakes from last week while getting a good, long look at some of their younger players this week.
"Whoever is out there, we expect to play well and to play to our standards, which are lofty," he said. "Regardless of who's in the game, we anticipate them to play well."
Like every NFL team, the Colts are forced to deal with roster cuts this week, which means Thursday's game will partially serve as their final evaluation period. Teams must trim their roster down to 75 players Tuesday before narrowing it down to 53 by Saturday.
The Colts on Monday made four moves to inch closer to Tuesday's roster limit. The club placed third-year defensive back Michael Coe, second-year defensive end Curtis Johnson and first-year defensive end Rudolph Hardie on waived-injured, and waived rookie free agent tight end Colin Cloherty.
Caldwell said "fortunately or unfortunately," this is not the first time he has had to deal with cuts as a head coach. This spring, before Organized Team Activities, the Colts had 88 players on roster and had to make eight cuts before training camp's 80-man roster limit. The Colts coach said making cuts is difficult and is not routine, as some might expect. In addition to factoring in injuries and depth charts, Caldwell said he also has to deal with human emotion.
"Every time you're dealing with aspirations, goals and dreams of men with a lot of courage, who play this game for the love of the game, it's not an easy day when you have to tell that man his services are no longer needed," Caldwell said.
When dealing with such emotions, Caldwell said he likes to personally talk one-on-one with a player the team is forced to cut ties with.
"Rarely does a circumstance pop up when I don't," Caldwell said. "I want to talk to them, that's something I think is very, very important."
MARLIN BACK IN THE SECONDARY
After sitting out the first two games while recovering from a knee injury sustained last season, Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson made his preseason debut against the Detroit Lions on Saturday.
Jackson began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and has made steady progress towards getting back on the field since being activated on August 11. In limited action against the Lions, Jackson said he felt good.
"I'm in a good spot," Jackson said. "I moved around (Saturday) and have been trying to battle tendonitis which comes with doing more repetitions each and every week, so I'm just trying to ease back into things."
A key for Jackson, as he knows, is patience. In camp, Jackson said it was hard to watch his teammates going at it every day while he was sidelined, and added he would have to be cautious of playing overaggressively when he returned to the field.
But the coaching staff is gradually working Jackson back into the fold. On Saturday, instead of starting at cornerback, Jackson played as the team's nickel back on passing downs. While in the game, he registered two tackles, something he said he needed to accomplish.
"It was important from the standpoint of just tackling," he said. "It's different; it's more than just seeing things in practice. And then when you get out here in a live situation and they are really running and they are coming at you, you really have to be able to read the play."
The fifth-year veteran said the extra work he put in while sidelined during camp and practice paid off in the game Saturday.
"I knew that I would be able to move fine because I moved well in practice," Jackson said. "It's difficult dealing with tendonitis, but I felt good out there."
Jackson's coach also is pleased with the cornerback's progress and said he looked good against the Lions.
"He did a nice job (on Saturday)," Caldwell said. "It is great to see him back out there."
FOURTH TIME'S THE CHARM
Jim Sorgi wanted to play in his home state against the Lions on Saturday, but the coaching staff ultimately decided to hold the recovering quarterback out one more game.
This Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sorgi will play, according to Caldwell.
"This week we want to get him some time in the ballgame and get his feet wet," Caldwell said. "We want to get him back in the swing of things."
Despite the uncertainty leading up the Detroit game, Caldwell said the team decided before the game that, "Jim wasn't going to see any time."
"We felt he was a bit tender. We felt we could finish a game out with (Sorgi) if an emergency occurred, but we planned to let Curtis (Painter) go the distance as long as nothing disastrous occurred," he said.
With the starters slotted to play little, if any against Cincinnati, there will be ample opportunities for Sorgi and Painter to play this week. But despite missing the team's first three preseason games, Caldwell said Sorgi would not be trying to make up for lost time in the fourth.
"It will be more of a function of if he is able to move in the realm of the offense," he said.