ANDERSON – The club's last appearance in Lucas Oil Stadium was an emotional day as Chuck Pagano returned to the sidelines after battling successfully against leukemia.
His club already had nailed down a playoff spot, yet went out and beat Houston, 28-16.
Nearly 40 players are making their first-ever appearance in Lucas Oil Stadium with the club on Sunday, and many have gone through approximately 20 practices since training camp opened at Anderson University on July 27.
Here are SEVEN THINGS TO LOOK FOR OR THAT THE COLTS HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH ON SUNDAY:
BE IN SEAT EARLY – Chuck Pagano said earlier in the week that the top players would get action, but not of the extended nature. Look for some to get no more than 7-10 plays. A nice sustained drive offensively with a couple of third-down conversions and maybe a chunk play, plus some points, would be ideal. Two three-and-outs defensively would bring a smile to Greg Manusky's face and across the board with his defensive staff.
WORTH THE HASSEL – Ryan Grigson imported Matt Hasselbeck this off-season for depth at quarterback. Hasselbeck is the second backup QB with Super Bowl pedigree the Colts have had this century. He joins Mark Rypien with that distinction. More importantly, Hasselbeck backs up Andrew Luck, and Owner and CEO Jim Irsay trumpeted the move earlier this year by noting the value of insurance policies. Hasselbeck is comfortable in the offense and has worked well in camp. Colts fans will get a chance to see him run some offense against Buffalo.
HIGH FUNCTIONALITY – With a number of players beyond the starters participating and with new coordinators in Pep Hamilton and Tom McMahon (special teams), seeing the team perform the basic functions and executions is worth noting. There is no reason to expect problems, but Hamilton mentioned this week just wanting to observe operations running smoothly. I bet things will be fine, but this is the first dress rehearsal.
PHYSICALITY – More than any other word associated with training camp, this is it (Is it even a word? Where's Howard Cosell?). Chuck Pagano says everything starts in the trenches. Grigson and Co. spent the off-season stocking both lines and adding bulk on every unit. Players have spoken all week about wanting to hit outside competition. One game is not a referendum on if this has been accomplished. It will be a season-long proving ground, but everyone around the team is ready to see this on display.
RECEIVER MIX –Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton seem as entrenched as can be. LaVon Brazill has worked in camp, but he certainly is not in the plans for four regular season games. Griff Whalen has been one of the hits in camp, and he had a solid preseason last year until getting hurt. Can he continue to make himself valuable? Chuck Pagano has noticed so far. Jeremy Kelley, Nathan Palmer, Jabin Sambrano and Lanear Sampson have worked hard to this point. Like other units, the final answer on how many will make it is up in the air. Sunday is the first chance to see them make impressions.
STAY HEALTHY – The injury bug has been in camp, perhaps residing as the 91st entity on the roster. The Colts are thin in some positions because of injuries and had to adjust the roster accordingly this week. These games do matter greatly because of the evaluation involved, but the organization does not want a setback in terms of health.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE MOMENT –Some players are setting foot in Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time. Reggie Wayne is the only Colt to play in a game that was not a sellout (Jacksonville, 2003). Colts fans have been on hand and in full voice for 87 straight sellouts, while inhabiting every nook and cranny of Lucas Oil Stadium and the RCA Dome for 111 of the last 112 games. The players and entire organization tip their caps and helmets in thanking fans for such support. Colts fans have seen many great moments in the past – some in the recent past, as in 2012. It's a new year and we show continued thanks to true blue supporters.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
Chuck Pagano (on how the staff looks at Buffalo game-planning-wise in camp)"We are going to familiarize ourselves as a staff and obviously as a team with their personnel, got a coaching change obviously so scheme-wise we'll take a look at it, but until you get to really the third preseason game, I think that is when you really get into a game-plan mode, game-week mode, kind of indoctrinate, especially for your young guys, the process of a typical game week as far as preparing for an opponent. Like I just told them, we are always worried about us, the enemy is always in your own camp and so we are excited to play a game. We got a really good football team coming in here so it's going to be a great challenge and it will be a great barometer to see where we are at."