INDIANAPOLIS – Finally, after some waiting, the first preseason game for the Colts is here.
The Colts will open up the 2016 preseason in Buffalo, where they also began the 2015 regular season.
What should fans be looking for when the Colts start their preseason slate on Saturday night?
1. Starting Time?
-Based off the past couple of preseason openers for the Colts, expect a series or two of work for Andrew Luck and the main starters. Last year, Luck played 12 snaps in Philly, exiting in the middle of the second series. In past years, the Colts have kept some starters in a bit longer to begin the preseason.
2. Offensive Line Look
-The starting lineup has returned to health and should look like this on Saturday night: LT-Anthony Castonzo, LG-Jack Mewhort, C-Ryan Kelly, RG-Denzelle Good, RT-Joe Reitz. Obviously Buffalo isn't going to throw everything from a schematic standpoint, but Rex Ryan loves to blitz, so it should be a nice test for the 15-20 snaps this starting group logs on Saturday.
3. Defensive Rookies
-We are going to see T.J. Green start at safety on Saturday. But don't forget about the other draft picks on the defensive side of the ball. Fourth-round pick Hassan Ridgeway has been thrust into a starting role with the likes of Henry Anderson, Kendall Langford and Arthur Jones sidelined. At linebacker, seventh-rounder Trevor Bates and Antonio Morrison should both be on the field by the start of the second quarter.
4. Injury Watch
-Chuck Pagano has ruled the following players as OUT for Saturday night: DE-Kendall Langford, DE-Henry Anderson, DT-Art Jones, CB-Jalil Brown, CB- D'Joun Smith, CB-Tevin Mitchel, S-Clayton Geathers and OG-Hugh Thornton. Those guys will not make the trip to Buffalo. The losses of Smith and Mitchel (neither is dealing with a long-term injury) are disappointing considering the injuries they had to battle during their rookie seasons.
5. Undrafted Guys Impressing
-No team in the NFL has had better success with undrafted free agents over the years than the Colts. On defense, really every position group (besides inside linebacker) should see undrafted guys playing a good amount. On offense, Josh Ferguson at running back and the group of UDFA receivers will be the ones to watch.
6. Searching For Youth
-In general, the Colts are striving towards getting younger. That's why the cancellation of the Hall of Game hurt. Backend of the roster guys should get around two-to-three quarters of work on Saturday. That playing time will shrink the next two weeks of the preseason, once the starters play more. It's why Saturday is so critical for the young guys to impress, with the first roster cut occurring after the team's third preseason game.
7. Coaching Communication
-It's a storyline that won't show up directly in any box score. But the Colts are incorporating two new full-time coordinators. Rob Chudzinski will remain in the booth, but he can now communicate directly with the quarterback. For Ted Monachino, he will be on the field, and is calling the shots on defense for the first time at any level.