INDIANAPOLIS —For the Indianapolis Colts, the exhibition train continues chugging along on Saturday, when they travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys in Indy's second preseason game of the year.
The Colts (0-1) opened up preseason play last Sunday, when they fell 24-10 to the Detroit Lions at Lucas Oil Stadium, but hope to show all-around improvement on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, are already 1-1 this preseason, having defeated the Arizona Cardinals, 20-18, in this year's Hall of Fame Game, before falling to the Los Angeles Rams, 13-10, last Saturday in California.
So what should fans be looking for when the Colts continue their push towards the regular season on Saturday evening?
1. Offensive Execution
The Colts' starting offensive unit didn't get off to the best of starts against the Lions, earning a combined 27 yards and getting only as far as its own 48-yard line in three total series to start the game. For quarterback Scott Tolzien and the rest of the offense, the key on Saturday will be to execute much better all the way around in order to start gaining the momentum the group wants to have entering the regular season. Look for T.Y. Hilton (one target, zero catches against the Lions) to become more of a factor, as well as a more concerted effort to turn in better production in the ground game, which compiled just 2.9 yards per carry last Sunday.2. Center Swap
Speaking of the Colts' offense, the team will continue to be tested at the center position, where it will once again be without starter Ryan Kelly. Kelly, who injured his foot during practice on Aug. 10, will undergo surgery to correct the issue, head coach Chuck Pagano said on Thursday, and is expected to miss at least the start of the regular season. Barring any last-minute additions, the team is expected to once again go with rookie Deyshawn Bond to start the game at center, and he'll be backed up by first-year lineman Adam Redmond. Pagano said he thought Bond handled the pressures of his first professional game well, and hopes to see an even bigger jump in Game 2 — because the team needs him.3. Give Us More
The Colts' starting defensive unit, meanwhile, was pretty impressive in its debut performance — particularly at the outside linebacker position. While John Simon snagged an interception on the fourth play of the game last Sunday, Jabaal Sheard was a menace in the Detroit backfield essentially the entirety of the two series he played, racking up a few quarterback pressures and making a nice play in the run game, as well. The Indy defense faces perhaps an even greater challenge on Saturday, however, as the Cowboys can boast one of the best offensive lines in the league, and, if they end up playing, throw out an impressive QB-RB-WR-TE group in Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said he's interested in seeing how his players respond this week after a quality performance, albeit in limited action, to open the preseason.
4. Green To Corner?
Sticking with the Colts' defense, could second-year safety T.J. Green be seen playing cornerback for the team as early as Saturday? Monachino said it's certainly in the team's plans for that to happen, just four days after Pagano asked Green if he'd be interested in trying the move out. Since that time, Green has been a constant at cornerback for the first-team defense, and while all involved have acknowledged the difficulty involved in such a move, all agree they're excited to see how Green — who has the size (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) and speed (4.34 40-yard dash) needed to play the position — responds in real game settings.5. The More The Merrier
The Colts last Sunday were without several key pieces, who were being held out due to various injuries. But a good chunk of those playerswere back on the practice field this week, indicating they could make their 2017 preseason debuts on Saturday. Those names include defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, inside linebackers Jon Bostic and Antonio Morrison, wide receiver Jacoby Brissett, offensive linemen Joe Haeg and Denzelle Good and running back Marlon Mack. Rookie safety Malik Hooker, meanwhile, did play well in his NFL debut against the Lions, but has sat out practice all week after injuring his shoulder. It's unknown whether he'll be available for the Cowboys game or not.6. Locke-d In
New Colts punter Jeff Locke put his best foot forward last Sunday in his competition with rookie Rigoberto Sanchez. Locke, the veteran lefty punter, kicked the ball six times for 267 yards (44.5 avg.) with a 45.5 average net, and placed three of those punts within the 20-yard line — including an impressive coffin-corner boot that bounced out of bounds at the Detroit 2-yard line. Sanchez, meanwhile, had five punts for 213 yards (42.6 avg.), but had a 36.8 average net on his kicks. With such an emphasis on the field position game for the Colts, don't forget to remain keeping an eye on this roster battle.7. Welcome Back
Jaylon Smith hasn't played in a real football game in almost 600 days. But that streak is expected to end Saturday against the Colts, when the former standout Notre Dame linebacker is expected to finally make his NFL debut after suffering a horrific knee injury Jan. 1, 2016, in his final collegiate game. Despite the fact Smith damaged nerves in his knee, the Cowboys selected him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and he has been determined to one day find the field in a real game again. Now fully healed, but still on an occasional pitch count in practice, Smith is a guy both sides can cheer for on Saturday.
Colts Training Camp 2017 - Practice Thirteen - HIGHLIGHTS
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