After a 44-20 drubbing to the hands of the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts will have a chance to redeem themselves this Sunday. The Colts will travel to New York to face the Giants at 7:00 p.m. in their second preseason match of the 2013 season.
Here are some storylines to look for in the game.
How long will the starters play?
Typically, the second preseason game looks a lot like the first one – the starters play a series or two, second stringers finish the half, then everyone else fills in for the second half. It’s not until the third game when starters typically play an entire half. But HC Chuck Pagano said Thursday that this Sunday’s game could feature the starters playing the whole first half. Specifically, his goal is for the first unit to see 25-30 snaps. While this is surprising, it makes sense for a young team implementing a new offensive scheme. As evidenced by Mario William’s freebee sack of Andrew Luck last Sunday because of a cadence error, even Luck needs a little more work fine-tuning the offense in game situations. The more kinks the starters work through in the preseason, the less there will be in September.
We heard all offseason how new OC Pep Hamilton wants to establish a power running game. Pagano has repeatedly stressed the importance of “run the ball, stop the run.” Yet watching the Colts’ first preseason game, you would’ve thought they spent the offseason working on the air game. Luck, Matt Hasselbeck and Chandler Harnish combined for 47 pass attempts throughout the game, while Colts running backs combined for only 14 rushing attempts. Sure, the team was trailing most of the game, but it’s only preseason. These games aren’t intended for teams to win, they’re intended to practice against real competition and identify which players are worthy of making the roster. How will Hamilton know which players fit his scheme if he doesn’t stick to its principles? Expect a lot more ground work against the Giants.
Darrius Heyward-Bey’s productivity
It’s been assumed Darrius Heyward-Bey will start along with Reggie Wayne at wide receiver in the base package. But if I was Hamilton, I would be wary of just giving him that role. Although he does provide a dangerous deep threat, Heyward-Bey was wildly inconsistent with the Oakland Raiders, and reports out of training camp say he hasn’t changed much. One day he’ll make a fabulous grab on a deep ball, the next he’s dropping three passes. And given the way Griff Whalen has impressed thus far, I would make Heyward-Bey earn his starting spot. He needs to start performing in the actual games to prove he’s worthy as a starter.
Bjoern Werner’s debut?
Rookie outside linebacker Bjoern Werner missed the first preseason game because of a knee injury, but it sounds as if he should play against the Giants. If he does, he must prove he can put pressure on the opposing quarterback. After fellow outside linebacker Robert Mathis left against the Bills, the Colts defense was totally inept at rushing the passer, save for one strip-sack play. Werner was drafted in the first round to complement Mathis this year and become the long-term answer once Mathis’ play starts to deteriorate. Hopefully we’ll get our first look at Werner this Sunday.
Delano Howell’s follow-up performance
The Colts are super thin at safety right now, thanks to many nagging injuries at the position. Delano Howell started alongside the always durable Antoine Bethea against the Bills and remained in the entire game. He stood out as the best defensive player by far, but it may have been helped by the fact that he was playing with a lot of scrubs. If Howell can follow up his last game with a similar performance, his spot on the final roster will almost be locked up, given the injuries at the position. Even if every safety was healthy, Howell’s play (if it stays consistent) would be worthy of landing him the top backup role.