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5 Colts to watch in Week 1 vs the Bengals

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2018 5:33 am    Post subject: 5 Colts to watch in Week 1 vs the Bengals Reply with quote

The countdown to Colts football is down to mere hours. We are less than a day away from seeing all the work of the offseason and preseason on the field ó from seeing the much anticipated debut of Head Coach Frank Reich and the return of Andrew Luck under center. So there is a lot to be excited about as a Colts fan.Now this Sunday wonít be an easy matchup for the Colts. The Bengals have an aggressive defense and some scary play makers on offense that are among the leagueís best. In order for the Colts to pull out the win , they need their difference makers to have a big game. Now Iíd like to note that these arenít the best players on the Coltsí roster necessarily, rather the players who will be vital to the Colts if they hope to have any success on Sunday. So without further ado, here is my top 5 Colts to watch against the Bengals:Anthony Castonzo, LT (or whoever starts at LT):The Colts have made it a point of emphasis to address the offensive line this offseason. They spent the 6th and 37th overall picks in the 2018 draft to take two guards, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith respectively, along with signing free agents such as guard Matt Slauson and tackle Austin Howard. Despite all this effort into improving the depth, the offensive line struggled a bit during the preseason. A main reason for this was the absence of their consistent left tackle Anthony Castonzo.If Castonzo is able to play this Sunday, it will be a huge boost to the team as he is a huge upgrade over any other player who could potentially play that spot. Castonzo has missed almost the entire offseason with a hamstring injury that has been giving him problems. If he is unable to suit up, it will likely be Joe Haeg or LaRaven Clark filling in at left tackle.This position will be one to watch this Sunday though as promising young pass rusher Carl Lawson suits up for the Bengals. Lawson had 8.5 sacks last year as a rookie and did so as a situational rusher. He appears to be much quicker this preseason as well so regardless if it is Castonzo, Haeg, or Clark starting at LT, this position will be a key one to watch.Eric Ebron, TE:Now, I was very tempted to put longtime staples of this offense such as Jack Doyle or TY Hilton here but I ultimately decided to go with Ebron as I think he is more key to this offenseís success this Sunday. Not that I donít think Hilton or Doyle will be productive, just that I expect production from them whereas Ebron being effective will be more key to this offense.Ebron brings something entirely new to the Colts offense. Hilton is the deep downfield threat and Doyle is the underneath safety blanket. Ebron on the other hand gives Luck a middle of the field option that can really stretch a defense.Colts reporters have been raving about Ebron all offseason even though we havenít seen too much in the preseason. Coach Frank Reich will likely open up the playbook a little more now that the season is starting up and thatíll likely mean more targets in space for the athletic tight end. If the Colts really want to exploit this Bengals defense (and their new rookie safety Jesse Bates) Womens Ryan Grant Jersey , they must utilize him in the downfield passing game. Keep an eye on Ebron and expect a big game from him this Sunday. Darius Leonard, WLB:The highly anticipated debut of rookie Darius Leonard will be an important one. Leonard is expected to make his first career start this Sunday against the Bengals after having a very impressive preseason. Leonard along with another rookie Skai Moore drew praise all preseason long for their strong play, especially in the run game. Leonard has displayed his excellent play speed and run anticipation and really made an impact in that area of the game so far in his young career.Leonard is a vastly different linebacker than the Colts have had in years past. With his start this Sunday it not only shows the new emphasis on youth in Indy but also on speed. That speed will truly be put to the test this week as two fairly dynamic runners in Gio Bernard and Joe Mixon come into town. If the Colts are to have any luck shutting those two down, Leonard must have a big game. I donít expect him to be perfect and heíll definitely have his fair share of rookie hiccups but keep your eyes on the promising rookie this Sunday.Malik Hooker, SAF:Dominant safety play is just so fun to watch in the NFL. Players like Earl Thomas and Eric Berry have built stellar reputations in recent years as being elite ball hawks who strike fear into opposing QBs. Now Malik Hooker isnít near the level of those two players but he was well on his way last season after picking off 3 passes in 7 games before tearing his ACL. His play steadily improved each game and he was looking like he was on the cusp of stardom before that unfortunate injury.After a long offseason of recovery, Hooker is finally back and ready to play in the opener on Sunday. I cannot simply articulate how important a player of his caliber is to a young defense. Hooker roaming the middle of the field takes so much pressure off of the young corners and linebackers tasked with having to cover players such as AJ Green, John Ross, and Tyler Eifert. Expect Hooker to have a huge game this weekend even if it doesnít reflect in the box score. Just his presence in the backend of the field alone makes him a key player for this game.Andrew Luck, QB: Now I donít want to get ahead of myself but this may be the single most important game of Andrew Luckís career. After missing the last year of football due to a shoulder injury, the Colts will finally have their star QB back under center. The difference is almost astronomical. I probably donít have to remind anybody but this is the same quarterback who led a 2-14 team to the playoffs in just his rookie season. That player alone makes the Colts, who are coming off a disappointing 4-12 season, favorites to at least contend for a playoff spot this year.Now this will be a very tough task for Luck on Sunday. Along with going against a brutal pass rush that features Carl Lawson and elite defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the Bengals also have a very young promising corner in William Jackson who allowed a 41.6 passer rating when targeted last year. To make matters a bit worse, the Colts will likely be without their starting running back Marlon Mack as well. So it will be a tough game but just seeing number 12 suit up in a real game is huge. I expect a big game from Andrew Luck this weekend as he reintroduces himself to the league that has somewhat forgotten him the last year and a half.3 things to watch heading into the Coltsí joint training camp practices with the Ravens Colts training camp is in its final week, with tomorrow at 7pm being the start of the last night practice. Perhaps more interesting will be the Friday practice Youth Skai Moore Jersey , which is the first of two joint practices with the Ravens. Those practices create a unique opportunity for the team to go up against players with different technique, skill sets, and strengths than what theyíve faced so far in camp. Here are 3 things to watch for if you get to make it to one of those joint practices.Wide receivers vs Ravens secondaryThose opportunities presented by joint practices are especially valuable for the many young players on the Coltsí roster. The Ravens had the 3rd ranked passing defense in the NFL in 2017, and seeing the young wide receivers going up against their talented defensive backs will be an excellent way to continue separating out the starters from the players who likely wonít make the roster come final cuts.Reece Fountain was back at practice today, and the Colts need him to step up in a big way, because the loss of Deon Cain puts him solidly in the spotlight as a player they need to grow up fast. Ryan Grant has begun showing up more in practice lately, but hasnít been a major factor most of the offseason, being reliable but not flashy.However, the greatest pressure is on guys like K.J. Brent and Zach Pascal, who are fighting it out to be on the roster at all. The reality is that Chris Ballard will be watching carefully during cutdowns, looking to add talent and depth at any and all positions. With a thin and unexperienced receiver corps, these guys need to shine, and this is a chance to do that.Quenton Nelson vs Ravens defensive lineTell me you donít want to see Quenton Nelson in one-on-ones with defenders from different teams. The guy has been involved in some dust-ups with his own teammates throughout camp because he is the kind of guy who just canít help but manhandle defenders until the absolute echo of the whistle. He is a beast, as Brett has pointed out, both in run blocking and pass blocking.No one likes getting embarrassed by another team in front of your teammates , especially by a rookie. However, thatís exactly the kind of thing Nelson has the ability, and inclination to do. It would actually be shocking to me if there wasnít a scuffle between these two teams, and if Quenton Nelson wasnít the catalyst.Colts defensive line vs the Ravens offensive lineWe donít know how involved players will be in practice by the time these joint practices begin. What will be interesting is seeing the Coltsí smaller pass rushers pitted up against the larger linemen of a 3-4 scheme. One of the concerns about reliance on speed is that you sacrifice power, so it will be interesting to see how our pass rushers stack up.John Simon has done better than almost anyone but him expected that he would in his transition to this new role. How he does against the Ravens will be telling, because his size disadvantage will be on full display. Jabaal Sheard has continued to look good, but we need to see something from guys like Basham and McCain, as well as getting Kemoko Turay healthy and competing. It would also be wonderful if we got the version of Hassan Ridgeway that showed up in the first preseason game to show up to practice.These practices are carefully controlled. The goal is for everyone to get better and to get out of it healthy and whole as a team. However, with such a raw roster for the Colts, this will prove an invaluable opportunity for teaching and growth by this coaching staff, which has proven they care about such things.The opportunistic, turnover-seeking mentality of the Ravensí defense is one that Iím sure Chris Ballard and Frank Reich would love to see the Colts co-opt. Additionally, working with a team like the Ravens gives first hand access to Chris Ballard to get eyes on possible players who could be picked up once cuts are made.
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