What to watch for as Colts take on Bengals in Cincinnati
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Thursday night preseason game with the Bengals in Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium:
- Kickoff: 7 p.m.
- Broadcast: WXIN
This is it:
Today, the Colts’ roster features 90 players; actually 89 after trading cornerback Nate Hairston to the New York Jets. By 4 p.m. Saturday, it’s pared to 53.
We’re convinced Chris Ballard and Frank Reich could make the cuts prior to the Bengals’ game and feel comfortable. Perhaps someone can do something special to change their mind, but that would fly in the face of the philosophy that a player’s body of work since the start of training camp July 25 serves as his audition video.
“This is a great opportunity for the guys who are playing to put one last look on tape to show us and really show the league what you can do,’’ Reich said. “Tough decisions at the back end of the roster and every play is important.’’
One caveat: an injury could muck up personnel decisions. Ross Travis had made a strong push to earn a roster spot last summer only to suffer a torn ACL in the final two minutes of the wrap-up with the Bengals.
Also impacting the final 53-player roster – final, that is, until Ballard finds an upgrade or two on the waiver wire – is the health of a few players. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) and running back Jordan Wilkins (foot) are dealing with injuries. If both are considered short-term, they could be part of the 53. If either is thought to be more long-term in nature, it’s possible one could be moved to the injured reserve list with the idea of bringing him back at some point. To do that, that player would have to be kept on the initial 53, then moved to IR.
Final look at Kelly for a bit:
Andrew Luck’s retirement sent shock waves throughout the organization and across the NFL landscape. It also shook up the Colts’ depth chart. Jacoby Brissett is the starter, of course. But the backup QB?
At this point, Phillip Walker is the opening-day backup even though he’s yet to step on the field for a regular season game. That’s the case even if Chad Kelly goes out and tosses five TDs in the first half against the Bengals. Kelly, remember, is suspended for the first two games. Perhaps the Colts go with Walker as QB2 for two weeks and shift to Kelly in week 3 when he’s eligible.
However, Ballard and his personnel staff apparently have been doing their due diligence. According to various reports, the Colts worked out several veteran QBs this week: Brock Osweiler, Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel. Another option is waiting for waiver cuts Saturday.
Kelly insisted his approach hasn’t changed.
“You have to keep the same mentality,’’ he said. “We all want to be the best player out here. Not only on the team, but in the NFL. That’s what makes us great players, great professional athletes. I’m excited for another opportunity just like these other guys.’’
For those interested at home, here’s the three-game Tale of the Tape for Kelly and Walker:
Kelly: 41-of-57 (71.9 percent), 445 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, a 98.9 rating; a team-high 87 yards on seven carries.
Walker: 24-of-48 (50 pct.), 259 yards, no TDs, two interceptions, a 48.9 rating.
Who to watch?
We’ll start with Parris Campbell. The second-round draft pick returned to practice Monday after missing the final 12 training camp practices with a hamstring injury. He flashed his speed and versatility during offseason work, but his progress has been impeded by the extended absence.
“It’s very important,’’ Campbell said of making his Colts’ debut. “I missed basically all of camp. Being a first-year player in the NFL, the game speed is a little bit different so you definitely need the reps.’’
After Campbell, maybe Travis and rookie Hale Hentges. They probably are vying for the fourth and final tight end spot if, that is, the Colts opt to carry four.
Or running backs Aca’Cedric Ware and Charcandrick West. Each should get heavy doses of reps, along with Marquis Young, as Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines watch and Wilkins and Jonathan Williams (rib) nurse injuries.
The Colts and Bengals are meeting for the 28th time in the preseason, and have done so in the final week since 2003.
Also, Indy (0-3) is on the verge of suffering just its fifth winless preseason since 1984. The others: 2014 (0-4), 2010 (0-4), 2005 (0-5), 1990 (0-4).
As if to hammer home the utter insignificance of a preseason record, the Colts reached the playoffs following their last three 0-fer preseasons.
And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast: