After such an incredibly turbulent offseason, perhaps the most turbulent one since infamously moving to Indianapolis in 1984, the Indianapolis Colts finally have a real football game to play today, the first one coached by Chuck Pagano and quarterbacked by Andrew Luck.
A new era. A fresh start.
We certainly won’t learn everything about this majorly overhauled roster after its contest with the Chicago Bears at 1 p.m. at Soldier Field. From what we saw during training camp and preseason action, though, can give us a good idea of what areas to watch specifically as the Colts truly enter a brave new post-Peyton Manning world.
- Andrew Luck. Goes without saying. Luck looked every bit the part of a No. 1 overall draft pick in the preseason, completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 522 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions (one bounced off the hands of receiver T.Y. Hilton), as well as a rushing touchdown. How Luck comes out and plays in a regular-season game — not to mention in a hostile road environment — remains to be seen. He has a veteran-like command of the offense and can read defenses much like Manning did, but he’ll have to see the field at that same veteran level and utilize tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen to get his receivers open against the Bears’ secondary, specifically corner Charles Tillman and safety Major Wright. Luck also will need to be quick on his feet to evade dangerous pass rusher Julius Peppers, which brings me to the next area to watch…
- The offensive line. To say the Colts’ offensive line was disastrous during the preseason would be an understatement. It was a very rare occurrence that Luck had ample time to throw in the pocket or Indy’s running backs had holes to run through. The right side broke down constantly and figures to be a perpetual work in progress this season. The left side is less worrisome, mostly because Anthony Castonzo is a solid left tackle (though he very well could struggle against Peppers). Primary starting left guard Joe Reitz, who has performed decently as an individual, is out this week with injury and will be replaced by Seth Olsen, who struggled mightily while playing right guard. This group of offensive linemen, both starters and reserves, will not cut it long-term, and part of me fears for Luck today.
- The secondary. Colts GM Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano, a former defensive backs coach, are hopeful their exhausting search for a second starting cornerback has ended with the acquisition of former Miami Dolphins corner Vontae Davis. The trade was a definitive risk-reward move; Davis is 24 and has elite upside as a physical cover man, but he also has had numerous issues with maturity and work ethic during his career, and the Colts dealt away their 2013 second-round draft pick to get him. Long story short, Davis had better shore up that corner spot. He might have a tough go today against his former Dolphins teammate Brandon Marshall, who is reunited with quarterback Jay Cutler (the two were teammates in Denver from 2006-08). If Davis can get physical with Marshall and diminish his effectiveness, it’ll free up things for the Colts defense, who can pay more attention to do-it-all running back Matt Forte.
It’ll also be interesting to see whether Austin Collie, who looked to suffer another concussion in a preseason game, makes it onto the field; he’s a game-time decision.
The future is bright for the Colts with Luck at the helm, but today could be a rough “Welcome to the NFL” for the highly touted rookie.
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