As many of you might agree, the NFL preseason tends to drag along, so I’ve been sitting around brainstorming these past few days trying to come up with some interesting ways to hold us over until the games actually count.
Guys are going to be coming and going in the 3 1/2 weeks leading up to the Indianapolis Colts’ season opener in Houston, so it makes sense to gauge who’s in danger of losing his spot on the roster and who’s looking at a good chance to don the horseshoe in September. Also, we know some Colts will be on the roster no matter what, so we’ll also look at who of those guys just plain looked good or bad.
I owe my Yahoo! buddy Geoffrey Miller for this idea.
Without further ado, the first installment of Colts Hot/Not.
Hot: Philip Wheeler. Somebody wants to start on this defense. Entering camp jockeying for one of the vacant starting outside linebacker spots left by the departed Clint Session, presumably competing with second-year man Kavell Conner, fourth-year man Wheeler made the most of his time in the Colts’ preseason opener, a 33-10 loss to St. Louis, tying for the team lead with six tackles. These game situations often are where outside linebackers make their cases with Indy (the starting positions always have been revolving doors) and Wheeler appears to be making his.
Not: Jerry Hughes. Touted as the talk of training camp in Anderson, Ind., the 2010 first-round pick did little to back up that praise in the team’s first game situation, making just one tackle and not applying much pressure while starting in place of Dwight Freeney. Hughes is going to have to show something soon. Granted, it’s one preseason game, but there comes a time when opportunities like the one against the Rams have to count for something for players trying to prove themselves, particularly those who don’t want to attain bust status.
Hot: Drake Nevis. The rookie defensive tackle is looking more and more like a steal as a third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Starting the Colts’ preseason opener in place of Fili Moala, Nevis was in on several blown-up runs and recorded a tackle of his own. He also noticeably opened things up for Wheeler to make his impact, as both were in the collapsed pocket together multiple times. It would not surprise me to see this guy start or at least be a major contributor on the defensive line.
Not: Chad Spann. The Indianapolis native did have a nice eight-yard run when he lined up at running back, but he failed to impress in his primary duty Saturday, which was returning kickoffs. Granted, the new rule that places kickoffs at the 35-yard line is making it tough on anybody to run back a kickoff, but Spann muffed one and did little to challenge fellow Indy high-school product Devin Moore for the job Moore certainly looks to maintain.
Hot: Kevin Thomas. The Colts drafted the USC product in the third round last year with the idea of his becoming a fixture in defensive coordinator Larry Coyer’s more aggressive scheme. Thomas tore his ACL and never saw the field in 2010, but he looked solid in hirs first Colts action Saturday. The de facto rookie made five tackles and looked promising in coverage. Indy certainly will need younger guys like Thomas and Justin Tryon to pick up the slack left by the departed Kelvin Hayden. If Saturday’s game was a sign of things to come, Thomas could be a nice piece to line up opposite Jerraud Powers.
Not: Decision-making of Colts quarterbacks. True, Curtis Painter nad Dan Orlovsky had nice drives that led to scores, including the Colts’ only touchdown on the evening, a 44-yard strike from Orlovsky to receiver Taj Smith in the third quarter, but the three interceptions put the Rams offense in great field position and helped make the score look more lopsided than it needed to be. Painter’s opening-drive pick was an easy get for Rams safety Quentin Mikell. Orlovsky had one that went off the hands of a receiver but another that was easily on him. Fans probably can’t wait to see Peyton Manning back.