Yesterday, I spoke with Chris Blystone, a deputy manager of Stampede Blue. We shared five questions with one another regarding the upcoming preseason game between the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts. To read my responses, there is a link below.
1.) No way I can’t ask five questions and not talk about Andrew Luck. What an arduous process this has been. Is he looking ready for regular season football?
It has definitely been a long wait to see Luck back in action. He really does seem to be shaking the rust off surprisingly quickly. This is the first time in his NFL career that Luck will be working behind a serviceable offensive line and has a head coach that runs a creative offense and actually understands what it means to be an NFL quarterback. The relationship between Luck and Frank Reich has already been a noticeable difference from past years.
Against the Seahawks in preseason week one, Luck talked about how nervous he was to get out there in live action again. Reich dialed up a lot of short, high percentage passes to help boost Luck’s confidence and ease him back into things. In practice Luck has cut loose and let the ball go for a couple weeks now, so I expect that to be ratcheted up as the preseason goes on. It is hard to overstate how great it is having our franchise QB back.
2.) Who are the two rookies (1 offense, 1 defense) Ravens fans should watch for?
The Colts are a young team, so there are several names to choose from on both sides of the ball, but the guy I recommend watching most closely on the offense is running back Jordan Wilkins. Wilkins hadn’t been the most impressive running back in the room until the pads went on in camp. From that point, the guy has been a stud. He had a great fourth quarter against the backups in week one, and with several guys nicked up, he’ll very likely get a chance to show what he can do with the first team.
On the defensive side of the ball linebacker Darius Leonard is the guy to watch. Leonard is an opportunistic and very fast linebacker who was all over the field making plays in week one. He picked off Andrew Luck in his very first practice, and has been making splashy plays ever since. If you’re watching the Colts defense, expect to see #53 in on a lot of plays.
3.) There’s seemingly always a ‘dark-horse UDFA fans become enamored with. Who is the player Colts fans are roaring for?
For the Colts that guy is linebacker Skai Moore. He has a very real chance of entering the season as the Colts starting MIKE linebacker after being signed as an undrafted free agent. On the one hand, that is an indictment of the lack of quality in the linebacker room. On the other, it is a credit to Moore. He stepped up when the Colts starting linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. went down with a groin injury, and depending on how quickly Walker heals, could get the nod to start. He has been impressive in his command of the defense and his ability to make plays around the field.
4.) When this turns into second and third stringers, what positions are you watching for in regards to the final roster?
There are several spots on this young roster that are still very up in the air. I’ll be watching the wide receivers closely, because injuries and a lack of established talent have left it to a lot of young guys to fight it out for significant roles on the team. The defensive line will be interesting to watch because guys like Hassan Ridgeway played incredibly well against 3rd string talent, and if they can repeat that performance throughout the remaining preseason, could indicate a real depth along the defensive line, which might be a first for the Colts. The cornerbacks are also an area of concern. Unless they really start stepping up, it seems almost inevitable that Chris Ballard will make a move to bring someone in after teams cut their rosters down.
5.) Where is this Colts team as far as rebuilding or fighting for a championship? The AFC South looks like a warzone now.
Andrew Luck speeds up a rebuild significantly. This team will put up points with him under center, and the real question will be if the defense can create turnovers. As young as they are, it is too much to expect them to be anything approaching dominant, but if they can consistently win the turnover battle, this is a team that can win a lot more games than last season.
The Colts need a lot of their first and second year players to step up and grow throughout this year, and they need another solid draft and free agency before they are ready to be real contenders. However, I do think they have the potential to sneak into the playoffs this season if some of their young talent shows up.