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INDIANAPOLIS – Week Four of the preseason is here with the Colts traveling to Cincinnati for one final game in August.
Before roster cuts come Saturday afternoon, the Colts and Bengals will meet, with their starters serving as spectators until the two teams match up for real in Week One of the regular season.
Here are 7 things to watch as the Colts take on the Bengals this Thursday at 7:00 PM:
1. Right Tackle Job
-We do have a starting job still to be decided on Thursday night. It’s not ideal at all, but the Colts have yet to find a starting right tackle for the 2018 season. Healthy options left include Austin Howard, J’Marcus Webb, Braden Smith and Joe Haeg. The Colts are going with Haeg as the starter on Thursday, marking the fourth different starting right tackle the Colts have had this preseason. It sounds like Smith has moved back to right guard (for now). Poor play should rule Howard out. Webb is the veteran (64 career starts), but didn’t play in the NFL last season. Will Haeg, who has 20 career starts at right tackle, secure his starting job on Thursday?
2. Any Last Impressions?
-Some 37 Colts will be with the team on Thursday night, but will not be on the roster come Saturday evening. Roster cuts from 90 guys to 53 are due by 4:00 PM on Saturday, with waiver claims coming on Sunday. Do any Colts make one last impression that push them onto the team’s 53-man roster? I see a handful of roster spots still truly up for grabs going into Thursday night with such an unproven back end of the roster.
3. Wide Receiver Group Still To Be Decided
-One of the areas that Frank Reich pointed to as a final week decision was seeing how the No. 4 and No. 5 wide receiver spots play out. When Deon Cain tore his ACL in the preseason opener, the Colts were searching for guys to emerge behind T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers. That hasn’t happened. Reece Fountain, a fifth-round draft pick back in April, is no lock to make the team. Guys like Kasen Williams, Zach Paschal, Seantavius Jones, Steve Ishmael and Krishawn Hogan have all made a play or two in August. Will anyone make a strong impression, particularly on special teams, to close out the preseason?
4. Robert Turbin To Start
-In mid-June, the idea of Robert Turbin starting in the preseason finale was laughable. But Turbin will be the team’s starting running back on Thursday night. It will be Turbin’s last game work until October, as he heads to the suspension list for the first four games of the season. Turbin needs some run after injuring his ankle in the team’s preseason opener. Right now, given the uncertainty at running back, it seems pretty likely the Colts bring Turbin back after his suspension ends following Week Four.
5. Where Are The Young Pass Rushers?
-It’s been a very, very disappointing month of August for young pass rushers Tarell Basham and Kemoko Turay. Basham’s roster spot might even be in jeopardy, although he’s making my 53-man roster right now. Turay has been limited with an ankle injury and only played in one preseason game. Both guys should see plenty of action on Thursday night with the Colts still needing more edge pressure after a struggling month of August in that department.
6. Secondary Depth
-Late August injuries to cornerbacks Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston and safeties T.J. Green and Ronald Martin have complicated roster cuts in the secondary. Will the Colts need to carry an extra corner or safety early in the season? Do they have room to do that or will a guy like Green actually be sent packing because of a numbers crunch needing healthy bodies? The starters in the secondary are known (CBs: Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir; S: Clayton Geathers and Malik Hooker), but the depth is still very much up in the air.
7. Injury Concerns
-One caveat that always impacts roster cuts is injuries that will trickle into the regular season. The Colts have several guys who should make the 53-man roster but could be inactive for Week One. Remember, of your 53-man roster, you have 7 inactives on game day. Guys like DL-Tyquan Lewis (foot), OT-Denzelle Good (knee), S-T.J. Green (hamstring), RB-Marlon Mack (hamstring) and LB-Anthony Walker (groin) all could be on that 7-man list. That leaves you perhaps just two healthy inactives for Week One. So, could any of the names above be cut (not too likely, outside of maybe Green) or go on injured reserve (also not expected)?