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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s time to hit someone in a different color jersey.
After 11 practices in Westfield, the Colts are off to the Pacific Northwest for their preseason opener on Thursday against the Seahawks.
Here are 7 things to watch as the Colts take on the Seahawks at 10:00 ET:
1. No Red Jersey For Luck
-Come Thursday night, it will be 585 days since Luck has last played without a red jersey on. This is the next step, and the most important one, for the quarterback. He’s passed the tests in practice. It’s time to get back into real, live, uncontrolled settings. In his career, Luck has averaged around 14-15 snaps played in preseason openers. If the Colts stick with Luck playing around a quarter, like Frank Reich has said, he should see a little more than his normal workload for early August. Will Luck get that first hit on Thursday?
2. Starting Defense Hang In There
-The offense has been the better unit during camp. The defense is probably down 3-4 injured starters right now and still has several more starting jobs that remain undecided. So this unit is much more in the ‘building’ stage, as Frank Reich labeled it earlier in the week. Will this side of the ball show the speed and athleticism, flying around sideline to sideline, that Matt Eberflus wants? It would serve this defense well if Seattle played its starters a couple of series.
3. Rookie Transition
-The Colts have seen some nice moments from their rookies at Grand Park. Now, the question is will that transition under the bright lights? Guys like Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, Tyquan Lewis (who won’t play due to injury), Nyheim Hines, Deon Cain and Skai Moore all have impressed early on. It’s obvious the Colts need to rely on this rookie class pretty heavily in 2018. Will any other rookies emerge over the preseason slate?
4. Pass Rush Necessary
-Matt Eberflus is searching for a pass rushing core to impress. Ideally, the Colts would not be using a bunch of blitzers in 2018. They want to drop 7 guys into coverage and try to get pressure with a 4-man front. But if the Colts don’t have the horses to do that, you can’t afford to apply pressure with only 4. Evaluating pass rushing is difficult until the speed gets real on game day, so we will see if the Colts can find some guys in an area of recent struggle.
5. Frank Reich’s Debut
-Let’s not forget the Colts have a first-year head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator in 2018. Their debuts, in those roles, will come Thursday night. How does Frank Reich handle the juggling of calling plays, while managing a 60-minute ball game? Do we see quick rhythm, innovation and tempo from the offense? Does this 4-3 defense fly around to the ball, while still making things difficult in a simpler 4-3 look? The preseason will offer a vital look into the new systems being installed on each side of the ball.
6. Cornerback Puzzle
-Cornerback has overtaken linebacker as the most undecided position group heading into the regular season. Pierre Desir, Kenny Moore and Quincy Wilson are the favorites, but how those reps are divided up between the base and nickel packages, remain to be seen. What about Nate Hairston, who had such a promising rookie season at nickel? We didn’t see a whole lot of playmaking from the corners during the first two weeks at Grand Park.
7. Rule Changes
-Full contact is coming Thursday night, so the Colts will be introduced to some curious new rule changes in 2018. How does the defense react to the new leading with your helmet rule? What does the kickoff/kick return game look like with some alterations to that play? The catch rule should be easier to define with the cleaning up of ‘football move’ language.