The regular season is almost at hand, and the Indianapolis Colts' next priority is finalizing their roster. The fourth and final preseason game probably won't feature many starters in order for the reserves to get enough playing time to be properly evaluated by the staff. Here are some quick tidbits heading into this week's matchup versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
State of the Starters
The first team offense has looked explosive, and should be back to elite form in 2009 despite all the offseason changes. The team would greatly benefit from a more balanced offense this season, and the running game appears to be improving.
The starting running backs, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, have averaged 5.27 yards per rushing attempt so far in the preseason. The Colts averaged 3.4 yards a carry last season and ranked 31st in rushing yards per game.
The defense allowed the Lions to run all over them last week, but when Ed Johnson was in the lineup against Philadelphia the Colts allowed just 23 yards rushing and 1.4 yards per carry. If Johnson makes that big of an impact in the regular season, he could get consideration for the Pro Bowl since Albert Haynesworth has moved to the NFC.
The Colts have also had a great pass rush so far in the preseason. If it weren't for Daunte Culpepper's ability to shrug off tackles like dirt off his shoulder, the Colts defense would have had three more sacks and Detroit would have had several less scoring opportunities.
Trimming the Roster to 53
The Colts' roster is deep this year, and this likely means that a well known player will have to be cut. Many people speculate that the team could keep three quarterbacks on the active roster this season, and that would take a roster spot away from the defensive backs or defensive tackles.
However, the Colts have only kept a third quarterback on the roster once in the Peyton Manning era, and that was only briefly. The team would benefit more from a defensive back that could contribute on special teams.
John Oehser of IndyFootballReport.com predicts that Dante Hughes, who is currently the third cornerback on the depth chart, could be the odd man out. Terrance Taylor could also be relegated to the practice squad despite being drafted by the Colts in the fourth round.
If Bob Sanders medical outlook improves the team could cut one of their reserve safeties instead.
Peter King wrote in his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column that the Colts, and specifically Peyton Manning, don't have confidence in Anthony Gonzalez. King cited a dropped pass that would have netted the Colts a big gain against the Lions last week.
However, if you compare Gonzalez's statistics in his first two seasons to those of Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, it is very apparent that Gonzalez is on pace to become another star wideout for the Colts.
Strangely enough, Peyton Manning actually said in a recent interview with Peter King that he trusted Gonzalez enough that he could throw to him blindfolded. Colts fans should not be worried about the wide receiving corps in Indianapolis, and fantasy owners should expect a big season out of Anthony Gonzalez.