Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills: Five Things For Colts Fans
For more than a decade, the Colts have been the model of consistency. They've set the records for most consecutive seasons with 12 wins (7). They also hold the record for most consecutive regular season wins (22). In fact over the last ten years, the Colts have only posted one losing season (2001).
But... winning in the regular season isn't the only thing these Colts are known for.
They're also one of the worst pre-season teams in NFL history.
A lot of Colts fans don't even bother to watch preseason games (at least not after the first 3 minutes).
However; there are probably quite a few reasons to check out this weeks match up ( a rematch of their week 17 match up) between the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts.
Backup Quarterback Battle
Last year Colts fans were stunned when head coach, Jim Caldwell, pulled his starters in a week 16 home game vs the New York Jets.
Fans in Indy got to see first hand just how good (bad) rookie quarterback, Curtis Painter, was- as the Jets whooped the Colts 29-15.
That day Painter was four of 11 for 44 yards and a pick. His quarterback rating... 11.2
Last week vs the San Francisco 49ers, he wasn't much better, completing nine of 19 for 64 yards... and three picks.
Enter Tom Brandstater. Indy picked Brandstater up off waivers from the Denver Broncos (it's almost surprising that Josh Mcdaniels cut him considering that the Broncos seem to be stockpiling quarterbacks).
He didn't play a down last year, but he started three seasons at Fresno State, completing 584 of 989 passes for 6,857 yards and 47 touchdowns with 32 interceptions.
Coach Caldwell says that Painter is definitely Peyton Manning's backup, but if Brandstater can light up the Bills he could win that job- he certainly can't be much worse.
Larry Coyer's defense calls for big physical tackles to dominate the center of the field, and give his linebackers the space they need to blitz.
That's why Indy traded up (to the top of the second round) last year to draft Fili Moala.
He was a big reason (literally 6'4, 305 pounds) the Trojans linebackers were so successful in 2008. He simply dominated the line of scrimmage and allowed guys like Clay Mathews Jr and Brian Cushing to wreak havoc in the backfield.
Last year, Moala didn't spend much time on the field. This year he'll no doubt be part of the defensive line rotation.
Why is he a guy to watch against the Bills?
Because he's got something to prove. With a year of seasoning (and coaching by defensive line coach, John Teerlinck) Moala should be ready to make an impact on the field.
Plus he's got a pretty good pedigree- his cousin is Haloti Ngata (defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens).
Chemistry On The Offensive Line
With Pro Bowl Center, Jeff Saturday, out of commission "up to six weeks" the Colts desperately need to find a fill-in (or replacement, if this knee injury/surgery lingers).
In 2008, the Colts used their first pick ( a second rounder) to draft Mike Pollak, center out of Arizona State. They immediately plugged him in at right guard.
That year when Saturday went down, another rookie, Jamey Richard, stepped into the starting lineup and the two were very solid starters.
Last year Pollak fell into a sophomore slump- he was even benched in favor of Arena League standout, Kyle DeVan.
But, maybe with Richard back in the lineup- Pollak can find that spark he showed as a rookie.
This year the Colts got the best pure pass rusher in the draft, TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes.
The Colts already have the best defensive end tandem in the league, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, so Hughes will probably (hopefully) not start this year.
So this (and all the other) pre-season game is going to be one of the few chances Colts fans will get to see this electrifying rookie play a significant amount of snaps.
Last year he won the Lott Trophy (awarded to college footballs impact player of the year).
He's also the only Horned Frog ever to be a two time consensus All-American.
Getting to see Hughes play is well worth the price of admission.
Undrafted Free Agents
This year the Colts invited several undrafted free agents to camp: Brett Swenson (K, Michigan State), Brandon James (KR, Florida),Blair White (WR, Michigan State), Thad Turner (CB, Ohio), Javarris James (RB, Miami), Tim Hiller (QB, Western Michigan), Mike Newton (S, Buffalo), Jeff Linkenbach (OT, Cincinnati), David Caldwell (S, William & Mary), Brandon King (CB, Purdue), Vuna Tuihalamaka (LB, Arizona), Cory Hogue (LB, UCF).
So what, huh?
Well, Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday as well as right guard Kyle DeVan were both undrafted free agents.
Last year, the Colts started a pair of rookie corners for most of the year. And one of them, Jacob Lacey, made the all rookie team- despite being an undrafted free agent.
And have the Colts really missed SS Bob Sanders the past few (injury plagued) seasons?... No, because undrafted free agent Melvin Bullitt has been a solid player.
And don't forget about Gary Brackett. He's basically the quarterback of the defense, and even though he was an undrafted free agent, re-signing him was GM, Bill Polian's, first priority this off-season.
So, sure. The Colts are absolutely pathetic in the pre-season, but one of these guys (that didn't hear their name called on draft weekend) could end up an All-Pro.