The preseason for most people is like the previews at a movie theater; they may provide momentary entertainment but the reason you're really sitting through them is because you're waiting for the real thing.
The Colts have basically taken that stance since 2005 or at least it seems that way. Evidenced by the total of four preseason wins in that span and the seven consecutive regular seasons with at least 12 wins.
Either way it doesn't matter because every Colts fan knows that come September through February the Colts will be amongst the elite.
In this preseason finale there are really only two goals, to stay healthy and determine the final pecking order for the regular season. To win in the NFL you have to for the most part do four things; put talent on the field, keep that talent healthy, provide depth for that talent and execute.
Execution on offense is rarely a problem for Peyton Manning and the Colts offense. The Colts' front office has done a tremendous job over the years putting quality talent on the field and finding depth.
Indy like most teams encounters injuries and they have been a major concern over the years. Guys like Bob Sanders, Dwight Freeney and Dallas Clark have been inflicted with a variety of bumps, bruises, breaks and strains. So when such things happen as regularly as they do for the Colts, it is important to have talent to act as a stopgap until the starters return.
Many will tell you that there is no battle for the Colts' back-up signal caller, that it's Curtis Painter's job or that even if there is a battle, who cares?
I am of the belief that right now as it stands Tom Brandstater is more talented but Indy's Jim Caldwell has faith in what he knows; Curtis Painter. For the most part, the Colts go with a two-quarterback approach, a starter and a back-up, rarely do they keep a third on the roster.
Tonight's game could shed a little light on whether the Colts will continue that approach or if Brandstater has a chance to make this team. The rotation will likely be Peyton Manning for a series (if that), Painter for the remainder of the first half and Brandstater in the second half.
I want to be able to say Brandstater can overtake Painter but I'm not sure he's been in Indy long enough to surpass Painter, in Caldwell's mind. Some coaches tell you that the best players play and the best players make the roster but if Brandstater finds himself without a job, that won't be the case for Indy.
For me, Painter in no way inspires confidence. After the second exhibition game against the Bills I had a reader comment that I should not have jumped on Painter after one game and that the Bills' game proved that you can't judge him solely based on a single performance. I retorted that his performance was due more to the opponent he was facing rather than his actual skill level.
The following week Painter was six of 11 for 97 yards threw an interception and fumbled the ball twice. As a back-up your job is to manage the offense, protect the ball and aid play makers with accurate throws that could lead to points.
Painter in my opinion is not capable of doing that consistently. I'm not saying that Brandstater is a future hall of fame inductee or that he will be a Pro Bowler two years down the road, he's just better right now. I believe it would have been beneficial for the Colts to give Brandstater more snaps this preseason than he has received.
If this were a real competition, Painter and Brandstater's snap counts would not have such a large disparity. Brandstater could be a very good back-up in this league if given the opportunity, the real question is when will that be?
Curtis Painter 2010 Preseason Statistics
ATT/COMP: 20-36 CMP%: 55.6 Yards: 258 TD: 1 INT: 4 Rating: 47.9
Tom Brandstater 2010 Preseason Statistics
ATT/COMP: 8-13 CMP%: 61.5 Yards: 34 TD: 1 INT: 1 Rating: 59.5
If you're familiar with my work you're more than likely aware that I am a fan of Donald Brown. I believe he has the type of versatility and enough burst to be a Pro Bowl runner sometime in the near future.
There are a couple of obstacles in Brown's way; Joseph Addai is according to most cemented as the starter and the Colts are a pass-first and pass-heavy offense. If the running game is more productive this season, that should change somewhat.
To shoulder the burden of abuse Addai is likely to receive, Brown will likely get more touches this season and could improve on that 3.6 yard per carry average he had in year one.Those assumptions however can only be proved in the regular season, the question presently is whether or not Brown will get a lot of carries in tonight's contest against the Bengals.
The final game of the preseason as I'm sure you're aware, is a game for back-ups, rookies and veterans attempting to prove themselves and make the cut. Brown's position is more than safe but it is customary for the second string back to get some work in this game.
It will be interesting to see how long Caldwell will keep the regulars out there and how soon and often they go to Brown.
The Colts' second string offense has been unproductive to say the least. Will the offense perform any better now that jobs are on the line?
Tight ends Jacob Tamme and Brody Eldridge could be solid contributors to the Colts' offense this season, especially if Dallas Clark's injury issues linger.
Solid performances in tonight's games could help affect the all important trust factor, which could lead to more playing time and more targets from Peyton Manning.
Receivers Blair White and Taj Smith are simply trying to make the roster, which is easier said then done, especially with guys like Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie ahead of them.
White caught four passes in the first game but only caught one pass since, an 11-yard gain last week against the Packers. Four catches for 41 yards isn't exactly overwhelming, so if White plans on making this team he'll need a strong performance against the Bengals.
Smith on the other hand is second on the team in receptions (seven) and has a healthy 19.0 yards per catch average. He won't need a miracle to make this team, just enough to prove he could consistently produce solid numbers if an injury occurs.
The preseason really comes down to the 53-man roster and who Jim Caldwell and company deem viable parts of their roster.
The final game of the preseason is the last chance for late round selections, undrafted free agents and journeymen veterans to impress the coaching staff and front office in an attempt to earn a roster spot. Coach Caldwell recently spoke about the importance of late preseason action and how it can be the difference between making the team or being cut.
"This morning, we went through a couple of scenarios and showed a few film clips of guys that had gotten to the last couple games of the preseason and made everyone stand up and take notice," he said. "We kind of worked our way back through the years through the archives.
"Often times, you can talk about it, but a picture's worth a thousand words."
Guys like Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett, (starters) and Melvin Bullitt, all of which were undrafted made the roster and became staples on the Colts' roster because they performed well late in preseason play.