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Key Areas to Watch in Colts vs. Lions Preseason Finale

With most of the Colts’ starters not playing in the final preseason game, fringe roster players will have one last opportunity to stand out as final cuts loom. (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube).

It has been an interesting week in a training camp full of drama for the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts received some positive news as Carson Wentz (foot), Quenton Nelson (foot), and Ryan Kelly (elbow) all returned to practice this week in at least a limited capacity.

Wentz and Nelson are only three weeks removed from surgery and both responded very well to the pressure they placed on their injured feet. Kelly was even able to return to full-team activities by the week’s end.

While this is fantastic news for the Colts, none of them will be suiting up to play in the final preseason game against the Detroit Lions on Friday. In fact, most of the starters will not be playing as both Frank Reich and Lions’ head coach Dan Campbell have agreed to rest the majority of their players.

This presents a major opportunity for players that are fighting for a roster spot to stand out one last time before final roster cuts are made on Tuesday. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the areas to watch when the Colts strap on the helmets at Ford Field.

Eason or Ehlinger: Who’s QB2?

While it looks like Wentz is trending in the right direction to play Week One, there is still a quarterback competition going on in Indy. Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger are still fighting to be Wentz’s backup and possibly start if there is a setback.

After disappointing performances last week against the Minnesota Vikings, both players wanted to go back and review the film to see where they can improve.

For Eason, who will be getting the start on Friday, accuracy was the biggest issue. Many of his throws were off target and it caused numerous drives to stall. Cleaning up his accuracy concerns would be huge in helping him solidify the backup spot.

Ehlinger’s main issue was his decision-making. He had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, giving him three total in two games. While he does not deserve all of the blame for the interceptions, Ehlinger has been a major reason why the Colts have lost the turnover battle in both preseason games and he needs to be more responsible with the ball in his hands.

Eason currently has the upper hand and will most likely win the competition. Reich said they will be looking at the full body of work (games, practices, meetings, etc.) when determining a winner, but a great performance against the Lions would certainly help Ehlinger’s case.

Final WR Spots

The battle for the final wide receiver spots on the Colts’ roster has raged on all of training camp. T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, and Parris Campbell are all locks to make it. The three players who I predicted would fight for the last two spots (the Colts normally keep six receivers) were Mike Strachan, Ashton Dulin, and Dezmon Patmon.

Strachan, the seventh-round pick out of Division II Charleston, has been fantastic in camp. His massive 6’5” frame combined with his speed and ball skills have been impressive. He has firmly established himself as WR5 with the potential to be a major find for the Colts.

This leaves one spot for two players. Dulin has been one of the best special teams players for the Colts over the past two years at gunner. A hamstring injury kept him out for a portion of camp but he has made his return in time to try and secure a spot.

Patmon was kept on the Colts’ active roster all of last year as a rookie despite only playing two snaps, showing the team likes his potential. Patmon has played well in the first two preseason games, consistently catching balls and moving the chains. He also showed some special teams ability of his own playing gunner against the Vikings, a role he normally is not in.

Many of the spots on the backend of the roster are predicated on whether or not the player can contribute on special teams. Dulin is a great gunner, but if Patmon can make that a role of his own, his upside on the offensive side of the ball would give him the clear edge for the spot.

Backup Beef in The Middle

The Colts have absolute studs as their starting defensive tackles in DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart. However, there are some questions behind them as far as depth is concerned.

Antwaun Woods looks to be the backup to Stewart at nose tackle, but he is battling a hamstring injury. As long as the injury is not too serious, he should make the roster.

Taylor Stallworth was a key backup for the Colts last year, but he also suffered a hamstring injury in camp that caused him to miss some time. There is no guarantee he will make it through final cuts.

A couple of guys that have impressed are Andrew Brown and Chris Williams. Brown has shown incredible explosion and has been a disruptive presence throughout camp. Williams has also shown flashes and created a good amount of pressure up the middle. Look for both of these players to flash as they try to make the team.

Surprise at Safety

When camp started, the talk about the safety position was which Davis was going to make the team, veteran Sean or the rookie Shawn? Now, neither Davis may make the final 53.

One of the standouts of camp has been Andre Chachere. Chachere has been making plays all over the field and coaches have definitely taken notice. He has great position versatility as he can play safety, outside cornerback, nickel cornerback, and contribute on special teams.

Chachere suffered a concussion on the final play of the game against the Vikings. He did practice on Wednesday in a red non-contact jersey signifying he is on his way back. His status for Friday’s game is still up in the air.

The final safety spot behind Julian Blackmon, Khari Willis, and George Odum will likely come down to Chachere and Sean Davis, who had three interceptions this past week in his best week of camp. If Chachere can play, it’ll certainly be a fun competition to watch.

Have thoughts on the key areas to watch for the final preseason game for the Indianapolis Colts? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel! 

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