Finally. Finally! The Indianapolis Colts’ season will finally begin on Thursday night in Seattle. For most teams, preseason is something not to scrutinize. However, the Colts have a certain franchise quarterback making his long-awaited return from injury. It has been a mere 585 days since Andrew Luck has taken a snap on an NFL football field. Luck will play the whole first quarter against Seattle. Not only will Luck be under a microscope but this Colts roster around him.
Three Key Matchups
Colts’ Offensive Line vs Seahawks’ Pass Rush
Everyone knows that football games are won through the trenches. Having a dominant offensive line allows your offense to do what it needs to do. Since Andrew Luck has been in Indianapolis, he has routinely had abysmal offensive lines. However, he’s still shown an ability to do what he wants even with incompetent offensive lines.
Even with the sudden retiring of Jack Mewhort, the Colts have the best offensive line they’ve ever had and one of the best young lines in the NFL on paper. It all starts with rookie guard Quenton Nelson, a physical freak with immaculate technique. He should be an All-Pro very soon.
Anthony Castonzo is a cornerstone at left tackle if he can remain healthy, a good run blocker with solid all-around ability. Ryan Kelly had a down 2017 but if he can return to his rookie form, he will be one of the best young centers in the NFL. Veterans Matt Slauson and Austin Howard aren’t spectacular but both should be solid. This line has ample depth as well, in players like Braden Smith and Joe Haeg.
Seattle has two very young, underrated edge rushers in Frank Clark and Dion Jordan. Clark is on the cusp of being a number one edge rusher and Jordan, a former top-five pick, has shown great potential and is in a great scheme and situation in Seattle. Keeping Luck healthy will be the number one priority his season and Seattle will be a good first test for the line.
Deon Cain and Daurice Fountain vs Shaquill Griffin
The 2017 rookie corner class was one of the best ever, including standouts such as Marshon Lattimore and Tre’Davious White. However, Shaquill Griffin often flies under the radar. He had an excellent 2017 and is in line to be Seattle’s number one corner after the departure of Richard Sherman.
Deon Cain lit up training camp, looking like a potential long-term option next to T.Y. Hilton. Daurice Fountain didn’t have the same spectacular performance but his upside is still great. He’s tall, athletic, fast, and has excellent hands. He could also be a perfect compliment to T.Y. Hilton due to his great leaping ability. Shaquill Griffin will be an excellent first test to see how well these rookies can perform against NFL caliber cornerbacks.
Darius Leonard and Skai Moore vs Seahawks’ Backfield
Last season, the Colts had the worst linebacker corps in the NFL. In the modern NFL, linebackers who are athletic with coverage ability are the most important type of linebacker. Indy had none last year. This year, two rookies could see the bulk of the playing time at linebacker: Darius Leonard and Skai Moore. They are both excellent cover linebackers. Both have excellent instincts and short area quickness and both dominated during training camp.
The ability to cover running backs out of the backfield is crucial in the modern NFL. Moore and Leonard will be tested by Rashaad Penny, Chris Carson, and more in the running and passing game. Antonio Morrison and Anthony Walker Jr. have no chance in coverage; hopefully Moore and Leonard can right the ship in 2018.
Andrew Luck comes out gunslinging and the offense keeps the momentum up for the rest of the game. The defense struggles but flashes signs of improvement.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.