The Colts finish off their short week with their preseason week three matchup against the 49ers at home. The San Francisco Jimmy Gs are one of the top upcoming teams in the NFL and will be a great test for the Colts roster. They added bombastic corner Richard Sherman to the secondary, bolstering a formerly weak group. Fortunately, former rookie sensation safety Malik Hooker makes his 2018 debut on Saturday. The Colts will hope to gain some momentum, beating the Niners for a second straight time.
Quenton Nelson vs DeForest Buckner
Quenton Nelson has been just as dominant as the Colts hoped when they spent the sixth overall pick on him. The guard annihilated any defensive lineman that Seattle threw at him, dominating in the run game and protecting the quarterback. He struggled a bit against his first real test in Brandon Williams. The 6’1″, 335-pound Baltimore defensive tackle is a massive human and was the first player Nelson has likely ever faced who could consistently move him. Nevertheless, Nelson held his own.
Against San Francisco, Nelson faces his biggest challenge yet in 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. The third-year lineman is supremely talented; a strong, powerful player with newly refined technique. In his second season, he added finesse to his physical dominance, making him a nearly unblockable force. Fortunately, Nelson is already close to Buckner in terms of physical gifts and technical refinement. This face-off will be one I will be watching closely and one Nelson will surely watch many times as well.
Jimmy Garoppolo vs Colts’ Secondary
After the Patriots traded Garoppolo to the 49ers, he quickly blossomed into a burgeoning star. He led the 49ers to an undefeated record, including impressive wins against the Jaguars and Rams. He fell into a perfect situation with an offensive genius in Kyle Shanahan and showed traits of an elite quarterback. Due to his mobility, arm, and lightning-quick release, I believe Garoppolo is a top 10 quarterback in the NFL.
San Francisco’s receiving corps isn’t spectacular but it is a capable group, including veteran Pierre Garçon, speedster Marquise Goodwin, and rookie Dante Pettis. Young tight end George Kittle is athletic and a mismatch for many linebackers.
The Colts’ secondary performed poorly against Joe Flacco but had its moments, including a standout performance from Quincy Wilson. The number one cornerback will look to build upon his excellent performance against Baltimore. The return of Malik Hooker will help the Colts’ defense immensely, as he is already one of the top safeties in the NFL. His elite range and athleticism make him an ideal center-fielder when the Colts run cover three. If the Colts can keep Garoppolo in check, that will bode well for the future.
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After Marlon Mack went down with an injury, the Colts have looked for another tailback to perform. Unfortunately, nobody has really cemented themselves as a capable running back. In their defense, the interior offensive line was a mess against Baltimore. In my opinion, Christine Michael did the best job with his explosiveness and burst but didn’t show much. Fan favorite (contrary to my beliefs) Jordan Wilkins didn’t do much to impress me but has shown solid straight-line quickness and finishing ability. Nyheim Hines has been a disaster. Hopefully, one of these backs can cement themselves as a true playmaker in this backfield.
Anthony Castonzo’s absence has been truly detrimental to the Colts’ success on offense. Any player that they’ve tried at left tackle, from Le’Raven Clark to Joe Haeg, has been simply inadequate. One of these guys will need to step up, especially in pass protection. The 49ers have a talented defensive line, featuring DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, and Arik Armstead. Hopefully one of these guys can show that he belongs.
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