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Bengals vs Colts Preseason Week 4: Behind Enemy Lines

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Welcome to preseason Week 4, the fakest of the fake football games. We are joined this week by Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue to talk Colts - mainly those players that will not be playing tonight, but will be playing once the real games start.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Q: The Colts acquired some big names in the offseason. How have Andre Johnson and Frank Gore looked thus far?

A: They have both looked good despite getting less playing time than others. Gore, in fact, has received just two carries in the preseason, but that's because he doesn't need them and it's better to not have him taking unnecessary hits. While we haven't seen him in the preseason much, however, he looks good and still has that initial burst and vision that should help him tremendously with the Colts. As for Johnson, he too has been settling into the offense nicely and should have a big role as the number two receiver. He will likely catch a number of passes this year as he serves as a possession receiver of sorts for the team. Both players are fitting in very nicely and are expected to have good seasons.

Q: I really liked Phillip Dorsett, the rookie from Miami. How has he looked in the preseason?

A: Dorsett has looked very good. In camp and preseason he has showed off his great speed but has also shown himself to be a more well-rounded receiver than some may initially have thought, running some good routes and things like that. The question is mainly about what role he will have - as likely the third or fourth receiver and then as a return man - but not so much about how he will do when in those roles, because while he'll surely have some rookie struggles and take some time to adjust to the NFL, he has looked good so far.

Q: The Colts made the AFC Championship game in 2014, but were blown out by the Patriots. Do you feel the Colts have closed that gap enough to make a Super Bowl run in 2015?

A: Has the gap closed? Absolutely. Can the Colts make a Super Bowl run in 2015? Absolutely. But could the Patriots still blow them out when the two teams meet? Absolutely. Let me try to clear that up - I think the Colts are closer to the Patriots than they have been at any point during the Andrew Luck era, and depending on who you ask, many consider the team to be better than the Patriots this year. And as long as the Colts have Andrew Luck playing quarterback, they will be competing for a Super Bowl, and the team this year is good enough to get there as long as Luck is leading the way. But here's the thing: if the Colts can't stop the Patriots from running the football on them, that all might not matter too much. And there are still questions about the run defense, particularly now that Arthur Jones is injured. So I'm still very much waiting to believe it until I see them actually stop the Patriots, but I do think this team is capable of making a Super Bowl run in 2015 with Luck at quarterback.

Q: What is the deepest/strongest position on this 2015 Colts team?

A: The strongest position is quarterback, but that's only because of Andrew Luck and I'm pretty sure that's not exactly what you were going for with this question, so I think the deepest position is the wide receiver position. T.Y. Hilton is an emerging star wideout who made the Pro Bowl last year, and then after him is Andre Johnson, who has a resume that will garner debate one day in the Hall of Fame voting room. Donte Moncrief is an intriguing player entering his second year who could have an impact, and then we already talked about the Colts' first round pick this year, Phillip Dorsett. All four of those players could have a nice role in 2015. Then behind them is Duron Carter, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who the Colts signed out of the CFL this offseason. He still has work to do but possesses the natural talent that make him an intriguing player to watch moving forward if the Colts continue to stick with him. And then even players like Griff Whalen, Vincent Brown, and undrafted rookie Quan Bray have all done some good things but might not make the roster because of the depth.

Q: What is the most intriguing roster battle in Colts camp this year?

A: Believe it or not, the Colts haven't had a ton of battles for starting spots this year. Positions that many thought might be a battle, like the center and left guard spots, haven't been much of a competition at all. So I'll go with the nose tackle position as the most intriguing battle of camp and preseason. Josh Chapman started 15 games at the spot last year and did some good things, but overall was inconsistent and underwhelming. The Colts didn't really do much to address the position this offseason, however, so it was expected that Chapman would win the job again. Rookie David Parry, however, has been making a push for the starting spot. He has struggled some against double teams, but for a team still looking for a true answer at nose tackle, he's a very intriguing guy. I don't think he'll be the team's starter (I think that will go to Chapman), but Parry should still be in the rotation and could continue to make a push for the starting spot if he keeps improving as the season goes on.

Q: Do you see any cuts coming that may surprise people?

A: I think there are two cuts to be aware of that could happen for the Colts, and in fact one of them has already occurred. As part of the first roster cutdowns the Colts parted ways with veteran offensive lineman Donald Thomas, who they signed as a free agent in 2013. He is a talented and good player but has missed most of the past two seasons with torn quads, and the Colts could save money by releasing him now, so they did. The second player of note who is very much on the bubble is running back Vick Ballard. He started several games as a rookie in 2012 and did a good job, but tore his ACL early in 2013 and then tore his Achilles in camp last year. He's trying to come back from those two injuries, but this year during camp he has been plagued with a couple of hamstring tweaks - minor injuries but still injuries that keep him out for several days. He has played in just one preseason game, receiving two carries, and it's not certain whether he will play on Thursday either. He's a guy Colts fans are rooting for considering what he's been through, and if healthy he could be a nice depth back, but I don't know if there's enough to go by to make that decision.

Q: What are the strengths of the 2015 Colts? And, what areas of this Colts team concern you?

A: The team's strengths are mainly on the offensive side of the football. Andrew Luck and the passing game is the biggest strength of the team, as Luck is very good and he has a number of weapons offensively, with the receivers, tight ends, and running backs. Of course, a concern is the offensive line, which has struggled some in preseason. Can they protect Luck enough not to hinder the passing game - one that might feature the downfield passing quite a bit? That's a big question mark. And then on the defensive side of the football, the strength is probably in the cornerback position. Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Darius Butler make up a very good trio of corners, and they seem to do a pretty good job. As for concerns defensively, there are other areas I'm not sure about but the biggest concern has to be the run defense yet again, as the Colts didn't do a ton to address it and now Arthur Jones is expected to miss significant time for the second straight year.

Q: The Colts were 11-5 in 2014, finished first in the AFC South and made the AFC Championship game. What is your prediction for the Colts (record wise) and where do you see the Colts finishing in the AFC South in 2015?

A: I think the Colts will improve on that win total from the past three years and win at least 12 games this year, winning the AFC South. Their schedule is simply very favorable. They play their AFC South opponents for six games and then the four NFC South teams, meaning that they get to play the two worst divisions in football from a year ago. Some of those teams might be improved, yes, but it looks like a favorable schedule. And then even the scheduling looks good, as the Colts travel to Buffalo in September and to Miami in December - a perfect situation, weather-wise. There are some tough games, for sure, against teams like the Patriots, Broncos, Steelers, and others, but the overall schedule seems pretty favorable for the Colts, and considering how good they could be this year, I think that adds up for a better record than in the past three years (when they won 11 games each year).

Check out our answers to Stampede Blue's questions.