With Week 4 of the preseason here, the regular season looms nearer and nearer. Before the annual preseason game between Cincinnati and Indianapolis gets underway tonight, we spoke with Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue, SB Nation’s Colts blog, prior to the two teams taking the field.
Connor Howe: After Jack Mewhort initially suffered what looked like a season-ending injury, how glad are Colts fans to know he could be back within the next month or so?
Josh Wilson: Colts fans are very relieved, to say the least. The initial reports suggested it was a torn ACL, and those reports typically aren't wrong. So when it was revealed that Mewhort wouldn't need surgery and will be out 2-4 weeks, it obviously was a huge break for Indianapolis. With the question marks they already have along the offensive line, they couldn't afford to lose their starting left guard - and arguably their best lineman - to a serious injury like that. He may not be ready to start the season, but it's huge that the Colts will get him back sooner rather than later.
CH: The Colts' talented wide receiver duo of T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief looks like one of the NFL's best. Which of the two do you anticipate will see more targets and put up better numbers from a fantasy perspective in the upcoming season?
JW: I think both T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief will have good seasons, so I think from a fantasy perspective both will be good options. I guess I'd break it down this way: I expect T.Y. Hilton to see more targets, since he's still Andrew Luck's go-to guy and we've seen nothing to suggest that will change. I think Donte Moncrief will be a bigger touchdown threat, however, as he's a guy who can make plays in the red zone and will get into the end zone. So I don't think you can go wrong with either player in fantasy.
CH: Indianapolis ended up keeping Dwayne Allen over Coby Fleener at the tight end position. Do you think that was the right move to make, and how big of a role do you anticipate Allen having on offense?
JW: I think it was definitely the right move to make as long as Dwayne Allen stays healthy. The problem, however, is that he's struggled with injuries recently. He's missed at least three games in each of the past three seasons, and in 2013 missed almost the entire season (he only played in one game). The injury situation with Allen is certainly legitimate, and so the Colts are counting on him staying healthy. As long as he's on the field, he should have a big role in the offense as both a blocker and a receiver. I don't think he'll ever become a guy who puts up huge receiving numbers, but I do think he'll be able to be a productive, reliable, and dangerous playmaker through the air when needed. Again, I think the biggest question of them all when it comes to Allen is whether he can stay healthy. If he does, he'll have a very significant role in the offense.
CH: Vontae Davis is, at least in my mind, the best player on Indy's defense, but behind him, it doesn't look like the Colts have much. Which other guys should fans keep an eye on to make an impact?
JW: Vontae Davis is the team's best defender, and after him there really aren't many players that can be game-changers. They have some really good defensive linemen in Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson, while Robert Mathis can still be (kind of) productive as a pass rusher - but overall, the defense is filled with veterans and not great. I think the defensive linemen in particular are the guys to keep an eye on when it comes to the Colts' defense this year, as Langford and Anderson are both coming off of very strong seasons in 2015 and the depth overall along the defensive line is pretty good.
CH: Despite the Colts not seeming to be a super deep team, they still have a guy they believe is one of the best quarterbacks in football in Andrew Luck. What are the expectations of Luck and his team in what I still believe will be a pretty weak AFC South in 2016?
JW: The expectations for the Colts is to win their division and get back to the playoffs. I think it's very reasonable to think that they can still win the AFC South, get a home playoff game, and maybe win it depending on the matchup. That would be a good season for them, and of course it all comes down to Andrew Luck. If he can get back to his form from his first three years I think the Colts have to be considered the favorites in the division. There are plenty of other issues on the team, but that's been the case for the past four years. From 2012-2014, Luck was good enough to cover over the flaws, but last year he struggled and missed nine games. If he gets back to form, I think it's fair to expect he'll once again mask over some flaws, and in doing so the Colts should be a very real playoff contender in the AFC South - which, as you mentioned, still isn't great overall despite being very much improved.
CH: A ton of Bengal fans really wanted to see Cincinnati take center Ryan Kelly early in the draft, but he ended up making his way to Indianapolis. How has he looked this preseason?
JW: Ryan Kelly has been everything the Colts and Colts fans expected so far. He's a very smart guy and a good center, and he's shown that so far in the preseason. He had a few struggles in the team's most recent game, but nothing out of the ordinary for a rookie center. Overall, I think he's played better than you'd expect a rookie to do as he's beginning his NFL career, and there's plenty of reason to be optimistic about him. I'm sure he'll have his fair share of rookie struggles as he's the team's full-time starter this year, but he's been impressive so far.
CH: Finally, how are the Colts looking on the injury front?
JW: Simply put, it's not very good right now. The Colts have been fortunate in one sense as to avoid any major season-ending injury, but they have plenty of other injuries. For example, in their last preseason game they were without six cornerbacks and lost another one just a few plays into the game. Starters Vontae Davis, Kendall Langford, Henry Anderson, Sio Moore, Clayton Geathers, Jack Mewhort and Joe Reitz are all recovering from injuries, and it's uncertain which of them (if any) will be back for Week 1. In addition, there are several depth players who have been dealing with injuries also, making the team very thin. The injury situation will affect the final roster cuts in a big way as the Colts are dealing with several key injuries right now.