I think it was Ben Franklin who quipped about the only things in life that are certain are death, taxes, and the Bengals and Colts annually facing each other in the fourth week of the NFL’s preseason. Well, it was something like that. He may have forgotten one of those three. But it is the fourth week of the preseason, which means the Bengals face off in their annual end of preseason showdown with the Colts in a battle of backups making one last push for a roster spot.
We spoke with Chris Blystone of Stampede Blue to get a feel on the 2017 Colts and what to expect on Thursday night.
Scott Schulze: The Colts have former Bengals backup defensive end Margus Hunt on their roster. I’m curious how he is doing in Colts’ training camp? Do you think he will make the roster?
Chris Blystone: Hunt had a good camp and has played well through the preseason so far. He seems to be a good fit as a depth piece on the defensive line, and has batted down a couple passes as well as blocking a kick against Dallas in week 2 of the preseason. I think he will probably make the roster, but given how banged up the Colts are and that the defensive line is their deepest position, anything is possible.
Scott Schulze: There were some rumors floating around earlier in the month that Colts’ wide receiver Phillip Dorsett was on trading block. Is there anything to those rumors, and do you think the Colts would find a suitor?
CB: It seems at this point that if those rumors were legitimate, they aren’t going to find anyone to give them what they want for Dorsett. More likely I think those rumors might have been intended to get Dorsett’s attention and get him to show some fight. He has certainly looked good during camp and the preseason, but has missed a lot of time with soft-tissue injuries and that hasn’t helped him much. Given that the guy who was challenging him for his spot as the No. 3 receiver, Chester Rogers, has been out of practice for more than a week injured, I think he will be sticking around.
Scott Schulze: After back to back 8-8 seasons, can the Colts return to double-digit wins? Can the Colts win with Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris, if Luck misses any time?
CB: That will depend on a lot going right. The Colts certainly have a favorable schedule, and if they did not have such significant injury concerns I would feel more confident about that. The defense is largely new faces and that chemistry and understanding takes time to develop. Factor in losing Vontae Davis for an unknown amount of time, and you have problems. The offensive line remains a revolving door and the receivers behind T.Y. Hilton are perpetually dealing with soft-tissue injuries. With that said, Andrew Luck erases a lot of ugliness. If he gets back healthy without missing more than a couple games, this team is certainly capable of a ten-win season, but that is probably just about the ceiling given the injuries.
Scott Schulze: Speaking of Luck, what is the consensus on his health? This reminds me of the Peyton Manning thing from 2011 when it seemed like each week was the week he was going to finally play, but never played. Do most fans seen him returning soon?
CB: I think most fans are frustrated and angry with the mind-games being played by the organization. We all know this is the way football is and no one wants to show their cards, but honestly, we just have almost no information about how Luck is progressing. To be honest, it would not surprise me if Luck was activated and played in Week 1 against the Rams. It also would not surprise me if he started the season on the reserve/PUP. The Colts have been so guarded about Luck’s health since he came into the league that it is just really tough to know how he is really doing.
Scott Schulze: Many of us thought Frank Gore was over the hill when he signed with the Colts two seasons ago as a 32-year-old. He seems to be proving doubters wrong 1,992 yards and 10 td’s later. How much longer do you see him producing for the Colts? And do they have an adequate backup if he does finally slow down?
CB: I think this is the year you will see Frank’s production drop. Let me elaborate by saying I think Gore is an incredible player. But watching him last season you just saw him really slow down as the season wore on. His vision is as good as ever, and he looked really solid against Pittsburgh last week, but I think the Colts know they can’t ride him as their primary back and have anything left of him at the end of the season. I expect him to get something like 10 carries per game this season and that we will see guys like Robert Turbin in on short yardage plays and our rookie Marlon Mack in as a third down back. Mack has easily looked like the most talented back on the roster through camp and the preseason, but like most rookies he still has some learning and growing to do. My projection is that if we see Gore slow as the season goes on, Mack will start to eat up those carries.
Scott Schulze: Since it’s only the preseason, I won’t ask for a score or a winner, but what should Bengals’ fans look for from the Colts this weekend? Any hidden gems to keep an eye on, or any intriguing position battles which are coming down to this final week of preseason?
CB: Some of that will depend on how the Colts play the quarterback position. There is a stiff competition among the wide receivers, but if Phillip Walker, the fourth string quarterback gets the majority of the snaps, they likely won’t have much of a chance to make a great showing. If Tolzien and Morris play any time at all, JoJo Natson and Bug Howard are guys in the receiving group that are definitely worth keeping an eye on. Natson has been great on special teams as a return man and as a fearless and hard-working receiver. Problem is, he is 5’7” 158 pounds. On the defensive side, it’ll be worth watching the cornerbacks because with the loss of Vontae Davis it is likely that the guys playing will be getting some time starting over the first few weeks of the season. Also, the ILB position is one where I expect Ballard to pick up some guys after cuts are made, so that is a group to keep an eye on for anyone who is able to make an impression.
Which Colts player would you most want on the Bengals’ roster?
This poll is closed
Andrew Luck, quarterback
T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver
Anthony Castonzo, left tackle
Ryan Kelly, center
Malik Hooker, free safety