The recent and unfortunate injury to Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Art Jones can serve as an example for and against the NFL preseason. Jones went down with a left ankle injury in last week’s matchup with St. Louis, and now surgery appears likely. But for Indianapolis, the timing of the injury comes when they still have a litany of options to replace Jones.
Undoubtedly, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano will closely monitor the defensive line when they stare down the Cincinnati Bengals in Thursday night’s last preseason matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.
It will also make the final cuts to the Colts roster that much harder, especially at key offensive positions like running back, the offensive line, and wide receiver.
On the flip side, the Bengals and head coach Marvin Lewis have some hard choices to make at linebacker, as well as running back, wide receiver, and the offensive line.
Before Jones went down, the Colts enjoyed a mostly healthy training camp. However, several key players and those fighting for a roster spot endured some knocks. During Tuesday’s final practice, receiver T.Y. Hilton (concussion) appeared in a non-contact jersey, and a host of key contributors on offense and defense returned: tight end Coby Fleener (ankle), rookie wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (knee) and cornerback Jalil Brown (shoulder).
Others were in attendance but weren’t participating, according to Indianapolis’ official site: Cornerback Greg Toler (neck), outside linebacker Cam Johnson (ankle), running back Josh Robinson (concussion), and guard Hugh Thornton (knee).
In the first wave of cuts to get down to 75 players, the Bengals placed first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi on the reserve/non-football injury list as the offensive tackle continues to recover from the torn ACL that took him out in Texas A&M’s final game last season. Linebacker Sean Porter was also put on the physically unable to perform list.
Players to Watch
With Jones down, the Colts could turn to rookie lineman Henry Anderson. The Indy Star reports the third-round draft choice, who played defensive end in college, could challenge Montori Hughes and Zach Kerr for Jones’ spot.
At running back, Vick Ballard appears to be on the outside looking in with Indianapolis likely to go with Robinson as the No. 3 back. However, Ballard could shine when compared to other hopefuls like Zurlon Tipton and Tyler Varga.
Receiver is another matter, with Griff Whalen, Vincent Brown, and Quan Bray each trying to convince Pagano to burn a final roster spot on a sixth receiver.
The Bengals are also loaded at linebacker with third-round rookie P.J. Dawson looking to move up the depth chart, where he’s currently behind reserves Vincent Rey and A.J. Hawk. And fourth-year outside linebacker Chris Carter has really made his name as a pass rusher and is vying for a spot, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Second-round rookie and offensive tackle Jake Fisher will also try to impress coaches after some poor play against Chicago in last week’s matchup.
But how the Bengals running backs perform could be the story to monitor. Rookie Terrell Watson has enjoyed a terrific camp and preseason and so has James Wilder Jr. Even with Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard locked in as the top two backs, ESPN points out the Bengals have developed players very well on special teams, a spot Watson or Wilder could land with impressive showings against the Colts.
Kickoff Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV Channels: CBS (Cincinnati) and FOX 59 (Indianapolis)
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