When it comes to playing time for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and most of the other approximately 50 new players on the Indianapolis Colts training camp roster, today’s National Football League preseason opener with the St. Louis Rams will be about quality over quantity.
That means playing well during their limited time in the game, which is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium. Luck and the first-team offense are only expected to be on the field for 20 to 25 plays if all goes well.
“[We’ve] got a line that we’ve kind of solidified a little bit to this point. We got six, seven or eight guys that we feel great about and a group behind them that have been working their tails off, guys that are fighting for positions out there,” Colts first-year coach Chuck Pagano explained Friday.
“We’re probably looking, with Andrew, if we could get two, three series and get say 18, 20, 25 snaps, somewhere in there, that’d probably be a great start for him.”
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians wouldn’t mind seeing the No. 1 offense have one or two good drives and then take a long look at several other first-year players who may be on the bubble when it comes to making the regular season roster.
“We want to see how long we want to play that first line and the entire group, so we haven’t really sat down and talked about it yet. We’d like to get in 20 plays, maybe 25,” Arians previewed early last week.
He recalled 1998 when rookie quarterback Peyton Manning played in first preseason game. Arians was Indianapolis’ quarterback coach at the time. The opponent was Seattle.
Manning’s first NFL pass went to wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who took a short throw and outsprinted the rest of the Seahawks’ secondary for a touchdown.
“Because we scored on the first play, [Manning] played a little bit more than we wanted. Hopefully we can get one of those in, but it’s just the number of plays and how we get the feel for the game is going,” Arians voiced.
“Hopefully we don’t go three-and-out, three-and-out and have to play him into the second quarter. It’d be nice if we could get a good drive going. We’ve got so many guys we want to look at. It’s a long, long season.”
n Good memory — Arians remembers Manning’s first preseason game like it was yesterday.
“We thought we had a pretty good simple play, delay hand pass. Thought we’d get eight or nine yards on a slant to Marvin and he took it to the house,” he recalled.
n Goals for the offense — The key for Luck, and the rest of the first offensive unit, is to get off to a good tempo, be productive and to limit mental and physical mistakes.
“He needs to play against someone else other than himself and see different [pass] coverages and different fronts. We’re looking forward to it,” Arians said.
“We’re definitely tired of hitting each other, you know, we’d like to hit somebody else. It’s always fun to get to that first one to see what you got and where you need to head to and what parts are solid and what parts need to be greased up a little bit. We got to find some things out about some young guys in the second half too.”
n Stanton, Harnish to see work — Once Luck gets his limited work done, backup quarterbacks Drew Stanton and rookie Chandler Harnish will go the rest of the way.
Arians likes the improvement that he’s seen from Stanton since he was added to the roster last spring.
“I’ve seen great improvement. His accuracy has improved a ton, that’s gone along with his knowledge of what we’re trying to get done. He’s had an excellent camp,” Arians said. “Every now and then he’ll throw one in there thinking his arm is strong enough and he’ll throw a pick, and just learn from that and don’t do it again. But I’ve been real pleased with him. I feel comfortable if we had to play him that we could win a ball game.”
n Running backs in action — There’s currently a logjam at running back right now with Donald Brown, Delone Carter, Darren Evans, Deji Karim, former Pittsburgh Steeler Mewelde Moore and rookie Vick Ballard.
Brown appears set, for now, as the Colts’ primary runner. Moore, who played for Arians in Pittsburgh, is pushing for more playing time with Carter. Ballard was drafted last spring. Evans and Karim also need to show what they can do when given the opportunity.
“Six good backs, that’s part of the reason I’m anxious to see them and we don’t want our [regulars] going the whole time either. We’ve got to get all those guys in and see what they do and what role they can find,” Arians said.
“Delone did a nice job in his short-yardage and goal-line period the other day. Donald’s had a good camp, [Moore has] had a good camp. Vick, I really want to see him in action, see what he’s doing against live bullets. All of the guys have looked pretty solid in the backfield.”
Moore and Karim, who played at Southern Illinois, are intriguing prospects.
“[Moore] had a bunch of roles [in Pittsburgh]. Third down was one. But when, I think it was Willie Parker, got hurt the one year he started, [Moore] had 130 [yards] against Cincinnati. He was our goal-line runner. We usually put him in the end of the game to run out the clock because he always put the ball where it was suppose to be. It was a great trust thing,” Arians said.
“[Deji is] a speed guy. He brings a ton of speed to the position. His best chance is, you know, obviously kick returner and home run hitter in the backfield. We’ll see how he plays between the tackles.”
n Roster move — Rookie outside linebacker Tim Fugger has passed his physical and will revert to the active roster.
Fugger, who played collegiately at Vanderbilt, was previously on the active/physically unable to perform list with a sports hernia issue.
n Injury update — Defensive end Cory Redding, who was hurt toward the end of Thursday’s practice and did not take part in Friday’s workout, is not expected to play against St. Louis.
Redding tweeted Friday evening that his elbow injury is not serious and he should be back in practice next week.
Wide receiver Donnie Avery (hip contusion) is also sidelined and won’t face his old team. Avery was originally drafted by the Rams.