One Night Could Make a Difference

On Friday night against the Bengals, reserve players battling for a position on the 53-man roster and depth chart will see extensive action. For about a dozen, this game could determine their future in Indy. ColtPower tells you which ones to keep an eye on during the game.

It'll be a night of conflicting emotions for many men wearing the Colts horseshoe on Friday night as Indianapolis hosts the Cincinnati Bengals. Since it's the last preseason game, the starters will see little, if any, playing time. So the players below them on the depth chart who have studied their playbooks, sweated in the heat of training camp, and absorbed monstrous blows that would bring lesser men to their knees will finally have a chance to see plenty of live action in an NFL preseason game.  But for many of them, it will also be their final game before turning in their uniform and flying home to families all over the United States.

Seventy-five men are Colts today. By late Saturday afternoon, twenty-two will be looking for employment elsewhere, or -- for those eligible -- hopeful that they will get an offer to be one of the eight men added to the team's practice squad on Sunday.  Quite frankly, for some of the 22 who won't make the cut, Friday night's performance -- whether they do great work or not -- probably won't make a difference. The coaches have undoubtedly seen consistent patterns during camp, practices and the preseason and have already made their final assessments of some of these players. Below are the players you'll see putting it all on the line Friday night -- and that you should keep an eye on during the game. Because these are the ones who are close enough to making it -- or who could drop below the cut line -- based on the lasting impression they leave in the minds of the coaches on Friday night.

Terrence Wilkins -- WR/KR/PR
As mentioned earlier this week, if the Colts place the tenured Wilkins on the 53-man roster on Saturday, his paycheck is guaranteed for the balance of the season no matter how he plays the rest of the way. He impressed the team with a strong outing against a somewhat suspect Saints coverage teams unit last weekend. If he even comes close to repeating a 30-plus yard average on kickoff returns and continues to look sharp on punt returns, he's in. If he struggles, it could raise some questions about whether or not the team should bring back Dan Sheldon instead.

John Standeford, Ed Hinkel, Marc Boerigter - WR
At the end of the season, the Colts had six wide receivers on their 53-man roster, including Troy Walters who handled punt returns duty. If Wilkins claims that role, he takes one of the spots. Aaron Moorehead appears to have the inside track for the number four receiver slot. That would leave just one spot available for these three receivers. Hinkel is the only one with practice squad eligibility, but that would be risky. Standeford has certainly matured as a receiver, but will it be enough? If Standeford was a slam-dunk, why bring in Boerigter for a look? A big night from any of these three could be a pivotal moment in his NFL career.

George Gause - DE/DT
One interesting turn of events you may have missed in all the roster moves recently was that the Colts didn't release George Gause. Prior to the Saints game, the team was short on defensive linemen. They signed five players as a stop-gap measure to get them through the week with enough depth. Earlier this week, they said goodbye to all of them -- except Gause, who was on Denver's practice squad for 11 weeks last year. They obviously saw something they liked. He could be auditioning for at least a practice squad spot on Friday night.

Marcus West -- DT
West has a chance to be one of the rare breeds in this year's class of Colts rookies -- an undrafted free agent who makes the 53-man roster. He's right on the bubble if the Colts opt to start the season with ten defensive linemen on the roster. With a strong night, he could make the case that he deserves that honor.  Ironically, West and one of the other undrafted rookies that should get the most serious consideration -- WR Ed Hinkel -- weren't even signed with the initial group of 18 rookies right after the draft. West was a bit of an afterthought, signing in mid-May and Hinkel was signed after being cast off by the Ravens.

Bo Lacy - OL
Lacy was on the practice squad last year and should still be eligible this year as well. He needs a big night to prove that he belongs on the regular roster, but he also might need an unexpected roster move -- such as the Colts putting Ryan Lilja on the PUP list if his knee isn't showing enough progress -- to make it this year.

Jim Sorgi, Shaun King - QB
Reports out of Indy say that Sorgi won't be playing against the Bengals. I'm not sure if that works to his advantage or disadvantage. The Colts have recently jettisoned a number of players who have shown indications of chronic injury problems, and Sorgi is certainly inching closer to that designation. If the Colts can't count on him -- as they haven't been able to dating all the way back to minicamp -- why use a roster spot on him? He's in the final year of his contract and Shaun King looks more comfortable out there every week. As King has gotten more familiar with this very complex offense, he's been making some good plays and is showing much better pocket presence under fire than Sorgi has.

Tony Hollings -- RB
The former Texan needs to have a strong night or his former teammate -- Jonathan Wells -- is going to take the No. 4 running back spot from him. From what I'm hearing, the Colts are optimistic that Wells can be the short-yardage back that they hoped Hollings would be. He's shown some nice ability in some tough situations, but his overall stats against lower-level NFL talent haven't been enough to clinch the job yet.

Nick Hannah, Brandon Hoyte, Dale Robinson -- LB
At least one of these three, possibly two, should make the roster. Hannah is in his second training camp and got a vote of confidence this week that should be an indicator that he's going to stick this year. He's the only player who saw action in NFL Europe this spring who's still on the team's 75-man roster. Hoyte and Robinson are going to have to make some big plays Friday night, or gain some benefit from Freddie Keiaho's injured knee to make the cut. That said, I won't be surprised to see both offered practice squad spots if they don't make the 53-man roster.

Von Hutchins -- CB
Hutchins is buried on a depth chart that includes Nick Harper, Jason David, Kelvin Hayden, Marlin Jackson and second-round pick Tim Jennings ahead of him. Kick returner T.J. Rushing is also a cornerback, so Hutchins would have to do something truly extraordinary Friday night to bump one of those players out. The team is likely to keep just ten or eleven spots open for defensive backs, and if you add safeties Bob Sanders, Mike Doss, Antoine Bethea, Matt Giordano and perhaps Dexter Reid to the list, you're already at eleven.


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