Five to Watch: Colts at Falcons

As the field starts to level and roster spots start to get claimed, here are five players to watch when the Colts face off against the Falcons in preseason action.

1. Mike Pollak: After being chosen as essentially the Colts first pick in this year's draft, Pollak has yet to distinguish himself.

Although he has played well and not been singled out for any typical rookie mistakes, he has yet to register that single "signature moment" that many other rookies currently on the roster have already turned in. Not having your name called out by the officials or the announcers for a blunder certainly endears a player to the coaching staff, especially when discussing an interior lineman, but Indianapolis is looking for someone to pull out and pancake a linebacker or perform particularly well in pass protection.

With veteran Charlie Johnson running with the first team and establishing himself as the starter more and more with each passing day, Pollak needs to show the coaches something on Saturday night.  A big hit or a crucial block will go a long way in the eyes of Howard Mudd, even if Johnson does end up maintaining his starting role.

Clifton Dawson has had an interesting week
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

2. Clifton Dawson: By being waived and subsequently claimed in less than a week, Dawson has already had a rough go of things lately.  However, in addition to his recent state of flux on the roster, he also has Kenton Keith, Chad Simpson, and rookie sensation Mike Hart to deal with.

When he does see action on the field, Dawson needs to show the coaches more than he has shown thus far.  If he is inadequate in terms of finding the hole and attacking it as the play unfolds, as a receiver, or in pass blocking, then he has made his statement and does not deserve to be on the roster.

But, if he still has fight in him and still is passionate about claiming a starting job, he needs to display that against Atlanta.  The level of intensity he brings when his number is called in this game will determine whether or not he is one of the 53 men that enter the 2008 season as an Indianapolis Colt.

3. Marcus RichardsonAlthough he is still technically a rookie, Richardson has basically been through two offseasons since the draft concluded and the Houston Texans came calling.

It has already been a long journey for the undrafted free agent, but the good news is that the past is behind him and the Colts are thin at the linebacker position still.  In addition, rookies such as Jordan Senn have not impressed, so Richardson has a legitimate chance to secure a roster spot.

Even though he has been with the team less than a week, he needs to show an understanding of the system, how he fits into it, and he also needs to produce.  It is a tough task for the rookie, to be sure, but one that will pay dividends for him if he can accomplish it effectively.

Jared Lorenzen needs a good showing if he wants to move ahead of Quinn Gray
AP Photo/Mark Duncan

4. Jared Lorenzen:  With the players currently on the roster and Peyton Manning suddenly proving to be tragically human, odds are that the Colts will keep three quarterbacks for the regular season for the first time in years.

Tony Dungy's defense of Jim Sorgi's turnover laden performance against Carolina shows that the head coach still has confidence in Sorgi, so the third spot should be a battle between Lorenzen and Quinn Gray.

Gray won round one decisively against the Redskins and Lorenzen took round two against the Panthers.  If round three ends in a draw, the advantage swings back to Gray, who is far more experienced and has actually started a game in the NFL.

In order to overcome that advantage, Lorenzen needs to win the next round of the competition as completely as he won it last Saturday.  If he manages to pull off a victory in this round, the onus falls on Gray to prove he is worthy of that last spot.  It will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

5. Curtis Johnson: Johnson had an impressive performance against Washington but was inactive against Carolina.  Jeff Charleston was also inactive in the last game and Josh Thomas, with his underwhelming showing thus far, has a bullseye on his back as well.

Johnson's primary competition at this point is fellow undersized rookie end Marcus Howard, who has experienced a similar trajectory in the first two games — 1.5 sacks against the Redskins, nothing against the Panthers.

The simple truth of the matter, though, is that the Colts thought enough of Howard to spend a draft pick on him, while Johnson was a free agent.  Indianapolis has an excellent reputation for giving every eligible player an equal chance to make the team, regardless of draft position.

But if all factors remain equal, they are going to side with the fifth-round pick over the free agent.  It is up to Johnson to shake things up and make sure that all factors do not remain equal, thereby forcing the Colts to keep him on the roster because he is too valuable and shows too much potential to allow him to leave.

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