Five to Watch: Bengals at Colts

The veterans will be mostly absent when Indianapolis finishes their preseason schedule against Cincinnati, but there are still a lot of jobs on the line. Who is on the bubble and how can they make a case to be on the regular roster? Brad Keller has the analysis here.

1. Quinn Gray: Most Colts fans will be watching for him to screw up, but the fact remains that he has more starting experience than anyone currently on the roster not named Peyton Manning.

Quinn Gray is likely playing for his roster spot tonight against the Bengals
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

That experience has serious value, even if it looks like Manning will be ready to go for the regular season opener against Chicago.  As of right now, Jim Sorgi, Manning, and Jared Lorenzen are the three quarterbacks who will make the team, but Gray will be given every opportunity to unseat Lorenzen and claim that third spot.

He needs to show what Lorenzen has shown thus far — mobility, accuracy, good decision-making skills, and poise in the pocket.  It sounds strange, but, as a left-handed quarterback, Lorenzen's passes are more difficult for the receivers to catch because the ball spins in the opposite direction coming off his hand.

That, coupled with Gray's experience could prove to be too much for the Colts to let Gray go.  Will the Gray that threw for over 300 yards twice last season show up, or will the Gray that the Texans cut loose and the man that the Colts have seen thus far show up?  The ball is still very much in Gray's court.

2. Michael Toudouze: With all three rookie offensive linemen practically guaranteed to make the roster, five starters in various states of health — Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem, Ryan Lilja, Charlie Johnson, and Tony Ugoh — plus the very impressive Daniel Federkeil, that leaves nine spots already taken.

Toudouze and, to a lesser extent, Corey Hilliard and Tala Esera, need to convince the coaching staff to keep ten men for the season — or at least until all the men in front of them are healthy.

That shouldn't be too difficult, but Toudouze has a target on his back as the odds-on favorite to claim that last job.  Esera and Hilliard have nothing to lose and Darren Marquez is not making the team no matter what, so it will be interesting to see how Toudouze responds.

For his entire career, he's been a long shot, not the favorite.  It's worth watching him to see if he gets too comfortable in the glory role, or if he keeps his head down and works hard to keep the competition off his tail.

3. Chad Simpson: It's still a little too early to pencil in Mike Hart and Kenton Keith as the primary backups to Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes. But, it may also be too late for Simpson to win one of those spots from Hart or Keith.

Keith auditioned for this year's roster last season, where he filled in capably for Addai.  Granted, the post-season and offseason were ones of discontent, but Keith has shown enough — and kept himself out of trouble — that he has the inside track on the third running back job.

Hart is actually in a better position than Keith — even though he is less experienced — because he has been a tremendous runner, improved blocker, and skilled receiver, while also being younger and less expensive to keep around than Keith.

Simpson is also younger and cheaper, so he needs to have himself a complete game, running, catching, blocking, and covering kicks superbly.  The coaches like his explosive first step and his upside, so it's too early to write his Colts obituary just yet.

4. Josh Thomas: Jeff Charleston made the roster with his game against the Bills on Sunday.  Rookie sensations Marcus Howard and Curtis Johnson have been hampered by injuries.  Thomas would appear to be in a very enviable position at this point, with the fourth end spot virtually locked up.

However, he's also the most expensive end on the roster not named Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis and he's nowhere near as flashy or explosive as his younger counterparts.

With the injuries, the Colts could keep five, or possibly six ends on the team heading into the season, but they may only keep four and take a chance on one of the rookies.  Even if they keep five players, Thomas' spot is not secure.  He needs to show at least some manner of pass rush ability, or it's probably all over.

Jamie Silva will be a tough call for the Colts when cut time comes
AP Photo/AJ Mast

5. Jamie Silva: All offseason, the talk has been about how much talent there is at the safety position for the Colts.  All training camp and throughout the preseason, Silva has been closing that gap, to the point where there is not a significant talent disparity between him, Brannon Condren, or Melvin Bullitt.

Third safety Matt Giordano first caught the attention of the staff and the fans with his outstanding special teams play.  Silva will be no different.

He's seen quite a bit of action on defense, but it will be his performance in the kicking game on Thursday that will determine his fate.  He has been impressive thus far, but he needs to be more than impressive against the Bengals: He needs to have a signature play like Jordan Senn did against the Bills; a play like Giordano had against the Bears in the Super Bowl.

He needs to show tenacity, he needs to hit hard, he needs to be aggressive, and he needs to make that one big play that shows the staff and the fans that he's ready to cover kicks on Sundays.

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