Five to Watch: Rookies

All the rookies should garner plenty of attention on Friday, but here's five guys that we'll be keeping a close eye on.

1. Curtis PainterPeyton Manning and the first-team offense will probably only get a series or two — one full quarter maximum — and Jim Sorgi is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury, so Painter will have a nice, extended opportunity to show the coaches what he can do.  He has shown potential so far in camp and is picking up the offense faster than expected, but players are ultimately judged on what they do in game situations.

Fellow rookie Chris Crane will get a good look as well, but Painter should be in there for more than a quarter and probably two quarters.  However, the fact that Sorgi is taking his time coming back — and that the Colts are letting him — is an indication that Sorgi is in no danger of losing his job and that a poor performance would do more to hurt Painter than a good performance would help him.  Therefore, Painter needs to be great, not just good.

Colts fans will get their first look at Brown Friday night
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

2. Donald BrownJust because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true.  Brown has turned a lot of heads and impressed a lot of people since Indianapolis drafted him in the first round in April.  He has made the most of OTAs and mini-camps, reported to training camp on time, and will at least share carries with incumbent Joseph Addai.  Addai is currently listed at the top of the depth chart, even after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason. 

Addai appears to have bounced back from surgery and will work with the first team to open up the game, but it remains to be seen how long he can hold Brown off.  The Colts did not draft Brown as high as they did to keep him in the stable, so his first shot at the starting job comes Friday night.  If he does well against the second team, the Indianapolis coaches will be curious to see what he can do against the other team's starters.

3. Terrance TaylorA lot of attention is being paid to fellow rookie Fili Moala and rightly so, but Taylor is part of a crowded rotation at nose tackle, going up against veterans Ed Johnson, Antonio Johnson, and Daniel Muir.

No one has locked down the starting job yet and, as Ed Johnson and 2008 rookie starter Eric Foster will attest, the Colts have a history of letting the best man win, even if he's a first-year player.

At this point, Taylor has as good a shot as anyone to be the top man on the depth chart.  But, as of this moment, he's currently behind both Johnsons and Foster, so he needs to show the coaches that he can anchor against the run and at least do something in the passing game.

If he is the kind of run stuffer that he was at Michigan and has added a few pass rush moves to his repertoire, then he brings more to the table than any defensive tackle on the roster last season.

Collie will get his opportunity to excel in the slot Friday night
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

4. Austin CollieSpeaking of depth charts, Collie is currently the top slot receiver, which means that he'll get a good chance to show what he can do, while Pierre Garcon will line up outside in Anthony Gonzalez's spot.

So far in practices, Indianapolis has been lining up with several different receivers in several different positions, regardless of whether they're the first, second, or third receiver.  Reggie Wayne and Gonzalez have lined up wide and in the slot in order to create favorable matchups and to keep the opposing defense from isolating on one player. However, Collie has lined up exclusively in the slot, so it's up to him to show he can nail that position down.  If he can, it will give Wayne, Gonzalez and Garcon room to roam on the outside, and make all four players better. 

5. Jerraud PowersKelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson have been scratched from the starting lineup for the first preseason game, so Powers has also received a temporary promotion.  Although it is unlikely that he will take the field with the first team, since there are too many players ahead of him, he will see more significant action since there are fewer players clamoring for snaps.

With the rash of injuries at the cornerback position last season — and a number of those players will need to be watched closely to see how their recoveries are progressing — the Colts have realized that they can never have too many quality players available.

That's one of the reasons they used a third round pick on Powers in this year's draft.  He will get his first chance to reward the Colts for that selection on Friday.

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