Five To Watch: Veterans

Don't tell these five guys that the preseason is an exhibition and doesn't matter. They've all got something to prove tonight. Here are five to watch for Friday's first preseason game against Minnesota.

1. Tony UgohWith the announcement coming earlier this week that Charlie Johnson is now the first string left tackle, Ugoh has his work cut out for him. has already weighed in on how the battle for the starting job could/should shake out, but that doesn't mean that Ugoh should be ignored. Ugoh will get time with the first unit, subbing for the injured Ryan Diem, but he may get some time at left tackle later in the game. That will be his time to shine.

If Ugoh wants his job back, it's time to start showing it
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Although he'll be going against the second string for the Vikings, he can still show the coaches some of the things that he has been lacking thus far in his career — dedication, discipline, a mean streak, the ability to overpower someone in the running game.

The door also swings the other way.  If Ugoh comes out and looks disappointing against Minnesota's backups, that will make things even tougher on him and exacerbate the situation.  This game and game four of the preseason will be his two best chances to show the staff what he can do.  He needs to make the most of it, starting Friday.

2. Marcus HowardHoward enters the preseason as one of four ends on the roster, so it's unlikely that he'll be playing for his life.  However, he flashed a great deal of talent and pass rush ability in the 2008 preseason before largely disappearing during the regular season, appearing in only nine games.

For 2009, the Colts are looking for Howard to take a major step forward so that they can use him in much the same way as they did Robert Mathis when he was a young player. 

Howard has drawn a number of favorable comparisons to Mathis, both leading up to the 2008 draft and since, so it is not difficult to see him (or Mathis) sliding inside in known passing situations in order to put more pressure on the quarterback.  As has been stated repeatedly, Mathis and Dwight Freeney accounted for 22 of the team's 30 sacks last season and that is not sustainable.  Someone needs to step up.  Howard can take a big step with a strong game on Friday.

3. Eric Foster:  Ever since Ed Johnson was re-signed, Fili Moala and Terrance Cooper were drafted, and Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson were retained from the 2008 roster, Foster has had a target on his back.

What those five men have in common is that they are all weigh over 296 pounds.  Foster weighs only 265 pounds and, though he put forth a valiant effort last season, was overwhelmed at the point of attack on numerous occasions.  On top of that, Foster has established competitors on the other side of the scale in Raheem Brock and Keyunta Dawson, as well as rookie Adrian Grady.  Although Dawson and/or Brock may make the roster as an end, not a tackle, Foster is still feeling the squeeze.

In order to get the attention of the coaches, he needs to show something he didn't show in 2008: An ability to get to the quarterback.  Whether or not he can anchor against the run is irrelevant at this point, since Indianapolis has made it abundantly clear that they are looking to "go big" at the position.  The best way for him to save his roster spot is to flash some pass rushing skills.

4. Philip WheelerAfter spending almost the entire 2008 season covering kicks or on the bench, Wheeler has been elevated to starting Sam linebacker.

In Larry Coyer's scheme, which calls for more blitzing and more aggression, Wheeler seems to fit right in.  However, it remains to be seen whether or not he deserves to be where he currently stands on the depth chart, especially since the Colts were able to bring Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler back. 

This isn't to say that Wheeler hasn't earned the promotion he's been given.  It's just saying that Friday is his first real chance to prove that he's earned it.

5. Jim Caldwell:  He's not a player on the field, but all eyes will definitely be on Caldwell as he ushers in the latest coaching regime for the Indianapolis Colts.

It's true that Caldwell has been transitioning into the head coaching job since he was named Associate Head Coach in January of 2008. It's true that he has been the man at the helm since Tony Dungy retired in January of 2009. It's true that he filled in for Dungy following the death of his son in 2005.

But it's also true that Friday will be the first time that he will patrol the sidelines as head coach.

How will he react? How will he be different than Dungy?& How will he show the players that he is in charge? What will be the first step that he takes in order to put his stamp on this team?

Although the players, coaches, front office, and Caldwell himself have said all the right things, this is Dungy's team until Caldwell makes it his team.  That process begins on Friday. 

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