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3) He’s back. Safety Bob Sanders will play against Buffalo, though Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said this week it was uncertain how much. Any time Sanders plays, particularly in the preseason, it’s worth noting. And worth watching. It became vogue last season and even the season before to assume Sanders was no longer a factor in evaluating the Colts, and that was an understandable sentiment considering he played just six games the last two seasons. But he has looked sharp and ready throughout training camp, and after not playing the preseason opener, he will play at least a few plays against the Bills. If those few plays turn into a productive season, an already improving solid defense has a chance to perhaps be the Colts’ best of the current era.
4) Offensive line. This area will be watched, as it should be considering it’s one of the team’s major themes of the preseason. But it’s not yet fair to expect the needed improvements in the run blocking, not with Saturday and Johnson each out. The Colts have dealt with a slew of injuries on the offensive line, and while the team has dealt with injuries in training camps in the past, and while the team has moved new offensive linemen into the lineup in the past, even 10-year veteran right tackle Ryan Diem said this training camp has been a bit more of a challenge than nearly any he could remember. Realistically, there’s no reason to panic yet. Saturday and Johnson don’t seem to be long-term, season-altering situations, and if they return early in the season, the pass blocking should be at the high level it has been in recent seasons. The improvement in the run-blocking could be a season-long process, and the focus will be to improve short-yardage and goal-line, but asking that to happen by the second preseaosn game may be a bit much.
5) Curtis Painter. Well, we couldn’t not mention Painter, could we? This has become the major story of Colts training camp in some circles, though the feeling in this circle long has been that while the backup quarterback is important, it’s hardly a forefront issue on a team essentially built around one of the league’s elite quarterbacks of his or any other generation. Painter, a sixth-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft from Purdue, struggled last week, and both he and Caldwell said as much in the days since. Painter has been roundly criticized to a striking extent on the blogosphere this week, and has handled himself with notable maturity and class. But while Caldwell said Painter indeed struggled, he also emphasized that not all of Painter’s three-interception performance against San Francisco was his fault. “First of all, some of the heat is unfair,” Caldwell said. “I do think he’s working and getting better and I do believe it’s part of the process. Also the position that he plays oftentimes gets too much praise when you win and do well and too much criticism when things don’t go well because it all falls on him. There were certainly a lot of other factors involved in his playing the other day. He’ll handle it. He’s a tough-minded guy. It’s all part of the position.” Painter likely will play extensively, and while it’s certainly a situation to be monitored, there’s little indication he’s anything but entrenched as the No. 2 quarterback. He has been around the system longer than any Colts quarterback other than Manning. The Colts stayed with backup quarterback Jim Sorgi for six seasons despite fan dissatisfaction, and the team could be taking a similar approach with Painter.
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