Indianapolis Colts vs. New York Giants: 5 things to watch

Pagano

Head coach Chuck Pagano and the Colts need a better showing against the Giants.

The Indianapolis Colts look to keep Jim Irsay happy Sunday at Met Life Stadium when they take on the Giants of New York tonight at 7:00.

As you will recall, the Colts owner was none too pleased following the 44-20 beat down the team received last week against Buffalo. Irsay loudly and publicly took both the team and the coaching staff to task after that game, calling it a “crap performance” (it was) and that his “commanders got an earful” from him.

Regardless of whether or not it was a preseason game, many of the players look ill-equipped to be there. Whether it was lack of motivation or the coaching staff taking it too easy, or something else entirely, it doesn’t matter. Third- and fourth-stringers looking like they are giving up should never happen. I don’t care if the coaches don’t actually game plan until the 3rd game. That should never happen with guys that are fighting for jobs – for their dreams. That is laid solely at the feet of the coaches.

So yes, the Colts need to show improvement in this second game. Special teams, the offensive line, and defense are areas that all need to do better. The tight end position needs to get healthy and consistent. But it’s not all bad, with the continued improvement of one T.Y. Hilton. These are the five things I’ll be watching for during the Giants game tonight:

1. Special Teams – Kickoff returns were atrocious against the Bills. Three returns, 181 yards, one touchdown. Giving up an average – average – of 60 yards on kick returns is unheard of. Yes, it is preseason, but even then its something that just can’t happen. Special teams coordinator Tom McMahon has a lot of work to do if he wants to keep his job. Then you have rookie RB Kerwynn Williams, the seventh rounder out of Utah State. He had a pretty bad night for a guy that was drafted almost solely for the purpose of giving the team some pop on the returns front. On five returns, Williams only managed a measly 17.8 yards per return. If he wants to stay on the final 53-man roster, he’s going to have to show a lot more in the coming weeks.

2. Offensive line – Andrew Luck was in the game a total of ten plays against Buffalo. In those ten plays, he suffered one sack, by Mario Williams, for a ten yard loss. One sack in the first preseason game may not seem like a big deal. But for a team that has made it a key offseason emphasis to help keep their franchise quarterback from hitting the ground 40+ times again, one sack in ten plays is a little alarming. The Giants have been a formidable pass rushing team the last decade-plus, so we need to see how well the line (and specifically starting LT Anthony Castonzo) will handle the pressure.

LT Anthony Castonzo and the rest of the Colts O-line still need some work.

LT Anthony Castonzo and the rest of the Colts O-line still need some work.

3. Defense – There’s no better way to slice it: The defense got carved up last week against the Bills. Rookie quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Jeff Tuel combined to complete 35 of 44 passes for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. The Bills also ran for 136 yards on 40 carries, led by C.J. Spillers 9.0 average on 4 carries. I’ll grant that most of the Bills offensive onslaught came with the Indianapolis second- and third-stringers on the field. But that won’t keep the Colts coaches from trying to light a fire and make a statement against the Giants – on the road, no less – that will keep their owner from taking them to the woodshed on Twitter for a second consecutive week.

Manuel

The Bills QBs (E.J. Manuel pictured) tore up the Indy defense.

4. T.Y. Hilton – Hilton has been one of the brightest spots in training camp, and was really the only enjoyable part of the Bills game. We knew he had a decent rookie campaign, with 50 catches for 861 yards and 7 touchdowns. Against the Bills in limited action, Hilton led the Colts with three passes for 61 yards and a score, including a nifty 45-yard bomb from back-up quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. It would be nice to see him make similar noise against the Giants. If Hilton keeps up with the rave reviews, he could likely unseat Darrius Heyward-Bey as the no. 2 receiver.

Hilton

Hilton’s impressive second preseason continues.

5. The Tight Ends – Dwayne Allen just got out of his walking boot. Coby Fleener is getting over a concussion. Justice Cunningham is the last man taken in the NFL draft, trying to strut his stuff. It’s a precarious situation that the Colts have at a position considered one of their strongest. We know Allen will be out against the Giants. Fleener has been cleared to play, but I would highly doubt he’ll see a lot of action with the starters so soon after the concussion. That will leave Cunningham taking the majority of snaps at tight end for the Colts.

Fleener

Fleener, who fumbled against Buffalo last week, returns Sunday against the Giants after suffering a concussion.

If the Colts can get some of the issues fixed for game 2, it will go a long way to making the overall season outlook brighter. Even if the actual game doesn’t count.

Follow me on Twitter @IrishColt1