Indianapolis Colts fans looking for a reason to watch Thursday’s preseason game against the New York Jets (other than just staving off football withdrawals) might be grasping at straws a little bit. We already know Reggie Wayne won’t be making his return this week, and Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton won’t be taking many snaps. That’s fine. In light of Paul George‘s injury less than a week ago, I’m not very excited to see critical veterans playing in a “meaningless” game.
Generally speaking, I find preseason football depressing. The bad teams seem to do well, giving fans false hope (I remember this vividly from my days as a Colts fan in the mid-1990s). The good teams tend to look terrible, which makes fans panicky (I remember this vividly from my days as a Colts fans in the mid-2000s). Veteran players you love get hurt; third and fourth string players you get attached to get cut. It’s fun when your team has an exciting rookie class, like the Colts did three years ago and Luck scored a touchdown with his first throw in a blue uniform. But for a season like this one, with expectations high and so much to lose, what can we watch for without trepidation?
The most important questions facing this Colts team aren’t going to be answered Thursday night. We’re not going to know if the offensive line issues are fixed. We won’t see them solve the running back depth chart. We might get a little glimpse of coach Chuck Pagano‘s defensive improvements, but given preseason competition it’s hard to know what we’re really seeing. It can make for a pretty cynical viewing experience.
One thing that has me looking forward to Thursday night is rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief. A bit of a surprise draft pick, some have speculated that he’s Wayne’s heir apparent. Of all the newbies, he’s the one generating the most giddy buzz around training camp. He’s big. He’s fast. He’s been practicing kick return duties. Unlike veteran acquisitions such as Trent Richardson, he’s not coming in with pressure or expectations. With Wayne already ruled out and Hilton already ruled “limited,” Thursday could very well turn into the Donte Moncrief show, and there is no downside to that.