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Football is finally back! This Sunday marks the first time the Indianapolis Colts will be stepping inside Lucas Oil Stadium for a game since the final game of the 2020 season on January 3rd. This weekend, the Carolina Panthers come to town for what should be quite an interesting matchup. With these being the first preseason games since 2019 and with the preseason being shortened to only three games, it can be a make or break for several players to try and make the team. And while the Colts have a few new faces, their opponents on Sunday have plenty of new players coming in and earning their spot this preseason. 

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The Panthers:

On offense, the Panthers have brought in a couple of new guys in free agency with guard Pat Elflein and tight end Dan Arnold. But the big thing to watch on offense is their new quarterback acquired from the Jets, former third overall pick Sam Darnold. Darnold hasn’t been the greatest over his career thus far, but he also really hasn’t had any help. Hoping new scenery, a good head coach, and weapons on offense will help him finally succeed and live up to the flashes of solid quarterbacking that we have seen from him. Outside of that, the rookies on offense will be another big thing to watch for the Panthers. Wide receivers Terrace Marshall and Shi Smith, in addition to running back Chuba Hubbard, are sure to show off and earn their spot.

On the defensive side of the ball, there haven’t been many turnovers to speak of. They’ve made quite a few cuts, including Panther lifer Kawaan Short. In free agency, they brought in highly-touted edge rusher Hasson Reddick. Pairing him with Brian Burns, the Colts tackles are sure to be in for a challenge.

 

Injuries:

As of now, the most notable injuries are the ones to Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson. Both are out for this game but are being rumored to have a shot at playing week 1 of the regular season. Most of the offensive line outside of right guard Mark Glowinski will likely be out for this game. On defense, it looks as though first-round rookie Kwity Paye won’t play as well due to the sprained ankle he suffered in practice yesterday.

 

Things to Watch:

The biggest thing to watch is the current quarterback battle between Jacob Eason and Rookie Sam Ehlinger. Both are fighting for the starting spot against the Seahawks, assuming Wentz does not return week 1. Both have looked solid and underwhelming at times in training camp, so it will be interesting to watch them both in their first games against real NFL defenses.
A couple of wide receivers to watch will be Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Strachan. Campbell has been out since week 2 of the 2020 season, where an MCL injury ultimately ended his second year. For a player who has only played nine games in two seasons, he needs to stay on the field this year. He showed flashes of being a really solid player, but the injury bug has been killing all momentum he gains.

The other receiver to watch will be Michael Strachan. Quite possibly the biggest camp standout thus far, the seventh-round pick out of Charleston has been lighting it up in training camp. He’s showing real potential, and these upcoming preseason games are going to be huge for him to show the Colts that he’s much more than a seventh-round pick.

 

Keys to a Win:

While preseason games don’t exactly matter for record, winning the game is much more than a score at the end. It’s winning the game for these individual players fighting for a chance to be on an NFL roster. Guys on the fringe have a chance to show out against NFL defenses in real game settings. EVERYONE is fighting for something. The quarterback play will be far and away the biggest news story this Sunday and will be the biggest factor in a lot of players’ careers and futures. If you won’t have a chance to catch the game, be sure to check back here on Monday for my post-game article, where I’ll be breaking down everything I saw, and we hand out our first Blue Stable Player of the Game.

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