If you ask old school scouts what is required to field a championship contender, they will quickly tell you that it takes eight to twelve blue-chip players to compete for a title. This premise has been the standard for general managers around the league and I rely on it to help me identify the players to watch on game day.
With that in mind, let's identify the players to watch on the Cowboys' next opponent. Here's a quick report on the current blue-chip players for the Indianapolis Colts.
Jonathan Taylor, RB: The former NFL rushing champ is the straw that stirs the drink for the Cols' offense. Taylor's combination of speed, power, and explosiveness keys the Colts' smash-mouth attack as Jeff Saturday attempts to re-establish the blue-collar identity of the squad. With the third-year pro capable of running through or around defenders as a rugged runner with home run potential, the Cowboys must pay close attention to No.28 on every snap.
Matt Ryan, QB: Despite the former MVP's struggles with turnovers, the Colts' QB1 remains a dangerous playmaker from the pocket. As a quick-rhythm passer with outstanding instincts, awareness and anticipation, Ryan is capable of stringing together completions as a "dink-and-dunk" passer playing target practice from the pocket. If given sufficient time to work through his progressions, the veteran is capable of delivering a "turn back the clock" performance that keys a Colts' win.
Michael Pittman, WR: The ultra-physical pass catcher is the No.1 option in the passing game. Pittman's combination of size, length, and athleticism enable him to win 50-50 balls down the boundary while also snagging plenty of passes on "post up" plays over the middle of the field.
Stephon Gilmore, CB: The former Defensive Player of the Year is still an elite defender with "shutdown" corner capabilities. Gilmore has flourished in the Colts' hybrid Cover 3 system as the designated "man-to-man" corner on the backside of most formations. Against top pass catchers, though, Gilmore will "travel" to take away the opponent's No.1 threat in the passing game.
DeForest Buckner, DT: The monstrous defensive tackle destroys game plans as a midline penetrator with a combination of length, strength, and athleticism that overwhelms blockers at the point of attack. Buckner's disruptive potential keys a Colts' defense that plays fast and furious between the lines.
Yannick Ngakoue, DE: As a speed-rushing specialist with outstanding first-step quickness and burst, Ngakoue wreaks havoc on opponents attacking the quarterback from a "wide-9" alignment. If the Colts win on early downs to force long yardage passing situations, the veteran will eventually create a turnover or splash play on a "dip-and-rip" maneuver off the edge.