By Ana Krasuski // @ana_krasuski
The Indianapolis Colts will host the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday at 4:30 pm ET at Lucas Oil Stadium on Fox.
After a sloppy performance in Monday night’s preseason game against Baltimore, the Colts must improve upon the lazy, uninspired football they’ve been playing.
The third preseason game traditionally features more playing time for the starters, which gives Indy the best opportunity for improvement against the 49ers.
Several Colts players will be returning for this third preseason showcase.
Colts safety Malik Hooker will be returning from a ten-month absence after suffering a season-ending knee injury against Jacksonville last October.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Hooker told reporters earlier this week. “For me finally get out there and get cleared to be able to go out there and play Saturday, it’s a great feeling.”
Hooker has been a mentor to safety Clayton Geathers who also recently returned from injury.
The newly wired Colts defense will count on this duo to make big defensive plays against the 49ers led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“I mean, they have what we talked about, the instincts and the strike and the speed and all those things, and the quickness,” Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “And those guys, as they get playing with the system and with other guys in the unit, we should see them blossom. We should see them really take off and see them make really impactful plays that will change the game for our team.”
Head coach Frank Reich has been thrilled with the Colts’ offseason improvements. Though he has implemented a rather vanilla style of play in the last two preseason performances, he’s said repeatedly how confident he is in his team’s abilities.
“I like the trajectory of what the defense has done,” Reich said on Thursday.
“I feel like we’ve constantly gotten better as training camp has gone on. I feel really good about that, I feel really good about the depth through there. I feel like guys are fighting and playing hard.”
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