On Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts will host the Cleveland Browns for the third preseason game of the year. This will essentially be a dress rehearsal for both teams, with the starters (those who are healthy) playing into the third quarter.
Its like a regular season game, but the results still don’t matter.
The Colts will be looking to build upon last week’s 20-12 win over the Giants. So far, they have had one solid performance and left one turd on the field.
The Browns faced the Colts just last season, with Indy coming away with a 17-13 win. Andrew Luck ended up rushing for two touchdowns as both team’s receivers struggled to catch the ball.
Here’s what we are watching for:
- A running game. So far, the Colts haven’t been able to run the ball, despite a new emphasis on doing just so. Taking away quarterback runs, the Colts have rushed for 127 yards on 41 carries. That is just over three yards per carry and not very good. It starts up front with the offensive line, which has be shaky at best the last two weeks. Right guard Mike McGlynn is out tomorrow, and Jeff Linkenbach will start for him. This might be a blessing in disguise as McGlynn has been the worst lineman on the entire team in the preseason. Rookie Hugh Thornton is finally getting healthy and coach Chuck Pagano said that he wanted to get him some reps with the first team offense. Look for rotations in the offensive line, and hope for some resembling a rushing attack against the Browns.
- More Luck. Last week, Luck looked really sharp against the Giants, but the question will be can he continue to improve? While the things like the run game and improvements on defense are important, the biggest factor with how far this team can go is the development of Luck. If he takes a big leap (much like Peyton Manning did in his sophomore year) then the Colts will head to the playoffs again and challenge the Texans for the division title.
- Stop the Run. The Browns are a run first team. They have Trent Richardson in the backfield to pound on defenses with and enjoy doing it. Last season, the Colts completely and utterly shut down the Browns rushing attack. After getting run all over by Buffalo, the Colts held the Giants to under 100 yards rushing. Can they do it again?
- Defensive starters. The Colts will finally play a preseason game with what should be the starting defense (plus major rotation players) healthy and in the lineup. Safety LaRon Landry and middle linebacker Pat Angerer are finally back in the lineup and that should help significantly. This will likely be the defense we see all season, so we’re hoping it looks good (although a lot of teams look good against the Browns).
- Last chance. Next week, the Colts have to cut the roster to 75 players. Tomorrow is the last chance for a lot of players to make the roster, or at least give the Colts something to think about. By August 31st, the Colts (and every other NFL team) will have to cut down to the 53-man regular season roster.
Last night saw two very good teams, the Patriots and Ravens, get dominated. Taking this game lightly shouldn’t be an option for a team with a lot to prove like the Colts. The Colts are also 2-6 in the third preseason game since 2005, and have had just one down year in the span (you know the one).
This game matters for fine tuning, but expect to see the Colts run a fair amount of plays that aren’t exactly successful. The Colts should still be able to win this one easily as the Browns are trying to find their identity and build into something competitive.
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