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Andrew Luck will be the central focus of the Indianapolis Colts' preseason opener this Sunday, and he should be. The NFL is quarterback driven, and Luck's the new driver. But discerning fans shouldn't stop there.
This Colts team has a number of players whose livelihood, this season and beyond, depends on what kinds of performances they display over the next three weeks. Preseason games are mostly meaningless to stars, but they couldn't be more meaningful to those hoping to become stars. Or even those hoping to become subs.
In uniform number order (why not?), here are some non-Luck players to watch when the Colts play the St. Louis Rams at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium (NFL Network):
* No. 7, Kris Adams. He's been the surprise hit of the wide receivers corps with his size (6-foot-3) and hands (several notable catches, some one-handed.). The receiver out of UTEP has shown a knack for making strong plays no matter which quarterback throws the ball. That's a sign of intelligence, athleticism and savvy.
Other wide receivers to watch include free agent signee Jeremy Ross and rookie Jabin Sambrano, along with more heralded rookies LaVon Brazill and T.Y. Hilton and veteran Donnie Avery. This is a deep group of receivers behind Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie. There's not enough room for everyone.
* No. 8, Chandler Harnish. If, as assumed, Harnish plays late in the preseason game, it'll be good to see how he does against the Rams' backups. The Colts coaches like Harnish's potential. The question is where the Norwell High School graduate fits on the roster. Do the Colts carry a third active quarterback behind Luck and Drew Stanton? Is Harnish pushing Stanton?
*No. 20, Cassius Vaughn. Vaughn came over from the Denver Broncos (not in a trade for Peyton Manning) and has emerged as a major challenger for the cornerback spot opposite Jerraud Powers. That's an interesting battle, with Brandon King and Justin King both in the mix. Vaughn was part of a strong Denver defense, so he's been around the right mindset.
*No. 26, Mewelde Moore. The veteran running back packs a punch. He could be the third-down back. Let's see how he hits the holes and how he grinds it out.
*No. 50, Jerrell Freeman. He's an inside linebacker who could add a nice complement to Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner. Watching the defense as a whole will be intriguing as the Colts switch to a hybrid style of various formations.
*No. 92, Jerry Hughes. Underachiever? Bust? Enigma? Pick a negative adjective and Hughes has had it applied to him. He's been with the Colts since the 2010 draft and has done nothing of note. He has been active at times during training camp, including one scuffle. Younger players without preconceived notions label Hughes as a phenomenal athlete with excellent quickness. Let's see it, please.
Other preseason areas to watch are special teams. Who sacrifices his body on coverage? Who has the knack for returning kicks? Will it be Brazill or Hilton? Is there a difference?
Preseason games are tough to watch if you love regular-season NFL games. The Colts proved for years that preseason scoreboard results are irrelevant. But for some players, these will be the most important games of their life.