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Andrew Luck will play about a quarter at quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts against the New York Giants at 7 tonight in Lucas Oil Stadium. Expect the other big names on offense to do the same. But the preseason, especially in Games 1, 2 and 4, aren't about the big names.
Preseason separates the contenders for the Colts' final 53-man roster from the pretenders. It's most about those players fighting for the 49th through 53rd spots.
With that in mind, here are five players to watch who aren't (yet) big names:
The Colts found Muamba in the Canadian Football League and hope he can be a discovery along the lines of fellow linebacker Jerrell Freeman.
There's reason to believe that could be true, based on Muamba's performance in the first preseason game against the New York Jets. He was in on 11 tackles (nine solo) on defense and had one tackle on special teams. His quickness and aggressiveness mirrors Freeman's traits. Whether he can be a regular player, in relief of Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson, remains to be seen.
If Muamba can prove his value as a special teams player, too, in addition to regular linebacker play, he stands a good chance of being on the roster.
Tony Washington and Ryan Lankford
The wide-receiver logjam might be the toughest unit to crack, especially for young players trying to make their first mark. Washington and Lankford have both shown nice speed, decent hands and strong work ethic. Both came to the Colts as undrafted free agents (Washington from Appalachian State and Lankford from Illinois). Both have potential.
Here's what's stacked against them: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Donte Moncrief, Griff Whalen and Da'Rick Rogers. The first four are untouchable, with Wayne, Hilton and Nicks established and Moncrief a big-time draft pick. Whalen simply does what he needs to do. Rogers is a wildcard, talented but erratic.
Most likely, Washington and/or Lankford will end up on the practice squad.
Speaking of Rogers, is he on the bubble for the 53-man roster? It's possible, given the receiving depth and his unpredictable performances. But he has outstanding speed. He can go for the deep ball, as shown by his long reception from Matt Hasselbeck in the first preseason game. He's capable of making the incredible catch.
Still, if the choice comes down to Whalen or Rogers, where will the Colts go? Whalen is more of a known quantity. He has limitations, but covers them well. He proved last season he could field punts and make the team feel comfortable knowing he was reliable in that capacity. He has the rapport with Luck that goes back to Stanford University. There is room for Whalen and Rogers in a six-receiver unit, and that seems most likely, but it wouldn't hurt for Rogers to continue to come up big this preseason.
Perhaps Swoope could be considered a medium-sized name. He garnered attention, certainly, when the Colts decided to sign him as a tight end since he spent his college career at the University of Miami playing basketball. He's retooled his 6-foot-5, 246-pound body to be more football-oriented and he's proved to be fairly reliable as a novice pass receiver.
The tight end position is loaded, however, with stars Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, along with Jack Doyle and Weslye Saunders. So where does that leave Swoope? He could be a practice squad player, but that requires releasing him and hoping another team doesn't pick him up. It'll be fascinating to see how this shakes out.