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INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts enter their third preseason game, the closest to a real game before the regular season, feeling confident in a number of areas.
Quarterback Andrew Luck, his receivers (other than Reggie Wayne, who has yet to play in the preseason) and the defensive front seven have all shown signs of being ready. While that's all good, that means there are question marks, too.
Here are five areas to watch when the Colts play the New Orleans Saints at 8 p.m. Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium:
This is expected to be a strength, with Dwayne Allen returning from his season-ending hip injury to join Coby Fleener as third-year players in the system. They both came in with Luck. Fleener, in fact, played with Luck at Stanford. So it's natural to assume they'll be reliable parts of the offense this season.
That said, neither player has had a memorable moment in the first two preseason games. Some of that is circumstance, and limited playing time. But it would be good to see Allen, especially, demonstrate he still has the same burst he displayed in his rookie season.
Who steps in to the vacancy left by departed free agent Antoine Bethea? There's two facets to that question. One, Mike Adams, Sergio Brown or Dewey McDonald must step in and make the type of plays Bethea regularly made, whether in the run or pass defense. The second facet is trickier. Bethea brought a level of leadership to the team that isn't easily replaced. Adams, if he can claim the spot, would seem the likeliest to fill that role, given the fact he's a veteran.
Vontae Davis, Greg Toler and LaRon Landry are expected to be major players for the Colts this season, but are any of them built to fill Bethea's leadership role? That's less certain. They'll get tested by Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his weapons in the physical sense. We'll have to wait and see the leadership qualities.
The amount of time rookie Jack Mewhort has missed for precautionary measures on his knee is concerning. It's already thin on the line and Mewhort is needed for that left guard spot. If he can't go, Lance Louis has to step up and show he can handle the chore. The Colts are still waiting, and hoping, for the healthy return of center Khaled Holmes. He won't play tonight, but it's hopeful he can be ready by the regular season.
Keeping quarterback Andrew Luck upright sits atop the Colts' list of necessities, and it remains to be seen if the Colts have the goods to assure it.
Trent Richardson vows to be a better back this season. Tonight won't prove that one way or other, but it would be nice to see him have at least a handful of solid, 4-yard runs. Seems like a reasonable goal. Ahmad Bradshaw says he's ready to play. We'll see if the Colts put him out there or keep being overly cautious.
It appears Daniel “Boom” Herron has the third running back spot all but nailed down. Third running backs are sometimes interchangeable, however, so declaring the spot “nailed down” is no doubt premature.
T.Y. Hilton is easily the Colts' best return man, but they seem unlikely to put the speedy receiver into that spot tonight, or any game for that matter. His value at receiver is too high to risk on special teams.
Griff Whalen and Loucheiz Purifoy should get some more opportunities tonight and Purifoy's performance could be especially crucial to his attempts to land on the Colts' final 53-man roster.