INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Saturday preseason game with the Cleveland Browns in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Kickoff: 4 p.m.
More from starters: Frank Reich wants to get most of his front-line players into the game for about a quarter. That’s especially true for those who were held out of the opener at Buffalo. We should expect at least cameo appearances from T.Y. Hilton, Anthony Castonzo, Darius Leonard, Clayton Geathers, Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Marlon Mack, Justin Houston, Kenny Moore II and a few others.
But keep in mind, that’s subject to change.
What isn’t up for debate is the desire of Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni to see noticeable progress from Jacoby Brissett and the No. 1 offense. Even though seven starters, led by Andrew Luck, didn’t step on the field against Buffalo, the production was abysmal. Brissett led three drives that consisted of 11 plays, 22 yards and one first down. Running backs managed 52 yards on 23 carries. We’ll save you the trouble – that’s 2.3 yards per attempt.
We don’t get overly concerned with the bottom line in the preseason – wins and losses. Rather, it’s how efficient the offense and defense are, and whether each is making the necessary steps with the Sept. 8 opener looming.
Brissett’s progress is critical. If Luck’s left calf/ankle force him to miss the opener, the burden falls on Brissett. It’ll be up to him to keep the offense playing at a high enough level until Luck returns.
As for the defense, it yielded 381 total yards, including 235 in the first half. That’s not good enough.
More evaluation: While much of the attention will hone in on the starting units, we’re betting Reich and Chris Ballard will be paying special attention to how their depth is coming along.
Which receivers are offering strong evidence for the Nos. 4-5-6 slots? The season-ending ankle injury to Reece Fountain undoubtedly rearranges the competition. We’d like to see Deon Cain stack another solid game on top of his return against the Bills (two catches, 15 yards). At cornerback, might Marvel Tell III unseat, let’s say, Chris Milton for one of the final spots?
Corner Rock Ya-Sin and safety Khari Willis, both rookies, are coming off strong camps. The better they play in the preseason, the more confidence coordinator Matt Eberflus will have in incorporating them into his defense when it counts.
Matter of pressure: Reich offered rare rebuke for his offensive line following Thursday’s second camp session with the Browns. Too often, Cleveland’s defensive front came out on top.
“To come out here and not handle the pressure the way they brought it, we’ve got to learn from that,’’ he said. “We’ve got to take our medicine and say, ‘Hey, we got beat today from a protection standpoint.’’’
The o-line got its act together later, but the damage had been done. Saturday offers a chance at redemption, and that needs to occur if the Brissett-led group is to be productive.
The only issue with the o-line is it won’t be intact. Left guard Quenton Nelson (ankle) won’t play. It’s uncertain if center Ryan Kelly (shoulder) joins him on the sideline.
Matter of pressure, Part II: The Colts’ pass rushers won more than they lost in the joint work with the Browns. Rookie Ben Banogu showed flashes, as did Kemoko Turay. It would be nice to see each carry that over to Saturday afternoon. There’s a chance Houston sees his first action of the preseason, although it figures to be brief. The same goes for tackle Denico Autry, who might have been the best defensive player in camp.
And be sure to catch the Colts Bluezone Podcast: