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Takeaways From The Colts Win Over The Browns

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Andrew Luck is the man in Indy and everyone knows it. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.
Andrew Luck is the man in Indy and everyone knows it. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

The third preseason game for the Indianapolis Colts was their best by far, as they notched a 27-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns. From the offense to the defense to special teams, the Colts had the look of a Super Bowl contender, and did so in the “dress rehearsal” of the preseason.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the Colts’ victory.

-The starting defense looked terrific. In its first two preseason games, the Browns starting offense had scored on five of its six possessions. The Colts starters not only shut out that unit, they only allowed four first downs.

-It looks like Greg Toler is the turnover machine the Colts have been looking for. Indianapolis only forced 15 turnovers last year, ranking 30th in the league. After Toler intercepted an Eli Manning pass last week, he forced a fumble and nearly came away with another interception this week. Toler has gotten rave reviews from camp reports for his coverage abilities. If he combines that with turnover production, he could become the most dynamic Colts defender.

-The most pleasant surprise for the defense came from the defensive line. The starting unit clogged up the middle constantly, forcing Cleveland running back Trent Richardson outside. The one weakness the defense showed was not containing Richardson when he did bounce out early, but this problem was fixed as the game went on.

-I’m pretty sure Caesar Rayford has his roster spot locked up. The 27-year-old rookie out of the AFL got another two sacks tonight and would’ve had another if not for a defensive holding call. He now has five sacks and two forced fumbles through three preseason games. Rookie Bjoern Werner was supposed to be the young pass-rusher to complement Robert Mathis, but Rayford has easily won that distinction with his play thus far.

-Reggie Wayne was the star in the receiving game yet again, but Darrius Heyward-Bey put in another solid performance with his three receptions for 33 yards and one rush for six yards. Just like last week, Heyward-Bey excelled with the shorter possession throws rather than the deep ball, which was what he was brought in for. Maybe the key to avoiding the drops that have plagued his career is to stay closer to the line of scrimmage and pick up most of his yards after the catch.

-It appears OC Pep Hamilton’s decision to establish a fullback in the Colts offense is for goal line situations. Stanley Havili did a little blocking outside the red zone, but his involvement went way up inside it. The Colts’ first touchdown came on a three-yard pass to Havili. The next possession, Luck targeted Havili again, this time at the four-yard line. The pass bounced off his hands for an interception, but the message is still clear. The fullback will be an integral part of the offense inside opponents’ five-yard lines.

-If it was up to me, Mike McGlynn would no longer be the starting right guard. Jeff Linkenbach and rookie Hugh Thornton both took reps with the first-team offensive line while McGlynn sat out with a bruised knee. It’s a small sample size, but both looked much better than McGlynn has over the past year. But the decision lies with the coaches, so I’m not so sure either will start once McGlynn comes back. Linkenbach is a good backup for the entire line because of his versatility, and Thornton just started practicing this week after spending most of training camp in a walking boot. But if Thornton continues to play the way he did tonight, it seems almost inevitable that he’ll take McGlynn’s job at some point this season.