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Tonight Is The Big Dress Rehearsal For Indy

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Robert Mathis will have to step up as a veteran leader as well as part of the heart and soul of the Colts defense. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.
Robert Mathis will have to step up as a veteran leader as well as part of the heart and soul of the Colts defense. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

It’s time for the dress rehearsal.

The third preseason game is the one in which the starters prepare for and play the most. Indianapolis Colts HC Chuck Pagano said his starters will play through the first half and the beginning of the second against the Cleveland Browns at 7 p.m. tonight in Lucas Oil Stadium.

While some veterans may be excused and exit during the first half (Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis, etc.), this game will be the closest thing to a regular season matchup before the Colts take on the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 8.

With the starters being the focal point of this week’s game, here’s what to look for while they’re in action:

-All signs point towards safety LaRon Landry making his debut with the Colts. Signed this offseason to bring a physical presence not felt in an Indianapolis secondary since Bob Sanders, Landry missed the first two preseason games with a knee injury. Assuming he does indeed play, this will be the first time all four secondary starters (cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Greg Toler and safeties Landry and Antoine Bethea) will play together in a game. Toler has already shown his potential to vastly improve this secondary, and now it’s time for Landry to show us what he’s made of. Expect him to help more in the run game than the pass.

-On the other hand, this will be the first game the new offensive line will not be entirely intact. Right guard Mike McGlynn will miss the game with a knee bruise. Swingman Jeff Linkenbach is slated to start in McGlynn’s place, but rookie guard Hugh Thornton is finally healthy and will likely see some snaps with the starters. Could this be the beginning of the end for McGlynn? His play has been far from good since joining the team last offseason, and his injury could open the door for a replacement. Linkenbach is what he is – a mediocre, versatile backup. It won’t be him. But Thornton certainly could work his way into becoming a starter. GM Ryan Grigson fell in love with him way before the Colts drafted him. Thornton is destined to become a starter sooner or later; could McGlynn’s injury speed up the process?

-It’s time to find out if this team is truly committed to the run or not. Again, this game will resemble a regular season one, so strategy will be telling. The Colts gave up on the run early in their first two preseason games in favor of slinging the ball to score points. Will they do so again? I think yes. OC Pep Hamilton can say this is a running team all he wants, but he, Pagano, Grigson and everyone else on the team know the best way to score is to put the ball in Andrew Luck’s hands.

-The Colts defense desperately needs to find some pass-rushing help to complement Mathis. While the reserves have looked good in this aspect, the starters have generally been underwhelming. Outside linebackers Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner showed a little bit of promise in New York last week and need to follow that up with a strong performance against Cleveland.

-Like Landry, inside linebacker Pat Angerer will also make his 2013 debut. His recovery from a foot injury that kept him hobbled in all of 2012 and out of the entire 2013 offseason until now is finally complete. The question is whether he’s truly ready to return this time, and if he is, how in shape will he look? Pagano doesn’t want him to play the entire first half, and rightfully so. After a terrific 2011 season, Angerer never looked the same in 2012. Hopefully he’s really 100 percent healthy this time.