January 26, 2014; Honolulu, HI, USA; Team Sanders quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts (12) talks to Team Rice quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (9) during the third quarter of the 2014 Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Team Rice defeated Team Sanders 22-21. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Five Things to Watch For: Colts vs Saints

The Indianapolis Colts host the New Orleans Saints Saturday night for the third game of the preseason.

This is usually the game where you see healthy starters play for the bulk of the game. Expect to see the first stringers for the entire first half and likely a series or two in the second.

A number of players likely won’t participate in tomorrow’s game. Chuck Pagano stated that Robert Mathis wouldn’t be playing. This isn’t a surprise as he really doesn’t need to play and the team needs to prepare for life without him for the first four games of the season.

We still don’t know Reggie Wayne’s status for Saturday, but it looks doubtful.

We also know that Delano Howell will be out this week. A recent report indicated that his neck injury isn’t career threatening, but there is no timetable for his return.

Here’s what fans should be watching:

  1. The Test. The Giants and Jets weren’t exactly world beaters on offense last season, luckily the improved Colts defense will pushed by Drew Brees. We’ll get a good look at how this defense will function against a quality opponent. Even if Brees puts on a passing clinic, theres a lot of little things to be on the lookout for.
    • Is the pass rush effective? Specifically, can Bjoern Werner turn pressure into sacks? Its no easy task, but his outlook this season will be trending up if he can take down Brees.
    • Will the secondary get torched? It sounds like we’ll see LaRon Landry and Mike Adams at safety, this will be a good test to see how the duo operates.
  2. The Focus. Apparently the coaching staff wants to see more out of the rushing attack, and they likely aren’t the only ones. Trent Richardson needs to start proving that he’s really worth that first rounder. Part of the problem is the offensive line and the scheme. Richardson has been effective running out of shotgun formations, but not nearly effective out of singleback sets with slightly less room to run. This is the one area we haven’t seen improvement from this preseason.
  3. The Test, Part II. For all the attention the Saints offense gets, their defense ranked 10th in DVOA last season (slightly better than the Jets). They’ve added safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Champ Bailey to a secondary that sixth against the pass in 2013. Expect this Rob Ryan-led defense test Andrew Luck and the offense who will get plenty of chances against the Saints Saturday.
  4. Tight ends? For all the talk surrounding the return of Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener looking improved in camp, neither player has really produced so far. Fleener has one catch for four yards and Allen has nothing in five offensive series and 34 passing plays. Per Pro Football Focus, Fleener is -1.7 and Allen is -2.0 in the preseason. We’ve assumed that these two, and especially Allen, would be major assets for the offense going forward, but they’ve shown less production that Richardson so far. Allen just appears to be rusty, but watch for how they are used against the Saints.
  5. Defending Jimmy Graham. How will the Colts defend the Saints leading receiver from last season? This is a good test going forward as the Colts will likely face a number of talented TEs this season. Will this be all on Jerrell Freeman or will the Colts move a safety to try and cover him? It will be a good test for the rest of the season.

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Tags: Andrew Luck Bjoern Werner Coby Fleener Delano Howell Dwayne Allen Indianapolis Colts Jerrell Freeman Laron Landry Mike Adams Reggie-wayne Trent Richardson

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