INDIANAPOLIS — Starters will see their most playing time of the preseason tonight as the Indianapolis Colts get their last big test before the regular season begins Sept. 8.
Here are five things to watch when the third preseason game kicks off at 7 p.m. against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium:
1. LaRon Landry: The new strong safety’s debut was delayed two weeks by a knee injury. He plays a physical game that could come in handy on the kinds of early cutback runs that have hurt the Colts in each of the first two preseason games. Indianapolis believes it can have one of the best defensive secondaries in the league — with cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Greg Toler joining Pro Bowl safeties Antoine Bethea and Landry — and tonight will be its first chance to prove it. Fans should get a good, long look with the starters expected to play into the early third quarter.
2. Pat Angerer: The inside linebacker lost his starting job last season to Jerrell Freeman after injuring his foot in the preseason opener. He played through pain for 11 regular-season games and the playoff loss at Baltimore then spent most of the offseason rehabbing the foot. Cleared to practice last week, Angerer upped his participation this week and will make his 2013 debut tonight. His snaps will be limited, but it will be interesting to see how he fits into the mix with fellow inside ‘backers Freeman and Kavell Conner.
3. Hugh Thornton: The physical rookie out of Illinois missed all of the Anderson University portion of training camp with a foot injury. With starting right guard Mike McGlynn out tonight, Thornton is expected to see some time with the first team before halftime. There’s no doubt the injury cost him valuable opportunities during camp, but with a good performance against the Browns he could crack open a door for himself again.
4. Vick Ballard: New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has preached balance on offense, and he hopes to accomplish that through a power running game. Ballard already has shown progress in his blocking game, and he will see his most extensive playing time of the preseason tonight. A strong showing rushing the ball could help coaches decide to keep bringing veteran Ahmad Bradshaw’s return along slowly.
5. Undrafted rookies: With the deadline to cut the 90-man roster down to 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday, this could be the final chance for several players to state their case. Undrafted rookie cornerbacks Sheldon Price and Daxton Swanson are two such players. There might be a spot for one of them on the 53-man regular-season roster but likely not both. A strong second half by one or the other tonight could go a long way toward helping the coaches make that decision.