ANDERSON – There's a sense of heightened urgency with the Indianapolis Colts heading into the second preseason game. I wouldn't say they're panicking. More like fidgeting.
Look no further than Colts coach Chuck Pagano's plan to give the offense as much as a half's worth of work this week.
The Colts play the New York Giants at 7 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. (WFFT, Ch. 55).
“If it turns out to be a half (of Luck and offensive starters), that'd be great,” Pagano said. “But if we have two or three drives starting out that are seven-, eight-, nine-play drives, which you hope for and we get 25-30 snaps, then he might not play (the whole half).
Ideally, Pagano would like to see Luck direct a two-minute drill at the end of the half.
Ideally, Colts fans would like to see some hints that this team will indeed be improved from a year ago.
We all know preseason games aren't the end-all and be-all, or even necessarily a predictor of regular season wins and losses. The Colts used to lose regularly in preseason and win when it counts. The Detroit Lions, for example, often did the opposite.
But Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted his frustration with the team's 44-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the preseason opener. The first-team offense didn't get in the end zone. The defense was decent, but some expected key players such as safety LaRon Landry and outside linebacker Bjoern Werner missed the game. Landry is unlikely to play this week, either.
The Colts won't be 100 percent this week, either, with Landry, tight end Dwayne Allen, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and others expected to sit out.
But those that are playing need to raise the level of their play to provide at least a glimpse of expected regular-season success.
“We're always chasing perfection,” Pagano said. “Doesn't matter what it is – preseason, certainly regular season, postseason – that's our goal to go out and play to win each and every ballgame. Sometime, obviously, it doesn't go that way. That's why we're here. That's why we practice.”
The Colts wrapped up the Anderson portion of their training camp on Friday, packing up and moving back to Indianapolis.
Pagano said he felt the team made improvements in all areas.
He pointed to the offensive line – a key to the alleged run-first offense and better quarterback pass protection – as one area where he's seen the most growth.
The first team unit has solidified with Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Donald Thomas at left guard, Samson Satele at center, Mike McGlynn at right guard and Gosder Cherlius at right tackle. If rookie Hugh Thornton comes back from injury, he could push McGlynn. The versatile Joe Reitz and Jeff Linkenbach will figure into the equation.
“The cohesiveness, the communication, is getting better daily,” Pagano said. “So I think we're as strong as we've been in a long time there.”
Pagano praised Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton at receivers and singled out the strong performance of kicker Adam Vinatieri and punter Pat McAfee.
Pagano hedged on the defense since so many players have been fighting injuries. Middle linebacker Pat Angerer came off the physically unable to perform list, but it's unlikely he will jump into the lineup this week.
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who talks softly and delivers a big hit, acknowledged the Colts will likely bring more of an edge to the Giants game. He'll be chasing Eli Manning, so that could be motivation.
But it's primarily the subpar results against the Bills that has changed attitudes this week.
“Unfortunately, they came out with a little bit more sense of urgency than we did,” Mathis said. “We are working on that and we are going to right the ship. I've been around 11 years and preseason is about seeing who can play, who can play together as a unit. It's kind of a crawl, walk, run kind of deal.”
The Colts would like to hit the field running this week. If they don't, then fidgeting could inch close to real apprehension.