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Colts vs. Browns: 5 factors to watch

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Colts need to deliver pass rush and showcase secondary

Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 12:01 am

The third game of the NFL preseason usually provides the best glimpse into what to expect when the real deal hits. Here are the five facets of the Indianapolis Colts most worth analyzing as they play the Cleveland Browns at 7 p.m. Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium:

1. Pass rush

We know what Robert Mathis is capable of doing as a partner with the great Dwight Freeney. But things have changed. Freeney is gone to San Diego. The 3-4 defense with Mathis at outside linebacker continues to evolve. Can Mathis and newcomers Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner bring the type of pressure necessary to help the Colts take advantage of an upgraded secondary?

2. LaRon Landry's debut

Landry, the highly touted safety acquired in free agency, could make his game debut as a member of the Colts against the Browns. He returned to practice this week and coach Chuck Pagano declared him ready to get some game action. Landry told reporters he needs to get into the preseason mix to prepare for the regular season.

3. Run defense

The Browns' Trent Richardson has looked strong in the preseason so far, and brings some extra NFL savvy to his second season in the league. The Colts have made it a mantra on defense that stopping the run is their priority. The additions of Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean Francois were intended in part to help the run defense. Richardson is a big-time challenge.

4. Offensive line

An injury to right guard Mike McGlynn means the line will have a new face this week. Pagano said he expects veteran Jeff Linkenbach to step in, but also thinks rookie Hugh Thornton, who has yet to make his debut, could be ready to play. Thornton was drafted with the idea he might be able to compete for a starting job. Most observers would label right guard as the Colts' least stable position. Watch the offensive line for its run-blocking this week to see if Vick Ballard or Donald Brown break free.

5. Passing game innovation

The Colts' top two tight ends, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, will sit this one out as they nurse injuries, which means two things: 1. Some playing time for Mr. Irrelevant Justice Cunningham, and 2. The Browns can tighten up on wide receivers Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton. What will the Colts do on offense with some weaponry unavailable? Maybe quarterback Andrew Luck increases those little swing passes to Heyward-Bey again.