INDIANAPOLIS – For the third preseason game review of the Indianapolis Colts, let's go with a format I'll call Worries/No Worries.
The Colts' first-team players beat the Cleveland Browns first-team players 17-0 over two quarters and two series on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium. The rest of the two teams finished the game with an official score of Colts 27, Browns 6.
Worries/No Worries will focus solely on the players the Colts expect to be the primary contributors this season. The Colts have one preseason game left (Thursday night at Cincinnati) before the season opener on Sept. 8 vs. the Oakland Raiders.
Because I'm a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, let's go with the No Worries list first:
* Andrew Luck. Is there any question the quarterback likes and operates offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's offense? Luck completed 16 of 25 passes for 164 yards with touchdowns to fullback Stanley Havili and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Luck had one interception after the ball bounced off Havili's hands at the Browns' 4-yard-line. You could say that evened the score from the fortuitous would-be interception that bounced into Reggie Wayne's hands last week.
Luck's comfort level, even without his starting tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, is obvious. He's still under some pressure, thanks to offensive line injuries, but he's sensing the potential sacks better and eluding them.
* Wide receivers Wayne, Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey
Colts fans are so spoiled, they're surprised when Wayne doesn't make the spectacular one-handed grab. He's still at the top of his game, and still underrated by the national media. I loved how Wayne stretched his arm with the ball for a first down in a preseason game. He knows only one level of play. He had seven catches and 79 yards in half a game.
Hilton didn't do a whole lot Saturday, other than catch a wide-open touchdown pass, but it's his third TD in three preseason game. That would be a welcome consistency.
Heyward-Bey has already made Colts fans forget what's-his-name, the other receiver last season.
* First-team defense
The entire unit was intact and exuding confidence against the Browns. (Granted, the Browns have a history of prompting such emotions.) I particularly enjoyed seeing the secondary of corners Vontae Davis and Greg Toler and safeties Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry. The last time the Colts had a secondary with this level of playmakers, Marlin Jackson and Bob Sanders were still in uniform.
Toler forced and recovered a fumble and nearly had two other interceptions. Colts fans have to love his energy. He takes some risks, but those come with high rewards, too.
The Colts' first-team defense allowed only four first downs. That's a positive, made less impressive only because the Browns aren't – what's the word? – dynamic on offense.
* Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee. One word: solid.
Not everything is rosy, of course, which brings us to the Worries category:
* Offensive line
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo left the game early hobbling, and the Colts offensive line depth is not strong enough to sustain his long-term loss. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Castonzo has a "mild MCL sprain" and could return for the regular-season opener. If Castonzo is missing for long, it's likely that Luck will be running away from pressure too often. Even though Luck is fully capable of avoiding the rush, he can't avoid it every time.
* Two-minute drill
Given the number of late-game drives Luck directed in his rookie season a year ago, this worry won't likely have much staying power. But the one disappointment against the Browns was Luck's failure to direct a scoring drive before the half. The reason was discovered, however: He's human. A little more protection time might have made a difference, too.
* Run defense
Trent Richardson had some solid runs against the Colts, but he didn't break any big ones, so maybe this isn't such a worry at all. Still, worrying about run defense is a standard facet of Colts fandom that must die hard.
* Hamilton's play calling
Remember, “worries” aren't necessarily a complete negative. Until Hamilton's offense blooms during the regular season, it's still enough of a mystery to be a concern. In a game as thoroughly successful as the third preseason game, this might be nitpicking, but why didn't the Colts try to push the offense when they got the ball back with 55 seconds left in the half?
It's safe to say that No Worries outweighs Worries after three preseason game. If Castonzo emerges healthy by the home opener, it should be as worry-free as a Colts fan could possibly hope.