It may only be the third game on the Indianapolis Colts’ preseason schedule, but today’s road matchup with the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field (4 p.m., NFL Network) has certainly attracted a lot of national attention.
And why not? The top two quarterbacking prospects in last April’s National Football League draft — Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Washington’s Robert Griffin III — will be facing off against each other for the first time on the professional level.
As soon as both team’s preseason schedules were announced last spring, this afternoon’s game was circled by most of the league’s observers and fans. Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, versus RGIII, who went No. 2 overall.
In many ways, today’s game between the Colts and Redskins in Landover, Md., will have the feel of a regular-season meeting. As much as a preseason meeting can be hyped, Indianapolis and Washington — Luck and Griffin — has certainly reached that level.
Colts coach Chuck Pagano, though, is trying to treat the game for what it really is — one of two preseason games left on the schedule.
“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot made out of that [Luck and Griffin]. Like I always say, the enemy is always in your own camp. It has nothing to do with who you’re playing,” Pagano said earlier this week.
“So we’ve got to take care of the things that we can take care of, control the things that we can control and go out there and get ourselves ready to take the next step.”
Luck and the Colts’ first-team offense is expected to play in the early stages of the third quarter. Indianapolis’ No. 1 defense is also slated for more work than they’ve seen in the previous two preseason games.
“You know we’ll monitor and see how the first half goes,” the Indianapolis coach said.
“What you’d like to do is, like we did in the first game, play the half. In the second game, what you’d like to do is get them through the half, then get in the locker room, make the adjustments, and then have your starters come out and start the third quarter and have a series coming out, so that it isn’t new on September 9th. So that’s what we’re shooting for.”
As in the first two preseason games, Pagano wants to see more improvement overall from his team.
“You know, get better. Take the next step. We try to go out each and every day, and each and every game, to get better. Out expectations never change. We go into every ball game preseason, regular season, it doesn’t matter, expecting to win and expecting to play well,” he said.
“That’s what we as a coaching staff expect from our players, and that’s what our players expect from themselves and their teammates.”
The Colts coaching staff wants to use today’s game with Washington as a template for how they’re going to do things once the regular season commences. That’s how they treated this past week’s abbreviated practice schedule.
“Typically, what we try to do in the third preseason game is indoctrinate if you will, especially for the young guys, a typical regular season week. They’ve got obviously Tuesday off. They [came] back on Wednesday. A normal Wednesday is first and second down, a little bit of third down and nickel stuff, maybe a dash of red zone,” Pagano explained.
“Thursday you come in and do a ton of third down, a little bit of red zone. Friday is a goal line, short yardage, red zone and you slap a couple drives together. So what we try to do is simulate the meetings, the walk through, the practice schedule in the afternoon, just like you would in the regular season.”
n Luck downplays meeting with RGIII — Just another preseason game. At least that’s how the Colts’ rookie quarterback is trying to treat this afternoon’s game with Washington and RGIII.
So how does he try to avoid all the pregame attention?
“Just realize that’s not what the game’s about. The game’s about much more than either team’s quarterback. I think we both know that very well so it’s not too hard to stay clear of it,” Luck said this week.
“I think you realize that’s sort of the nature of the beast, nature of playing quarterback, nature of being drafted one, two, at any position in any sport. I don’t speak for [Griffin], but I’m sure he feels the same way. It’s not too hard not to get too caught up in it. I have much bigger things to worry about. Football is the biggest team game there is, so I’m just happy to be a part of a good team.”
Just two games into the preseason, how does Luck rate his performance so far and what does he want to accomplish against the Redskins?
“Expect to be better. Don’t want to take it any steps back. Play a couple more series or play a couple more minutes and hopefully do things better and keep going in the right direction,” he said.
“I think continuing to understand the offense. You can tell, or at least I can tell when I’m out there, when you’re not sure about the read, that’s when bad things tend to happen. The pick six [against Pittsburgh last week], just sort of late on the throw, not sure about the read, there you go, six points for the other team. Just continue to understand the offense.”
n Injury list — Wide receiver Donnie Avery, who sat out the Colts’ first two preseason games, will play today. Avery has been sidelined with a hip contusion that he suffered during the first full week of training camp.
Defensive end Cory Redding (knee), wide receiver Austin Collie (concussion), inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) offensive guard Mike McGlynn (ankle), running back Delone Carter (ribs) and running back Mewelde Moore (ribs) are not expected to be available.
Redding and Collie are probably both out until the regular season opener at Chicago on Sept. 9. Angerer will miss at least six weeks. McGlynn, Carter and Moore are listed as day-to-day. They might be able to play in next week’s preseason finale with Cincinnati.