If you're new to this period of the NFL year that we call preseason, here's an important thing to know: in game three, the starters typically play into the third quarter. In game four, however, the starters often don't play.
That will be true of the Colts this year. On Thursday night, they play in their preseason finale in Cincinnati against the Bengals, hoping to get at least one win in the preseason (as they're currently 0-3). But they'll be without many of their starters.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano confirmed on Tuesday that many starters won't play - though he wouldn't specify who. He was asked if they've already made those decisions, and he said, "Yeah, but I don't really want to discuss those at this time. I think it's probably obvious," Pagano continued, "some of them that we would take care of and probably not put out there like I said for obvious reasons. There's some guys nicked up that we want to get on the mend and give them a day or two to heal up. We're still looking at that and we'll make some decisions."
So while he's not giving specific names, it's safe to guess who he might be referring to (ahem, Andrew Luck). Don't expect many of the Colts starters to play at all on Thursday night - although we likely will see some. Asked about the young interior offensive linemen, Pagano said that, "They've got to play. As much as you want to protect everybody, if you will, guys got to play. You consider the circumstances and the things that have transpired over the last week and a half and so forth, guys got to play."
It's pretty clear here that he's referring to rookie Jack Mewhort, who is the team's starting left guard, and then likely right guard Hugh Thornton too. Mewhort has only played in two preseason games this year due to injury, and he is a rookie after all. Playing him on Thursday night wouldn't be a bad idea at all, and I'd be surprised if the Colts don't. Hugh Thornton, however, has missed some practice this week with a left wrist injury, so I wouldn't expect him to play (as the Colts' favorite word is "precautionary" this preseason). Also, center Jonotthan Harrison will likely play - though he missed practice Monday with a thumb injury (not considered serious at all). Since Harrison is technically the second string center, it makes sense that he would play too.
There might be other Colts' starters who play Thursday, but it won't be many. Though Pagano didn't name names, he confirmed that the young interior offensive linemen need to play. Other than them, who do you think needs extra work in the fourth preseason game for the Colts' starters?