INDIANAPOLIS – It's the perfect test at the perfect time.
Week Three of the NFL preseason is the closest things get to a regular season game in August.
Added game preparation all week, along with starters seeing playing time into the third quarter, replicates some semblance of what teams will eventually embark on 16 times for the next fourth months.
For the Colts, the challenge facing them this weekend hits a certain area of focus.
The St. Louis Rams have arguably the top defensive line in football, one that will surely test the Colts offensive line.
Following three days of work with the Chicago Bears, Chuck Pagano has put an emphasis on getting the offensive line rolling this week.
"Huge, huge. The clock is ticking," Pagano said of the need to solidify the offensive line.
"Are we at where we want to be? No, but we're always working."
This weekend, the Colts will see a Rams defensive line littered with first-round picks.
Led by All-Pro defensive end Robert Quinn (his 29.5 sacks the last two seasons are the third most in the NFL), St. Louis has five defensive linemen who were chosen in the top 14 selections of their respective drafts.
Saturday night will be another evaluation period for new Colts right tackle Jack Mewhort.
Early on against the Bears, Mewhort struggled with Chicago edge rusher Pernell McPhee before putting together a solid protection series on the Colts lone touchdown drive.
Pagano knew there was going to be some time needed in Mewhort adapting from working in a confined area at guard, to the perimeter of open space at tackle.
"We lose sight of the fact that he's a second-year player. There's going to be growing pains and we need to find out what we can do to accentuate our strengths," Pagano says of Mewhort.
Another chance of that comes this weekend facing a defensive line like no other around the league.
"It's an opportunity to look at yourself, measure yourself and see exactly where you're at fundamentally, technique, communication-wise. You got to be hitting on all cylinders," Pagano says.
"Obviously we know that there's nothing more important than protecting the quarterback for any team. Certainly that's one of the areas that we'll continue to focus on."
On Monday, Anthony Castonzo, the leader of the Colts offensive line room, spoke like a player knowing the value that will come this weekend.
Two weeks from Sunday, the Colts will start a regular season schedule beginning with premier defensive lines.
Castonzo knows that his final playing time before the season opener in Buffalo will likely come this weekend. That just adds to the importance of Saturday night's work.
"This is the point where you start to kind of turn that corner, where you start really to become confident in yourself and your technique," Castonzo said on Monday.
"You can do the same thing over and over again on the field and feel good about it and kind of get into a rhythm because you get two-plus quarters to play as a unit. It's very important."