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Meaningless game? Not to these Colts

Meaningless exhibition?

Waste of time?

Try selling that line of logic about Thursday’s preseason finale in Cincinnati to Zach Kerr and Jack Doyle.

While the Colts starters aren’t expected to play much, if at all, that only ramps up the importance of this game to the guys battling for their NFL lives.

“It’s the championship, the Super Bowl, whatever you want to call it. It’s do-or-die time,” said Kerr, an undrafted rookie defensive lineman from Delaware. “You want to get a job. I told a couple guys there’s no reason for me to go back home, I don’t want to go back home, this is where I want to be, so it definitely means a lot to me.”

Kerr has been one of the pleasant surprises of the preseason and made a big impression in the 23-17 loss to the Saints this past Saturday night. The 6-2, 335-pounder from Delaware had a sack and three tackles for loss and finished with five tackles, most among Colts defensive linemen.

“It’s a production league, a production business, so I feel real good about the film I’m putting out there,” Kerr said. “I’ve got to credit a lot of the older guys in the room, they’re helping me out with a lot of things a rookie wouldn’t know, especially in the preseason. I get to watch them every day on film so they’re helping me out a lot – Arthur (Jones), Cory (Redding), (Josh) Chapman, Ricky (Jean Francois) and those guys. It’s been a very good process thus far.”

Though Doyle was active for 15 games last season, starting four, he was one of the beneficiaries of playing time that opened up with Dwayne Allen went down with a hip injury. Allen is back now and there is a crowd at tight end also including Coby Fleener, Wesley Saunders and converted basketball player Erik Swoope.

Teams typically keep three or four tight ends, so the former Cathedral High standout is very much on the bubble.

“In this business, every day’s a new day and every day is a day to prove yourself, so that’s what I’m trying to do,” Doyle said. “I was trying to tell the young guys one thing I learned last year you’re not just playing in those preseason games for the team you’re on, you’re playing to put film on for 31 other teams. You’ve got to come out and do the best you can every day. You’re always being watched and evaluated.”

Doyle learned that lesson as a rookie. After going through the offseason program with the Titans, he was among the final players cut. Just as he was about to sign with the practice squad in Tennessee, the Colts claimed him on waivers and he was bound for his hometown team.

He has been most impressive as a blocker but also has demonstrated reliable hands in the passing game.

“You try to come in here with the same consistent mindset and just try to get better every day, that’s all you can do,” he said. “Your rookie year’s crazy. It’s a learning experience and I feel like I grew a lot from that experience going into this camp. They always say you make your biggest jump from your rookie year to your second year and I feel like I’ve done that.”

Not lost upon Kerr, Doyle, and others on the bubble is the reality that the roster, already pared from 90 to 79 on Monday, must be at 75 by 4 p.m. Tuesday. The final cut to 53 comes by 4 p.m. Saturday.

Though Kerr – like Doyle – has played well, he acknowledges he’ll be dealing with some nerves the next few days.

“It’s cutthroat time,” he said. “We’ve already cut down some and then we’ve got to cut back down again, so I know my back’s against the wall and I’ve got to not perform how I did last week, perform better than I did last week to earn a spot on the team.”

HOT READS

>> Chuck Pagano said Darius Butler (ankle), Greg Toler (thumb) and Jonotthan Harrison (thumb) were held out of practice Monday as a precaution. Khaled Holmes, out since spraining an ankle in early August, is still in track to be available for the season opener Sept. 7 in Denver, although Pagano suggested the team would caution against bringing him back to soon and risk exacerbating the problem. There still is no definitive word on the status of safety Delano Howell, out indefinitely with a neck injury. Pagano said he is still being evaluated.

>> The Colts’ running backs have averaged 3.0 yards per carry in the preseason, including 2.6 from starter Trent Richardson (51 yards on 20 attempts). Pagano acknowledged “I don’t think (the run game) is where we want it. We’re headed in the right direction.”

>> One bright spot on the ground has been the play of Boom Herron, who leads the team in the preseason with 104 yards on 18 attempts (5.8). That’s already more rushing yards than any Colts back has posted in the preseason in at least nine years.

>> Of the four roster moves due by 4 p.m. Tuesday, two strong possibilities are moving Vick Ballard and rookie tackle Ulrick John to injured reserve. Both are out for the season but haven’t been designated yet.

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