As has been the case throughout the season, the Colts have been active in a number of different areas as they head into a new week. This week there has been a lot to talk about that impacts the Colts in many different ways, both from a roster and from a season outlook perspective. We will take a look at some interesting story-lines that have progressed throughout the day.
INJURIES AND ROSTER MOVES
Local wide receiver Krishawn Hogan suffered a torn ACL on the Colts “special” teams punt return on Sunday. It is really unfortunate to see a young kid who has worked hard for his opportunity to lose his chance at making an impact in the NFL in his rookie season on a play like that. The football Gods can be brutal. While it is purely speculative at this point, head coach Chuck Pagano indicated that he would be back — which might indicate he is in the team’s longer term plans.
Rookie inside linebacker Anthony Walker returned to the active roster on Sunday only to re-aggravate his hamstring injury. He will now be listed as day-to-day.
To remedy another shortage at inside linebacker with Walker’s injury, the Colts placed Krishawn Hogan on IR and activated inside linebacker Darnell Sankey from the practice squad. The team filled the vacated practice squad spot with running back Marcus Murphy.
The team also announced that Andrew Luck will not play against the Tennessee Titans. He will practice this week but the team would not or could not provide any details until Luck and the doctors had a chance to put a plan together.
From a positive perspective, Chuck Pagano gave the first real update on Clayton Geathers. While he is still a week or two away from returning to practice, the team does expect Geathers to play this year. This has been a big question-mark and if this is accurate, could provide a big boost to the Colts defense in the back half of the season.
AFC SOUTH INJURIES TO NOTE
The Houston Texans have been dealt a significant blow to their defense. Head coach Bill O’Brien confirmed today that both J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus are done for the season. These are two of the biggest impacts players for the Texans front seven and I can tell you that Houston would really like to have John Simon on the roster about now.
Additionally, while Marcus Mariota has been walking around with more confidence in the locker room, he will likely be a game-time decision for Monday Night Football — according to head coach Mike Mularkey. It is very likely that Mariota’s health and ability to be effective will have a big impact on the outcome in this game.
EARLY SEASON SURPRISES - GOOD AND BAD
It is fair to say the the expectations for the Colts passing game dropped to start the season without Andrew Luck on the field. After Scott Tolzien’s performance against the Rams, it might seem impossible to get anything going in the passing game. Even T.Y. Hilton fumbled the ball as he was trying to stretch for a first down.
However, since that time T.Y. Hilton has started to build some chemistry with Jacoby Brissett. Before tonight’s game between Chicago and Minnesota, Hilton has elevated himself to third place in NFL receiving yards. He has 466 receiving yards through five weeks and is on pace for nearly 1500 yards receiving — which a backup quarterback.
While Pro Football Focus does a lot of analysis that cannot be validated, some of the simple stats they put together are fool proof. In this case, PFF is showing the Hilton is dominating the NFL from the slot.
This is an encouraging development for Jacoby Brissett and the Colts. If Hilton can keep up with his current pace, Indianapolis has a chance to keep getting yards through the air.
However, a disturbing statistic at this point in the season is that the Colts have only two passing touchdowns in five weeks — the lowest in the NFL. In twilight zone fashion, the team leads the NFL with 8 rushing touchdowns. Who would have predicted either of those outcomes coming into the season?
Another rushing statistic is that while the Colts had only 4 runs over 20 yards in 2016, good for last in the league, Marlon Mack has three runs of over 20 yards in his first three games played.
Finally, on the discouraging side of the Colts early season performances is something that will likely not surprise the Colts. The inside linebackers that are currently on the roster are better suited to play aggressive toward the line and stop the run. Against the pass? This group was targeted 11 times, resulting in 10 catches for 100 yards and touchdown. For the season? This group has been targeted 43 times, resulting in 415 yards, 198 yards after the catch, and three touchdowns.
Coach Pagano Reacts to Individual Performances
After we just acknowledged that Marlon Mack has had a profound impact on chunk players for the offense, including three runs for more than 20 yards in his first three games played, it isn’t a surprise to learn that the team plans to find more ways to get him involved in the offense. It has been speculated that the reason Mack hasn’t taken a larger percentage of the snaps is due to inexperience in pass protection. Pagano confirmed those theories today and suggested that Mack needs more “time on task,” which translates to more time practicing and preparing. Don’t forget the he missed important time in training camp and preseason, along a couple games during the regular season.
While this may be true, I don’t think it is a good excuse for not using Mack on third and long situations. While he may need to be prepared to pick up a blitzer from time-to-time, the Colts don’t disguise at all that they plan to run a screen in these situations. This would require a chip at most from Mack before he releases and he will always be the superior option to Robert Turbin in space on this kind of play.
The last update of not is that Pagano acknowledge that Vontae Davis has struggled a bit in this first two games back. He indicated that he still has some rust to knock off and has to find a way to eliminate chunk plays. Colts fans can only hope that this is the case, that he is still a little rusty, and not that the impact of numerous injuries and age are starting to take a toll and making this version of Davis the new normal.