After the Colts announced that Andrew Luck would be placed on injured reserve, some interesting things have happened. Let’s go back a couple of weeks to the Bengals game, where Rashaan Melvin was inactive due to a concussion he suffered the previous week. In that game, Pierre Desir had the opportunity to start across from Vontae Davis. In what should have been a glaring weakness for the Bengals offense to exploit, A.J. Green wasn’t able to get anything going. Desir played a big role in helping shut down one of the best receivers in the National Football League.
Last week, against the Houston Texans, another development occurred as Melvin was slated to return to the field from the concussion protocol and Davis did not travel with the team. The particulars as to why this happened haven’t been shared — for obvious reasons — but the team announced it was not injury-related and was a coaching decision. This reeks of Davis being notified that he would not be starting against the Texans and that the team wanted to get the tandem of Melvin and Desir a shot to start on the outside. If that is true, it is understandable that it wouldn’t go over well for a player who is in the final year of his contract and trying to play his way into a final long-term lucrative deal, likely for another team.
Today, to the surprise of media members who were in the locker room following the game in Houston, Quan Bray was placed on injured reserve. Indianapolis has used the roster spot to activate Joey Mbu off of the practice squad. It is fair to say that Bray has not had an overly productive season as the team’s return specialist. It is also fair to say that the team might be interested in taking a look at other players in that capacity and that if Chris Ballard doesn’t see Bray as having a future on the team as a wide receiver, it makes more sense to move on to other options.
This leads to another round of reported tryouts that occurred this week.
IND tryouts: LBs Tyrell Adams, Brooks Ellis, Otha Peters; S Will Blackmon; CBs Makinton Dorleant, Denzel Rice (PS); WR Lucky Whitehead.— Howard Balzer (@HBalzer721) November 7, 2017
While he was not listed in this group, former LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson was added to the practice squad to replace Mbu.
We have signed defensive tackle Anthony Johnson to the practice squad. pic.twitter.com/bmAl6oBPXa— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) November 7, 2017
Most practice squad signings go without a great deal of attention. Joining a practice squad certainly doesn’t guarantee anything for a player and far too often these young men end up released within only a couple of weeks.
What is interesting about Johnson is learning more about his origins. Heading into college, he was the top defensive tackle prospect in the nation and was second overall prospect only to Jadeveon Clowney. After a disappointing college career, Johnson went undrafted after his junior season and ended up with the Miami Dolphins. Kevin Duffy shares the particulars of his breakout game against the Bears in the 2016 pre-season, while he was a member of the New England Patriots.
Inserted with the first-team defense, Johnson batted down a Jay Cutler pass on his first snap. He easily discarded Bears tackle Bobby Massie and dropped Jacquizz Rodgers three yards behind the line. On a stunt with defensive end Chris Long, he accelerated into the backfield, flushing Brian Hoyer out of the pocket. He pressured Cutler, too, and appeared to be held as Cutler scrambled toward the sideline. Johnson generated a constant push along the interior, and has made a late charge for a roster spot in New England, a surprise to approximately no one back home in New Orleans.
We now know that this performance did not catapult him into NFL relevance but at least he has shown some promising skills on a football field against NFL caliber competition. While it’s far more likely that he will continue his journey around the NFL than it is that he will stick in Indianapolis, it is clear that the Colts are actively kicking the tires on talent wherever they can find it at this point in the season.
It’s reasonable to get the impression that from here out, personnel decisions and even snaps during the games will be heavily influenced by focusing on the future.
Nonetheless, Kevin Duff’s story on Johnson is worth a read if you want to learn a bit more about Anthony Johnson. He has had to make significant changes to his body as he has traveled around the league and teams have asked him to play different roles. When you learn a bit more about him, it’s hard to not wish him the best.