The Indianapolis Colts have racked up their fair share of injuries over the past few weeks. Linemen, running backs, some rookie defensive linemen — no position has been exempt.
Largely, though, the Colts have been fairly lucky that they haven’t suffered from some massive epidemic of sorts — as they have in previous seasons — but that doesn’t mean their struggle isn’t real. One of those early injuries, however, was thought to have set back the linebacker corps, but the position has smoothed out ever since.
Anthony Walker — 2017 fifth-round pick — was initially the first-team MIKE linebacker as training camp kicked off, but after a groin injury just three practices in, that role doesn’t appear to be within his grasp any more. Rookie UDFA Skai Moore has become the defense’s starter at the MIKE in nickel situations, with fellow rookie seventh-round pick Zaire Franklin has pushed his way into a heavy role in the base package.
Walker was expected to be sidelined for “a few weeks,” but we’re well in to his fourth week as a spectator and it doesn’t appear that he’s all that close to being back. Tuesday Frank Reich suggested that his return isn’t at all imminent, and that could spell serious trouble for Walker’s 2018 season.
“Anthony [Walker] is starting to feel better. I wouldn’t say we are close, but again, almost like Castonzo I feel good about the progress.” — Frank Reich
Thus far, when players have been out and Reich has stated that they were “close” it has usually been about a week before we see that player. “Very close” has typically signified less than a week for a player’s return to the practice field.
There are 8 days (September 1st) until the Colts — and every other team — will be tasked with creating a 53-man roster. If Walker isn’t close right now, then I think we can make a blanket assumption that at least two weeks is a reasonable expectation for his return. We make this assumption while also acknowledging that he could take longer.
Moore has shown quite a bit of versatility between coverage ability and in run support, and Franklin is quite the physical presence when on the field. With Walker having not been a practice participant in over three weeks, he’s really behind the eight-ball.
Walker could be placed on Injured Reserve. This would allow him to practice after Week 6, but keep him out of games until at least Week 8.
Quite honestly, I don’t see how he makes this roster right now. Between the three linebacker positions the Colts have four rookies who could see significant playing time. Adding Walker back into the mix just before the roster cut-down, with virtually no practice time, would only complicate the position.
Matthew Adams, Darius Leonard, Moore and Franklin have all earned their way onto the roster in my opinion. And squeezing Walker into the mix would be a waste if he isn’t 100 percent physically, and mentally prepared to play which he couldn’t possibly be at this point.
Additionally, Walker may just have to move to the SAM role in order to get snaps whenever he does come back. The Colts really like what they have in Moore and Franklin leading their defense, and I agree with them in that regard.