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INDIANAPOLIS – Over the last 5 weeks, the Colts have averaged a half dozen players out because of injury in each game.
That trend appears to be coming to an end.
The Colts (3-5) have returned from their bye week with probably their healthiest injury report of the season, not just in the quantity of names on it, but also with the quality of players.
Let’s take a closer look at the current health of the Colts:
- The Colts have had just 3 players not practice at all this week: TE-Ryan Hewitt (ankle), S-Mike Mitchell (calf) and TE-Erik Swoope (knee).
- Even with two injuries at tight end right now, the Colts still have Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron and Mo Alie-Cox on the team’s 53-man roster. Hewitt must have suffered his injury during the win over Oakland. Swoope’s injury occurred on his second quarter touchdown versus the Bills in Week Seven. He missed the win over the Raiders.
- At safety, Mitchell left the Oakland game in the second half with a calf injury. The good news at safety is Malik Hooker has returned from practice. And Clayton Geathers played against the Raiders after missing the two previous weeks. So while the Colts could be down Mitchell on Sunday, they should have their normal starting safety duo back in the lineup.
- The Colts are looking like they will have to make a decision at running back this week with the return of Robert Turbin (shoulder) to practice. That gives the Colts 4 healthy running backs in Turbin, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. One would think either Turbin or Wilkins will have to be inactive on Sunday. Frank Reich has said before that incorporating 4 running backs into a weekly game plan is very difficult. One thing to note on the running backs, Mack is on the injury report with a foot injury. He’s had hamstring and ankle injuries as well this season.
- Another place the Colts could have an extra number this week is at wide receiver. Veteran Ryan Grant has practiced the past two days, after an ankle injury sidelined him in wins over the Bills and Raiders. With Grant healthy, the Colts have 6 available wide receivers on the 53-man roster. T.Y. Hilton is a lock to play. Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal are needed for return duties. Dontrelle Inman was the team’s leading wide receiver against Oakland. So that probably leaves Steve Ishmael as the odd man out. Ishmael, an undrafted free agent, was inactive versus the Raiders.
- The expectation is rookie offensive tackle Braden Smith will play this Sunday. Smith looks to be wearing a padded glove on his injured left hand at practice. Frank Reich said on Wednesday that the Colts believed the injury is something Smith can play through.
- Rookie DE-Kemoko Turay (neck) went from limited on Wednesday to not practicing on Thursday. He is a name to watch at Friday’s final practice of the week.
- Looking ahead to Sunday, the Colts could very well have 0 starters as an injured inactive for the first time all season.
- Couple of rookie updates on Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard from Thursday coordinator day at the Colts complex.
- In Nelson, the Colts have a player who is the team’s only starter having yet to appear on the injury report this season and is also the only player to have played every snap in 2018: “I haven’t seen him slow down at all,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said on Thursday. “That’s one of the great things about Quenton. He’s consistent. He’s the same guy every day.”
- Darius Leonard, the NFL’s leading tackler, has returned from the bye week full-go. “His focus and his attention to detail has been outstanding,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said of Leonard. “His practice on Monday was as fast as I’ve seen him, same with Wednesday. He was as quick and instinctive as I’ve seen him.”
- T.Y. Hilton has had just 59 receiving yards in back-to-back games. Sirianni said the coaching staff was busy high-fiving Hilton against Oakland because the Raiders were assigning roll coverage to No. 13, thus opening up favorable running boxes for the Colts. “Because of the respect he demands, it’s opened things up for other guys.” Looking ahead to Sunday afternoon, the Colts are expecting Jalen Ramsey to continue to shadow Hilton.
- How good does Sirianni think this Jacksonville defense is? “This is definitely one of the better defenses that I’ve ever seen in my 10 years in the NFL,” Sirianni said of Jacksonville’s 2nd ranked defense in 2018. “They are talented everywhere.”
- Defensively, the Colts have produced just 4 sacks in their last 4 games. Eberflus pointed to more chip blocks from the offense, plus some injuries to Margus Hunt and Denico Autry as reasons why the Colts have seen their pressure numbers really dip. Just because the pressure hasn’t been as high in recent weeks, that doesn’t mean the Colts will all of a sudden ramp up the blitzing this week.
- At cornerback, Nate Hairston is looking to bounce back after he was benched in the win over Oakland. Hairston had been a starting outside corner for the Colts in 2018, but Pierre Desir replaced him after 9 snaps in Week Eight. The Colts have allowed the highest completion percentage of any defense in the league this season, so the corner play must improve.
- Eberflus says Tyquan Lewis has looked “really good” in his 2 weeks of practice in 2018. While 3-tehcnique is Lewis’ likely future spot, the Colts do really like his versatility and the athleticism he’s shown. Lewis could make his 2018 season debut on Sunday. If not, the Colts sill have a roster exemption next week for the No. 64 overall pick back in April.
- One scheduling note: the Colts and Dolphins game on Sunday, Nov. 25 has been flexed to 4:25 PM at Lucas Oil Stadium. So that’s the only game in the final 8 weeks of the season that will not be Sunday at 1:00 PM for the Colts.
THURSDAY’S INJURY REPORT
DNP: Ryan Hewitt (ankle), S-Mike Mitchell (calf), TE-Erik Swoope (knee), DE-Kemoko Turay (shoulder)
–Bowen’s Analysis: The first three names on this list have missed practice all week.
LIMITED: WR-Ryan Grant (ankle), CB-Nate Hairston (ankle), S-Malik Hooker (hip), RB-Marlon Mack (foot)
–Bowen’s Analysis: Hooker was limited again after missing all of practice leading into the Oakland game. It’s now a ‘foot’ injury for Mack as he’s dealt with hamstring and ankle ailments this year.
FULL: S-Clayton Geathers (knee), DT-Hassan Ridgeway (illness), OT-Braden Smith (left hand), RB-Robert Turbin (shoulder)
–Bowen’s Analysis: Geathers was a DNP on Wednesday, but was FULL on Thursday.