INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are officially back from their bye week, in returning to the practice field on Wednesday.
The Colts (5-5) and Buccaneers (4-6) will meet in Week 12, with a 1:00 PM kickoff coming on Sunday afternoon.
Here is what we learned from the Colts on Wednesday:
- Speaking to the media for the first time since Shaquille Leonard’s release, Shane Steichen didn’t add too much to the story. “I want to reiterate all (what was said in a Tuesday statement), great teammate, great leader,” Steichen said of Leonard. “Great respect for what he’s done, six years here with the organization, not only the team, but the city and release of players are never easy, especially a player like him. We wish him the best.” Steichen was asked if Leonard’s public comments, expressing recent frustration towards Gus Bradley for having a scaled back role played into the release: “He’s a competitor,” Steichen said of Leonard. “And competitors, sometimes they speak their mind and that’s ok. That happens and that’s part of this business. And I’ll leave it at that.” Steichen was also asked on Wednesday if the release of Leonard was purely football, or if there were more factors at play. Steichen said: “Like I said, it’s case-by-case. Everything is case-by-case.” Steichen called the decision “very tough” and did feel the need to address the entire Colts team about it.
- So with the Leonard news on Tuesday, what does that mean for the linebacker position the rest of the season? E.J. Speed is easily the biggest beneficiary, and he is very deserving of an expanded role. Look for Speed’s playing time to skyrocket next to Zaire Franklin. After those 2, we will see if the Colts explore at all with Segun Olubi or Grant Stuard as the 3rd linebacker, or even opt for more multiple defensive back packages (Nick Cross getting more of a role?).
- The latest on Jelani Woods is not a promising update. Shane Steichen said earlier this week that Woods had a setback in his “other hamstring,” so his return is not happening anytime soon. While Steichen wouldn’t say if Woods’ 2023 season is over or not, it’s hard to imagine the second-year tight end actually returning this year, given he hasn’t played or practiced in 4 months. And you have some internal debates on how Woods handled his first full NFL offseason this past year vs. if the Colts rushed him back a bit this offseason from a lingering hamstring issue. No matter that, this is such an unfortunate situation for a promising young player who had shown more and more flashes towards the end of this rookie season. It also stunts some of the tight end possibilities, a position group that has seen no one emerge in through the first 10 games of the season.
- Anthony Richardson is now back in Indy for the remainder of his right shoulder rehab. Shane Steichen did say on Wednesday the Colts will have Richardson do some internal projects to help stay in tune with what is going on week-to-week.
- The Colts return from their bye week in 9th place of the AFC. And the schedule for these final 7 games looks very manageable, especially when you look at the projected starting quarterbacks. These are the QBs the Colts are scheduled to face the rest of the year: Baker Mayfield (Buccaneers), Will Levis (Titans), Jake Browning (Bengals), Kenny Pickett (Steelers), Desmond Ridder (Falcons), Aidan O’Connell (Raiders), C.J. Stroud (Texans). At 5-5, and with an important conference tiebreaker of a 4-3 record, the Colts should have optimism about pushing forward for an AFC playoff berth.
- We have seen quite the contrast in Gardner Minshew effectiveness as a starter vs. a backup. In 3 games in relief this season, Minshew has put up these numbers: 30-of-39, 76.9%, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 109.6 rating, 8.4 YPA. In 6 starts for Minshew, he’s put up these numbers: 81-of-217, 61.3%, 7 TDs, 6 INTs, 79.2 rating, 6.4 YPA. How much of this is a concern moving forward as teams continue to get a full week to prepare for Minshew, versus him entering a game in relief of an injured Anthony Richardson?
- The Bucs (4-6) have lost 4 of 5, are banged up on defense, can’t run the football and are returning from their longest road trip of the season in playing at San Francisco last week. That’s great news for the Colts. Where some concern arises though is Bucs head coach Todd Bowles has extensive history in taking away a team’s run game. And a combination of Baker Mayfield, plus Mike Evans and Chris Godwin offers more than component passing game potential, which isn’t something the Colts saw against the Panthers and Patriots.
- On Wednesday, the NFL announced the 32 nominees for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. For the Colts, that is DeForest Buckner. From the NFL: “The winner of the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award is determined by a vote of current NFL players. From the eight finalists, each team’s players will submit a consensus vote of their choice for the winner. As in Pro Bowl voting, a team cannot vote for its own player. The winner will be announced as part of NFL honors. He will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice.”
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