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INDIANAPOLIS – Missing major offensive starters when preparing for the defending Super Bowl Champions is never ideal.
But that was the case for the Colts (1-1) as they were back to practice on Thursday, ahead of facing the Eagles (1-1) in Week Three.
Here is a notebook look at the Colts’ second practice of the week:
–It was not a pretty look at Thursday’s practice. The following starters were not practicing on Thursday: LT-Anthony Castonzo (hamstring), TE-Jack Doyle (hip), WR-T.Y. Hilton (quad), RB-Marlon Mack (hamstring/foot), DE-Denico Autry (ankle). Offensively, that’s the starting left tackle, the starting running back, the top wide receiver and the top tight end. All of these guys also missed Wednesday’s practice.
-The running back group was particularly beat up on Thursday, with Christine Michael (illness) also out. The Colts had just 2 running backs (two rookies in Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines), on their 53-man roster, participating on Thursday.
-Frank Reich talks to the media before Wednesday’s practice and after Friday’s practice, so we don’t have a lot to go with from him on these injuries. Here are my thoughts on the injuries:
–I wrote yesterday about Marlon Mack possibly missing Week 3. The Colts re-signed a running back (Jeremy McNichols) to the practice squad on Tuesday, which was a first curious sign to the running back depth this week. Looking back at Sunday’s game, Mack got 10 carries and played 18 snaps. But he had just 2 carries in the second quarter and 2 carries in the third quarter. His last carry of the game came with 5 minutes to go in the third quarter. When Mack headed to the sideline after that last carry, an athletic trainer immediately met him and the running back removed his helmet. Mack, who made his 2018 debut from a hamstring injury last Sunday, also was banged up in the first quarter against the Washington Football Team. If Mack, who is listed with a hamstring/foot injury on the report, did tweak something from Sunday, he has to be trending towards being inactive in Week Three.
-Still thinking Anthony Castonzo is a long shot to return very soon, given that he tweaked his hamstring last week for a second time in a little over a month. Castonzo’s absence from game action could very well extend into October, given his inability to string practices together in 2018.
-Veteran defensive lineman Denico Autry said his ankle injury, which he injured during practice last week, is something that he needs to let heal a bit, but it is an injury he said can be played through. Autry injured his ankle last Wednesday in practice, after playing in Week One.
-It’s always rare to see Jack Doyle or T.Y. Hilton missing practice. Doyle played 97 percent of the snaps on Sunday and Hilton logged 90 percent of the offensive snaps. Both finished Sunday’s game in Washington, too. Of the 6 starters missing consecutive days of practice this week, these two veterans probably have the best shot at playing. Doyle has missed one game in his six-year NFL career due to injury. Hilton has missed just two games in his 7 NFL seasons and none since 2014. Hilton had this to say on Thursday morning about his quad injury: “I’m feeling good. I’m still getting better every day. I should be fine. Nothing to worry about it.” If these two can return to practice Friday, they might be able to sneak their way onto the field in Week Three.
-Let’s also monitor any roster moves the Colts make the next few days, because some major shuffling in skill position personnel could be needed this week. The Colts have had 7 guys miss the first two days of practice this week. Remember, you only get 7 inactives on a weekly basis.
-In non-injury news on Thursday, who would have thought Joe Haeg would be called out this week? Well, Eagles DE-Brandon Graham did offer some bulletin board material for Haeg: “From what I see so far, it’s going to be a good day,” the veteran defensive end said earlier this week. Haeg’s response on Thursday didn’t offer the same sort of headlines: “It’s all talk. I don’t really put much weight into it.” Graham does have 38.5 career sacks in his 9-year career. He was key in the Super Bowl LII victory last year. Haeg has done very well to start the 2018 season.
-Haeg will see his good friend Carson Wentz on Sunday. The two were teammates at North Dakota State, and both started their careers on the NDSU scout team. Haeg went to Wentz’s wedding this offseason. The two had some “fun banter” of trash talking on Wednesday night, Haeg said.
-The Colts are making their assistant coaches available to the media a little more frequently than in years past. It’s refreshing to get a different perspective from the assistants. Below are a couple of tidbits from chatting with linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
-Gug says he feels the mood in his offensive line room has taken a 180 after the first two games. “When I got here, I thought they were a little bit down. They didn’t carry their heads high because there were a lot of issues that needed to be worked on (i.e. personnel, technique, schemes)…They didn’t look like roosters walking around with their chests puffed out and singing a song. They were very melancholy when we started this thing. Now I see the personalities and I see them talking and communicating with each other in a way I didn’t see. I see growth.” Given their play early in 2018, it makes sense why the confidence has grown.
-In talking with Borgonzi, he was obviously very pleased with the performance of Darius Leonard in Week Three. Some things that stood out from talking with Borgonzi. “His arms are so damn long,” the first-year linebacker coach said. Borgonzi mentioned that Leonard is a ‘simple man’ coming from a small town in South Carolina and already being married. One advantage that Leonard had in missing the entire spring was the simplicity of the Colts’ new defensive scheme. “Mentally, we do what we do. We aren’t a defense that has 18 different pressures each week. We really hone in on what we do.” Work on the same stuff over and over again.”
-A couple of notes about how dominant the Eagles have been at home lately. They’ve won 12 of their last 13 games at home, with a Week 17 ‘rest your key players’ outing against the Cowboys last season being the only loss in that stretch. Also, since 2017, the Eagles have allowed the second fewest points per game at home (13.2). Those are some of the challenges facing the Colts this weekend, granted the 2018 Eagles haven’t looked like an obvious playoff contender so far.
THURSDAY’S INJURY REPORT
DNP: DL-Denico Autry (ankle), OT-Anthony Castonzo (hamstring), TE-Jack Doyle (hip), WR-T.Y. Hilton (quadricep), RB-Marlon Mack (foot/hamstring), RB-Christine Michael (illness), DT-Hassan Ridgeway (calf), CB-Quincy Wilson (concussion)
–Bowen’s Analysis: The updates on the 5 starters are above. Ridgeway got hurt during the first half of Sunday’s win. Wilson left the Washington game in the third quarter with a concussion. With Michael out on Thursday, the Colts only had 2 healthy running back participating.
LIMITED: OT-Denzelle Good (knee/wrist)
–Bowen’s Analysis: Good has now been limited in his first two days of practice this regular season.
FULL: CB-Chris Milton (concussion), S-Clayton Geathers (knee/elbow)
–Bowen’s Analysis: Milton moved into a normal color jersey on Thursday as he progresses through the concussion protocol. Geathers did not practice on Wednesday.
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