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INDIANAPOLIS – A busy week of roster moves saw the Colts kick things off by trading away a former Ryan Grigson draft pick.
They also received a couple of key injury updates from their third preseason game.
Here’s a Sunday notebook look at the trade of Antonio Morrison, and some injury updates on Denzelle Good, John Simon and T.J. Green:
Why the trade of Antonio Morrison?
The Colts sent linebacker Antonio Morrison to the Packers on Sunday, in exchange for cornerback Lenzy Pipkins.
A 2017 undrafted free agent, Pipkins played in 12 games (1 start) for the Packers during his rookie season.
Pipkins enters a cornerback room that is banged up and is without a definite pecking order. Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir are the starters. But Nate Hairston (hamstring) and Quincy Wilson (hand) both missed Saturday’s contest. This has been a very fluid group with reps during the month of August.
“We just feel like it’s a good fit,” Reich said of the 6-0, 196-pound Pipkin. “He’s got good awareness, good technique, had enough experience competing in 12 games as an undrafted free agent. He’s a guy that our (scouting staff) had their eye on.”
Seeing Morrison’s time come to an end with the Colts is not a surprise. The 6-1, 241-pound Morrison was never viewed as a good scheme fit for this 4-3 system. Not known for his speed, Morrison had slowly been demoted throughout the offseason.
Still, Morrison did lead the Colts in tackles last season. He also started 19 games in his 2 seasons in Indianapolis.
“It was tough with Antonino, because I loved the toughness that he brought,” Reich said on Sunday.
Morrison’s role in this new Colts defense saw him falling to the second and third team this preseason. He was a bubble guy to make the team’s 53-man roster. Najee Goode is the current starter at SAM linebacker, after Morrison began the offseason at that spot. For a defense predicated on speed, that is something the physical Morrison does not offer.
With Morrison now gone, the entire linebacker group for the Colts has started just 7 career games. The 8 linebackers currently on the roster includes just 4 rookies. A pair of those linebackers (Darius Leonard and Skai Moore) are in position to start Week One.
The Colts will get back to practice on Monday, with the preseason finale coming Thursday in Cincinnati. The team has to cut its roster down to 53 players, from 90, by Saturday at 4:00 PM.
Denzelle Good to miss time
The knee injury Denzelle Good suffered on Saturday night has the Colts listing the big right tackle at “week-to-week” and he will miss Thursday’s preseason finale.
So with Good out for a couple of weeks, the Colts are once again scrambling big time at right tackle.
Veteran Austin Howard has been a bust of a signing after getting benched again on Saturday, following an opening series sack.
That should trim the candidates at right tackle down to three: Joe Haeg, Braden Smith and J’Marcus Webb.
Haeg, the third-year pro, has started at right tackle before and played there a little this camp. That’s the issue for Haeg though in competing for a starting job. He’s been asked to be the team’s backup center and then go take some snaps at left tackle for Anthony Castonzo, too. So he’s lacked many reps at right tackle in 2018.
Smith, the rookie out of Auburn, started at right tackle in Week Two of the preseason and did a nice job. But the Colts decided to give Howard one more chance on Saturday, so that moved Smith to right guard, which is the second-round pick’s more natural position. In college, Smith started 39-of-41 games at right guard, and then 2 at right tackle. He’s drilled the vast majority of time at right guard this offseason, but has been a starter at right tackle for a handful of practices. If you’re looking down the road, Smith growing and learning as a starting right tackle (compared to backing up Matt Slauson at right guard) is not a bad idea.
Webb, a seven-year veteran, was the guy who replaced Howard after that one series on Saturday night. The Colts signed Webb early in camp and he quickly moved into the starting competition. Webb has 64 career starts (spread out at both tackle spots and right guard), but didn’t play in the NFL last season after serving a 4-game suspension to start the 2017 campaign.
Reich said this competition will continue through Thursday’s preseason finale.
“We are going to take these last couple of days (of practice) and Thursday to zero in on that,” Reich said. “We feel confident with the guys we have competing, but we will take all the time allotted to us to make that decision.”
Good news on the John Simon front
The neck injury that John Simon suffered on Saturday shouldn’t keep him out too long.
Major concern rose when Simon exited the 49ers game with a neck injury, given that he ended last season on injured reserve with a neck issue.
“Good news on Simon,” Reich said on Sunday. “It was a little bit less severe, us being precautionary because he had the neck (injury) last year. We wanted to be safe and smart.
“His injury is more day-to-day.”
Simon is likely to play major minutes for the Colts in 2018. Even though Margus Hunt continues to start opposite Jabaal Sheard at defensive end, Simon has easily been one of the team’s most consistent defenders this month.
Other Reich Tidbits
-Frank Reich mentioned these positions/battles that the staff will still be evaluating closely in the final week of the preseason: right tackle, offensive line depth, wide receiver at the 4 and 5 spots, trimming down the tight end group and overall depth in the secondary with some injuries back there.
-The safety group has welcomed Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers back, but it’s a banged up position with depth questions. Both T.J. Green (hamstring) and Ronald Martin (shoulder) are listed at ‘week-to-week’ after suffering injures on Saturday. Undrafted guys in George Odum or Chris Cooper could work their way onto the 53-man roster if the Colts do need a 4th safety.
-Reich said the issues in the run game on Saturday night (37 rushing yards on 27 carries from the running backs) were a mix of miscommunication and poor play in one-on-one on situations.
-How active will the Colts be on the waiver wire next week? They need to be pretty active and Frank Reich is a fan of Chris Ballard’s “aggressive nature” to roster building. “Generally speaking, I think he’s aggressive and has an aggressive mindset to make this team better,” Reich said. The Colts claimed 5 players following roster cuts last season.
-Reich continues to list cornerbacks Qunicy Wilson (hand) and Nate Hairston (hamstring) at day-to-day, after both missed Saturday’s win over the 49ers.