INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts (3-1) will be without two of their most important players in what Frank Reich calls their toughest challenge yet this season.
Anthony Castonzo (ribs) and Darius Leonard (groin) both missed the entire week of practice and have been ruled OUT for the Week Five matchup with the Browns (3-1).
What else did we learn from the Colts at their final practice of the week?
- In this guy’s opinion, Anthony Castonzo is the most indispensable player on the Colts roster. Reich acknowledged on Friday that the absence of Castonzo brings up a delicate balance of having to give that left tackle spot help on passing downs (especially when NFL sack leader Myles Garrett is over there), while also wanting as many skill guys as possible out on routes, particularly for an offense struggling situationally right now. Reich said giving some help to Le’Raven Clark, using a rhythm passing game and establishing the run will all be areas the Colts try to use to neutralize Garrett and company. As far as the severity of Castonzo’s injury, Reich didn’t share too much, other than saying the Colts wanted to play it safe and get the injury settled down. Once the week moved along, the Colts realized it was best to let Castonzo heal and re-evaluate next week.
- With Le’Raven Clark starting for Castonzo on Sunday, we’ll get a chance to see a guy both Frank Reich and Chris Ballard thought had a really good training camp. Clark’s last NFL start came in Week Five of the 2018 season. It was the next week that the Colts found the starting five that they’ve now seen start 20 straight games over the last three seasons. Clark, a third-round pick in 2016, was re-signed by this staff in the offseason and they sent him a clear message by making no other notable tackle moves. “Excited to see Le’Raven,” Reich said on Friday. “Really think he’s going to come in and play well…We have a lot of confidence in Le’Raven.” Reich added that he expects the Browns to move Myles Garrett around and test Clark at left tackle.
- The Colts have had the same starting offensive line for 20 straight games, easily the longest streak in the NFL. That will come to an end this weekend. It’s a big reason why the Colts continue to excel in pass protection. They rank 3rd in the NFL this season in allowing a sack on just 3.2 percent of pass attempts.
- Along with Castonzo, the Colts will be without Darius Lenard (groin) for the first time this season. Leonard continued to do some light jogging with a member of the athletic rehab staff at Friday’s practice, but still did not participate in practice this week. Fellow linebacker Anthony Walker did return to practice on Friday, in a limited role. He will be a game-time decision in seeing how his injured ankle responded to the final practice of the week. Reich pointed out that Walker has had some ‘huge’ games in the times Leonard has been sidelined. If Walker can’t go against the Browns, look for Bobby Okereke and Zaire Franklin to start in the nickel personnel grouping.
- How much do the Colts trust using a third linebacker (not named Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker or Bobby Okereke)? That’s a good question. When Darius Leonard missed the 2nd half against the Bears, the Colts played their nickel personnel grouping, with just two linebackers on the field (Okereke and Walker) for nearly the entire half. Does more of a run-focused team in the Browns allow the Colts to play so much nickel this Sunday? By Leonard’s lofty standards, it has been a quieter start in the playmaking department for him this season. He has 0 sacks, 0 focused turnovers to go along with 2 passes defensed and 2 tackles for loss.
- Another sign of just how dominant the Colts defense has been this season: Take a look at the discrepancy in the Colts ranking 1st in points per game allowed and 1st in yards per game allowed, versus the team’s that currently slot 2nd: Points allowed per game: 1. Colts: 14.0, 2. Chiefs: 17.5; Yards allowed per game: 1. Colts: 236.3, 2. Steelers: 290.0. Those are significant differences for just one spot in the league rankings.
- One deeper analytical number that Philip Rivers has really excelled in this season is completion percentage above expectation. Basically, how often do you complete tougher than average throws in the league? Here’s how Rivers has done in the first four games in that metric: +10.1%, +6.9%, +7.7%, -1.7%. This is indicative of how poor Rivers threw it against the Bears, compared to the first three games.
- As the Browns have shifted to another regime, this one has some serious Colts flavor to it. Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry worked in the Colts scouting department from 2009-15. While in Indy, Berry was under Ryan Grigson, from 2012-15. It’s Grigson now working under Berry, with the former Colts GM (2012-16) holding the title of Senior Football Advisor for the Browns. Berry is just 33 years old and is a big-time favorite of Colts Ownership.
- Even though the Browns are tied for 27th in points given up per game this year (31.5 PPG), they have been opportune at forcing turnovers, and turning those into points. The Browns lead the NFL in takeaways (10), forced fumbles (7) and points off turnovers (45).
- The Colts will have a walk-through on Saturday morning before the 4:25 PM kickoff in Cleveland (3-1) this Sunday.
FINAL Injury Report
-OUT: LB-Darius Leonard (groin), OT-Anthony Castonzo (ribs)
Bowen Analysis: Two of the Colts’ most important players falls on this list in Week 5.
-QUESTIONABLE: LB-Anthony Walker (ankle)
Bowen Analysis: Sounds like a true weekend/game-time decision for the reliable Walker this weekend.
The following players were on the Colts injury report this week, but are good to go for Sunday: LB-E.J. Speed (elbow), LB-Bobby Okereke (thumb), CB-T.J. Carrie (hamstring).