INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time in 2020, the Colts enter a game weekend without ruling a single player out for Sunday’s game.
Now, the Colts do have one very important guy on the ‘questionable’ list.
What did we learn from the Colts at their final practice of the week?
- With Darius Leonard returning to practice this week, and participating all three days, he will be back in the lineup this Sunday. That’s, obviously, great news.
- The Colts will be monitoring the status of C-Ryan Kelly this weekend though. Kelly is listed as questionable after he missed his second straight day of practice on Friday. Kelly was originally hurt in Wednesday’s practice, which had him watching from the sideline (without any wrap or brace on either knee) the final two days of the week. Kelly has started 24 straight games (including playoffs) at center and is easily one of the most indispensable players on this football team. Unlike many players on the roster, Kelly is one of the few who could still play in a game despite missing the final two days of practice. Why? “His experience, his toughness, his intelligence, he’s a pro,” Frank Reich said on Friday. “How he handles himself in meetings, the guys know he’s our leader up (front). He’s our leader in terms of communication, as far as getting us all on the same page. He’s proven it time and time again as he’s had to battle some injuries. He’s done a great job with that. If he’s ready to go, even if it’s only on one day’s work, we feel confident he’ll play really well, if he’s in there.”
- If Kelly can’t go on Sunday, the Colts will have rookie Danny Pinter start at center. Pinter, a 5th round pick out of Ball State, entered the NFL having never played center before in college or high school. Pinter’s transition to the interior has included about a half dozen mop-up snaps at center back in Week 3 against the Jets. That’s his only interior offensive action of his rookie campaign. “We always thought that (center) was going to be his natural position, even when watching his college tape and watching him move, getting to know him as a person,” Reich said on Friday. “He has the aptitude for that position. He’s gotten a lot of good work. From Day 1 here, he’s started to take center reps and obviously got good work this week. We have a lot of confidence in Danny. Mentally, he’s ready. Physically, he’ll be up to the task, if he’s ready to play.”
- Along with Kelly, TE-Mo Alie-Cox (knee) is the other Colts player listed as ‘questionable’ for this Sunday. Alie-Cox took limited reps on Thursday and Friday and has a chance to play his first game since getting hurt against the Browns back on October 11th. Fellow TE-Jack Doyle was back practicing on Friday and is good to go for Sunday, after he missed Wednesday and Thursday due to personal reasons.
- Rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman (leg) practiced all three days this week and the Colts are now in the decision-making process of whether or not to call up the rookie from the IR list. “Michael made good progress. I was happy with the progress that he made,” Reich said on Friday. “I felt like he got a little bit better every day. I thought he looked solid (Friday).” Reich said. Once Reich breaks down Friday’s film with offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and wideouts coach Mike Groh, the head coach will meet with GM Chris Ballard to make a final decision on Pittman for this Sunday. Not only is Pittman’s return something that could spark a stagnate Colts wideout group, it’s also key for his further development, and the evaluation of the future at that position.
- In coming off his nearly 13-month absence, defensive end Kemoko Turay practiced twice, while having a rest day on Thursday, this week. This is another reminder that the Colts will be taking a cautious approach with Turay in his return from a serious ankle injury. Frank Reich did like what he saw from Turay at the final practice of the week on Friday: “In the reps that he got, even out there (Friday), he flashed a couple of times. That was encouraging.”
- As defensive coordinator in New England from 2012-17, Matt Patricia game planned against T.Y. Hilton on 5 separate occasions. Hiltons’ numbers in those games were very up and down. In the 5 games facing a Patricia-defense, Hilton averaged 5.0 catches, 67.4 yards and 7.4 targets per game. Hilton had 3 touchdowns in those 5 games.
- There was a lot of chatter this week around the sports world about the use of analytics for head coaches/managers. Frank Reich is a staunch believer in analytics. How does Reich balance that aspect to his coaching, while also knowing that each game is its own entity? “I really try to be very balanced,” Reich said on Friday. “I’ve had a good experience with analytics. But maybe because of my age and because of my playing experience, the gut feel, the traditions of football and what you feel in certain situations, that part has not left me. I’m not all-in on analytics. I’m all-in on using everything to make the decision and to be informed to make the best decision at the time. That’s the difference between the art of it and the science of it. There is no perfect formula for it. I have a great relationship with our analytics guy, John Park and George Li. They do a phenomenal job of giving me information during the game. We meet twice during the week to go over the charts, to look at certain tapes together, to look at what is happening around the league, what other decisions have been made. We’ve done so much with that stuff over three years, it’s just built into the relationship that you can almost start thinking for each other in that regard. When I talk to those guys in the course of the game, they are cool, calm and collected. They give me the information. We’ve worked out the kinks of our communication to know exactly what I want to hear and what I don’t want to hear to make the decision in that moment. And they do a phenomenal job. At the end of the day, it’s a balance between the two and I do try to keep a healthy tension there.”
- A note that is particularly impressive for Marcus Johnson, is his high catch percentage (75 percent), yet still leading the receivers in yards per catch (15.6). Just like Johnson, Michael Pittman has caught 9 of his 12 targets, but his yards per catch is just 6.1 yards. It goes to show you how consistent Johnson has been in catching targets from Philip Rivers, while still also being easily the biggest chunk play producer for the Colts. Speaking of Johnson, it sounds like him and Reggie Wayne could be connecting soon. Johnson has caught balls in the NFL from Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and now Philip Rivers. It’s the oldest one—Rivers—that Johnson says he has the most ‘natural connection’ with. Johnson, who is now in his 5th NFL season, also credits a better understanding of what it takes to play in the NFL for his recent strong stretch. “Treatment, knowing my body well enough and targeting areas where I’ve had issues or history with in the past, especially with soft tissue problems,” Johnson said when pointing to reasons of how he’s grown as a pro. “And then having a workout routine outside of our normal lifting days. I’m always doing some form of working out. It might not be as strenuous as lifting weights, but it’s always working. Even in meeting rooms, I have little trinkets and things that I use to help strengthen my hands. Being on the jugs machine. I can’t give too much (laugh). I’m just always working and getting creative with how I can be a better receiver, teammate, blocker, special teams player, just trying to find ways to get better.”
- When we’ve talked about the impressive Colts special teams group here in 2020, the mentions typically resolve around Rigoberto Sanchez, Rodrigo Blankenship and the field position control. A name we need to mention is third-year safety George Odum, who leads the NFL in special teams tackles this season (10). While Odum’s defensive role has really decreased in 2020, he’s been a terror on special teams.
- How good have the Colts been on special teams this year? They rank 3rd in best average drive start offensively (31.9-yard line) and 2nd in best average defensive drive start (23.4-yard line). It’s all about trying to play half-court offense when you are returning kicks for your offense and force teams to play against a full court (field) defense when covering kicks.
- Along with the Colts defense being a more playmaking unit against the pass this season (37 passes defensed, which ranks 3rd in the NFL), they’ve also done a nice job with one of their main core beliefs. Limiting big plays is a must for Matt Eberflus. The Colts have done that with just 19 plays allowed of 20 yards or more. That ranks 2nd in the NFL.
- The Colts will have a final walk-through on Saturday morning, with a 1:00 PM game this Sunday in Detroit. The Lions are scheduled to have 500 people, all friends and families, in the building on Sunday.
Final Injury Report
-QUESTIONABLE: TE-Mo Alie-Cox (knee), C-Ryan Kelly (knee)
The following players were on the injury report at some point this week, but are good to go for Sunday: LB-Darius Leonard (groin), DL-Denico Autry (not injury related), OT-Chaz Green (back), S-Julian Blackmon (rest), TE-Trey Burton (rest), DE-Justin Houston (rest), TE-Jack Doyle (not injury related).