INDIANAPOLIS – For just the second time this season, the Colts are preparing for an opponent as an underdog.
The Colts haven’t lost at home and the Ravens haven’t lost on the road. Something will have to give on Sunday afternoon when the two meet at 1:00 PM, with Baltimore favored by 2.5 points.
What did we learn from the Colts at the first practice of the week?
- The groin injury T.Y. Hilton suffered in the first half against the Lions has his availability in doubt to play this weekend. Hilton didn’t practice on Wednesday. Frank Reich acknowledged that Hilton is a ‘fast healer’ but will need to practice at some point this week to play against the Ravens. While Hilton certainly hasn’t produced anywhere near that Pro Bowl level wideout of late, the Colts are just 1-9 games in which he hasn’t played.
- Defensive end Kemoko Turay practiced on Wednesday, his third session since fracturing his ankle last October. As of Wednesday, the Colts aren’t ruling out Turay yet for this Sunday’s matchup. Frank Reich said the Colts won’t ‘box themselves’ into a timetable with Turay’s return. The Colts said last week it’s likely to take a couple of weeks of practice for Turay before he returned to game action. Would this week of practice (his second week, after practicing two days last week) be enough? Remember, Turay plays a position where a small role—something in the 10-ish play range—is probably how he re-integrates back into game action.
- Back when the Colts drafted Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke in consecutive drafts, Chris Ballard often used the phrase ‘run and strike’ when describing the long, athletic, rangy linebackers. The thought then was they would be so useful in going up against Deshaun Watson and Marcus Mariota in the AFC South for years to come. Well, while this Sunday’s matchup wasn’t top of mind for Ballard in those decisions, he knew Lamar Jackson was in the AFC and his skillset is part of the reason why Leonard and Okereke can be so impactful on Sunday. As Matt Eberflus said earlier this week, the Colts will be needing all of their team speed on defense this week.
- On Wednesday, Frank Reich was asked about how unique of a talent Lamar Jackson is at his position and Darius Leonard is at his position. Reich agreed with that sentiment—pointing to the speed, length and playmaking of Leonard that has him in the same ‘rare’ category, like Jackson is for the quarterback position.
- Some chatter this week about the Colts turning to Jordan Wilkins as their starting running back. There are reasons for giving Wilkins that crack to begin a game, while still using Jonathan Taylor, but bringing him off the bench. However, the Wilkins numbers as a starter are nowhere near the level to what he’s produced as a reserve. In 4 career starts, Wilkins has rushed for just 84 yards on 30 carries (2.8 yards per carry). In 32 games as a reserve, Wilkins has rushed for 653 yards on 110 carries (5.94 YPC). That’s quite the contrast.
- We know the Ravens will be without All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey (tested positive for COVID) come Sunday. With the Humphrey news, the Ravens also have 7 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list due to close contacts, not positive tests. That means none of those guys can practice this week, under a 5-day protocol, and will need to continue to turn negative tests if they are going to still play against the Colts. The 7 Ravens are: LB-Matthew Judon, LB-Patrick Queen, LB-Malik Harrison, LB-L.J. Fort, LB-Tyus Bowser, CB-Terrell Bonds and S-DeShon Elliott. Of that group, 4 are defensive starters, all 7 of them played at least 10 defensive snaps against the Steelers, with 3 of them ranking in the top 4 leading tacklers last week. The entire group, including Humphrey, combined to play 41.5 percent of the defensive snaps Baltimore had this past Sunday. Practice for the Ravens on defense this week is going to look really, really different.
- Frank Reich has some confidence in how the Colts defense is built, and taught, about dealing with the unique challenge of defending Lamar Jackson. “I think what we bring to the table is a 11-to-1 mentality,” Reich explained earlier this week. “I know every defense in this league runs to the ball. Obviously, I’m very biased but I think our defense has a commitment for all 11 guys running to the ball. I think the speed and talent level of our defense as a unit is at a spot that can match up against players like this. But at the same time, I also acknowledge that Lamar is a unique player and that he’s a hard matchup for anybody. 1-on-1 in space, he’s going to win a lot of a lot of those. That’s why it’s going to be important that it’s not 1-on-1, that it’s 11-on-1. That’s how you have to approach guys like this.”
- Linebacker Matthew Adams (ankle) practiced on Wednesday for the first time since getting hurt in Week Two against the Vikings. Adams went on IR after suffering that injury. The Colts view Adams as a key special team piece, while providing some insurance depth at linebacker, particularly against run-heavy teams. With Adams practicing on Wednesday, that begins a 21-day window for him to get called up to the active roster or remain on IR for the rest of the year.
- The Colts (5-2) will practice again on Thursday and Friday, with a 1:00 PM game hosting the Ravens (5-2) in front of 12,500 fans at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
Wednesday Injury Report
-DNP: WR-Ashton Dulin (knee), WR-T.Y. Hilton (groin), S-Julian Blackmon (rest), TE-Trey Burton (rest), DE-Justin Houston (rest)
Bowen Analysis: Both wideouts got hurt in the win over the Lions.
-Limited: TE-Mo Alie-Cox (knee), C-Ryan Kelly (knee), RB-Jonathan Taylor (ankle), RB-Jordan Wilkins (groin)
Bowen Analysis: So Taylor does appear on the injury report after dealing with a little ailment in the Lions game. It looks like Alie-Cox and Kelly got through the Detroit game fine. Wilkins is a new addition to report this week after a career-high 20 carries on Sunday.