INDIANAPOLIS – With a massive divisional matchup waiting on Sunday, the Colts are approaching things this week as if Carson Wentz (ankles) will not play against the Titans.
That was the most important news item from Wednesday’s first practice of the week, with several interesting decisions remaining up in the air.
What did we learn about the Colts on Wednesday?
- Carson Wentz did not practice on Wednesday and did not take part in the team’s walk-through, either. That last part—Wentz not taking the walk-through reps—tells a huge part of the story this week for the Colts starting quarterback. The Colts are approaching this week as if they will not have Wentz on Sunday. Unless a ‘surprise’ occurs, Wentz will not play on Sunday, per Frank Reich. Wentz is out of a walking boot, with the quarterback stating that his right ankle sprain is more severe than the left sprain. After some significant swelling early on, Wentz says things have improved quite a bit for him. He was walking very slowly on Wednesday, although with much less of a limp, than he had after suffering the injury on Sunday. As far as any shot at Wentz playing this week, Reich said under rare exceptions has he had a player miss the entire week of practice and still play that week. Reich says he has never had a quarterback miss the entire week of practice and play that Sunday, and Wentz can’t remember any time in his career where he’s missed the full week of practice and still played. Wentz did say he has played through various ankle sprains.
- One area where Reich would not commit to on Wednesday is how the Colts will handle quarterback if Carson Wentz can’t go on Sunday. The assumption is Jacob Eason would start and Brett Hundley would get bumped up from the practice squad to be the backup. When asked if that’s how the Colts would go—if Wentz is out—Reich would not confirm such a plan. Would the Colts decide to start Hundley, who does have 9 career NFL starts (a 3-6 mark in 2017 with Green Bay), over Eason, who has thrown 5 passes in the NFL? Would they employ a two-quarterback system, similar to how they worked Ryan Lindley and Josh Freeman in the 2015 season finale? In Hundley’s 18-game NFL career, he has rushed 46 times for 309 yards (6.7 yards per carry), which isn’t many attempts at all if you are looking for more of a ‘running’ option. How about some Wildcat looks on Sunday with Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines? We’ll see what’s on deck, if indeed Wentz is out and the staff decides Jacob Eason for four quarters is not the best route to victory.
- After re-watching the slow-mo replay of the hit from Aaron Donald that sprained Wentz’s right ankle, the quarterback is grateful that the MRI didn’t show a break of his right ankle. Wentz said the sprain of his left ankle came in the third quarter against the Rams, but he didn’t feel that too much during the game.
- Braden Smith did not practice on Wednesday, with a sprained foot still keeping the big fella out of the lineup. With Eric Fisher and Quenton Nelson both coming out of the game ‘very well,’ does that mean the Colts try Julie’n Davenport over at right tackle, if Smith can’t go? Or Matt Pryor? We’ll see. Smith was walking very gingerly on Wednesday. If Smith missed Sunday, the Colts will have 4/5ths of their starting offensive line together for a 3rd straight game (Eric Fisher missed Week 1, Braden Smith missed Week 2).
- Wow, Julian Blackmon was pretty fired up on Wednesday talking about the approach and mindset it takes to get Derrick Henry on the ground (and not end up as a stiff-arm highlight). Gang tackling is a must for the Colts, and that is something the unit prides itself in. Under Matt Eberflus, the Colts have really struggled against Henry, especially compared to the rest of the NFL. Henry has averaged at least 5 yards per carry in all 6 meetings since Eberflus began coordinating the Indy D in 2018.
- As DeForest Buckner properly stated about Derrick Henry on Wednesday, “Nobody’s like him. He’s on a level of his own.” In his career, Henry has averaged 4.9 yards per carry. That number has jumped to 5.9 when facing the Colts.
- One more note from Blackmon, he doesn’t feel as though the big plays given up by the defense so far are as much miscommunication driven as more of a technique issue. No matter the problems, the Colts will once again get tested with a tremendous wideout duo in Julio Jones and A.J. Brown.
- What are the Colts trying to avoid on Sunday? Starting 0-3 for the first time since 2011. Since then, the Colts have halted 0-2 starts four times (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017). In 2015, they won a thrilling comeback in Nashville after beginning the season 0-2.
- As you’ll see below, LG-Quenton Nelson (back, foot), LB-Darius Leonard (ankle) and OT-Eric Fisher (Achilles) all practiced fully on Wednesday and are no longer on the injury report, which is a positive development for each of them as they try to get back to playing at 100 percent.
- The Colts will have two more practices this week (Thursday and Friday) before a Saturday walk-through ahead of the first road trip of the year on Sunday in a 1:00 PM kickoff in Nashville.
–Did Not Practice: QB-Carson Wentz (ankles), CB-Xavier Rhodes (calf), OT-Braden Smith (thumb, foot), LB-Jordan Glasgow (concussion), WR-Zach Pascal (illness)
Bowen Analysis: Pascal isn’t on the COVID-list, so that’s good news for him. Glasgow developed concussion like symptoms after Sunday’s loss.
-Limited: WR-Parris Campbell (abdomen)
Bowen Analysis: Campbell got hurt in Friday’s practice and missed Sunday’s game. Seeing him back on Wednesday, not in a red jersey, is good for his outlook this week.
-Full: S-Julian Blackmon (shoulder)
Bowen Analysis: This is a new injury for Blackmon, but obviously a great sign he was full on Wednesday.