AFC South: Indianapolis Colts

Freeman to miss second straight game

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts starting linebacker Jerrell Freeman will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury.

Center Khaled Holmes, who has been out since Aug. 7 with a high ankle sprain, is healthy enough to play, but coach Chuck Pagano said A.Q. Shipley will start against Jacksonville on Sunday. Pagano didn’t even guarantee Holmes will be on the active roster against the Jaguars. Shipley has played well in the two games he has started in place of Holmes.

“Like anybody else coming off an injury, whatever it is, I’m not going to just throw a kid to the wolves if he’s not 100 percent and ready to play,” Pagano said about Holmes. “Mentally it’s not an issue. He’s knows exactly what to do, but physically he hasn’t played for a while. We’re going make sure that ankle is 100 percent before we throw him back out there.”

Here’s the rest of the Colts’ injury list for Sunday’s game:

Out: Freeman, DL Arthur Jones (ankle)

Questionable: DL Ricky Jean Francois (ankle), WR Hakeem Nicks (illness), OL Joe Reitz (ankle)

Probable: CB Darius Butler, WR T.Y. Hilton, CB Greg Toler, Holmes

Colts vs. Jaguars preview

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
Sunday's Indianapolis Colts-Jacksonville Jaguars game at EverBank Field isn't exactly a Super Bowl rematch, but there's still something pretty significant at stake: the first victory of the season.

Both teams enter the game 0-2, though the Colts have at least kept things close. Indianapolis lost its first two games to Denver and Philadelphia by a combined 10 points. The Jaguars lost games to Philadelphia and Washington by a combined 48 points, including a 31-point loss to the Redskins last Sunday.

This is a must-win game for the Colts, who risk falling behind the surprisingly undefeated Houston Texans in the AFC South. The Jaguars could use a victory if only to get some good vibes going, which was something the franchise had plenty of during the offseason with the new video boards, pools in the stadium and the excitement over rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco break down the matchup.

DiRocco: The Colts' pass rush obviously isn't the same with Robert Mathis done for the season. How are they compensating and are they licking their chops because they are preparing to face a Jaguars team that just gave up 10 sacks?

Wells: They’re licking their chops, not because Chad Henne has been sacked 13 times in two games, but because they simply want to get some sacks. The Mathis-less Colts have only one sack this season. Remember Eagles quarterback Nick Foles from Week 1, the one the Jaguars sacked five times? The Colts didn’t sack him once on Monday night. In fact, they hit Foles only four times the entire game. I’m not sure who’s slower, Foles or Peyton Manning. I thought the Colts would be able to get to Foles. I was wrong. I’d like to think they’ll be able to get to Henne, especially with two new starters on the offensive line for Jacksonville this weekend.

The Jaguars looked like they were on their way to gaining some momentum. They scored the first 17 points against Philadelphia in Week 1, but they’ve been outscored 75-10 since. Was Jacksonville teasing everybody in the first 30 minutes against the Eagles?

DiRocco: That’s what it’s beginning to look like, because in the six quarters since those first 30 minutes the Jaguars have looked as bad as they did last season. Actually, they’ve looked worse in spots, especially the offensive line. The way the offense has played isn’t that surprising, though. With a rebuilt offensive line and three rookie receivers, plus the limitations that Henne brings to the table, it was clear before the season began that the offense wasn’t exactly going to be explosive. However, the way the defense has performed since the first half of the season opener is befuddling. The unit was supposed to be significantly better than 2013 after adding ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and tackle Ziggy Hood. Those three, along with a healthy Roy Miller and Sen’Derrick Marks, were supposed to form a solid defensive front that would stop the run, rush the passer well and keep the team in games into the second half. They’ve played poorly the past six quarters, giving up 191 yards rushing to the Washington Redskins. Guys are getting out of position, not making plays when in position to make them and are missing tackles.

It looked like Trent Richardson was pairing with Ahmad Bradshaw to give the Colts a pretty good one-two punch. But after fumbling twice against Philadelphia, are we going to see less of Richardson this week and the rest of the season?

Wells: Not starting Richardson would be admitting that the trade with Cleveland was a complete bust. Richardson will continue to be the starter, but Bradshaw will get his fair amount of carries with his load continuing to increase if Richardson can’t hold onto the ball. Richardson was going to be one of the most talked-about players in the Philly game if the Colts had won because he had his best rushing game (79 yards) since coming to Indianapolis in September 2013. Richardson was talked about a lot after the game, but not in a good way. The Colts recovered his first fumble, but his second one led to an Eagles touchdown and played a significant factor in why they lost the game.

How long will the Jags stick with Henne before giving the ball to the player they hope will be the face of their franchise for years to come in Bortles?

DiRocco: At least one more week. Though coach Gus Bradley left a little wiggle room in his statement earlier in the week that Henne was still the starter, he reaffirmed it Wednesday morning. Henne is an average quarterback who holds onto the ball too long at times and doesn’t throw down the field as much as he should, but he’s not the reason the Jaguars are 4-16 since the start of 2013. He’s not losing games. The Jaguars aren’t going to play Bortles until they believe he’s completely ready, and nobody is sure when that will happen. Plus, the Jaguars' offensive line is a mess and has two new starters this week, including rookie center Luke Bowanko. The Jaguars also are without tight end Marcedes Lewis (high ankle sprain) and have had to rely on three rookie receivers. That's not exactly a great environment in which to drop a rookie quarterback. Henne will continue to take those lumps but if things don't improve, the Jaguars might turn to Bortles for a spark within the next few weeks.

How effective has Reggie Wayne been since coming back from the torn ACL? He's obviously not the same player he was two years ago when he caught 106 balls -- what can he still give the Colts?

Wells: You’re right, Wayne isn’t the same player he was two years ago. But what he’s shown through the first two games is that he’s still quarterback Andrew Luck’s security blanket. Luck will look to Wayne first when he needs to get a first down or when he’s under pressure and needs to get rid of the ball quickly. Wayne leads the Colts with 12 catches for 126 yards. He had no problem admitting that he wanted to prove the doubters wrong about his ability to come back from the torn ACL. He’s proven -- so far -- that he can still be an effective player.

By the look of things it appears the Jaguars don’t have an identity. They’ve given up 75 points, scored only 27 and given up 13 sacks in two games. Does this franchise have an identity as either an offensive- or defensive-dominant team?

DiRocco: It was supposed to have an identity as a physical, hard-nosed defensive team, and that’s exactly what it was in the first half against Philadelphia. After that, the Jaguars have been wandering aimlessly. Players have talked about getting punched in the mouth the last six quarters and not responding. That has to change against Indianapolis. It’s the perfect scenario, too: the home opener against a team coming off a Monday night game and a team against which they've traditionally played well.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The status of Indianapolis Colts starting linebacker Jerrell Freeman for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars remains up in the air.

Freeman, who missed Monday’s game against Philadelphia because of a hamstring injury, did not practice again Thursday, but defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is remaining optimistic that he will play.

"I don’t know the status of each guy, what it’s going to be on Sunday," Manusky said. "I’m expecting him and all the guys to be up who are banged up right now. I know Arthur (Jones) is down for a little bit, that’s a little bit different."

Josh McNary will likely start again if Freeman doesn’t play.

Here’s the rest of the practice report

Did not practice: CB Vontae Davis (rest), DL Jones (ankle), WR Hakeem Nicks (illness).

Limited practice: DL Ricky Jean Francois (ankle), OL Joe Reitz (ankle), CB Greg Toler (ribs).
INDIANAPOLIS -- It was a year ago today -- at 5:22 p.m. ET, to be precise -- that Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, in Jim Irsay fashion, went to Twitter and started teasing everybody about a big move the franchise was potentially going to make.

You figured the Colts were acquiring a running back after Vick Ballard was recently lost for the season with a torn ACL. But it was anybody’s guess who that player would be.

Then at 6:19 p.m. -- 57 minutes and three tweets after his initial one -- the Colts announced that they had acquired Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a first-round pick.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson had pulled off the biggest trade of the 2013 season.

You immediately thought that the Colts had just acquired their running back of the future to go with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.

The No. 1 overall pick and the No. 3 overall pick of the 2012 draft teamed together for years to come. They'd go hand-in-hand. They were the perfect match.

That’s what you thought, at least.

The trade has been anything but perfect for the Colts. You can argue that the Browns are winning the trade so far. The Colts gave up a first-round pick that they could have used to try and fix a hole on their roster. The Browns used Indianapolis’ No. 26 pick and moved up to No. 22, where they selected quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel and LeBron James’ return to Cleveland have made that city a focal point in the NFL and NBA again, even if Johnny Football is on the sideline waiting his turn to be the team’s starting quarterback.

The Colts?

They got a running back who was uncomfortable his entire first season in Indianapolis. He was indecisive with his running and he eventually lost his starting job to Donald Brown. Richardson averaged only 2.9 yards a carry last season.

Grigson did not respond to a message seeking comment for the story, but he said several times during the offseason that he would do the trade again if the opportunity presented itself. He referred to Richardson as their 2014 first-round draft pick, while also not shying away from the expectations he has for Richardson this season.

"Trent, he needs to answer the bell and do his job to the best of his ability," Grigson said in training camp. "We’re all accountable here. ... He’s such a hard runner, we know how tough he is, but he’s got to produce just like all these guys do on this final 53."

Richardson has been a different player after having an offseason to learn the playbook. He’s running with more force and he has gotten better at picking which holes to run through. If not for a fumble that later cost the Colts seven points, Richardson would have been one of the positive storylines against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday -- he rushed for 79 yards, his highest total since joining the team, and he’s averaging 3.7 yards a carry through the first two games.

Richardson may never live up to the expectations of being the No. 3 overall pick. The Colts would simply be happy if he at least played like he was worth the No. 26 pick they gave up in this year’s draft.

The clock is ticking as they wait for that to happen.

Luck, offense continue to make mistakes

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- So much has rightfully been talked about when it comes to how the Indianapolis Colts are doing a poor job with tackling and putting pressure on the quarterback.

But Andrew Luck and the offense don’t get a free pass, either. They’ve had their fair share of mistakes, too.

They got into Denver’s territory eight times in Week 1, only to score on half of those trips. The Colts had two costly turnovers the Eagles turned into 14 points on Monday.

“Yeah, the friendly fire, it will kill you,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “Just like I told them in there, it’s so hard to win at this level. It doesn’t matter how good you play, all the games come down to one-score games. It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to eliminate friendly fire and you’ve got to finish games. You’ve got to put people away.

“We had a chance to put people away and we didn’t do anything in the first part of that third quarter. We got off the field on defense, but we couldn’t do anything offensively. We had our chances again and we didn’t capitalize.”

Here’s a breakdown of the Colts’ offensive miscues in the first two weeks of the season:

Week 1 at Denver
  • Failed third-and-1 pass attempt at the Broncos’ 36-yard line. A delay of game penalty pushed the Colts out of field goal range.
  • Luck tried to rush the offense to the line of scrimmage and attempt a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the Broncos’ 1-yard line. Luck was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, leaving the Colts without any points when they had a chance a chance to cut Denver’s lead to 10.
  • Luck’s pass attempt to tight end Coby Fleener was tipped and intercepted at Denver’s 32-yard line with the Colts trailing 31-17 in the fourth quarter.
Week 2 vs. Philadelphia
  • Running back Trent Richardson fumbled at the Colts' 25-yard line. The Eagles scored five plays later to tie the game at 20-20 late in the third quarter.
  • Luck threw an interception after Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin got away with a hold on receiver T.Y. Hilton. The bigger issue was why the Colts threw the ball when the clock was in their favor and they had an opportunity to score at least three points to extend their lead to 10 points with about five minutes remaining.

Tight end Dwayne Allen said it best after the game.

"There's no falling back on, 'We're a young team and we're still learning,'" he said. "The whole 'young' title is out the door. We're a football team, and we're an experienced football team."

The Film Don't Lie: Colts

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- A weekly look at what the Indianapolis Colts must fix:

It’s the battle of winless teams when the Colts (0-2) travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars (0-2) on Sunday. The Jaguars have to feel good about the opportunity for big plays against the Colts.

The Colts gave up 231 yards after the catch to the Eagles, which is the most they’ve given up in a game in the nine seasons that ESPN has kept video-tracking data, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Eagles running back Darren Sproles had catch-and-run plays of 57 and 51 yards. His 51-yard gain set the Eagles up to tie the score at 27-27 in the fourth quarter.

Poor tackling continues to be an issue for the Colts. Part of the problem could be that coach Chuck Pagano doesn’t allow tackling in practice or in training camp because he wants to help prevent his players from getting injured. Health is obviously a priority, but the downside to that is that the Colts are having a difficult time tackling.

Defense fails to get to Nick Foles

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- It was the perfect opportunity for the Indianapolis Colts to prove they had a pass rush. The Philadelphia Eagles gave up five sacks in their Week 1 victory over Jacksonville and they were without two offensive linemen against the Colts.

The Colts could have silenced the talk about how they would struggle without Robert Mathis (Achilles) in the lineup this season.

It turns the Colts did nothing to prove that they’ll be fine without Mathis.

They didn’t sack quarterback Nick Foles one time. In fact the Colts, who used a nickel defense most of the game, barely got any pressure on Foles. He finished 21-of-37 for 331 yards and a touchdown. The Colts hit Foles four time, two by linebacker Erik Walden and one each by Bjoern Werner and Cory Redding.

Werner talked about creating his own legacy while starting in Mathis’ absence.

That legacy has gotten off to a bad start.

Outside of a couple pressure plays during the preseason, Werner has done very little this season.

The Colts have only one sack through the first two games.

That’s not going to cut it and they’ll continue to put pressure on Andrew Luck and offense to carry the load. The Colts' offense can’t seem to avoid making its own mistakes each week.

Bad play call and bad no-call cost Colts

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- Let's get this out way: The officials missed the call when Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin held Indianapolis receiver T.Y. Hilton as the Indianapolis Colts were trying to extend their seven-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Everybody saw the hold except the officials. Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn't hide his anger when he saw the replay on the video board inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday night or when he talked about it during his postgame media conference following the 30-27 loss.

"I think I had the same view as you did," he said.

Hilton added, "Yeah, he pulled me down, but they missed it, so it's cool."

OK, that's taken care of.

The real issue on the play was the Colts' decision to put the ball in the air when it wasn't necessary. They had the ball third-and-9 at Philadelphia's 22-yard line with the clock running.

These weren't the Colts of the past year who needed quarterback Andrew Luck's arm to win a game. They had success running the ball Monday night. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 149 yards on the ground. Indianapolis could have run the ball on third down, killed some more of the clock and then kicked the field goal to push its lead to 10 points with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter.

That wasn't good enough for them.

"We knew we had the field goal in the bag," Pagano said.

The Colts spent the week planning for different situations, but Philadelphia's quick-fire offense obviously put some fear into them, so they got greedy in an attempt to go up by two touchdowns.

"Touchdowns are better than three points," Luck said. "We had been running the ball obviously very well. But I thought we also converted some big third downs throwing the ball. If we can convert that, then we had a good chance."

Greediness ended up getting the best of the Colts.

Luck thought he had Hilton open, but Boykin grabbed the receiver as he was making his cut on the play. No flag was thrown, and Malcolm Jenkins picked off the pass.

"I think everyone saw what happened on the play," Pagano said. "The last thing we said to the quarterback was take care of the ball. If the guy gets tackled, drug down, whatever it was, there's nothing the quarterback can do about it. Our thinking was wrong."

In a matter of one bad play call and a no-call by the officials, the Colts went from looking like they were going to pad to their lead to staring at the back of Darren Sproles' jersey as he took a short pass and raced 51 yards to put the Eagles in the position to tie the game with less than four minutes remaining.

The Colts have played two games and failed to take advantage of their opportunities in each of them. Now they sit 0-2 with their odds of making the playoffs at only 12 percent.

"There's no falling back on 'We're a young team and we're still learning,'" Colts tight end Dwayne Allen said. "The whole 'young' title is out the door. We're a football team, and we're an experienced football team. We've proven we can win football games, and these first two games are something we've proven that we can win and we just haven't done that. All we can continue to do is work on our craft."

Colts face uphill battle at 0-2

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
INDIANAPOLIS -- Some observations from the Indianapolis Colts' locker room after their 30-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lucas Oil Stadium:
  • The statistics don’t favor the Colts (0-2) when it comes to making the playoffs. Only 12 percent of the teams that started 0-2 have made the playoffs under the current playoff format, which began in 1990. The Colts will try to improve those odds. “It stinks, it’s not good,” quarterback Andrew Luck said. “We realize it’s not the end of the season by any means. Our minds are now, ‘Hey, onto the next one.’ Whoever that is, we know we’ve got to get in the win column and get moving in the right direction.” The Colts next two games are against AFC South counterparts Jacksonville and Tennessee.
  • Running back Trent Richardson will likely have a sleepless night after he fumbled twice, including one that led to an Eagles’ touchdown. Richardson sat out the next series before returning to the game. His fumbles took away from his 79 yards rushing. “I don’t fumble, it’s not my identity,” Richardson said. “It’s never been my identity, and saying with that I have to make better decisions. We were running the ball well all night and you slap yourself in the face when you fumble.”
  • Colts coach Chuck Pagano said defensive lineman Arthur Jones, who left the game with a high-ankle sprain in the second quarter, will be evaluated Tuesday. Don’t be surprised if Jones is missing a few games with the ankle sprain.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15

INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 30-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles:

What it means: The Colts should have known the Eagles were going to get back into the game at some point despite being down 20-6 in the third quarter. It was easier for the Eagles to do it with the Colts turning the ball over. Philadelphia turned two Indianapolis turnovers into 14 points to help them come back from behind and win the game. Running back Trent Richardson fumbled and then the Eagles got away with what could have been a holding penalty by Brandon Boykin on receiver T.Y. Hilton to pick off quarterback Andrew Luck. After the Luck interception, the Eagles tied the score at 27 four plays and a penalty later. Kicker Cody Parkey, who was in Colts training camp, made 36-yard field as time expired to win it for Philadelphia.

Stock watch: Richardson's stock is down. You're probably wondering why after he rushed for 79 yards, his most as a Colt, on 21 carries. The problem is Richardson couldn't hold onto the ball. He fumbled twice. Receiver Reggie Wayne bailed Richardson out when he recovered his first fumble. Richardson's second fumble cost the Colts because the Eagles turned his miscue into seven points to tie the game at 20. Richardson spent their next series on the sideline, but returned after that.

Not-so perfect: It took 34 games, but Luck has finally lost back-to-back games in his NFL career. The last time Luck lost back-to-back games prior to Monday was when he was at Stanford. The quarterback who gave Luck his second consecutive loss? Philadelphia's Nick Foles. Foles' Arizona Wildcats beat Luck and the Cardinal on Oct. 17, 2009.

Hilton steps up: Receiver T.Y. Hilton was non-existent in the first half, catching only two passes for 13 yards because the Colts were focused on running the ball. But he became Lucks' go-to receiver. He had four catches for 52 yards in the second half.

Game ball: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw continues to show that he has no concerns with his neck. He rushed for 70 yards on 13 carries to go with five catches for 26 yards.

What's next: The Colts (0-2) head back on the road to play their first AFC South game at Jacksonville on Sept. 21. The Jaguars, who blew a 17-point lead against Philadelphia in Week 1, are 0-2 after losing to Washington on Sunday.

Mathis will be missed for more than sacks

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
INDIANAPOLIS -- Dwayne Allen had plenty to say, but the best thing he pointed out didn't require words.

The Indianapolis Colts' tight end was asked about the impact of losing Robert Mathis for the season because of a torn Achilles. Allen casually looked across the room and pointed to Mathis' locker about 15 feet away.

[+] EnlargeRobert Mathis
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAs Colts players prepare for Monday night's home game, they're missing the intangibles -- and the sacks -- that Robert Mathis brought to the team.
"The message Robert left for us when he started his suspension wasn't just one of those motivational tactics by him. That's truly how he goes about things on a daily basis," Allen said.

Part of the message that's taped on a picture of Mathis reads: "Don't take the sport you play for granted. ... Play every practice or game like it's your last because it very well could be."

Mathis' sack prowess is well-documented. Opposing quarterbacks have to see where he's lined up, and offensive linemen have to be prepared for his spin move.

But the Colts will miss more than Mathis' on-field skills during games. They will miss the Robert Mathis that not many people got to see, the one breaking things down to the team "95 percent of the time" at halftime or after the game.

Mathis energizes practices because his motor forces his teammates to catch up or get embarrassed. He doesn't talk much, preferring to leave it to players such as Cory Redding, but when he does speak, all eyes are on Mathis because they know what he has to say has substance to it.

What was originally a four-game absence for Mathis on the field is now all season long. That won't be easy to overcome for Indianapolis.

"Robert Mathis is just the hardest working and coolest guy that I've ever met in my life," punter Pat McAfee said. "You can tell he was a fifth-round draft pick because he still has that chip on his shoulder, like he always has something to prove. But he's so humble and so nice to everybody. That type of leadership is big, especially when you see somebody who has been so successful, so good in the NFL and a guy who can remain down to earth."

Mathis will return to the facility at some point during his rehabilitation that will take six to nine months. His presence will be a welcoming sight, but it won't be the same as if he was putting on his No. 98 jersey, tying up his cleats and playing in a game or practicing.

"On the practice field, for a guy his age to practice as hard as he does, that says a lot," Allen said. "Coach lets everybody know that Robert is setting the tempo. He does a great job to make sure we're practicing at a high level."

Receiver Reggie Wayne knows all too well what Mathis is going through. It was almost a year ago that Wayne's season came to an end because of a torn ACL. The questions about whether Wayne could return from such a severe injury at his age, 35, started the same way some question if Mathis can return to form at 33.

"No other guy you want to take in the foxhole with you except Robert Mathis," Wayne said. "He's definitely a guy that you don't have to worry about. Who knows what Rob's thinking?

"I saw where [John] Abraham, he's thinking about retiring, and I look up at his stats and he was eight away from catching [Michael] Strahan or so, and Rob is not far behind him. So if you're Robert Mathis, you're like, 'Damn!' So it's stuff like that that can mentally get you down, but Rob's one of those guys you don't have to worry about. He'll be in here day and night to get back."

Until that happens, though, the Colts will continue to search for ways to fill the void left behind by Mathis.

"We all know what he brings to the game, but just in this locker room, his presence, he's second to none," Wayne said. "So it's something that we all are going to have to dig deep and pick it up even more, even offensively. His injury, it affects the whole team, so everybody's going to have to step it up a notch."

W2W4: Colts vs. Eagles

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
INDIANAPOLIS -- Falling to 0-2 is the last thing the Indianapolis Colts can afford.

Only 12 percent of teams who fall to 0-2 have made the playoffs under the current playoff format, which began in 1990. Forty-one percent of teams that are 1-1 have made the playoffs under that format. That's why it's important for the Colts to beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here are three storylines to watch in the game.

McNary starting: Jerrell Freeman, the Colts’ best all-around linebacker, will have his streak of 33 straight starts come to an end because of a hamstring injury. Josh McNary, who missed most of training camp with a shoulder injury, will start in Freeman’s place. McNary lacks experience but the front office likes him enough that they had no problem releasing former starter Kelvin Sheppard at the end of training camp. Coach Chuck Pagano called McNary their most athletic linebacker. McNary’s athleticism will be tested because Philadelphia has two tight ends -- Zach Ertz and Brent Celek – who present matchup problems.

Pressure the quarterback: This will be a storyline every week until the Colts prove they have some kind of pass rush. They sacked Peyton Manning once in their loss at Denver in Week 1. There will be opportunities to get to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. Foles was sacked five times against Jacksonville in Week 1. The Eagles are beat up along the offensive line, as they placed Allen Barbre and Evan Mathis on injured reserve last week. Lance Johnson is still suspended, so the Colts don’t have any excuses for not being able to put pressure on Foles unless the Eagles run the ball every play, which isn’t going to happen.

Limit mistakes: The theme of the Colts' loss to Denver was blown opportunities. Or “stupid,” if you talk to quarterback Andrew Luck about his bad play call on fourth down. The Colts got into Broncos territory eight times, but only scored on half of those trips. Indianapolis can't squander those opportunities. That will be even more pertinent for the Colts this week because the Eagles have a quick-fire offense that scored 34 unanswered points against the Jaguars.

Wayne causes a scare, but body responds

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
INDIANAPOLIS -- Reggie Wayne knew everybody was holding their breath wondering if he would be okay as he remained on the ground in Denver after slipping and having his knee bend awkwardly.

The Indianapolis Colts receiver joked that he didn’t know if it was out of respect or if his fantasy owners were worried.

Everybody in the Colts organization was concerned, because it was only 11 months ago that Wayne tore his ACL in the second half against that same Denver team.

"As I’m laying there, I’m trying to compare feelings," Wayne said. "But at the same time, that’s the healthiest joint on my body. It’s still got the price tag on. It’s all the other stuff you have to worry about at this point in time. It’s not something that I stress. It’s already written. If it’s going to happen it’s going to happen and hopefully it doesn’t."

Wayne left the game for only a snap against the Broncos before returning. Still, coach Chuck Pagano joked it would have probably been better if Wayne got the "crap knocked out of him" because "you hold your breath" worrying about the possibility of another severe knee injury.

"One thing you realize is that friendship stuff is overrated," Wayne said with a smile. "But to a sense he’s probably got some truth to that. I’ve been hit many times before and bounced up, but when you go down awkward it’s a different kind of get up. It’s kind of a get up and make sure your leg is still attached to your body and make sure everything is functional."

It took the majority of the week for the soreness in Wayne’s body to go away, because the Denver game was the first full game he has played in since the injury in October. He finished with nine catches for 98 yards, both team highs.

"I wanted to see how I would respond. It responded about right," Wayne said. "I didn’t take into [account] the fact that it would take a week to get the soreness out, but when you sit back and think about it, that’s about right. That’s about what it is.

"My body is responding fine, especially for a 35-year-old. Not many 35-year-olds can get hit by a mack truck and keep it moving. So far so good, and hopefully we continue to keep that ball bouncing."

Freeman out vs. Eagles, McNary to start

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts will be without starting linebacker Jerrell Freeman against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday.

It's not surprising that that Freeman is not playing, because he didn’t practice all week after injuring his hamstring against Denver in Week 1.

Second-year player Josh McNary will start in Freeman’s place against the Eagles. The Colts will miss Freeman’s experience against Chip Kelly’s complex offense, but McNary is Indianapolis' most athletic linebacker, which is a necessity in defending Philadelphia’s tight ends.

"Certainly going to miss (Freeman)," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "Josh will go in there and play good football. It’s not going to be perfect. It’s never perfect for anybody on either side of the ball, but he’ll make a ton plays."

McNary got a late start on the season because of a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for most of training camp.

"Physically I just had to recondition and get my legs back under me and everything from a mental standpoint," McNary said. "I think I’m set from a mental side of it ... Definitely, you always want that opportunity and when you’re not starting it’s something you’re always striving for. So when you get the opportunity you want to make sure you do what you can with it, maximize it and not look back."

As far as other injured Colts go, Pagano said offensive lineman Joe Reitz (ankle) is also out, center Khaled Holmes (ankle), defensive linemen Arthur Jones (shoulder) and Josh Chapman (ankle) are questionable, and safety Sergio Brown (shoulder) and cornerback Greg Toler (ribs) are probable.

Colts DBs adapt while staying aggressive

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts proved last season that they’re at their best in the secondary when cornerback Greg Toler leads the way with his aggressive play.

That’s why it’s not surprising that the NFL’s approach to calling illegal contact tighter after the first 5 yards impacts Toler more than any other defensive player on the Colts’ roster. His preference is to get up on the receiver he’s defending and be physical with him.

He has to change that approach now.

“I try to still play my game,” Toler said. “But I know they’re looking for more calls now. If it’s getting my hands in there early and getting them down fast, getting a good jam on the receiver. Usually I try to control the guy first, but now since they’re putting such an emphasis on it I just have to practice it and hopefully it shows in the game.”

Toler was called for three penalties -- two holding and one illegal contact -- against the Denver Broncos last weekend even though one of the calls was highly questionable because quarterback Peyton Manning’s pass was not catchable.

“Personally you have to just let them play football,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “Sometimes you’re going to have those ticky-tack fouls, but you can’t take the aggressiveness away from any player. It’s him going out there and performing at a high level.”

Cornerback Darius Butler, whose holding penalty was offset by a penalty by the Broncos on the same play, said it’s a challenge adapting and having to change their defensive approach. Part of the challenge is being cognizant of where they're at on the field.

“If you’re playing off your man, he’s going to be past five yards and any little touch they’re going to call it,” Toler said. “Receivers are getting bigger, more physical and they don’t want us to touch them. It’s how the game is called and you just have to adapt. You can’t play scared because that’s how you get hurt. If you’re looking for a flag it’s going to come. You just have to play your game and hopefully you play within the rules.”