AFC South: Indianapolis Colts
ESPN.com Indianapolis Colts reporter Mike Wells makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Denver Broncos
The Colts are facing Peyton Manning at the wrong time. The Broncos were embarrassed in the Super Bowl last season and after the Colts beat Manning in Week 7. Expect the Broncos to score a lot of points in this one.
Week 2: Philadelphia Eagles
The Colts could use suspended linebacker Robert Mathis and his 19.5 sacks against Chip Kelly's offense. It's the home opener for the Colts, and they aren't going to lose on national television in back-to-back weeks. Prediction: Win
Week 3: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Gus Bradley and the Jaguars are slowly heading in the right direction. The gap between the two teams is still too large, as Andrew Luck moves to 3-0 against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Prediction: Win
Week 4: Tennessee Titans
The Colts went into the season wondering how they would play without Mathis during his four-game suspension. They wrap up the stretch by beating the Titans to go 3-1 without their defensive leader. Prediction: Win
Week 5: Baltimore Ravens
Mathis shows little sign of rust in his first game of the season, and the Colts feed off his energy to avenge their 2012 playoff loss to the Ravens.
Week 6: at Houston Texans
The Colts are the better team, but the short turnaround -- a Thursday night game -- and having to play on the road catches up with them, as they lose their first game in the AFC South. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: Cincinnati Bengals
The Colts are still stinging over the overturned fourth-down play that was a momentum shift last season in Cincinnati. Luck still hasn't dropped back-to-back games in the NFL. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Pittsburgh Steelers
History is not on the Colts' side in playing at Pittsburgh. Indianapolis is 1-9 in its past 10 regular-season games there. They move to 1-10 after this one. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: at New York Giants
The Colts lost to a Manning earlier in the season. They're not going to lose to both Mannings in the same season. The defense takes advantage of Eli's poor accuracy to force several turnovers. Prediction: Win
Week 11: New England Patriots
Patriots coach Bill Belichick continues to own Luck, as the quarterback moves to 0-3 against New England in his young career. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Colts get their first look at the Jaguars' new franchise quarterback, Blake Bortles. They send the No. 3 pick in the draft back to Jacksonville with another loss. Prediction: Win
Week 13: Washington Redskins
Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in the 2012 draft, face off for the first time in their career. Luck shows once again why the Colts made the right decision in selecting him with the No. 1 pick. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Cleveland Browns
Rob Chudzinski, the Colts' assistant to head coach Chuck Pagano, puts on his offensive hat and gives offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton some special plays to run against the team that fired him after only one season as head coach. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Houston Texans
The Colts avenge their early-season loss to the Texans by jumping on their AFC South counterparts early and never letting up. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Dallas Cowboys
Luck is known for his fourth-quarter heroics, but Tony Romo is the one who leads Dallas from behind in the final quarter in this one. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: at Tennessee Titans
With weather conditions limiting the passing game, running back Trent Richardson ends the regular season with his best rushing game of the season, giving the Colts hope that he'll be able to produce in the playoffs. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 11-5
But there was something else that happened in that game. It didn't seem as big of a deal as the things listed above, but it ended up impacting the Colts' defense the rest of the season.
Cornerback Greg Toler injured his hamstring on the first series of third quarter.
"I remember that play like yesterday,” Toler said. "It's not easy to forget.”
Toler was defending Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas when he his leg went underneath his body after he and Thomas got tangled up on a play.
Toler continued to play only to end up realizing he had to head to the sideline when he tried to defend receiver Eric Decker.
"I tried to defend him but I couldn't get up in him like I really wanted to," Toler said.
Toler missed seven weeks and returned briefly only to end up having to be shut down for the season after re-injuring his hamstring against Kansas City in the playoffs.
The secondary wasn't the same after Toler went down. It was like Toler took the group's aggressiveness with him. He has been the healthiest of the group so far this season, as he attempts to play in all 16 games for the first time in his six-year career.
"It was one of those that just happened and ended up costing me half a season last year,” Toler said. "I'm healthy and I'm ready to roll.”
“After the Super Bowl there was more talk about how bad the defense played. How we need a safety. We need linemen, we need this and we need that,” the safety said. “It kind of trickled down. Once [the media] get hold to it, that thing spreads like wildfire and usually it’s the truth and that’s what happened.”
Adams will be back in the starting lineup in Denver on Sunday, but this time as the starting safety for the Indianapolis Colts when they face the Broncos.
The Colts spent the entire offseason looking for a starting safety after Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco in March. Indianapolis, obviously not feeling comfortable with the personnel it had at the position, signed Adams in the middle of June to compete with Colt Anderson, Sergio Brown and Delano Howell for the starting spot alongside of LaRon Landry.
Howell looked like he was the front-runner most of the offseason until the Colts signed Adams. A neck injury took Howell out of the competition and eventually landed him on injured reserve, which ended his season for the second straight year. The 33-year-old Adams beat out Brown and Anderson for the job.
Adams, who spent the past two seasons with Denver, will spend the week leading up to the game answering questions from his coaches, teammates and the media on how to figure out future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
“I don’t snitch,” Adams said, jokingly. “Just doing what you do. Basically Peyton Manning, he’s a smart guy. He changes up every week and I know that, the Colts know that. Obviously the Colts got the formula. They beat [the Broncos] last year. They’re not asking me for too much information; personnel, how guys are. Basic stuff like that.”
Shipley is a familiar name in Indianapolis. He played in 14 games and made five starts in 2012 before the Colts traded him in 2013.
The decision to claim Shipley was an easy one for the Colts because Holmes’ status against the Broncos is up in the air. Holmes, who has been out since Aug. 7 with a sprained ankle, won't practice for the first time since the injury on Wednesday at the earliest.
“Kind of keeping our fingers crossed and hopeful he’ll be out there ready to get some snaps on Wednesday is the goal,” coach Chuck Pagano said last week.
Jonotthan Harrison, who had been starting in Holmes’ place, didn’t play in the preseason finale at Cincinnati last week because of a right thumb injury.
Safety Dewey McDonald, who was waived Saturday, tweeted Sunday that he’ll be on the Colts' practice squad.
Quarterbacks (2): Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck
Quick take: The Colts are comfortable with having only two quarterbacks on the roster. Luck has shown durability during his first two seasons, and Hasselbeck is a proven veteran.
Running Backs (4): Ahmad Bradshaw, Trent Richardson, Dan Herron, Zurlon Tipton
Quick take: It wouldn’t be surprising if Tipton ends up getting released to make room for an offensive lineman once players start clearing waivers.
Fullbacks (1): Mario Harvey
Quick take: Harvey ma just be keeping this spot warm until Stanley Havili gets off the physically unable to perform list.
Wide Receivers (6): T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, Donte Moncrief, Griff Whalen, Da'Rick Rogers
Quick take: Rogers’ immature act of punting the ball into the stands against Cincinnati didn’t cost him a roster spot. He provides insurance if the Colts lose a receiver because of injury.
Tight Ends (3): Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jack Doyle
Quick take: This was an easy decision for the front office and coaching staff.
Offensive Line (10): Thomas Austin, Anthony Castonzo, Gosder Cherilus, Jonotthan Harrison, Khaled Holmes, Lance Louis, Jack Mewhort, Xavier Nixon, Joe Reitz, Hugh Thornton
Quick take: No real surprises here. Only real issue is health concerns.
Defensive Line (7): Josh Chapman, Arthur Jones, Cory Redding, Ricky Jean Francois, Zach Kerr, Montori Hughes, Jonathan Newsome
Quick take: Like with the offensive line, no surprises here. Kerr, the undrafted player out of Delaware, sacked and danced his way onto the roster.
Linebackers (8): Bjoern Werner, Jerrell Freeman, D'Qwell Jackson, Cam Johnson, Josh McNary, Henoc Muamba, Andy Studebaker, Erik Walden
Quick take: Keep an eye on McNary and Muamba. The coaching staff has high expectations for them. Robert Mathis will be added to the roster once his four-game suspension is complete.
Cornerbacks (5): Greg Toler, Vontae Davis, Darius Butler, Josh Gordy, Loucheiz Purifoy
Quick take: Purifoy can return punts, too.
Safeties (4): Colt Anderson, Mike Adams, Sergio Brown, LaRon Landry
Quick take: Delano Howell’s neck injury hurts the depth at this position. Landry has to stay healthy.
Specialists (3): Adam Vinatieri, Matt Overton, Pat McAfee
Quick take: No brainer here.
Trade that didn't work out: The Colts sent defensive end Jerry Hughes to Buffalo for linebacker Kelvin Sheppard in 2013. Sheppard eventually replaced starter Pat Angerer at inside linebacker and ended up starting seven games last season. But Sheppard got caught up in the numbers game and was released. He lost his starting job when the Colts signed veteran D'Qwell Jackson. The Colts have high expectations for inside linebackers Josh McNary and Henoc Muamba. Sheppard won't be out of a job long because he'll likely end up being signed by another team.
What's next: The Colts will form their 10-man practice squad that likely will include several of the players they released. The most notable player likely to end up on the practice squad is tight end Erik Swoope, a former University of Miami basketball player who never had played football prior to signing with the Colts in May. The Colts are intrigued by Swoope's athleticism. He has to learn how to do the little things better. Players such as linebacker Andrew Jackson, the team's sixth-round pick, and center FN Lutz will also likely end up on the practice squad along with several others the Colts waived.
Colts moves: Released DE Gannon Conway, RB David Fluellen, QB Chandler Harnish, DE Tyler Hoover, OLB Phillip Hunt, ILB Andrew Jackson, WR Ryan Lankford, WR Josh Lenz, C FN Lutz, S Dewey McDonald, DT Nnamdi Obukwelu, CB Sheldon Price, ILB Rob Ruggiero, TE Weslye Saunders, ILB Kelvin Sheppard, TE Erik Swoope, NT Brandon McKinney and G Josh Walker. Waived-injured OT Matt Hall and S Delano Howell. Placed OLB Robert Mathis on reserve-suspended list.
The Colts released linebacker Kelvin Sheppard on Saturday afternoon. Sheppard replaced Pat Angerer in the starting lineup last season, but he became expandable with the addition of veteran D'Qwell Jackson in the offseason and the hope that the Colts have for linebackers Josh McNary and Henoc Muamba.
It also didn’t help Sheppard that the Colts have to stay flexible with their roster because of the number of injuries they’re dealing with on the offensive line.
The Colts acquired Sheppard from Buffalo for defensive end Jerry Hughes in 2013.
Sheppard, who started seven games, finished with 46 tackles and a sack in his lone season in Indianapolis.
Holmes sprained his ankle in the preseason opener against the New York Jets on Aug. 7. Wednesday would be the first time he has practiced since the injury.
There’s still no guarantee that Holmes will be ready for the season opener against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 7.
“You just have to take it day-by-day, see how he progresses,” Pagano said. “If he’s able to get out there Wednesday and see, post practice and then the next day, how he comes in and how he reacts to the work. That’ll just be day-to-day.”
Holmes’ backup, Jonotthan Harrison, did not play against the Cincinnati Bengals because of an injured thumb. Rookie Jack Mewhort slid over from guard and started at center against the Bengals.
“We’ll make no excuses,” Pagano said. “Whoever we go out to Denver with, we’re going to line up and they’ll compete and they’ll play at a high level.”
INDIANAPOLIS – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is seemingly a step closer to disciplining Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay now that his change of plea hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Irsay already has reached a plea agreement, according to the Indianapolis Star, which means Goodell is on the clock to discipline the owner shortly after the hearing.
The Colts organization and many players around the league will be keeping a very close eye on how Goodell handles Irsay.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was suspended Friday for nine games for violating the league’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies. Smith was arrested in September 2013 for drunken driving. It was the second time he he had been arrested and charged with drunk driving since entering the league in 2011. Smith also had three felony gun charges dropped down to misdemeanors.
So now the question is: How will the commissioner discipline the owner? Will it simply be a number of games? A fine? Both? Neither?
Irsay was arrested March 16 near his home in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He had $29,000 in cash and "numerous" bottles of prescription drugs in his vehicle at the time of his arrest, the police report said. Irsay also spent time in a rehabilitation facility after his arrest.
The NFL's personal conduct policy says that league representatives are held to a "higher standard" and "it is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime" in a legal situation to escape discipline.
If that’s the case, Irsay might be suspended for longer than Smith.
Players spoke out earlier this year, saying they believed there’s a double standard on how Goodell disciplines.
The players, like many others, are getting closer to finding out if there really is a double standard.
The projected starters on the interior of the offensive line -- center Khaled Holmes, guard Hugh Thornton and guard Jack Mewhort -- only played a few snaps together because of injuries.
Holmes sprained his ankle on the first series in the preseason opener against the New York Jets on Aug. 7. He has yet to practice and the Colts are "hopeful" that he will be ready for the Sept. 7 game in Denver. It’s not like Holmes has an an upper body injury that would allow him to work on his conditioning while injured. He will need some time to work himself back into shape.
The youth and lack of practice time for the interior part of the offensive line is a scary thought when you take into account the Colts are about to face the team that represented the AFC in the Super Bowl last season. It's definitely not good for quarterback Andrew Luck and the running backs.
That is only the start of the problems for the offensive line.
Jonotthan Harrison, Xavier Nixon and Joe Reitz were also injured in the preseason. It got so bad that defensive end Tyler Hoover played 56 snaps at tackle against Cincinnati on Thursday.
"We’ve got a lot of injuries," coach Chuck Pagano said. "We don’t have a lot of time. And you know what? Nobody really cares, and nobody really feels sorry for us. So, it’s next man up."
Don’t get too excited about the 53-man roster once the Colts release it this weekend. The moving parts on the roster won’t stop after that because GM Ryan Grigson will be paying attention to the waiver wire so he can add some more bodies to the offensive line.
It has gotten to that point for the Colts before they have even played one regular-season game.
The Colts have plenty of playmakers at quarterback, receiver, tight end and potentially at running back. But none of that will matter if the five guys up front can’t run block or pass protect. And right now, you have to wonder if they will be able to do those things.
CINCINNATI – The final preseason game for the Indianapolis Colts was all about players having a final opportunity to try to turn the heads of the front office and coaching staff.
There wasn’t too much to get excited about for the Colts in their 35-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday. The Colts ended the preseason winless.
With quarterback Andrew Luck and the rest of the starting offense watching from the sideline, third-string quarterback Chandler Harnish spent the majority of the game trying to avoid being sacked. Harnish was sacked five times, and the Colts didn't reach 100 total yards of offense until the third quarter.
Here are some other thoughts on the Colts' final preseason game:
- The Colts were already a fragile team on the offensive line when they entered training camp last month. They showed the current state of the line when Tyler Hoover played left tackle. Why is it a big deal that Hoover was playing left tackle? Because he’s a defensive end. The Colts were hit with another blow on the line when Joe Reitz, who plays guard and tackle, suffered a high ankle sprain, which means he’ll likely be out for a few weeks. Center Khaled Holmes (ankle), guard Hugh Thornton (unknown injury) and tackles Anthony Castonzo (rest) and Gosder Cherilus (rest) did not play.
- Rookie Jack Mewhort has played all five positions along the offensive line at some point in his career. He played only three preseason games, and he's already started at two different positions. Mewhort, who is projected to be a starting guard, started at center against the Bengals.
- Undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison, who had been starting in Holmes’ place, did not play because he was dealing with a right hand injury. Having Mewhort, who was an All-American center coming out of high school, makes you wonder even more if Holmes will be ready for the start of the regular season. Holmes has yet to practice since spraining his ankle three weeks ago.
- Receiver Da'Rick Rogers' talent can't be questioned. His maturity is the issue. He proved that again when he caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Harnish in the fourth quarter. Instead of dropping the ball or handing it to the official, Rogers punted the ball into the stands. With rosters trimming down to 53 by Saturday afternoon, antics like that give the Colts every reason to cut Rogers.
- The Colts are looking for as much pass-rush help as they can get with linebacker Robert Mathis suspended for the first four games of the season. Rookie Jonathan Newsome picked up his first sack of the preseason when he went untouched off the edge and got to Jason Campbell in the first quarter. Newsome, the Colts' fifth-round draft pick, is listed as Erik Walden's backup at linebacker.
- As expected, Colts coach Chuck Pagano rested 20 of his 22 offensive and defensive starters. Mewhort, Mike Adams and Colt Anderson (one of whom wil be the starting safety) were the only projected starters to play. The Colts open the regular season at Denver on Sept. 7.
Former Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito is available, and Colts coach Chuck Pagano did not rule out the possibility of the team having interest in him Tuesday afternoon.
The Colts would be taking a risk in pursuing Incognito because he has baggage going back to his hazing and bullying of Jonathan Martin while with the Miami Dolphins last season.
An issue that could come up is that Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Griff Whalen and Delano Howell were teammates of Martin at Stanford.
Incognito was cleared by the NFL to return to the league Monday and met with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the same day.
The Colts have a history of signing players with baggage. Look at Chris Rainey, LaVon Brazill, Da’Rick Rogers and Nu’Keese Richardson in recent years.
The difference between Incognito and those players is that he’ll make an impact in the game.
The Colts aren’t looking to just make the playoffs. They’ve done that each of the past two seasons with Luck. They want to win a Super Bowl. The interior part of their offensive line leaves a lot of doubt.
Starting center Khaled Holmes has been out almost three weeks with a sprained ankle, rookie guard Jack Mewhort has missed time because of a knee issue and fellow guard Hugh Thornton did not practice Tuesday.
The Colts have enough veterans inside the locker room where Incognitio wouldn’t need to do anything other than block. Luck, linebacker Robert Mathis, receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive lineman Cory Redding have the leadership part already taken care of. Those players won't put up with Incognito trying to bully or haze any of his teammates. As cornerback Vontae Davis said last season, the Colts have a "brotherhood" inside the locker room.
Incognito’s job would be to help block to give Luck time to throw to his arsenal of weapons on the outside and open up holes for the running backs.
At this point, it's worth the Colts taking a flyer on Incognito because you would like to think he realizes he's under the microscope and has little room to mess up again.
That's the time Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis' NFL-imposed four-game suspension begins.
Mathis, who was suspended for violating the NFL's drug policy, cannot have any ties to the franchise again until Sept. 29.
Nada. Nothing. Zilch.
"Zero. Zero. Players, coaches, nobody," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "I got a memo, a laundry list of dos and don'ts on it. There's more don'ts than dos. That's including you guys, so if you have his cell, burn it."
Mathis' first game of the 2014 season will be Oct. 5 against the Baltimore Ravens. He has not played in any of the team's preseason games and won't play against Cincinnati on Thursday.
Mathis has to work out on his own to stay in the best shape possible so that he can jump right back into the lineup once he returns.
"We've made plans for Robert," Pagano said. "He's going to have a routine. He's going to have a regimen as far as working out, weight room-wise, conditioning-wise. Football, he's got to continue to hone and develop his skill set. There's people out there that will work with Robert and he can go out and hire whoever he wants to hire.
"He's got a regimen from his position coach from a drills standpoint. We can't have him come back in Week 5 for Baltimore and we're starting from scratch, so to speak. I know Robert and everybody in this building knows Robert will stick to that plan and be ready to roll once he gets back."
Most significant move: Running back Vick Ballard was expected to be a part of the Colts’ backfield that also features Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. The three were supposed to team together to help complement the Colts’ passing game. Ballard barely had a chance to show what he could do because his season ended before it really started. He tore his Achilles during a running back passing drill early in training camp last month. This is the second straight season that Ballard’s season ended because of an injury in practice. He tore his ACL in practice prior to Week 2 last season.
Harvey at fullback: With fullback Stanley Havili being placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which means he has to sit out at least the first six weeks, Mario Harvey will be the Colts’ lone fullback if they decide to keep one. Harvey is in his first season playing fullback after being a linebacker his entire career. The other option would be for the Colts to release Harvey when they have to get down to 53 players by Saturday and use one of their tight ends in situations in which a fullback is needed, as they did at times last season.
Colts’ cuts: RB Vick Ballard (injured reserve), OT Ulrick John (injured reserve), RB Deji Karim (injured reserve), FB Stanley Havili (reserve/physically unable to perform), CB Johnny Adams, CB Qua Cox, G Andre Cureton, G Marcus Hall, CB Kameron Jackson, WR Nu'Keese Richardson, LB Jonathon Sharpe, S David Sims, WR Eric Thomas, WR Tony Washington and FB Cameron White
One of the things players like to do first is see what they’re overall rating is, and of course, players don’t often agree with it.
Here are the top-10 Colts according to their ratings.
LB Robert Mathis 93
CB Vontae Davis 92
QB Andrew Luck 88
K Adam Vinatieri 88
WR Reggie Wayne 87
RT Gosder Cherilus 85
WR T.Y. Hilton 85
TE Dwayne Allen 84
DE Arthur Jones 84
WR Hakeem Nicks 84
The unfortunate part is somebody has finish at the bottom of the ratings.
Here's the rating of the bottom five players I think will make the final 53-man roster.
LB Josh McNary 64
LB Jonathan Newsome 64
LB Mario Harvey 63
CB Loucheiz Purifoy 59
TE Matt Overton 50
Two things of note about the bottom five players. Harvey has been switched to fullback and Overton is the team's long snapper.
Other notable player ratings:
RB Ahmad Bradshaw 82
RB Trent Richardson 80
C Khaled Holmes 71
CB Greg Toler 76