AFC South: Nathan Palmer

Colts get down to mandatory 75 players

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
12:50
PM ET
Sorry to disappoint you, but there wasn’t any suspense with the Indianapolis Colts' roster cut down.

The Colts got down to the mandatory 75 players on Tuesday when they waived injured receiver Nathan Palmer, placed rookie safety John Boyett on the reserve/non-football injury list and moved rookie linebacker Josh McNary, who was in the Army, to the exempt list.

McNary’s exemption is under the reserve/military rules where the player reported after June 1, 2013, and has not played in the preseason. He missed the first three games with a hamstring injury.

There could be some suspense when the Colts have to get their roster down to 53 players by the 6 p.m. ET deadline Saturday.

Observation deck: Colts-Browns

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
11:50
PM ET


INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s not often that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will take a backseat, especially on a night when he once again proved he’s ready for the start of the regular season, to anybody on the roster.

Luck did his part in leading the Colts to 17 points during his seven series on the field Saturday, but he turned out to be just a footnote because of how the defense looked against the Cleveland Browns.

Yes, the Colts defense, in particular the starters, was the dominating force. That’s the same unit that finished in the bottom third of the league in all of the major statistical categories last season.

With their starting unit together for the first time in the preseason, the Colts defense held Cleveland’s starters to four first downs, 109 yards and zero points.

Those stats aren’t from a quarter of play or even a half. The Colts did it while playing into the third quarter.

“The defense was outstanding,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said after the 27-6 preseason victory.

It wasn’t only the starters who played well for the Colts. Their success continued after the first unit called it a night early in the third quarter.

The Colts finished with three sacks, two forced fumbles -- recovering one of them -- and they returned an interception for a touchdown. They had six sacks and an interception in their game against the New York Giants on Aug. 18.

“They’ve been opportunistic,” Luck said. “Interceptions, guys getting hands on balls, sacks, you name it. They’re playing their butts off.”

Here are other observations from the game:
  • Who needs the preseason? Not Luck. Luck completed eight of his first nine passes and finished 16-of-25 for 164 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Saturday brought the second-year quarterback’s three-game preseason total to 29-of-44 for 322 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Luck has taken his fair share of hits, but he’s been sacked only twice. That’s a step in the right direction for the Colts in their attempt to cut his 41 sacks from last season in half.
  • The Colts were right when they said they planned to use the fullback this season. Fullback Stanley Havili started his night off with a nice block to help spring running back Vick Ballard free for a 15-yard gain on the right side on the Colts’ first series. Havili was on the receiving end of Luck’s first touchdown pass -- from 3 yards out -- in the second quarter. The Colts have only three touchdown passes -- regular season or playoffs -- to a fullback since 2003. Havili was also responsible for Luck’s first interception of the preseason. Havili was open deep in Cleveland territory, but the ball went right through his hands and into the hands of Browns defensive back Tashaun Gipson at the Browns’ 2-yard line. Havili finished with two catches for 18 yards.
  • It was bad enough that Luck was sacked on the Colts’ opening drive. It was even worse that they lost their starting left tackle on the same play. Anthony Castonzo left the game with a right knee injury. Joe Reitz stepped in and played tackle in Castonzo’s place. Pagano said Castonzo has a mild sprain of the medial collateral ligament. He and receiver Nathan Palmer, who also injured his knee in the second half, are both scheduled to undergo MRIs on Sunday. The Colts can’t afford to be without Castonzo for an extended period of time because the offensive line is already a question mark with him in the lineup.
  • Receiver Griff Whalen was back on the field after missing the previous game with a groin injury. He came back at the right time, since rosters have to be trimmed down to 75 players by Tuesday. Whalen, the media darling during the first two weeks of training camp, made his case to be the fifth receiver -- fourth when LaVon Brazill is serving his four-game suspension at the start of the season -- by catching four passes for 57 yards from backup Matt Hasselbeck. Lack of depth at receiver has been a major concern for Colts in the preseason. Whalen helped his cause with the way he played Saturday.
  • Linebacker Caesar Rayford picked up his team-high fourth and fifth sacks of the preseason. Rayford has a unique story because he’s a 27-year-old rookie whose playing career has consisted of playing in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League. Rayford missed out on his sixth sack of the preseason when the play was nullified by offsetting penalties.

What to watch for: Colts-Browns

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
9:00
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- The third preseason game is the one to keep an eye on. It’s the game where you can get a better indication of where the team stands because the starting unit usually plays into the third quarter.

That’s the plan Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano has with his starters in Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Here’s what to watch for:

1. A running attack: I'm like most of you, I'm waiting for the Colts' power-running game, discussed by offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton in training camp, to show up. The Colts haven't even teased us with anything yet. They're averaging 3.1 yards a carry in the preseason. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw won't join Vick Ballard in the backfield Saturday, because the team doesn’t want to rush Bradshaw back on the field after practicing in pads for the first time this week. Not having tight ends Coby Fleener (knee) and Dwayne Allen (foot) to block will make things more difficult for the Colts. So in other words, you likely won't see anything that resembles a power-running game until at least Week 1 against Oakland. Good thing quarterback Andrew Luck (13-of-19 and a 128.8 passer rating) has looked sharp in the preseason.

2. Stopping the run: Is giving up 115.5 yards a game on the ground in two preseason games bad? Yes, but you also have to take into consideration that the starters spent the majority of those games on the sideline watching. What is alarming, though, is that the defense has given up runs of 17, 15 and 21 yards on three of their opponent’s first four runs of the game. The starters will be tested again against Browns running back Trent Richardson. You have every reason to wonder if the defense can improve on being 29th in the league in rushing yards allowed last season if Richardson has a strong game against the starters.

3. Debut time: Speaking of the defense, it will have the starting unit on paper together for the first time in the preseason. Safety LaRon Landry (knee) and linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) are expected to play. Landry will join a secondary -- Antoine Bethea, Vontae Davis and Greg Toler -- that has been solid in the preseason. Toler, a free-agent signing in the offseason, had an interception against the New York Giants on Aug 18. Angerer and Landry are familiar with the defensive scheme, it’s a matter of them getting game reps, especially Landry. Angerer, who spent the first part of training camp on the physically unable to perform list while working his way back from offseason foot surgery, could get between 15 and 20 snaps. Rookie guard Hugh Thornton is also making his preseason debut. Thornton, who injured his ankle right before training camp, will likely back up Jeff Linkenbach at guard.

4. Final audition: Rosters must be trimmed from 90 to 75 players by Tuesday. Keep an eye on the receiver spot. The Colts are still looking for a fourth and fifth receiver. LaVon Brazill, currently the fourth receiver, is suspended the first four games of the season. Jeremy Kelley, Nathan Palmer, Jabin Sambrano, Lanear Sampson and Griff Whalen aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity. There is a reason why general manager Ryan Grigson went out and signed receiver Maurice Williams this week.

5. Special teams: Rookie Kerwynn Williams, Sambrano and Cassius Vaughn have handled kickoff return duties in the first two games. David Reed might get a shot to return kicks Saturday. He was acquired in the trade that sent running Delone Carter to Baltimore this week. Reed led the league by averaging 29.3 yards a kickoff return in 2010.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne doesn’t have to prove himself. He’s done that throughout his 13-year career.

Bush
Wayne
Wayne, 34, is second in team history in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Still, Wayne doesn’t consider himself a lock to make the final roster when he heads to training camp every year.

Huh?

Receivers like Griff Whalen, Jeremy Kelley, Nathan Palmer, David Reed, Lanear Sampson and Maurice Williams should be the ones worried about making the final 53-man roster.

Not Wayne.

But he is.

“First, let’s make it clear,’’ Wayne said. “I’m always fighting for a spot. Every year they’re going to try to find somebody to replace me. Now it’s up to me to make that a hard decision. So I don’t go out there with the mind frame that I always got a spot sewed up, because that’s when you go out and you loaf and then you got somebody else going out there 100 miles per hour.’’

Wayne didn’t say that just to appease the media group surrounding his locker.

He’s dead serious. He goes hard in practice. And he goes just as hard after practice.

Wayne spends ample time after practice catching passes off the Jugs machine. Some of Wayne’s younger teammates usually stand around enamored, watching him snag one-handed passes and balls that look like they’re going to hit the ground.

“I’m out there trying to set the tone from what Reggie Wayne can do, no matter what the situation is,’’ Wayne said.

The first round of cuts are next week, when 90-player rosters must be trimmed to 75.

RTC: Colts shave heads for Pagano

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
9:32
AM ET

Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Danieal Manning is set on a businesslike visit Sunday when the Texans play in Chicago against his old team, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

Gary Kubiak has had a close-up look at just how dangerous Brandon Marshall is for the Bears, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Duane Brown and J.J. Watt are Pro Football Weekly Midseason All-Pros, says McClain.

The Bills threw at Johnathan Joseph nine times, and he allowed just five catches and registered a pass defense. “What was most impressive was the way he limited yardage even when he allowed the ball to be completed into his coverage. “ John Maney of Pro Football Focus re-examines the Bills-Texans game.

Indianapolis Colts

Among the players who shaved their heads to show support for Chuck Pagano: Punter Pat McAfee, defensive lineman Cory Redding, kicker Adam Vinatieri, safety Antoine Bethea, running back Donald Brown, wide receiver Nathan Palmer, cornerback Darius Butler, linebacker Kavell Conner, tackle Anthony Castonzo, guard Joe Reitz and long-snapper Matt Overton. Mike Chappell’s story from the Indianapolis Star.

Jerraud Powers (toe) is out for Thursday night’s game in Jacksonville along with the other starting cornerback, Vontae Davis (knee), says Chappell.

Vick Ballard is taking on more responsibility in the Indianapolis backfield, says Phil Richards of the Star.

While Andrew Luck threw for a rookie record 433 yards, he lost an additional 77 because of drops. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus looks at Dolphins-Colts.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars owner Shad Khan told Action News 47: “It’s embarrassing, but there are better days ahead. I’m deeply grateful to the fans for supporting us. They’ve done their part. Now we have to do our part. Whether it’s a football team or an auto parts company, you need three things: Right people in the right spots, processing and decision making that’s right and you need support from fans, sponsors or owners. We have to finish the season. You can’t be rushing to judgment. I wish life was that simple, that you could hire and fire people and things would change. I am committed to building a sustainable, winning organization.” Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union has more.

After concussion-related layoffs, receiver Laurent Robinson is shaking the rust off, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

The Jaguars and Colts are going in opposite directions, says Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

“While the rest of the Jaguars offensive line did a relatively good job of holding their own in pass protection, it was Mike Brewster who really let them down. Beaten routinely by Sammie Lee Hill and Corey Williams, he finished the game having allowed two hits and four hurries from 42 snaps in pass protection.” Gordon McGuinness looks at Lions-Jaguars.

Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker got good news from his most recent MRI and could return to action Sunday in Miami, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. Mike Munchak said on his weekly radio show that Locker and Matt Hasselbeck will split reps early in the week as they assess Locker’s progress.

A recent history of Bud Adams’ calling out the Titans and how the team has responded, from Wyatt.

Adams deserves his share of blame too, says David Clime of The Tennessean. “Bud says the Titans were outcoached. OK, who hired the coach? Bud says the Titans were outplayed. OK, who hired the front office personnel who acquired the players?”

In the past two weeks Akeem Ayers has recorded seven pressures (two sacks, two hits, three hurries) on only 13 pass rushes. “The Titans need to find ways to get Ayers more involved in the pass rush to give them an extra weapon attacking the QB, and remove a weakness from their pass coverage.” Ben Stockwell of Pro Football Focus looks at Dolphins-Colts.

Bruce Arians wants Colts playing fast

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
5:09
PM ET
The Colts offense that takes the field against the Jets will include four rookies: Andrew Luck, Vick Ballard, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

A fifth, T.Y. Hilton, will work as the third receiver.

Interim coach Bruce Arians knows mistakes are going to happen with so much inexperience on the field and with Rex Ryan’s defense forcing the issue, mistakes will come.

Arians is more concerned with the pace at which things unfold.

"It’s time to grow up,” he told Indianapolis reporters. “Some of these guys have logged a lot of snaps already so the youth thing we can’t use as an excuse unless it’s your first. We view (receiver) Nathan Palmer as a young guy. He hasn’t even been here three weeks and he’s in the game plan. So these guys who just showed up, they can use the youth excuse on them. The rest of the guys, no, they have to play like vets…”

“Yeah, mistakes are OK, just make them full speed and something good will happen. Sure they’re going to make mistakes. They’re not going to play perfect. Play fast. If you’re not sure of something, just do something fast and you’ve got a chance to be successful.”

Reggie Wayne has been offsetting a lot of the youth with his excellent play.

He said he doesn’t worry about taking a young team on the road.

“I don’t, because one thing about these young guys that we do have, they are -- I won’t say cocky -- but they’re interesting. They feel like they can go and run through brick walls and that’s what you want. We understand the way to take away the home fans if we’re on the road, is to make plays early and often. Let’s quiet them down. Let’s make them boo. We know how to get that done. We have to make plays from the jump. We’ve got the guys that can make that happen, turn little passes to big gains and short runs to big runs. I think this will be a big game for us, in the Big Apple, big stage. It should be a good one.”

It would be easy for the Colts to suffer a letdown after such an emotional home win last week over the Packers on the heels of the news of Chuck Pagano’s illness. So that’s surely been a big theme for the team this week. It’s a group that’s fared better than many of us thought possible in terms of addressing a big theme like that successfully.

It’ll be awfully interesting to see if they are able to start quickly and pick up where they left off.
Reading the coverage: A read-and-react edition ...

Houston Texans

The team’s demeanor indicates major maturity, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

This was one area to watch coming into the season: How do they handle and react to success. The answer is in. They know how to be good and how to handle it.

Arian Foster rated the crazy, controversial ending of the Packers-Seahawks ending as drama that’s “great for business.”

He’s right, of course. (Or is he being #sarcastic?) But it’s not the kind of drama we’re looking for and it’s not a good business plan to do something that’s so debatable even if it drives drama.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts didn’t go conservative, they did the right thing says Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.

It’s not flashy to call running plays that get the opponent to burn timeouts instead of passes that stop the clock if they fall incomplete. But it is smart.

Receiver Nathan Palmer from the 49ers practice squad looks to be the replacement for Austin Collie, says Kyle Bonagura of CBSSports.com. (Hat tip to Stampede Blue.)

So sad that Collie is done for the year with his knee injury. But he’s safe from further concussions now.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars hope Sunday’s dramatic win in Indianapolis is a turning point in the season, writes Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

It’s what you’re supposed to say and feel at this stage. But the belief factor and the feeling of winning simply can’t trump talent, and with this team so banged up, the talent isn’t what it needs to be.

Cornerback Derek Cox felt good about his return to the lineup, says Ryan O'Halloran of the T-U.

It was god for them to get him back. They really, really need outside linebacker Daryl Smith back, too. And Mike Mularkey has said it won't be this week.

Tennessee Titans

The big win didn’t cure all of the Titans' warts and they know they haven’t arrived, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

This is the big question for this team right now. Is it able to hold Sunday’s drama in perspective and continue to work on some major areas of concern?

Jordan Babineaux didn’t only get back in the starting lineup, he played every snap. Tom Gower of Total Titans runs down the snap report for the Titans.

Babineaux is no Pro Bowler. But he’s got to be on the field ahead of Michael Griffin. The Titans insist it’s a game-to-game decision. If they play Robert Johnson over Babineaux against the Texans, it’s coaching malpractice.

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