AFC South: Xavier Nixon

Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.

Colts could have healthy O-line Saturday

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
7:30
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Barring any setbacks in practice this week, the Indianapolis Colts could have a full complement of players (minus Donald Thomas) to choose from on the offensive line for Saturday's wild card playoff match against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Coach Chuck Pagano said guard Mike McGlynn, who missed Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with an elbow injury, "will be good to go." The Colts have started a different offensive line in each of their last six game.

"We've never had that happen to this point, but no, it's great to have all those guys available and guys have done a great job filling in for when guys have been out," Pagano said. "It'll be great to have everybody available."

That's the good part for a group that's had a different starting lineup eight times during the regular season.

It'll be up Pagano to determine who he wants to start outside of tackles Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus.

The line has played well over the past four games. But it's not as simple sticking with the same group Pagano used in those matchups because they had four different starting lineups in each game.

In typical Pagano fashion, the coach had no interest in revealing who he plans to start against the Chiefs.

“We'll put the best five out there that we feel give us the best chance to win the football game,” Pagano said.

Here's what the O-line looked like in the Colts' Week 16 victory over the Chiefs:

Tackles: Castonzo, Cherilus

Guards: McGlynn, Xavier Nixon

Center: Samson Satele

Here's what I think the starting line should look like Saturday:

Tackles: Castonzo, Cherilus

Guards: Hugh Thornton, Jeff Linkenbach

Center: McGlynn
INDIANAPOLIS – The trend has gotten to the point that it's not if Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano will announce that they will have a different starting offensive line, but what the line will look like when they play.

That’s the case again this weekend, as the Colts will start their sixth different offensive line in as many weeks against the Jacksonville Jaguars and their eighth different one of the season.

Guard Mike McGlynn, who didn’t practice all week, is doubtful for the game.

“In the National Football League, nothing surprises you,” Pagano said. “Every day you show up is an adventure.”

In typical Pagano fashion, the coach didn’t reveal who he plans to start in McGlynn’s spot. The Colts have options on who to start on the offensive line for the first time in weeks.

Joe Reitz has been cleared to play after passing his final concussion test Friday. There’s Jeff Linkenbach, who has missed the past three games with a quadriceps injury, or Pagano can turn to Xavier Nixon, whose lead block opened up the hole on Donald Brown’s 51-yard touchdown run against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.

The offensive line has played well recently. The Colts have rushed for 287 yards in the past two games and quarterback Andrew Luck has only been sacked twice in the past three games.

Defensive end Cory Redding (shoulder) and safety Sergio Brown (groin) are also doubtful for Sunday.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of the injured players from Friday:

Out: Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot)

Questionable: Safety Antoine Bethea (ankle)

Probable: Cornerback Darius Butler (quad), cornerback Vontae Davis (groin), safety LaRon Landry (rest), linebacker Robert Mathis (rest), guard Hugh Thornton (neck) and cornerback Greg Toler (groin)
INDIANAPOLIS -- If the early struggles to protect quarterback Andrew Luck weren't problem enough, the injuries along the offensive line in recent weeks gave the Indianapolis Colts every excuse to fall apart up front.

Seven different starting lineups along the line, including five in the past five games, have forced coach Chuck Pagano to be creative in his tinkering with the line.

The Colts had only six healthy offensive linemen before they brought center Thomas Austin up from the practice squad the day before their game against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend. Austin was released on Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaAndrew Luck is, at last, enjoying a good deal of protection from his offensive line.
But despite all the mixing and matching of interchangeable players, the Colts are in the midst of their best offensive-line play of the season.

Luck has been just sacked twice in the past three games and the Colts have rushed for at least 135 yards in each of the past two games.

“I think the more adversity you face sometimes, it tends to bring you together,” Pagano said. “The players have found a way to put the pieces together week-in and week-out and it doesn’t really matter who’s up and who’s down and who’s available and who’s playing where. They all know they all have position flexibility and know what to do. Those guys all prepare as starters and they’ve done a great job. And they have played well the last couple weeks, especially protecting Andrew.”

The improved play comes after the Colts gave up 22 sacks through the first nine games. They’ve given up a total of nine since then, with five occurring against Tennessee on Dec. 1.

The only stability has been at tackle, where Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus have started every game on the left and right, respectively.

The interior three of the line – the weakest part of the group – is the one that has undergone the constant changes. Jeff Linkenbach replaced the struggling Mike McGlynn at right guard against Tennessee on Dec. 1. McGlynn was back starting at guard the following week because Linkenbach got injured. Then McGlynn had to start at center against Houston on Dec. 15 because Samson Satele went down with an injury.

Are you still with me?

Xavier Nixon, a tackle during his college career at Florida, started at left guard against the Chiefs last weekend. His pull-block helped open a hole for Donald Brown on his 51-yard touchdown run that featured some poor tackling by the Chiefs.

Castonzo, the protector on Luck’s back side, limited Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, who has 11 sacks this season, to only two tackles and no sacks in the game.

“There’s been so much change that you really have to get back to your fundamentals because you don’t know who is going to play next to you, so it comes down to everybody doing their own fundamentals properly,” Castonzo said. “It might be just the refocus on fundamentals that’s allowed us to play well.”

The Colts could be getting close to having a healthy line (minus Donald Thomas, who is out for the season). Thornton, Linkenbach and Joe Reitz could return to practice later this week.

“Chuck and [general manager] Ryan [Grigson] brought the right guys in here,” Cherilus said. “The new guys come in and they listen to the vets and when your number is called they show up and perform. They’ve been doing that. You want to finish the season with your starting lineup. But we’re talking about football, change is going to come, you’re going to have to make yourself available to be a part of it.”

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

December, 22, 2013
12/22/13
4:07
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A few quick thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 23-7 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

What it means: No offense to Houston and Tennessee, but what the Colts did defensively to the Chiefs surpasses anything they did against those vacation-bound teams. The Colts sacked Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith four times to go with two Jerrell Freeman interceptions in their first victory over a team with a winning record since beating Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on Oct. 20. The Chiefs looked like they were going to have a field day on the Colts after they took their opening possession and running back Jamaal Charles easily scored on a 31-yard run. Kansas City gained 59 yards on its opening drive but gained only 228 more yards the rest of the game.

Impressive performance by the line: The Colts started their seventh different offensive line, including their fifth in the past five games, on Sunday. The tackles were Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus, the guards were Mike McGlynn and Xavier Nixon and the center was Samson Satele. Problems? Of course not. The line only gave up one sack, and the Colts rushed for 135 yards. Nixon, starting in place of Hugh Thornton, had a nice lead block that opened up the middle for running back Donald Brown on his 51-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Redding leaves early: About the only thing that didn’t go right for the defense after its first series was that defensive lineman Cory Redding left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Whalen steps up again: You would have never known that receiver Griff Whalen was on the practice squad just nine days ago based off how he’s played the past two games. He followed up his touchdown catch against Houston on Dec. 15 by getting seven catches for 80 yards on Sunday.

What’s next: The Colts wrap up the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 29. The Colts beat the Jaguars 37-3 in Week 4.

Is a lineup change coming on the O-line?

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
6:15
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- It's taken a little time, but I'm starting to learn how Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano operates (not counting linebacker Pat Angerer's injury news earlier this week) when it comes to possible lineup changes.

He doesn't directly say a change is coming but he hints at it.

That was the case Wednesday afternoon at the Colts' facility. Pagano was asked about Mike McGlynn remaining the starting center once Samson Satele returns from his elbow injury.

Pagano said last week that a player wouldn't lose his starting spot because of an injury.

The coach's response was different this time.

“We'll do what's best for the team and what gives us the best opportunity to win the game,” Pagano said.

Sometimes a little goes a long way.

Depending on the health of the rest of the offensive line, McGlynn will continue to start at center.

I don't look at it as Pagano not staying true to his word. I look at it as he's doing what's best for the team.

You're usually not in a good position when McGlynn plays guard, but the Colts' three best rushing games of the season came when he started at center in place of Satele.

The Colts rushed for 184 yards against San Francisco in Week 3, 157 yards against Jacksonville in Week 4 and 152 yards against Houston last weekend.

This may turn out to be a moot point for now because of the number of injuries they're dealing with on the offensive line.

Joe Reitz (concussion), Hugh Thornton (neck) and Jeff Linkenbach (quad) -- who are all guards -- did not practice Wednesday and Satele was limited.

So the Colts could go with a starting offensive line of Satele at center, Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus at tackle and McGlynn and Xavier Nixon at guard against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

But when everybody is healthy -- if that happens this season -- don't be surprised to see McGlynn starting at center.
INDIANAPOLIS -- An already-weak offensive line could possibly be even weaker for the Indianapolis Colts when they play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Rookie left guard Hugh Thornton did not practice Wednesday because of a neck injury. Joe Reitz was working at left guard during the portion of practice that was open to the media.

Fellow guard Jeff Linkenbach, who started against Tennessee last weekend, is already out with a quad injury. The Colts are calling Linkenbach week-to-week with his injury.

Coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday that he's not sure who will start in Linkenbach's place against the Bengals. Linkenbach replaced Mike McGlynn at guard against the Titans. The Colts added Xavier Nixon to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Tuesday.

"What we'll do with the offensive line, we'll just go through the week and between Mike and Joe and Hugh, we'll just work those guys through this week," Pagano said. Have not made any final decisions on anything as far as the offensive line goes. Just go to work on correcting things we need to correct. Nixon is a swing guy. He's played both. Major outside being a swing tackle type guy. That's where we're at with the offensive line."

The offensive line has had its problems all season, but this is a bad time for the Colts to be dealing with injuries there. They need to beat the Bengals to go up one game in the race for the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Bengals are ninth in the league in sacks with 36.

"They're ranked sixth in the National Football League for good reason," Pagano said. "They got good players. Got a good front seven, good linebacking core, good in the back end."

Here's the rest of the Colts' injury report from Wednesday:
  • Cornerback Greg Toler and receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) were limited in practice. Having Toler practice -- even if it was limited -- is a positive because he's missed the past five games with a groin injury.
  • Safety Sergio Brown (hand), defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot), linebacker Robert Mathis (rest) did not practice.

Colts bring Guy back to help defensive line

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
10:35
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- The first sign that Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois' groin injury could cause him to miss some time came Tuesday morning when the team announced that it re-signed defensive lineman Lawrence Guy. The Colts also signed offensive tackle Xavier Nixon off Washington’s practice squad.

Jean Francois was injured in the second half of Sunday’s victory in San Francisco.

Guy is a familiar name for the Colts. He was with the Colts last season, starting two of the nine games he appeared in. He was cut by the team last month.

The Colts could also use extra bodies on the offensive line. Center Samson Satele missed the 49ers game with an elbow injury and guard Donald Thomas is out for the season with a torn quad.

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