Indianapolis Colts: Houston Texans

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s still anybody’s guess on who the Houston Texans will take with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

University of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has a message for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck if the Texans do select him.

Clowney told Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports that Luck "better have his head on a swivel" because Clowney would be paired with standout defensive end J.J. Watt, the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year.

Watt has sacked Luck four times in four career games that the two have faced off.

Poor offensive line play has led to Luck being sacked 73 times in his first two seasons. But you’ve got to believe that Luck likely isn’t too worried about the possibility of facing a Clowney-Watt tandem on the outside, especially since tackles Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus are coming off strong seasons and because he’s only worried about winning a Super Bowl.

Top free-agent roundup: AFC South

March, 10, 2014
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With the 2014 free-agency period starting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, here is a look at top free agents in the AFC South as compiled by reporters Tania Ganguli, Paul Kuharsky, Michael DiRocco and Mike Wells. The top seven free agents are on defense, led by cornerback Vontae Davis of the Colts. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, a fixture in Jacksonville for the past eight years, is looking for a new team. Is this the end of Antoine Bethea's run in Indianapolis?

1. Vontae Davis, Colts CB: Indianapolis needs a top cornerback to help a defense that finished 20th in the league last season. Davis has shown he has the talent to be one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He just needs to work on his consistency.

2. Alterraun Verner, Titans CB: A smart, aware corner with a knack for getting to the ball, he just lacks top speed and size.

3. Antoine Bethea, Colts S: A reliable player, having started every game he played during his eight years with the Colts. Finished with at least 100 tackles in five of those seasons.

4. Earl Mitchell, Texans NT: Solid player at the point of attack and has shown the ability to get consistent penetration. He had 48 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season.

5. Bernard Pollard, Titans S: Played well as an in-the-box safety and provided the sort of standard-setting leadership the Titans lacked previously. Update: Signed one-year, $2 million deal to remain with Titans.

6. Darryl Sharpton, Texans LB: Led the Texans with 87 tackles but is not as good in coverage as he is against the run.

Smith
7. Antonio Smith, Texans DE: He is more of a run-stuffing defensive end than a pass-rusher, although he did record five sacks in 2013.

8. Ben Tate, Texans RB: He led the Texans with 771 yards rushing. He has been somewhat injury-prone but has produced when needed as Arian Foster's backup.

9. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars RB: Jones-Drew started 15 games and led the Jaguars with 803 yards and five touchdowns rushing. He also caught 43 passes (third on the team) for 314 yards. He got off to a slow start then battled through ankle, hamstring and knee issues and averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry.

Brown
10. Donald Brown, Colts RB:
Brown was the Colts’ third running back twice in 2013 only to end the season as the starter. He has the speed but was too inconsistent during his five seasons in Indianapolis.

11. Garrett Graham, Texans TE: He’s not Owen Daniels, but he can line up tight or as a flex tight end. He came into his own as a receiver last season with 49 catches for 545 yards and five TDs.

12. Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts RB: A neck injury limited Bradshaw to only three games last season. It took just those three games for him to show he was the Colts' most effective running back.

13. Ropati Pitoitua, Titans DE: A giant, run-stuffing end who would be a solid, flexible piece in the hybrid front. Update: Signed 3-year, deal for $9.6 million to remain with Titans.

14. Adam Vinatieri, Colts K: The 41-year-old Vinatieri was 35-of-40 on field goals and a perfect 34-of-34 on extra points in 2013.

15. Samson Satele, Colts C: Was released by the team on March 6 after a disappointing 2013 season. He has started 98 of 102 games during his seven-year career.

Live blog: Texans at Colts

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
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Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the Houston Texans' visit to the Indianapolis Colts. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.
 
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts will start their sixth different offensive line when they take on the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

Starting center Samson Satele (elbow) and guard Jeffrey Linkenbach (quad) have been ruled out for the game. Mike McGlynn will slide over from guard and start at center. Hugh Thornton (neck) will return and start at guard after missing last weekend’s game at Cincinnati. Joe Reitz will start at the other guard position.

Coach Chuck Pagano also announced Friday that cornerback Greg Toler (groin), fullback Stanley Havili (knee) and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (foot) will miss the game.

Sunday will be the seventh straight game that Toler has missed. Pagano is still taking a positive approach that Toler will be back in the lineup before the season ends.

“He’s not 100 percent,” Pagano said. “Just don’t want to throw him out there. Obviously playing the position that he plays, you have to be able to peddle, flip, turn, run, burst, all those things. So it doesn’t make any sense to throw him out there until he’s 100 percent.”

I wrote Thursday that the the Colts should think about shutting Toler down for the season.

Receiver LaVon Brazill is questionable with a foot bruise after he didn’t practice this week. There’s a chance the Colts will bring Griff Whalen up from the practice squad if Brazill can’t play -- leaving them with only four receivers on the active roster.

Brazill says he'll play Sunday

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
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INDIANAPOLIS – Warning flags were raised when Indianapolis Colts receiver LaVon Brazill showed up to practice Thursday wearing a walking boot. The flags remained when he slid the boot on his right foot again after showering.

Brazill
Brazill
But they were lowered, albeit only a little, when Brazill and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton both said they expect him to be in the lineup when the Colts take on the Houston Texans on Sunday.

“I should be out there,” Brazill said.

Brazill suffered the bruised right foot in the first half of last weekend’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The bruise must not have been that bad because he played in the second half and caught two of his three passes for 48 yards, including a 19-yard catch-and-run touchdown where he broke six tackles. He finished with three catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns.

“I was playing with adrenaline,” Brazill said.

This is the wrong time for the Colts to be dealing with another injury at receiver. They have only four receivers on the active roster and Griff Whalen on the practice squad.

Brazill’s injury caused enough concern within the organization that the Colts reportedly worked out former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch on Wednesday. Branch, 34, left town without a deal, which means it’s unlikely that the Colts will sign him for now.

Double Coverage: Texans at Colts

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
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J.J. Watt and Andrew LuckGetty ImagesJ.J. Watt's Texans aren't playoff-bound like Andrew Luck's Colts, but Sunday's hosts haven't had it easy.
INDIANAPOLIS -- This was supposed to be a game that had AFC South division title implications between a Super Bowl contender and a playoff team, one that could have even been flexed on the schedule.

At least that's the way it was envisioned when the season started.

Instead, it'll be a battle of two teams dealing with a number of issues when the Indianapolis Colts take on the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts haven't beaten a team with a winning record since Oct. 20 and haven't had consistency on offense, defense or special teams in weeks. The Texans ... well, they've been a disaster this season. They are on an 11-game losing streak, benched their starting quarterback and fired their head coach.

ESPN.com's Colts reporter Mike Wells and Texans reporter Tania Ganguli weigh in on the two struggling teams.

Wells: Tania, obviously the big news -- really the only news -- to come out of Houston in the past week was the firing of coach Gary Kubiak. Wade Phillips takes over as the interim coach. Teams tend to rally around interim coaches or just shut them out. What do you think the Texans will do with Phillips?

Ganguli: I don't think they'll shut him out, but wanting to succeed for the coach was never a problem in Houston. They wanted to win the last Colts game for their head coach, who left at halftime in an ambulance. They wanted to win the following week in Arizona for their coach, who watched from home as he recovered from his transient ischemic attack. It's not a matter of wanting the win -- the process has gotten lost. Two weeks ago, the Texans made so much progress in fixing their issues and then last week they went to Jacksonville and completely lost their discipline, committing a franchise-record 14 penalties for 177 yards.

The Colts are now back on top of the AFC South. What was the mood like for the team upon clinching the division and a playoff spot?

Wells: It was a bittersweet feeling for them because they needed help from their good buddy Peyton Manning in Denver to win their first division title in three years. The Colts wanted to go into Cincinnati and win it by themselves so that they would be able to avoid getting it in the side or backdoor. That obviously didn't happen. But a division title is a division title no matter how you get it. That's how the Colts should look at it, especially since they were 2-14 just two years ago and many people thought the Texans wouldn't have a problem winning the division for the third straight season.

I'll be the first to say I picked the Texans to win the division this season. I'm sure there are probably a lot of reasons why they've been a major bust. But does one reason stand out more than others?

Ganguli: If I had to choose one, I would say the quarterback situation has been the biggest reason. It was completely out of the blue. A lot of people disagree with me on this, but I don't think Matt Schaub played poorly most of the time, it's just that pick-6's are such dramatic momentum swingers. Really, though, it's been a combination of a lot of things. If you look at their stats, you'd expect the team to have a much better record. After Schaub, they went through Case Keenum's learning process, which is ongoing. Kicker Randy Bullock had a rough start, which impacted the team's record. He has improved lately, but by then the Texans developed other problems, like the loss of four important players to injury: inside linebacker Brian Cushing, safety Danieal Manning, running back Arian Foster and tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels has a chance of returning this week. And of course, I mentioned the meltdown of discipline that led to what happened last Thursday in Jacksonville. That was a problem early in the season, but unusual for the Texans lately. They had four penalties in the previous two games combined.

I expected the Colts to be better than they are, too. Do you think this team has taken a step forward or backward from last season?

Wells: I thought the Colts had more talent this season but they wouldn't be able to duplicate their 11-5 record from last year. I was right about their record but wrong about their talent. Season-ending injuries forced the Colts to take a step back in the talent department. They're known for using the phrase "Next Man Up" when dealing with injuries. There really isn't a Next Man Up when it comes to replacing future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne, guard Donald Thomas and tight end Dwayne Allen. The Colts thought acquiring running back Trent Richardson would soften the blow of losing Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard. That hasn't been the case. Richardson's struggles since coming to Indianapolis have been well documented. So injuries and players not living up to expectations are the main reasons why the Colts have taken a step back

We talked about the benching of Schaub prior to the first meeting between the two teams in early November. Receiver Andre Johnson made Keenum look pretty good in the first half of that game. Has Keenum shown enough to prove he's worthy of being the team's quarterback for years to come?

Ganguli: He's had good moments and bad ones. I think the bad moments are fixable, but whether he'll be able to fix them remains to be seen. The end of this season is an audition for him just as much as it is for Phillips. He has to show he's learning how to read defenses and make better decisions. There are times when Keenum hangs on to the ball too long because his internal clock isn't quite where it needs to be yet. He is learning that sometimes it's better to take the checkdown. He's learning that turning his back on the field when a rush comes at him reduces his options. If he stops growing where he is now, he'll have a career as a serviceable backup. If he continues to improve, he has the chance to be a starter.

To wrap up, let's talk about the quarterback up there, which I know we have before. How would you assess the season Andrew Luck has had?

Wells: Two words: A struggle. But it's not Luck's fault. The offensive line has been inconsistent all season. The running game has been more poor than good. The biggest reason behind it, though, is because of the loss of Wayne. Wayne was Luck's security blanket and nobody has stepped up to help him out. Luck is good, but you can't forget that he's only in his second season and is still learning. Rookie Da'Rick Rogers had a breakout game against Cincinnati (107 yards) last weekend and believes he can be Luck's third-down go-to guy.

Pagano on Fox, Kubiak health issues

November, 4, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- It's understandable that the subject had Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano pausing between sentences. He was right there with Denver coach John Fox and Houston coach Gary Kubiak last season.

And that's why Fox and Kubiak's recent health issues hit home with Pagano. The Colts coach said he recently reached out to both coaches to let them know that the team's praying for them.

Pagano
Fox had surgery Monday to replace a valve in his heart after he became dizzy while playing golf in North Carolina and was later taken to a hospital during the team's bye week over the weekend. It's unknown when he'll return to coaching the Broncos.

Kubiak collapsed while heading to the locker room at halftime of Sunday's game against the Colts. He was immediately taken to the hospital.

"Hopefully they get things taken care of and get their health back," Pagano said. "We're lucky. We're playing a kid's game. Our players are playing a kid's game, but real life is real life. If you don't have your health, you really don't have nothing."

Pagano missed 12 games last season while he took a leave of absence to battle leukemia.

"I feel very fortunate, obviously to have behind me what I went through," he said. "But the game is the game. When it comes to a guy's health and those things those guys are dealing with now is not easy. This game could be hard on you as we know."

ESPN.com Texans reporter Tania Gangulia wrote after the game Sunday that Kubiak's departure impacted the players in the second half, which isn't surprising because you're talking about somebody's life in that situation. The Colts outscored the Texans 24-3 in the second half to come from behind and win 27-24.

Bruce Arians filled in while Pagano was out last season, but he missed their playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens after he became ill that morning.

"It's got to affect you," Pagano said about the Texans not having Kubiak in the second half. "It's hard. A tough, tough situation."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The game footage on Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum is limited for the Indianapolis Colts. Limited to one regular-season game and few preseason appearances. To get more specific, Keenum's pro career stat line is: 15 of 25 for 271 yards and a touchdown.

[+] EnlargeCase Keenum
Peter Aiken/Getty ImagesThe Chiefs are having to rely on limited game footage -- just one game -- of their opponent's starting quarterback, Case Keenum.
The Colts have to take what they can get on Keenum because they’ll be facing him on Sunday night in their third straight nationally televised game.

“Thank God we at least have one game on him with Kansas City,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “We went back into the preseason, watched some of the reps that he took there, compiled those and from the players' and from the coaches' standpoint, we watched all those. It’s just trying to get a repertoire of what the guy likes and what throws he has.”

The Texans (2-5) replaced the struggling Matt Schaub with Keenum to try to salvage their season and also see if he's their quarterback of the future. Keenum set the NCAA all-time passing record (19,217 yards) while at the University of Houston.

“Yeah, it’s a little tough,” Colts cornerback Vontae Davis said. “It’s tough because you don’t have too much game film on him. You have to look at the last game he started. He’s doing pretty good.”

The Colts can’t go into the game thinking they’ll be able to easily rattle Keenum. He shook off being sacked five times to complete six passes of at least 25 yards against a Kansas City defense that's ranked in the top five in the league on Oct. 20. Colts linebacker Robert Mathis leads the league in sacks with 11.5.

The Colts have taken a hit in the secondary, as starting cornerback Greg Toler will miss Sunday’s game with a groin injury. Davis will be lined up against Keenum’s top target, receiver Andre Johnson.

“The kid has moxie,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s got savvy. He was cool under pressure. That’s a top-five defense that he went against. Made big plays. He’s able to extend plays. He’s got enough arm talent to beat you. Enough weapons around him. We’ve got to do a great job, number one, of stopping the run, but number two of trying to put pressure on him and get to him and make him as uncomfortable as possible.”

Double Coverage: Colts at Texans

November, 1, 2013
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Luck/KeenumGetty ImagesAndrew Luck will be without Reggie Wayne and Case Keenum will be making his second NFL start.
During an unexpectedly poor showing in the first seven games of the season, the Houston Texans played only one AFC South opponent and beat that team.

That's the upside about the Texans' start. The downside for Houston is that during that malaise, the Indianapolis Colts returned to the top of the division and joined the league's elite. The Colts enter this game with a two-game lead over the Tennessee Titans, who are second.

Both teams come off a bye week that followed a game in which they lost an important veteran -- Brian Cushing for the Texans and Reggie Wayne for the Colts. Both teams are now about to enter a stretch in which they play five divisional games. The landscape of the AFC South could change dramatically.

Colts reporter Mike Wells and I take a look at this week's matchup.

So Mike, how big of an impact will losing Wayne have on the Colts' offense?

Wells: I think the Colts will be fine for now without Wayne. They'll still win the AFC South -- it helps having a two-game lead -- because there aren't any teams in the division that can close the gap and the Colts don't have a tough schedule the rest of the season. It's in the playoffs that the Colts will miss Wayne's leadership and playmaking ability. He's been quarterback Andrew Luck's security blanket the past two seasons. Wayne is irreplaceable in the locker room and on the field.

Speaking of impacts, what type of impact do you think quarterback Case Keenum will have on the Texans?

Ganguli: Keenum opened up the Texans' passing game two weeks ago. They threw just one fewer deep pass in that game than they had in the four previous games combined. It's one area where Keenum is especially solid. He's also really impressed Texans teammates and coaches with his confidence, moxie (a word defensive coordinator Wade Phillips used) and poise. I would have excused him being rattled against a fierce Kansas City defense and crowd, but he wasn't. He was able to make plays off schedule. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown. It has seemed easy for him to step into a leadership role.

What kinds of challenges will the Colts' defense pose for Keenum specifically?

Wells: You can expect linebacker Robert Mathis to be licking his chops with Keenum at quarterback. Mathis leads in the league in sacks with 11.5. He's one of the leaders for Defensive Player of the Year. Safeties Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry, who are interchangeable, will try to confuse the young quarterback by disguising their coverage on him. Vontae Davis and Greg Toler are gambling cornerbacks, so expect them to try to make Keenum pay for every mistake he makes.

Is there one reason in particular that the Texans have struggled this season? Many people thought they would be Super Bowl contenders this season.

Ganguli: There have been a few factors. Turnovers have been a big part of it. The Texans' turnover margin is among the worst in the NFL right now at minus-11. Two weeks ago against the Chiefs was the only game in which the Texans' turnover margin wasn't negative. They hadn't been creating many and had been giving up the ball to an excessive degree. One other key area to examine is the red zone. Offensively and defensively, it hasn't been especially productive for Houston this season.

Wrapping things up here, Luck is a familiar face around Houston, having played football at Stratford High School. He took a beating last time he came to Houston with J.J. Watt notching three sacks as the Texans clinched the division. How has his protection been this year and how has that impacted his performance?

Wells: Improving the offensive line was at the top of the list for the Colts after Luck was sacked 41 times last season. They've been hit with some injuries along the line this season. Starting guard Donald Thomas was lost for the season in the opener with a torn quad and center Samson Satele has dealt with some injuries. Despite these issues, the Colts have done a better job of protecting Luck. He's been sacked only 15 times this season. But the Colts will have their hands full against a Texans defense that has “game-wreckers all over the place,” according to coach Chuck Pagano. I can't let you get out of here without talking about running back Arian Foster. Why is he averaging only 77.4 yards a game this season?

Ganguli: The Texans began the season limiting Foster's carries because he missed training camp while recovering from two injuries. The fact the Texans have found themselves in deep deficits has also hurt Foster's numbers. They just aren't running the ball as much as they did last season when they were playing with leads. He's had two 100-yard games this season and one 98-yard game. He rushed for 141 yards against the St. Louis Rams, which boosted his average. But the Texans' last game significantly depressed it. Foster gained only 11 yards after an early hamstring injury forced him from the game and limited him to just four carries.

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