Indianapolis Colts: Darrius Butler

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lost in the talk of Phil Costa deciding to retire before playing a game with the Indianapolis Colts, the team signed safety Colt Anderson and restricted free agent cornerback Josh Gordy signed his qualifying offer.

Anderson started six of the 48 games he played with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2010-13. He led the Eagles in special teams tackles with a career-high 16 last season. Anderson joins Sergio Brown, Delano Howell and Corey Lynch in competing to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety next season. Anderson, though, will more than likely end up being a special teams player for the Colts.

Gordy's one-year qualifying offer is worth $1.43 million. He had nine tackles, three passes defended and one interception last season for the Colts. Gordy's best defensive play of the season came in the Colts' 28-point comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC wild-card playoff game.

Gordy, playing in place of the injured Greg Toler, defended Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe perfectly along the sideline on fourth-and-11 late in the fourth quarter. Bowe caught the pass, but he couldn't get both feet inbounds, giving the ball back to the Colts and sealing the game for them.

Gordy has a good chance to be Indianapolis' fourth cornerback behind Toler, Vontae Davis and Darius Butler next season.

Free-Agent Watch: Cassius Vaughn

February, 6, 2014
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Cornerback Cassius Vaughn

2013 stats: 30 tackles, 6 passes defended, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles.

Vaughn, one of the lead jokesters in the locker room, played a number of different roles last season. He was the the fourth cornerback. He started in Greg Toler’s absence because of the Colts’ desire to keep Darius Butler at nickel back. Vaughn was even a healthy inactive.

Vaughn played well at times, getting two interceptions against Tennessee in early December. He also struggled when he started opposite of Vontae Davis. Vaughn ended up falling behind Josh Gordy on the depth chart. He didn’t play in either of the playoffs game against Kansas City or New England.

Prediction: Depending on what happens with Davis and Gordy, Vaughn may end up having to be the team’s fifth cornerback if the Colts re-sign him.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts had their top cornerbacks on the practice field Wednesday, a day after only having three available in Tuesday's practice.

Cornerbacks Vontae Davis (groin), Darius Butler (quad) and Greg Toler (groin) were full participants in practice, giving an indication that the Colts could have a healthy group for Saturday’s wild-card playoff matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Davis injured his groin in last weekend’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“They still have to get their feet under them,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “They looked pretty good [at practice Wednesday]. Still evaluating and see how it goes come Saturday.”

The Colts are becoming healthy at the right time.

Defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and defensive end Fili Moala (knee) were the only two players not to practice Wednesday. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) was limited in practice.
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 way Greg Toler walked around the locker room Thursday afternoon was any indication, you probably shouldn't expect to see the Indianapolis Colts cornerback in the lineup against the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon.

Toler
Toler didn't walk like a player who is ready to return to the lineup after missing the past six games with a groin injury. He gingerly walked around the locker room during the portion that's open to the media. Where Toler stands health wise was put more into perspective when the injury report was released late Thursday afternoon.

He went from being limited in practice Wednesday to not practicing at all Thursday. Not practicing Thursday makes me think Toler won't play against the Texans because he said at the start of the week that he needed to get through full week of practice and also be 100 percent healthy before returning to the lineup.

That obviously didn't happen.

It has gotten to the point that the Colts should think about shutting Toler down for the rest of the season. This groin injury is about to head into the eighth week when you count the bye week.

Coach Chuck Pagano said a couple of weeks ago that they didn't plan on shutting Toler down. It'll be interesting to see if he still feels the same way when he addresses the media Friday.

The Colts will only have two regular-season games remaining after facing the Texans. They play at Kansas City on Dec. 22. I wouldn't be surprised if Toler misses that game, too. He talked last week about how freezing temperatures impact his groin because it's difficult to keep it warm while on the sidelines.

The Colts could use Toler's help in the secondary. They have given up an average of 31 points and 401 yards per game in the past seven games. Pagano has already changed the lineup by putting Darrius Butler in for Cassius Vaughn, who had been starting for Toler.

But at some point you have to throw in the towel and just call it quits for the season with Toler.

Vaughn uses demotion as motivation

December, 2, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts cornerback Cassius Vaughn could have let the demotion eat at him.

He actually used it as motivation.

Vaughn had two of the Colts' three interceptions in their victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. He entered the game with only three interceptions in his four-year career.

“I go in and just play my game regardless if I’m the starting corner or the fifth corner,” Vaughn said. “If I get on the field I feel like I’m the best corner on the field no matter who is out there. That’s just how I think about myself and I just wanted to go out there and play ball.”

Vaughn had started opposite Vontae Davis at cornerback in place of the injured Greg Toler in the four games prior to Sunday. Vaughn struggled at times, leading coach Chuck Pagano to replace him with Darius Butler in the starting lineup against the Titans.

Vaughn is team’s fourth cornerback, but the Colts wanted to keep Butler in the slot as the nickelback. Vaughn lined up on the outside and Butler slid to the slot when the Colts had three cornerbacks in the game Sunday.

“I took it as a challenge to step my game up,” Vaughn said. “They felt like we needed to shake it up a little bit. I felt like I should have done some better things out there, but it wasn’t ever a downer because I know they believe in me. We feel like that’s what we needed to do and they did that and they made the right decision.”

The Colts are optimistic that Toler (groin) will be back in the lineup for Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

December, 1, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 22-14 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

What it means: It was far from a thing of beauty -- it was even ugly at times -- but the Colts control their own fate in the AFC South. The victory gives them a three-game lead over the Titans with four games left in the season. The ageless wonder Adam Vinatieri kicked five field goals and the Colts found their ground game on their final offensive series to seal the game. Running back Donald Brown had six carries for 46 yards on the drive that gave them an eight-point lead. He capped it off with a touchdown run. Brown, who replaced Trent Richardson in the starting lineup, had eight carries for 8 yards prior to the final drive.

No protection: The Colts shook up their offensive line some by moving right guard Mike McGlynn to the bench and replacing him with Jeff Linkenbach. That didn’t stop the Titans from being able to get after Andrew Luck. The Titans sacked Luck five times, including four times in the second quarter alone.

Getting defensive: The Colts also changed things up some in the secondary. Cassius Vaughn had been starting for the injured Greg Toler at cornerback, but he was replaced by Darius Butler. The demotion woke Vaughn up, as he intercepted Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick twice. Linebacker Robert Mathis added to his league lead in sacks -- 15.5 -- when he got a strip-sack of Fitzpatrick in the second half. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman iced the game when he picked off Fitzpatrick's pass in Colts territory with 24 seconds left.

Still no offense in the first half: The good news for the Colts is that they went into the half with a 12-7 lead. The bad news is that they still can’t score any touchdowns in the first half. The Colts have had 31 possessions and 153 plays in the first half of their past five games. They haven’t scored a touchdown in any of those halves.

What’s next: The Colts can clinch the AFC South if they can go on the road and beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 8.
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Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

November, 3, 2013
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HOUSTON -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 27-24 victory against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium:

What it means: Reggie Wayne or not, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck simply knows how to win. Luck shook off a brutal first half that saw him constantly pressured, and his receivers didn’t do him any favors by dropping passes, but he rebounded to pick up his 10th come-from-behind victory in just 24 NFL games. All three of Luck’s touchdown passes were to second-year receiver T.Y. Hilton, who said he had to step up in Wayne’s absence. Luck was only 3-of-12 for 56 yards in the first half. He responded by going 15-of-28 for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. Hilton finished with seven catches for 121 yards.

Stock watch: Texans receiver Andre Johnson had his way against the Colts' secondary in the first half. Vontae Davis, Cassius Vaughn, Antoine Bethea and Darrius Butler all were burned by Johnson at one point in the half. Johnson had seven catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. The Colts did a better job on Johnson in the second half, when he had two catches for 25 yards.

Special teams experience: It was interesting first half on special teams for the Colts. Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt blocked Adam Vinatieri's 42-yard field. D.J. Swearinger picked up the loose ball and ran it back 37 yards before Pat McAfee made the touchdown-saving tackle. McAfee dropped the snap on a punt two series later, gathered the ball, eluded the defender and got the ball off for a 55-yard punt. The play ended up not counting because the Colts had an ineligible player down field. It’s not over yet. McAfee managed to get the punt off on the next play despite Bryan Braman running into him. Replays showed the officials missed a roughing the kicker penalty on the play, because Braman didn’t touch the ball on the play. The Colts thought they recovered a Keshawn Martin fumble on a kickoff, but the play was reversed because the officials ruled that LaVon Brazill was out of bounds.

What’s next: The Colts return home to host the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 10.

W2W4: Colts-Broncos

October, 20, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS – Here are five storylines to watch for Sunday night's game between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsMight Andrew Luck have to throw more for the Colts to be successful on offense?
1. The clock-management game: Stick with the style that got you four wins or put the ball in your franchise quarterback’s hands and have him test the NFL’s worst pass defense team in the league? That’s the quandary Colt offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton finds himself in against the Broncos. Hamilton's sticking with the run-first mentality. That’s the right approach to take because the Colts are sixth in the league in rushing and a ball-controlled offense keeps Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on the sideline with his helmet on, arms crossed and antsy to get his offense back on the field. But the Colts have to be effective in order to make it work, and they have to do it against a Denver team that’s only giving up 69.8 yards a game. The Colts ran for a season-low 74 yards and only had the ball for 21 minutes against San Diego last week. The Broncos are giving up a league-worst 338 yards in the air. The Colts have to score touchdowns. Field goals won’t cut it against Manning. Don't be surprised if Andrew Luck is forced to go back to being Andrew Luck of last season when he had to throw 45 times a game in order for the Colts to win.

2. Avoid the emotions: This game is all about Manning. Nobody else. Reggie Wayne referred to it as a circus. The Colts have downplayed Manning’s return by referring to it as just another game on the schedule. I wouldn’t have believed them if this were my first week covering them. But I actually believe them. They do a good job keeping their emotions in check when it comes to injuries, facing quarterbacks like Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, and they’ve done a good job of avoiding the hype with Manning so far. But doing it on the football field is the only thing that matters. The Colts obviously respect Manning, but it seems like they’re tired of talking about his return.

3. Don’t get frustrated: Manning will make plays. He’s proven that over and over throughout his career. The Broncos have the best offense in the league, averaging 476 yards of total offense and 360.7 yards through the air to go with 44 points a game. The Colts got frustrated on defense because they couldn’t get off the field on third down against the Chargers. Do that Sunday night and the Broncos will easily surpass their scoring average. Cornerbacks Greg Toler, Vontae Davis and Darius Butler are risk takers. They're not going to shy away from gambling, but they better make the play because Manning will exploit them if they make a mistake. Linebacker Robert Mathis has an advantage because Denver's left tackle Ryan Clady (knee) is out for the season and right tackle Orlando Franklin is doubtful with a knee and ankle injury. “They’re going to make plays,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said about Denver. “But when the opportunity arises for us to make plays, we got to make sure we make them. It’s kind of like playing golf. It’s what you do with your mishits, not so much what you do with your hits. It’s that philosophy going into the game.”

4. Leave the drops behind: The Colts hurt themselves with a case of the drops against the Chargers. They officially had four drops even though an argument could be made that they had more -- Darrius Heyward-Bey getting both hands on the ball on what should have been a 60-yard catch -- in the first half. Heyward-Bey, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Trent Richardson and, yes, even Wayne, can’t have a repeat performance this week. “I think it was more so of an isolated incident,” Hamilton said. “It just happened that way. We’ll make those plays. Drops are not an issue for our offense.”

5. Richardson factor: Richardson deserves his own storyline because he’s yet to be a significant factor for the Colts since they acquired him Sept. 18. He hasn't rushed for more than 60 yards in a game with them. The Colts want to control the clock. It starts with Richardson. It’s time for him to step up. He’s only averaging 3.1 yards a carry as a Colt. “As far as my comfort level, I’m ready to play,” Richardson said. “I don’t know what you call a breakout game, I guess over 100 yards or whatever, but if it happens it happens. As long as we win, I think it’s a breakout game for me.”

The Colts have their own 12th Man

October, 7, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The fans at CenturyLink Field in Seattle are known as the “12th Man” because of their passion and enthusiasm for the Seattle Seahawks.

The Indianapolis Colts say they have their own “12th Man” at Lucas Oil Stadium. The 12th Man was on display Sunday after against the Seahawks.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano talked about how loud the fans were on Seattle’s final drive. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson ran for 22 yards on the first play of the drive, but that turned out to be final positive play for Seattle. On the Seahawks’ final offensive play of the game, Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman blitzed and leveled Wilson just as he released the ball. Defensive back Darius Butler was on the receiving end of Wilson’s pass, putting an end to any possible comeback for the Seahawks with 90 seconds left in the game.

“It was unbelievable,” Pagano said. “We found out, again, we’ve got a great 12th man. Our fans are the best in the National Football League and if they’ll do that week in and week out when we’re playing at home, it'll be deafening. I’ve never heard it, in my short time here, that loud. So, many thanks to our fans, they’re unbelievable.”

Colts' defense bottles up another foe

September, 29, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Don’t pay attention to the total yards the Indianapolis Colts gave up the Jacksonville Jaguars in their 37-3 victory on Sunday.

Giving up only 205 yards was impressive, but the number that you should pay attention to is the 67 yards the Colts gave up through three quarters when they were making sure they weren't going to get caught in the trap against Jacksonville.

The 138 yards the Colts gave up in the fourth quarter were garbage yards because the outcome had already been determined and the winless Jaguars were playing for their dignity at that point.

[+] EnlargeDarius Butler
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsDarius Butler returned an interception for a TD as part of a dominant day for the Colts' defense.
The Colts carried over what they did against San Francisco last weekend and brought that same dominating defense with them to Jacksonville.

“You can sense when blood is in the water,” Colts cornerback Vontae Davis said. “The first quarter they came out throwing their best shot at us, but we knew once we tasted blood we could jump on them quick. It got to the point where it seemed like they were ready for us to pack up our stuff and head back to Indy.”

It would be easy to wonder if the Colts' defense is for real because they played the Jaguars, who are just treading water these days. But that thought should quickly get erased because Indianapolis did the same thing to the 49ers.

The Colts have only given up 459 yards, 28 first downs and 10 points in the past two games. It’s time to look at the Colts as more than an offensive team.

Coach Chuck Pagano’s defensive mindset and coordinator Greg Manusky’s schemes have sunk in. It just took a little while for it to happen.

“We are going to stick to the process, keep coming back in here and preparing, staying the course and staying ready,” Pagano said. “We know who we are. … Again, to go on the road, after last week’s road trip, division game, and all those things.”

Having a stout defense eases the pressure on quarterback Andrew Luck and the rest of offense to put up a lot of points in order for them to win. The defense has shown that it’s good enough to win games on days the offense struggles.

“It’s awesome. It really is,” Luck said. “They do such a great job in practice all week, and to have them come out [like they did], it makes the offense’s job easier. Yeah, we’d love to score every play, but when you have a defense that’s playing like that, you realize it can be good team football.”

Indianapolis’ defense spent the week leading up to the game talking about containing running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who went into Sunday averaging 106.8 yards in 13 games against the Colts.

Jones-Drew was never a factor Sunday. The Colts bottled him up and held him to 23 yards on 13 carries.

That meant the Jaguars were forced to try to beat the Colts through the air with an unimpressive Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. And that played into the hands of Davis and fellow cornerback Greg Toler.

Davis set the tone defensively for the Colts by intercepting a Gabbert pass after dancing to get both feet in along the sideline on Jacksonville’s first offensive possession.

That just turned out to be the start of things for the opportunistic Colts defense. Davis tipped a Gabbert pass intended for Cecil Shorts and nickelback Darius Butler picked it off and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown.

The Colts intercepted Gabbert three times, sacked him four times and held the Jaguars to 2-of-11 on third down.

“We work real hard in practice, we push each other, the offense pushes us in practice, we hone in on our techniques and on Sunday it’s almost easier than it should be,” Butler said. “We’re just playing physical and we want to keep that mentality.”

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