Indianapolis Colts: Josh Chapman
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.
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)
- Khaled Holmes
- Hugh Thornton
- Jack Mewhort
- Anthony Castonzo
- Gosder Cherilus
- Donald Thomas
- Joe Reitz
- Lance Louis
- Xavier Nixon
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.
- Robert Mathis
- Erik Walden
- D'Qwell Jackson
- Jerrell Freeman
- Bjoern Werner
- Andrew Jackson
- Jonathan Newsome
- Daniel Adongo
- Henoc Muamba
- Josh McNary
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)
- Greg Toler
- Vontae Davis
- Darius Butler
- LaRon Landry
- Delano Howell
- Mike Adams
- Sergio Brown
- Josh Gordy
- Colt Anderson
- Loucheiz Purifoy
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.
This only changes if an injury occurs.
That’s what the Indianapolis Colts need out of their defense this season. They need more performances like they had against the Kansas City Chiefs in the regular season and less of the performances they had against St. Louis, Arizona and New England.
The Colts defense, which finished 20th in the league last season, continues to lag behind the offense. That has to change this season. The unit must close the gap between them and the offense.
We looked at the offensive starters Monday. Here’s a look at the projected defensive starters.
Cory Redding, Art Jones, Ricky Jean Francois
Comment: Jones and his likely backup at tackle, Josh Chapman, should help improve a defense up the middle that finished 26th in the league in stopping the run last season.
Bjoern Werner, Jerrell Freeman, D'Qwell Jackson, Erik Walden
Comment: Robert Mathis, the NFL’s sack leader last season, will eventually end up starting once he returns from his four-game suspension. Werner will have to hold down the position while Mathis is out.
Vontae Davis, Greg Toler
Comment: Davis and Toler have the potential to be a successful tandem at cornerback. But that’s only if Davis doesn’t have lapses like he had last season and Toler can remain healthy.
LaRon Landry, Mike Adams
Comment: Landry was a disappointment last season. He has to commit himself to being an all-around safety, not one more worried about making the big hit.
Here’s the Colts' Reading The Coverage for Friday ...
-- Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star writes that cornerback Greg Toler has something to prove after a hamstring injury limited him to only nine games last season. "I think I have something to prove," Toler said. "I want to be accountable. I think I have something to prove to myself. I'm my biggest critic. I know what I can do when I'm healthy. I just have to find a way to stay healthy for my (teammates). I feel like when I am healthy, my play speaks for itself."
-- Mike Chappell, also of the Indy Star, writes that quarterback Andrew Luck likes how he’s finally able to throw against the defense after spending the first month of the offseason workout program not having any defenders on the field.
-- Kevin Bowen of Colts.com has a story on Josh Chapman and Montori Hughes and their quest to give the Colts stability at defensive tackle in their 3-4 defense. Chapman was the Colts' fifth-round pick in 2012. Hughes was a fifth-round pick in 2013. "In a 3-4 defense, if you don't got a nose (tackle), you don't got a defense," defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said.
2012 DT Josh Chapman
Chapman was injured his rookie season. His best play happened to be one that was called wrong by the officials. Chapman tripped Cincinnati running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis on fourth-and-goal at the Colts' 1-yard line in game last December. The play was reviewed and referee Jeff Triplette reversed the call, giving the Bengals a touchdown.
2012 RB Vick Ballard
Ballard rushed for 814 yards as a rookie, but then had his second season cut short because of a torn ACL suffered during practice in Week 2 of the season. He'll compete with Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson for carries.
2003 LB Robert Mathis
Mathis was considered undersized when he came out of tiny Alabama A&M. He's gone to six straight Pro Bowls, is first in team history with 111 career sacks and he became the 3oth player in NFL history with at least 100 sacks. He's also forced a league-high 47 fumbles since 2003.
Well, sort of.
“I’m not going to pigeonhole by saying he’s an inside guy or an outside guy,” Pagano said. “He brings position flexibility to our front. He’s a sub-rusher on third down. He can give you inside push, he can beat guys one-on-one. He has sack numbers for an inside guy.”
Pagano was Jones’ defensive coordinator during his rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Jones went from having 20 tackles and zero sacks his rookie season to having 53 tackles and four sacks last season, and now he’ll try to be just as effective in Indianapolis.
“He’s really matured as a young man,” Pagano said. “He knows our scheme. Terminology won’t be an issue. It’ll be a seamless transition for us.”
Pagano’s goal is to have a defensive front that has players who can play multiple positions so that they can constantly rotate them in so in the fourth quarter they’ll still be relatively fresh. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who missed part of last season with a foot injury, can play on the end.
The Colts were abysmal at stopping the run last season, finishing 26th in the league in that category, and linebacker Robert Mathis had 19.5 of their 42 sacks.
“You can never have enough defensive linemen,” Pagano said. “We roll those guys all the time and try to keep them fresh. If you can play with six, seven guys in the defensive front by the time fourth quarter comes around and everybody is still fresh, it’s going to play to your advantage.”
The Colts currently have seven defensive linemen on the roster: Montori Hughes, Ricky Jean Francois, Arthur Jones, Fili Moala, Jeris Pendleton, Cory Redding, and Josh Chapman.
“He is an outstanding producer down after down versus the run and pass,” Grigson said. “He's a guy who plays at a championship level week after week and lays it on the line every time he steps out on the field. He is a great fit for our team.”
The Colts had to do something with their defense. While they had their moments last season, they lacked the consistency needed to make a deep run in the AFC playoffs. They were 20th in the league on defense and even worse when it came to stopping the run (26th).
Here's what former Colts GM Bill Polian said about Jones.
“A power player with great size, he proved difficult to move in the run game. He's well-suited to play end in a 3-4 or tackle in the an even front, but Jones should be taken off the field in clear throwing downs.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano is familiar with Jones. Pagano was the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator during Jones' rookie season in 2011.
Jones can play defensive end and defensive tackle. The Colts need help at defensive tackle after Aubrayo Franklin and Josh Chapman combined for only 44 tackles and no sacks last season. Jones finished with 53 tackles and four sacks last season.
The Colts continue to improve in the front seven, but they're in need of a new starting safety, as Antoine Bethea, who started every game he played in during his eight-year career with Indianapolis, signed with the 49ers Tuesday.
There’s no better place to start than at nose tackle.
Aubrayo Franklin is a free agent after starting there last season.
The Colts are still high on Josh Chapman, but that’s a position where you need multiple bodies.
A name to keep an eye on once free agency starts Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET is Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones. Colts coach Chuck Pagano is familiar with Jones from when he was defensive coordinator of the Ravens.
Jones had a career-high 53 tackles to go with four sacks last season. Franklin and Chapman combined for 44 tackles and zero sacks last season.
The Colts have the salary-cap space to pay Jones, who is only 27 years old.
“He has definitely put himself in a position that teams could definitely bid on him very high because if you put the tape on, they’re going to like him a lot,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters during the NFL scouting combine last month. “… It’s probably the one contract that he’ll have a chance to sign, a real big one. Guys that sign two big contracts, that’s very unusual. Three almost never happens, so you never feel bad about a guy getting an opportunity.”
Here’s a look at some other defensive tackles who will be on the market:
“No, no,” coach Chuck Pagano said when asked if he had a reaction to it. "We're still 8-5. And we've got the [Houston] Texans coming to town. And we won the division. So we got a lot of good things going on. Now we've got to catch the momentum, now we've got to catch fire. As Robert [Mathis] just said, we've got to 'strike the match' and catch fire and get the mojo going.”
The play was reviewed and referee Jeff Triplette reversed the call, giving the Bengals a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 74 seconds left in the first half.
"It wasn't a correct call," Dean Blandino, the NFL's head of officiating, said on the NFL Network's "Total Access" on Tuesday night. "We made a mistake here."
An apology now doesn't do anything for the Colts. It's still a touchdown and more importantly, it's still a loss for them.
“Awesome,” Mathis said. “Too little too late, but we're not crying over spilled milk. We lost the game. Move on. It's Houston.”
The Colts thought they had stuffed Bengals running BenJarvus Green-Ellis when defensive tackle Josh Chapman tripped him up on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
That's what the officials originally ruled at least.
But after reviewing the play, referee Jeff Triplette reversed the call and said Green-Ellis wasn't touched before crossing the goal line. The touchdown gave the Bengals a 14-0 lead at halftime, and they scored on their first possession of the third quarter to take a 21-0 lead.
"I just trust our guys and (Chapman's) reaction to the play was the runner fell down," Pagano said. "And we saw video, saw the jumbotron just like everybody else and his reaction. During the time (he was) saying, 'I made the play, I made the play.' I trust our guys and it is what is."
Chapman knows he tripped Green-Ellis up, but he also acknowledged that they wouldn't have been in that position if they played better defense.
"I look at it this way: the guy should have never been down there," Chapman said. "We should've handled our business from the beginning. But when they get in the red zone, our job is to keep them out of the red zone."
Triplette gave a vague explanation on the reversal of the call to a pool reporter after the game that said they "reviewed the video at the goal line, there was nobody touching him there, and then he bounced into the end zone."
An NFL spokesman told USA TODAY in an email that the reversal was a "judgment call."
"Jeff determined in the review that the runner was not down by contact," league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote the newspaper.
CINCINNATI -- A few thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 42-28 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
What it means: The game started to change for the Colts when Adam Vinatieri missed a 44-yard field goal following their best drive of the first half. It really changed for them in the final 74 seconds of the first half. Indianapolis thought it stopped the Bengals on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line when defensive tackle Josh Chapman appeared to trip running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The officials originally ruled that it was the Colts' ball. But they went to the review booth and Jeff Triplette reversed the call to put the Bengals up 14-0. Cincinnati received the ball at the start of the third quarter and drove down the field with ease to score again and go up 21-0. The Colts got to as close as 21-14 before the Bengals pulled away. The loss dropped the Colts to the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff standings.
Still no ground game: I know it's surprising, but quarterback Andrew Luck was the Colts' best rusher. He led Indianapolis with 32 yards on only two carries. Donald Brown and Trent Richardson combined to rush for 31 yards on 10 carries. The Colts finished with 63 yards, marking the fifth time in the past eight games that they failed to gain at least 100 yards in a game.
Play at receiver: Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who has been a disappointment this season, finally had his snaps reduced. Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill were happy to step up for him. Rogers caught his first touchdown pass of the season when he bounced off two Cincinnati defenders and scored on a 69-yard catch and run. Brazill topped Rogers on their next possession when he shook off six -- yes, six -- Bengals defenders on a 19-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Brazill and Rogers both added a second touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Rogers had a drop on third down that would have been a first down when the Colts were trying to get back in the game in the fourth quarter. Rogers had six catches for 107 yards. Brazill added three catches for 53 yards. And for those wondering about Heyward-Bey, he had two catches for 23 yards and a dropped pass that would have given the Colts a first down.
What's next: The Colts return to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Houston Texans, who fired coach Gary Kubiak last week, on Dec. 15.
“Oh yeah, I’m always game-ready,” Richardson said. “Took precaution on it and coach (Chuck Pagano) is going to make the best decision. You see me out there running around and you see me moving like I used to move. You know I’m ready.”
The goal -- other than having him find his rhythm rushing the ball -- is to find ways to get Richardson, who is only averaging 3.0 yards a carry in six games with the Colts, involved in the passing game. He had a 24-yard reception in the Nov. 3 game at Houston.
"I just have to find ways to creatively get the ball to Trent," offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. "A lot of different ways, not just out in space, but do a better job with run schemes that feature his instincts. But he’s gotten better each week, and we expect that he’ll continue to make big plays for us.”
Offensive guard Hugh Thornton also practiced Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday with a calf problem. He's listed as questionable.
Pagano said defensive tackle Josh Chapman (knee), cornerbacks Josh Gordy (groin) and Greg Toler (groin), and safety Delano Howell (neck) will miss Sunday’s game.
“In between series, I would pass over the pictures and ask his opinion,” Hamilton said. “And, of course, during the series he had a job. His job was to watch their slot coverage and give myself and [quarterback] Andrew [Luck] feedback.”
Wayne’s season – his 13th – ended when he tore his ACL in the fourth quarter of their victory over Denver on Oct. 20.
Sunday was the first time Wayne had been around his teammates since he had his surgery. The plan is for him to be around the team and take part in meetings as much as possible during his rehabilitation. Coach Chuck Pagano said last week that they anticipate Wayne to be ready for the start of the 2014 season.
“Reggie, he loves this game,” Hamilton said. “He loves the horseshoe and it’s awesome that he’ll still be around even under the circumstances.”
Here’s Thursday’s injury report:
Running back Trent Richardson (ankle) missed his second straight practice. Guard Hugh Thornton (calf), cornerback Greg Toler (groin), safety Delano Howell (neck), cornerback Josh Gordy (groin) and defensive tackle Josh Chapman (knee) also did not practice.
Linebacker Robert Mathis (shoulder) did return practice after sitting out Wednesday.
Starting linebacker Robert Mathis (shoulder), running back Trent Richardson (ankle), guard Hugh Thornton (calf) and cornerback Greg Toler (groin) did not practice. Thornton was wearing a walking boot at practice. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Toler, who missed last Sunday’s game at Houston, is questionable for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams.
Defensive tackle Josh Chapman (knee), cornerback Josh Gordy (groin) and safety Delano Howell (neck) also missed the game against the Texans and didn’t practice Wednesday.
Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (shoulder) and linebacker Cam Johnson (knee) both were full participants in practice.