NFL Nation: Justin Tryon

INDIANAPOLIS -- These cornerbacks are playing mostly man to man. The corners on the 2010 Colts played almost exclusively zone.

As I talked to Cassius Vaughn and Vontae Davis Sunday evening in the Indianapolis locker room, I found myself thinking about guys who saw a lot of action at corner for the franchise’s last playoff team -- Justin Tryon and Jacob Lacey.

Vaughn and Darius Butler are like those guys. The team didn't know what it could expect from them. Their roles have expanded because of injuries. They seem to be getting better.

[+] EnlargeCassius Vaughn
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonCassius Vaughn returned a Jake Locker interception three yards for a Colts score.
The coaches have changed, the GMs have changed, many of the players have changed -- yet again the Colts have this plug-and-play feel at cornerback.

Titans quarterback Jake Locker played a role in it for sure, but Vaughn had a giant interception for a touchdown and Butler got Andrew Luck the ball back with another. Davis might have had an end-zone pick but interim coach Bruce Arians said he lost the ball in the lights.

As the starters Sunday, Vaughn and Davis did a lot of good work near the line of scrimmage and in run support, too.

In the second quarter on back-to-back plays, Vaughn tackled Chris Johnson on a short pass to the right for no gain and Davis cut down tight end Jared Cook on the other side for a 1-yard loss on a screen.

“In this league, you have to be a complete corner,” Davis said. “You have big running backs. When the ball gets out to the edges, the only players there to make the tackles there are the corners.”

The Colts may have gotten away with some pass interference, but Pete Morelli and his crew were letting them play in the secondary on both sides. Indy gave up a couple of 46-yard passes to Kenny Britt that Arians said were more about great throws and catches than poor coverages.

In the big picture, the defensive backs did more than enough to contribute to a win.

Vaughn would likely be the nickel at best if Jerraud Powers wasn't on injured reserve.

Davis looks as healthy as he’s been since Colts GM Ryan Grigson dealt a second-rounder to Miami for the veteran corner to solidify the secondary.

We’ll need time to see if that was a good deal or not. This week, it looked good.

“I think Vontae is coming on like gangbusters,” Arians said.

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 24, Giants 17

September, 5, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' season-opening 24-17 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: That the Cowboys intend to be a factor in the NFC East race this year. They needed this game much more than the Giants did, if for no other reason than to let the Giants and the rest of the world know they don't plan to be the same kind of big-game pushover they were last year. Given their history, it's safe to assume the Giants will recover fine from this, address their issues and remain in the race all year long. But of the three teams expected to compete for the NFC East title this year, the Cowboys are the one that came into the season with the most questions. They get 11 days off now before their next game to feel very good about their initial answer to those questions.

He's No. 3: I don't expect to get quite as many panicked questions from Cowboys fans this week about whether their team will or should sign a veteran wide receiver such as Plaxico Burress or Chad Johnson. The Cowboys believed they had enough depth at receiver, and Kevin Ogletree followed up a strong preseason with the game of his life. Ogletree caught eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns, including a 40-yarder on which he got behind the Giants' best cornerback, Corey Webster, and burned him for the score. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo seemed to seek out Ogletree pretty consistently on third down, and Ogletree responded by showing an ability to get open, catch the ball and move the chains. His biggest catch may have been a third-and-12 that converted a first down just before the two-minute warning and prevented the Giants from getting the ball back with time to tie the game. Remember, as you ponder whether or not to add Ogletree in your fantasy league this morning, that the guy who played that position last year put up some pretty big numbers.

Secondary issues: With Terrell Thomas out for the year with a knee injury and Prince Amukamara out for the game with a sprained ankle, the Giants were forced to start Michael Coe at cornerback opposite Webster and put rookie Jayron Hosley on the slot receiver. Webster played Dez Bryant most of the night (I still don't know why he was on Ogletree on the one play), and Coe played Ogletree or Miles Austin, whichever lined up outside. Coe played pretty well, but he hurt his hamstring in the third quarter, and the Giants were forced to go to fourth option Justin Tryon, who got beaten badly by Austin on the fourth-quarter touchdown catch that sealed Dallas' victory. By contrast, the Cowboys' revamped secondary with Brandon Carr and rookie Morris Claiborne at corner and Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh at safety, covered very well all night. They were even able to get a handful of sacks when they blitzed, which was something they couldn't do against Eli Manning and the Giants last year because they couldn't trust their coverage to stay sound long enough to get to the quarterback. Claiborne looks like he needs work, as you'd expect, especially in run support. But for this night at least, the Cowboys' plan to fix their defense from the back end forward appeared to succeed.

Wobbly champs: Part of the issue Manning and the Giants had on offense was the inability of their receivers to get separation. That speaks to the Cowboys' coverage, of course, but also to a relative lack of options in the passing game. Manning did find Domenik Hixon in coverage for a long gain one time, but it took a spectacular grab by Hixon (and a whiff in coverage by Carr) to complete that one. And none of the Giants' third wide receiver options looked anywhere near as reliable as Ogletree looked for Dallas. Manning targeted Victor Cruz the most by far, and Hakeem Nicks the second-most, and he looked the way of Hixon and tight end Martellus Bennett a fair bit, and Bennett made a nice catch for a late touchdown. But Manning was just a bit off with some of his throws, and overall the Giants' passing game appeared rusty. One has to believe that will turn out to be the least of their problems.

Leaky lines: Both offensive lines looked awful. The Cowboys' guards couldn't hold off the interior pass rush of the Giants, and the tackles couldn't stop committing false starts. Tyron Smith had an especially tough first game at left tackle. The Giants, who ranked last in the league in rush yards last year, couldn't open holes for running back Ahmad Bradshaw (or David Wilson, who got some early carries before fumbling and getting benched) and were unable to sustain drives as a result. The offensive lines still figure to be the biggest areas of concern for both of these teams going forward (assuming the Giants can get their secondary healthy), and it's doubtful either offense will be able to function at its best from week to week if they can't get some of the issues fixed.

Individual stars: DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee, DeMarco Murray and of course Romo all had standout performances for the Cowboys (though I have no idea why Murray turned inside on his long sideline run when it appeared he'd have a touchdown if he kept running straight). Austin and Bryant each made important catches at big times. For the Giants, defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard each had a sack, and Jason Pierre-Paul was nearly impossible to stop all night. Keith Rivers also was a factor early at linebacker before an injury forced him from the game. Both punters were excellent, and you know how much we love punters on the NFC East blog.

What's next: Dallas will play the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday, Sept. 16, and they'll hope that this long break between games will be enough to get nose tackle Jay Ratliff and cornerback Mike Jenkins healthy and get their offensive lineman to stop false-starting on every other play. The Giants will be back home that same day to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They'll hope that Amukamara and/or Coe can get healthy by then and they'll have more in the secondary than they did Wednesday night.

Observation deck: Bears-Giants

August, 25, 2012

As great as the New York Giants' starters looked, on both sides of the ball, in Friday's 20-17 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears, the news of the night was injury news. Cornerback Prince Amukamara, who was already having a rough week after a video of him being dunked into a cold tub made it onto YouTube, suffered a high ankle sprain and had to leave the game. It's unclear how much time Amukamara will miss, but high ankle sprains can take several weeks to heal, so his availability for the regular-season opener 11 days from now has to be called into question.

With Terrell Thomas still recovering from his knee injury, that leaves a big hole at starting cornerback opposite Corey Webster. Rookie Jayron Hosley has looked very good, but he's out with turf toe. He's hoping to play in next week's preseason finale, and he was already getting a long look as the nickel corner. Either Hosley, Michael Coe, Bruce Johnson or Justin Tyron would be in line to fill in for Amukamara if he has to miss a lot of time.

The good news is that this is much better than last year, when Thomas blew out his knee in a preseason game and had to miss the season. The bad news is that, whatever you may have thought of Aaron Ross, there's no one that established among the replacements on this year's roster. The Giants let Ross leave via free agency because they believed they'd get Thomas and Amukamara back healthy. So they kind of need to hurry back.

That's the bad part of what happened Friday night. As I mentioned, though, most of the night was very good for the Giants. Here's what else I saw:
  • Rookie running back David Wilson got the start and looked very impressive, running for 49 yards on five carries and gaining 26 more yards on two receptions. Wilson showed a good burst, good speed and an ability to keep running after first contact. They used him on a variety of plays, as if they were trying some sort of running back sampler platter to see how much he could handle. He looked especially good on that one where he took the handoff, faked left and ran around to the right with the defense fooled. And when the play wasn't designed for him, I thought he did a good job staying in the backfield and making sure he didn't have a blitzer to pick up before heading out into the flat where Eli Manning found him. Still didn't see much to indicate how he did picking up blitzers when they did come, and Wilson's playing time will be tied at least in part to his blocking ability in the passing game. But he's clearly got playmaking ability, and the Giants should be able to find spots in which to use him.
  • Ramses Barden was the star of the wide receiver corps with three catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. His catches were tough ones, too. Barden's size gives him something that Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon don't offer in the receiving game. And if Barden is impressing the coaches as much in practice as he did in the game, you start to wonder about Jernigan's roster spot. Especially since David Douglas looked good returning punts.
  • The false start call on Manning for his hand-fake in the shotgun caught me off guard, but my Twitter followers alerted me to the fact that that's a point of officiating emphasis this year. Quarterbacks aren't going to be allowed to make those exaggerated gestures with their hands and legs to try and draw defenses offsides. They got David Carr for the same thing in the fourth quarter. Will be interesting to watch, league-wide.
  • Pick a defensive star. Mathias Kiwanuka has been playing great, and he says the groin injury that knocked him out of the game won't prevent him from playing Sept. 5. Keith Rivers may still be a backup linebacker, but the way he's playing sideline-to-sideline, he's making it less important that Michael Boley hurry back from his hamstring injury. Linval Joseph continues to be a beast at defensive tackle. Adewale Ojomo had a sack. As good as Manning and the first-team offense looked, the Giants' defense played very well in this game and looks to be ready for the season, other than that healthy-cornerback problem.
  • Safety Kenny Phillips deserves a separate mention for his work in run support. He was in the backfield for a tackle on the first play and was in there a little bit later with Osi Umenyiora to make a stop on Matt Forte. Phillips had one shaky moment when he failed to come over to help after Brandon Marshall smoked Amukamara replacement Bruce Johnson for a touchdown, but it's clear he's a huge all-around asset for the defense who doesn't get talked about very much.
  • Da'Rel Scott is the forgotten man in that backup running back derby, but he blocked a punt and had a nice 15-yard run. He's speedy.
  • I also noticed linebacker Greg Jones twice -- when he scooped up the punt Scott blocked, and when he made a good open-field tackle in the third quarter. The Giants' depth at linebacker is very impressive now.
  • I might take Victor Cruz pretty high in those fantasy leagues that award a point per reception.
  • And finally not a Giants note, but I've watched him two weeks in a row now and I'd take Brandon Marshall in any league.
The news out of New York Giants training camp in Albany on Monday was not good. The team announced that cornerback Terrell Thomas, who is attempting to come back from a second tear of the ACL in his right knee, has suffered another injury to that ligament. They have not announced that it is torn again -- only that he'll have arthroscopic surgery to determine the extent of the injury. But should they go in there with the scope and find that it's torn again, Thomas will have to miss the 2012 season and possibly worry about the remainder of his career.

"Terrell re-injured his ACL," Giants senior vice president of medical services Ronnie Barnes said in a statement released by the team. "At this point, he will most likely undergo an arthroscopic procedure to determine the extent of the injury to the ACL. However, no decision has been made at this point. Terrell is going to consult with Dr. (Arthur) Ting, who performed an allograft reconstruction of the ACL in September."

The first and most important thing to note about this is that it would be awful news for Thomas personally. The main reason players generally don't come back from a second torn ACL is that most of them aren't able to get through the grueling, one-year rehab for a second time. Thomas did that and went to training camp determined to reclaim his status as a Giants starter and an emerging star cornerback. If he's torn it again, he'll be devastated, and the prospect of a third rehab just for a chance at a comeback will appear staggeringly difficult. No matter who your favorite team is, if you're human, you have to hurt for a guy in this situation. The game is just very cruel.

As for the impact on the team, the Giants are actually fairly well positioned to handle the loss of Thomas again. It's not ideal, certainly, and one of the main reasons they so easily parted company with free-agent Aaron Ross (who started in Thomas' place last season) was because of their belief that Thomas would come back healthy. But they always knew there was a chance he wouldn't, and 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara waits in the wings as the most likely replacement. The Giants also drafted cornerback Jayron Hosley in the third round of April's draft, and have depth on the roster in the form of guys like Michael Coe, Justin Tryon and Antwaun Molden.

There's also the chance that they could bring back veteran safety Deon Grant, who re-signed during training camp last season once injuries began to deplete the secondary. After Grant signed last year, they were able to use safety Antrel Rolle as their nickel cornerback with Grant and Kenny Phillips at safety. So keep an eye on that possibility.

As for money, the only guaranteed money in Thomas' new contract, per Mike Garafolo, is his $1 million signing bonus. The contract was structured in such a way as to protect the Giants financially in case Thomas got injured again.

Obviously, their preference would be for the news to come back better than expected so they could pay him the full amount of his contract to start and play for them. But right now, it doesn't sound good.

Steady Bethea surrounded by questions

October, 20, 2011
Antoine Bethea is surrounded by nobodies.

Jerraud Powers is a good corner who’s going to be a factor for a while, but he’s got a bad hamstring.

Everyone else in the Indianapolis Colts’ secondary is hardly noteworthy.

Yet Bethea is playing as effectively as a free safety in such circumstances can, a true pro who won’t allow his game to be influenced by such circumstances.

Quarterbacks are completing 69.9 percent of their passes against Indianapolis. They have a 104.0 passer rating and a 70 QBR (out of 100), the 31st worst number in the league.

I’m not sure what Indianapolis’ plan for the secondary was this season. When they let cornerback Kelvin Hayden go because he cost too much, one had to believe the Colts felt confident in the alternatives. Then Justin Tryon, who was an effective player last season, fell out of favor and wound up getting cut. The No. 2 corner, Jacob Lacey, is no longer a full-timer in the base defense with Terrence Johnson getting some time in the spot.

The Colts are playing David Caldwell at strong safety in the base defense and Joe Lefeged in the spot in the nickel.

Corner Chris Rucker is also seeing some action.

“As a veteran back there, I see myself as the glue,” Bethea said. “One of my roles is to get everybody lined up and confident. As a safety, that’s my job.”

Bethea said he likes the way the Colts are deploying their other safeties, using Caldwell (“He lays the boom”) against the run and Lefeged (“He plays the ball well”) in passing situations. In time each may be well-rounded enough to be a full-timer, but for right now splitting the job between them is a smart approach.

Bethea is backing his guys, but neither has been great since Melvin Bullitt was lost for the year with a shoulder injury.

Bethea said the young corners need to play technique, show improvement week by week and be sure not to repeat the same mistakes.

The Tryon situation was business, and players can’t spend time questioning a front office decision. Bethea is great at focusing on his stuff and his guys. He said that although 0-5 is a miserable place, no matter where the team goes moving forward we will not see the sort of fissures that often open on struggling teams.

As for being surrounded by unproven guys ...

“You can’t let other people affect how you play,” Bethea said matter-of-factly. “How you play is how you play, how you study is how you study. If my play goes down because there are different players around me, it says guys can’t look up to me. They need to see 41 flying around, playing hard, making plays.”

Jim Caldwell defends his power

September, 29, 2011
Say what you might about outgoing Colts DB Justin Tryon’s exit strategy. He did what no reporter or player has done in my time covering the team:

He got coach Jim Caldwell fired up enough to defend himself and make an assertion about who sets the team’s lineup at a time when there seems to be fuel for the idea that there is some confusion over control.

Tryon said on Twitter that Caldwell wanted him starting, but was overruled.

Responded Caldwell, via Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star:
“Well, probably without being boastful or seeming as if that I’m reacting to that particular statement, but I can just tell you that if I wanted him to start, he would have started. If I wanted him to be here, he’d still be here, plain and simple. I’m not going to carry on a back-and-forth, you know, because the young man did a good job for us while he was here and I hope he’s able to land with someone else.”

As for why Tryon would say it, Caldwell said: “I cannot go into the minds of other individuals and tell you that. I know one thing, and I think some of you could probably attest to, I’m pretty direct and I usually don’t have very many people that misunderstand me.”

I didn’t hear the tone, but that’s reads as a pretty strong reaction as Caldwell goes. Earlier in the day, Jim Irsay went to Twitter again to express a similar sentiment.
“There is no chaos/disarray,thinking that is a delusion maker,nothing but unity n believe,that u could c sunday nite,fighting thru adversity”

And when I talked to rookie left tackle Anthony Castonzo, he said the message from Caldwell remained the same.

“The message has been the same,” he said. “He lets us know that our job is to win and that’s what we are expected to do. He’s been keeping us together kind of highlighting the progress we’ve made each week and saying we’re just one or two plays away from that W…”

“It’s a job, we have to do what we are paid to do.”

The one thing we are still missing? An explanation of how Tryon fell so far so fast in the eyes of Caldwell and whoever joined the decision to let him go.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- Some quick, initial impressions from the first practice of Colts training camp I watched…
  • Joe Reitz, who’s listed as a tackle, continues to work at left guard ahead of Jacques McClendon. He lined up with left tackle Jeff Linkenbach, center Jeff Saturday, right guard Mike Pollak and right tackle Ryan Diem to form the starting O-line.
  • Justin Tryon ranks as the third corner right now, but count me among those who think he could wind up second. I watched him encourage and advise undrafted rookie Terrence Johnson during one-on-ones about being patient working against receiver Taj Smith. Good stuff.
  • “Saturday,” a fan screamed and the center raised his fist before the rest of the line was delivered. “Thank you for the season.” He should hear that a lot based on his giant role in the CBA negotiations.
  • It can't be a fun job to be the guy who holds up a three-ring pack of laminated sheets with the right package or play name on it to the camera before each play. But the coaches need to have some stuff labeled as “Alcatraz” of “Queso” when they review and look for landmarks of the sets.
  • With Dwight Freeney out for the morning, the first-unit defensive line was, left to right, Jamaal Anderson, Fili Moala, Antonio Johnson and Robert Mathis.
  • Special teams worked on punting out of the back of the end zone and the block team did well to get to one off of Pat McAfee’s foot. Special-teams coach Ray Rychleski didn’t care for close-but-no-cigar on another snap. Well, not even close, apparently. “Don’t go near the guy,"' he barked at one rusher. “You’re not even close. Block it or don’t go near him.” The broader point: Roughing the punter penalties kill.
  • Watched some one-on-one pass rush and saw Tommie Harris win snaps against McClendon and Reitz. Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana looked good to me. Drake Nevis and Jerry Hughes didn’t have a great period from what I could tell.
  • Linebacker Ernie Sims is out two weeks after an appendectomy, according to Jim Caldwell.
We don’t know if the Colts made any sort of inquiries about another safety to pair with Antoine Bethea.

But as two top guys, Quintin Mikell and Eric Weddle, disappeared from the market, Indianapolis locked up its own guy before he started getting more attention from teams still in need.

Melvin Bullitt has struck a new deal with Indianapolis, according to 1070 the Fan, and he returns as a starter instead of a guy capable of taking over for Bob Sanders when he gets hurt. (Sanders was released after the 2010 season and signed with San Diego.)

Bullitt is a smart, steady player who fits the Colts mold. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2007, he made the most of an opportunity. But he was part of the injury parade last season, missing the final 12 games of the regular season with a shoulder injury.

While they likely attempt to trim the hefty salary of cornerback Kelvin Hayden, I think he will remain.

That would give the Colts a starting secondary of Bethea and Bullitt between Hayden and Jerraud Powers, with Justin Tryon and Jacob Laceyas situational cornerbacks. That’s a strong group and might also include sixth-round pick Chris Rucker.

Bullitt is slated to join The Ride with JMV shortly. You can listen here. I will come back into this post to add some highlights from the interview.


Bullitt said he heard from the Rams, the Cardinals, the Texans and a couple other teams.

Some quotes...

On deserving the deal:

"I feel like I've done enough for this team, the organization to show my worth and to show that I want to be here. There have never been any problems out of me. I am going to go out there and produce and try to help the team win."

On his health:

"I'll be ready for the first preseason game. I'm ready now. I told you before if there were different rules I could have played in January."

On Eric Weddle's five-year, $40 million contract with San Diego, with $19 million guaranteed:

"If that's what they want to do, that's up to them. Congratulations to him. If you look at my stats and Eric Weddle's stats, I haven't started nearly as many games and have the same amount of turnovers and have just as many tackles as him without the amount of starts he's had in the regular season. ...I don't understand how you can pay him more than Antonie [Bethea's] paid or even more than Bob [Sanders] was paid when he was defensive player of the year. But if that's what San Diego believes. Eric Weddle's a good player, he's a great player, actually. But that's just the way it is."
INDIANAPOLIS -- A year ago when these two teams played in the AFC Championship Game, the Colts trailed 17-6 early and 17-13 at the half.

They made killer halftime adjustments and ran away after halftime, 30-17.

This time around, while the Jets defense has played well through 30 minutes with one notable exception, the offense has not found a big enough play. Mark Sanchez handed away a field-goal chance at the end of the half with a bad interception to Justin Tryon.

And so the Colts are ahead 7-0 at the half.

If they win the adjustment battle again, they’re going to be in good shape at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Sanchez has been off on his two best chances -- Santonio Holmes beat Cornelius Brown off the line but Sanchez waited too long and then overthrew him in the first quarter. On a rollout right in the second quarter Dustin Keller was open by a bit up the right side and he overthrew there.

They strung together a nice long drive at the end with 13 plays and a penalty, and got nothing to show for it.

If the Colts can manage to only give up the likes of 24- and 15-yard passes up the middle to Holmes and Braylon Edwards in front of people, they’ve got to like their chances.

It’s only a one-score lead, obviously.

But it’s the Jets turn to make the big adjustments.

Colts regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 10
Preseason Power Ranking: 1

AP Photo/AJ MastJacob Tamme stepped in for an injured Dallas Clark and caught 67 passes in 10 games.
Biggest surprise: Substitutes called into action because of injuries played very well. Jacob Tamme is not the player Dallas Clark is. But once Clark was done with a wrist injury, Tamme was a consistently productive piece of the offense. He was better than plenty of No. 1 tight ends in the league in terms of his work as a receiver. Justin Tryon was a find, rookie linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner are good players, Aaron Francisco was better than serviceable, Blair White was a contributor, and Dominic Rhodes was a smart late add. When all those guys and a lot more who were slated to be spot starters are in the mix, you’re not supposed to win your division.

Biggest disappointment: The injuries. The Colts finished the season with 17 players on injured reserve. They started 14 different players on offense and 19 on defense. By my count, 14 key players missed at least two games. The guys on that list -- Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt, Clark, Austin Collie, Brody Eldridge, Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, Kelvin Hayden, Antonio Johnson, Jacob Lacey, Daniel Muir, Jerraud Powers, Bob Sanders and Clint Session -- sat out 44.2 percent of games they could have played. Sure, every team deals with issues, but these were extreme and few teams could have survived them and made the playoffs.

Biggest need: The offensive line. Team president Bill Polian admitted he underestimated Rodger Saffold in the draft and the St. Louis Rams left tackle could have been a nice piece for Indianapolis. The Colts made do, again, and the group they’ve gone with in recent weeks has shown marked improvement and has been getting very nice push in the run game. Still, Peyton Manning needs more time and a more reliable run game from Day 1. The Colts must invest in upgrading the offensive line through the draft, free agency or both.

Team MVP: Manning. He had a poor stretch during a losing streak. But the Colts needed him to throw, and he set a new league record for pass completions with 450 while helping turn some less-than-ideal targets into viable options.

Decisions loom: The Colts generally hang on to their people, but as they evaluate the injury issue and try to move forward, it may be time to conclude they can’t depend on guys such as Sanders and Gonzalez. You can’t blame a player for getting hurt and you can’t forecast bad luck. But you can get a sense of who may be more likely to get hurt than the average guy. How do you plan when you have little reasonable expectation of getting a long-term contribution from a player? They spent a third-round pick on USC corner Kevin Thomas, who had an injury history. He immediately got hurt and was not available at all his rookie year.

Greetings from Lucas Oil Stadium

December, 19, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- Greetings from Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s cold out, and the roof is closed as you’d expect.

The Colts are holding Kelvin Hayden (neck) out, which means Justin Tryon at left cornerback. Kavell Conner will be at weakside linebacker for the injured Clint Session and Donald Brown starts for Joseph Addai.

Austin Collie (concussion) is active and could be a huge piece to this game. Jerry Hughes is healthy but inactive.

The Jaguars are healthier, but without two starters on defense. Linebacker Justin Durant will be replaced by Russell Allen, but Allen won’t be part of the nickel package we will see a bunch that brings William Middleton on the field. Safety Sean Considine fills in again for Courtney Greene, and the Jaguars endure a drop-off there in sure tackling.

I tweeted this picture of the view from my seat. But don’t worry, I have binoculars.

The complete inactive lists:

Jaguars: QB Todd Bouman, WR John Matthews, WR Tiquan Underwood, Greene, Durant, OT Daniel Baldridge, DE Aaron Morgan, DT Nate Collins.

Colts: Hayden, Addai, RB Mike Hart, Session, G Jamey Richard, G Jacques McClendon, G Jaimie Thomas, Hughes.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Donald Brown starts at running back for the Colts tonight with Joseph Addai and Mike Hart both out, though we’re sure to see some Javarris James and maybe Dominic Rhodes in the first game of his third stint with the franchise.

The Colts have three other subs, who are not surprises: Kavell Conner starts for Clint Session at weakside linebacker, Jacob Lacey starts at left corner for Kelvin Hayden and Justin Tryon starts at left corner for Jerraud Powers, who went on IR this week.

For the Titans Dave Ball (concussion/ hip) is inactive and will be replaced at right end by Jacob Ford.

The whole list of inactives:

Titans: QB Rusty Smith, S Robert Johnson, T Troy Kropog, CB Ryan Mouton, LB David Thornton, DT Sen’Derrick Marks.

Colts: WR Austin Collie, CB Kelvin Hayden, RB Joseph Addai, RB Mike Hart, LB Clint Session, OG Jacques McClendon, DT Ricardo Mathews.

Five things to watch: Colts at Titans

December, 9, 2010
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Barring a scoreless overtime, the Colts' appearance at LP Field guarantees that one AFC South team will end a losing streak Thursday night.

As they brace for the first of two head-to-head matchups in the final month of the season, the Colts (6-6) and Titans (5-7) have combined to lose eight straight.

Somebody gets to leave the stadium tonight feeling a lot better. Here are five questions to consider before we see who that is.

1. Will Peyton Manning break out of his funk? He has 11 interceptions in his past three games. But the Titans have only three interceptions during their five consecutive losses. Look for corner Cortland Finnegan to draw the difficult Reggie Wayne assignment, but to have plenty of help as the Titans show themselves more willing to take chances with Pierre Garcon, Jacob Tamme and especially Blair White.

Rookie Alterraun Verner is the second starting corner and will face Manning for the first time, and second-year man Jason McCourty will work in the nickel. McCourty started last season in a loss to the Colts when the Titans gave up 309 passing yards and three passing touchdowns to Manning with only one pick.

Tennessee has been getting crushed in time of possession -- it hasn’t held the ball for 21 minutes in its past two losses. Manning will be content to take what’s given and string together long drives if he can.

2. Who’s playing in the Colts' secondary? The Colts' starting cornerbacks are out -- Jerraud Powers is finished for the season after surgery to repair a broken forearm and Kelvin Hayden is not recovered from a neck injury. That means Jacob Lacey and Justin Tryon are in line to work as the top two corners with rookie Cornelius Brown as the nickel.

The Titans have hardly been slinging it. They haven’t scored an offensive touchdown since Nov. 21. But Kerry Collins will have receiver Kenny Britt back after a four-game layoff with a hamstring injury and surely Tennessee will finally throw a jump ball to Randy Moss, right?

A drop-off at corner can mean extra strain on safeties Antoine Bethea and Aaron Francisco. Unless, of course, defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are regularly able to hurry Collins and shorten the clock for all the guys in coverage.

3. How many catches will Tamme have? While the tight end has been productive, he’s not Dallas Clark. But the Titans' defense has given up significant yardage to tight ends far less talented than Clark this season.

I don’t know that anything has changed for the Titans' linebackers, who are most responsible for those issues, and I look for the Colts to be primed to attack the soft underbelly of the Tennessee defense until Stephen Tulloch or Will Witherspoon or Gerald McRath prove things are any different.

Heck, watch the banged-up Brody Eldridge make a couple of key catches.

4. How much will Indy even try to run it? The Colts would like to show some semblance of balance and some effective runs would help keep the play-action believable -- though everyone seems to bite on it even when they can’t run. It will be interesting to see how coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen deploy Donald Brown, Javarris James and Dominic Rhodes.

“They won’t run on us if we play Titans’ defense, to tell you the truth,” defensive tackle Jovan Haye said. “If we have somewhat of a repeat performance from Sunday, then they will. They utilize it in their offense, but they’re not a big run team. If we play like we did [surrendering 258 rushing yards in the loss to Jacksonville], they’ll run the ball.”

5. Can Chris Johnson get something going? He wants more carries and the Titans are desperate to get him going to help elongate drives, keep the defense off the field and alter the time of possession trend. But last year the Colts didn’t allow him a carry longer than 11 yards in two games while holding him to a 4.1-yard average.

Titans fullback Ahmard Hall said tackle Fili Moala, in his first year starting, and rookie linebacker Pat Angerer have been very effective run-stopping pieces on top of what the Colts had previously.

The Titans need to show a willingness to throw deep to Britt and Moss to keep the Colts honest and buy a bit of extra space and time for Johnson.

“He is an outstanding back with outstanding numbers,” Caldwell said. “I think what happens just like anything else, people get spoiled. He is a talented guy and I think he has been performing well. We have to get ready to handle him because he is a heck of a back.”

Powers' return from surgery unlikely

December, 7, 2010
With Jerraud Powers recovering from arm surgery and Kelvin Hayden still on the mend after suffering a neck injury two games ago, the Indianapolis Colts could be without both starting cornerbacks Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans.

And Tennessee is expected to have Kenny Britt back after a four-game layoff due to a hamstring injury.

If Kerry Collins can crank up a big effort and the Titans' line can buy him some time, he could have some opportunities downfield with Britt, Randy Moss and anyone else going against reserves Jacob Lacey, Justin Tryon and Cornelius Brown.

ESPN’s injury expert Stephania Bell doesn’t know more about the injury than I told her, but she said she’d expect a recovery time of about six weeks.

“But bone still continues to go through a remodeling process, [he] still needs to get comfortable using [his] forearm and risk for re-injury with contact, etc.,” she said. “Six weeks from today puts us at 1/18 so...”

She used Panthers receiver Steve Smith for a comparison.

He had a forearm radius fracture in Dec. 2009. In June, he re-fractured it playing flag football -- that’s “not necessarily uncommon; sometimes fractures happen near plate/bone interface,” she said. Smith had a second surgery around June 21, returned to practice for the first time on Aug. 14 and has been healthy since.

Colts at Patriots inactives

November, 21, 2010

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are the scratches for Sunday's game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium:

Indianapolis Colts

New England Patriots