Finally, Colts defense is regaining its health
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Ted Monachino could be excused for not recognizing many of the faces working with the Indianapolis Colts defense this week.
They are the ones he expected to have all along, but have been in and out of the lineup – or sidelined altogether – as the team has gotten off to its third consecutive 0-2 start.
Monachino’s season of adjustment continues as he prepares for Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Now, he must adjust to the possibility of getting some of his front-line players back in the lineup.
“Always good to see some healthy bodies return,’’ he said Thursday. “Hopefully that trend continues.’’
Monachino is in his first year as a coordinator, and finds himself directing a unit that ranks near the bottom in virtually every meaningful statistical category: 32nd in points allowed (36.5 points per game), 30th in total yards (424), 29th in yards per play (6.6) and rushing (125), 25th in passing (299) and 31st in first downs (a total of 52).
The defense failed to hold a 35-34 lead with 37 seconds to play in the opener against Detroit, and took bend-but-don’t-break to the extreme in last Sunday’s loss at Denver. Despite yielding 400 total yards and 24 first downs, it held the Broncos to one touchdown and four field goals.
“This is a production business and we all understand that,’’ Monachino said. “Although there were some improvements and some things that we got a lot better at during the course of the (Denver) game . . . there are no moral victories and we don’t feel any better this week than we did a week ago.’’
Yet the Colts apparently are feeling better. They’re regaining their health, and soon the makeup of their defense might actually approach what everyone anticipated in August.
- Cornerback Vontae Davis has seen limited work in practice the past two days and has a chance of playing Sunday. He suffered a medial sprain to his right ankle Aug. 18 and was in a cast for a couple of weeks.
“I’ve done some cutting,’’ he said, “but it’s more about getting in front of receivers and checking receivers.’’
- Cornerback Patrick Robinson shed his red non-contact jersey Thursday, a sign he’s suffered no setback while moving through the NFL’s concussion protocol.
- Defensive end Henry Anderson was a full participant for a third straight practice and might see his first action since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Nov. 8.
- Safeties Clayton Geathers (foot) and T.J. Green (knee) worked Thursday and signs point to each playing against the Chargers. Green suffered a sprained right knee in the opener while Geathers exited the Denver game in the second quarter after experiencing soreness in his right foot. Geathers broke a bone in his right foot in late July.
The availability of Geathers and Green means Monachino will find ways to maximize that pair with Mike Adams.
“The objective is to get as many of our best football players on the field at the same time, doing what they do best as often as possible,’’ he said. “We have three guys there that have some versatility. There will be things we do with all three of those guys in the game.’’
- Defensive end Kendall Langford (abdomen) was limited Thursday and cornerback Antonio Cromartie (ribs) a full participant.
- The only defensive player who’s definitely out is cornerback Darius Butler, who suffered a Grade 1 strain to his right hamstring after intercepting a Trevor Siemian pass at Denver.
While the defense is regaining its health, Monachino tapped the breaks on anyone anticipating immediate returns.
“In terms of how close (the defense will) be, I don’t know that we’re necessarily 90 percent, 80 percent,’’ he said. “I know the more good football players we can add into the huddle, the better we should be able to play.
“I don’t know if we’re going to get the same thing out of the guys that are coming off their injuries now that we will three weeks from now. They are still in the recovery process. The are still in the rehab process.’’
Langford might be the best barometer for what to expect.
He was arguably the Colts’ top defensive lineman a year ago – 40 tackles, a career-best 7.5 sacks – but needed arthroscopic knee surgery in August. Langford has played the first two games, but been a shadow of himself with one tackle on 58 defensive snaps.
The catchword is caution when dealing with players being worked back into the lineup.
“They are in a position where they can compete, but we’ve still got to pick and choose when we decide to use them,’’ Monachino said. “And based on offensive tendencies, when we can keep them a little bit out of the meat grinder if that’s possible.’’
Anderson’s comeback has been gradual and minus any noticeable setbacks.
The team’s 2015 third-round pick opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list, then was added to the active roster Aug. 22. He was eased into team drills and saw limited practice time last week before being a full participant for the first time Friday.
The next step is game day.
“I guess the last hurdle would really be playing in the game where bodies are falling around and I’m not totally safe,’’ Anderson said. “Practice, we’re usually pretty good about keeping guys up and stuff like that.
“But I wanted to get pads on and hit and take on double teams and stuff like that and (the knee has) responded really well.
“I feel close.’’