Colts notebook: Inexperienced options to fill D’Qwell Jackson’s void

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D'Qwell Jackson #52 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a tackle during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 6, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Aller/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The cupboard isn’t bare as the Indianapolis Colts attempt to fill the void at inside linebacker created by D’Qwell Jackson’s four-game suspension, but it certainly lacks proven provisions.

“With him out we’ve got a great group of guys in the linebacker room that are going to step up, whoever it may be,’’ Edwin Jackson offered Wednesday.

“Whoever it may be’’ speaks volumes.

Jackson is a given, even though he’s in his second NFL season. The high-octane product of Georgia Southern has started three of the last four games inside along with D’Qwell Jackson.

After that? A quick rundown:

Antonio Morrison:

The fourth-round draft pick might get his first career start Sunday when the Houston Texans visit. He’s one of 21 players to appear in all 12 games this season, but that’s primarily been on special teams.

“We’ve got a small sample size,’’ coach Chuck Pagano conceded of Morrison’s defensive experience.

Morrison has been on the field for just 12.8 percent of the defensive snaps (93 of 726), including only 28 in the last six games. He has 15 tackles.

“Antonio’s tough, he’s smart and he knows the defense inside and out,’’ Pagano said. “He’s a downhill, tackle-to-tackle, sideline-to-sideline, run-and-hit guy.’’

Josh McNary:

After starting three games early this season as the Colts looked to find a suitable sidekick for D’Qwell Jackson, McNary has settled into a special teams contributor. He’s played on 20.9 percent of the defensive snaps (152 of 726), but none in the last four games.

Deon King:

Claimed off waivers (San Diego) in mid-November, he’s been inactive the last three games. His pro resume consists of two games and zero tackles.

Luke Rhodes:

The rookie out of William & Mary was added to the active roster from the practice squad Wednesday.

While the Colts will settle on somebody replace D’Qwell Jackson, they’ll be hard-pressed to replace everything he brought to the defense. Along with seldom coming off the field – 641 of 726 snaps, 88.3 percent – he was the defensive QB.

Ideally, the Colts could compensate for D’Qwell Jackson’s loss in their nickel package by using safety Clayton Geathers in coverage and closer to the line of scrimmage. But Geathers’ status is week-to-week according to Pagano due to a neck injury.

“It’s the National Football League,’’ Pagano said. “You’re going to have adversity and you’re going to have obstacles. Been without our quarterback (Andrew Luck) before. Do you want to be? No. We’ve been with 98 (Robert Mathis) before. We’re without him again.

“Raise your level of play. We don’t run from obstacles, we run at ‘em. We always have.’’

Luck honored: 

Luck was named the AFC Weekly Player of the Week on the strength of his 278-yard, four-touchdown performance in Monday night’s 41-10 win over the New York Jets. It was the fourth time Luck has earned the weekly honor.

Ditto, Reitz: 

Offensive lineman Joe Reitz was voted by his teammates as the Colts’ Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner.

The former Hamilton Southeastern High School standout is in his sixth year with the Colts and has remained active in the community. The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for excellence on and off the field. The winner will be announced Feb. 4 in Houston.

Medical update:

Guard Denzelle Good, defensive tackle Zach Kerr and linebacker Curt Maggitt exited the Jets game with concussions and are in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Pagano described Geathers (neck) as week-to-week and linebacker Robert Mathis (biceps) as day-to-day, and said cornerback Patrick Robinson continues to progress while dealing with a groin injury.

More on D’Qwell Jackson: 

According to Pagano, D’Qwell Jackson had to leave the team complex by 4 o’clock Tuesday after being suspended four games by the NFL for violating its performance-enhancing substances policy. He’s allowed to return Monday, Jan. 2, the day after the regular-season finale against Jacksonville.

The four-game suspension is without pay, and will cost Jackson about $1.294 million.

“If we’re fortunate enough to play good enough football and win enough games, we’ll get him back for the playoffs,’’ Pagano said.

Tight end Dwayne Allen said losing Jackson to the suspension was “an obvious letdown. We want those guys on the field. But we also understand mistakes happen.’’

Allen added he didn’t believe Jackson, 33 and in his 11th season, was attempting to get on edge on the playing field.

“D’Qwell’s not that kind of player,’’ Allen said. “He hasn’t been his entire career, so I doubt he was trying to get ahead or cheat the game of football.

“I chalked it up as an honest mistake.’’

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