Colts’ Castonzo questionable for Texans game
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The NFL’s Friday injury report did nothing to clear up uncertainty swirling around the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is questionable for Sunday’s road test against the Houston Texans.
Castonzo is the unit’s unquestioned leader. The 2011 first-round draft pick has started 97 of a possible 104 regular-season games, including 66 straight. However, a knee injury kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday and limited him to roughly 15 reps in Friday’s practice.
“We’ll see how he comes in (Saturday) from today’s work,’’ coach Chuck Pagano said.
If Castonzo is unable to extend his streak to 67 consecutive starts, the Colts will be in scramble mode and turn to their 43rd different offensive line combination since 2012. That’s a league high.
When Pagano was asked about which player might step in for Castonzo, he wondered who had played when ankle and knee injuries forced him to miss seven games.
The answer: Joe Reitz, who retired at the end of last season.
“He’s a buck-30 right now, in the best shape of his life,’’ Pagano joked. “He’s not coming back. He’d have a hard time blocking you.’’
The candidates include left guard Jeremy Vujnovich, who saw limited work at left tackle during the preseason, right tackle Joe Haeg or Le’Raven Clark.
“We’ve got options,’’ Pagano said.
- More medical matters: Linebacker John Simon (stinger), cornerback Quincy Wilson (knee) and running back Matt Jones (ankle) have been ruled out of Sunday’s game.
Cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who missed Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati with a concussion, was expected to be cleared by an independent neurologist and play against the Texans.
- Adjusting to Tom Savage: The news Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a season-ending knee injury during a non-contact drill at Thursday’s practice shook Houston, the NFL and the Colts.
“That’s awful,’’ Pagano said. “You don’t want to see it for anybody. Your heart breaks for anybody that goes down with an injury like that. That’s a special kid, a special player.’’
Once the news settled in that the Texans would move from Watson to backup Tom Savage, the Colts’ defensive staff went into adjust mode. Houston also signed Matt McGloin and T.J. Yates for depth behind Savage.
“The guys worked well into the night of putting tapes together and pushing edits to our players of those guys and studying those guys,’’ Pagano said.
Watson was in the midst of an MVP-type season on the strength of his multi-dimensional skills. He had passed for 19 touchdowns and worked the zone-option to perfection, rushing 36 times for 269 yards and two TDs.
Savage is a prototypical pocket passer, and one with little experience. In three seasons, he’s appeared in seven games with three starts. He came off the bench in 2014 in Houston’s 17-10 loss to the Colts, completing 10-of-19 passes for 127 yards and one interception.
“They can still run their offense,’’ Pagano said. “We understand that Savage is a pocket passer. He knows that offense. He’s been with them. He knows the system. The under-center runs, the (shot)gun-runs, they’re all still available. Will they run the same zone-read stuff with him that they did with Deshaun? I don’t think so. We didn’t see it on tape.
“They can, but don’t anticipate it. They’re going to run the football. He can throw the deep ball. He’s got great touch. He’s got an arm. He can make all the throws.’’
Savage started Houston’s season-opening 29-7 loss to Jacksonville but was benched in favor of Watson at halftime. Before being pulled, he completed 7-of-13 passes for 62 yards and was sacked six times.
- Pagano recognized: Pagano is one of four coaching nominees for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award, joining Carolina’s Ron Rivera, Tennessee’s Mike Mularkey and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh. The list of 32 candidates will be pared down in January and the recipient announced at the Super Bowl awards ceremony in February.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.