INDIANAPOLIS – The first abbreviated week of the 2021 season is here for the Colts.
Returning home for the first time in three weeks, the Colts (1-4) are a double-digit point favorite against the Texans (1-4) in Week Six.
What did we learn from the Colts on Wednesday?
- Fittingly, with the Texans on the schedule T.Y. Hilton (neck) is going to practice this week. One thing to note though, and we will get into this more below, the Colts are only planning to have one ‘normal’ practice this week (on Friday). Is that enough for Hilton to ramp things up after he’s missed more than a month? How much actual practice time does Hilton need given that this injury wasn’t lower body? Nonetheless, any return to practice of the most accomplished Colt has to be a jolt. Frank Reich called Hilton being back an “emotional lift” for the 1-4 Colts. Hilton has been the Texans daddy throughout his career. And the Colts are 2-14 all-time without Hilton in the lineup. “I’ve watched him work out over the last few days and know he’s hitting some of his normal high speed T.Y. yardage,” Reich said on Wednesday. “So, we’ll check it out as we go.”
- The Colts are bringing a familiar face back as kicker insurance for this week. Michael Badgley (26), an undrafted free agent in 2018 for the Colts, is going to be joining the practice squad, with the thought he could be promoted to the active roster if Rodrigo Blankenship (hip) can’t go on Sunday. Badgley kicked behind Adam Vinatieri in that ‘18 offseason. Badgley has kicked for the Chargers (2018-20) and the Titans (2021). He’s made 78.8 percent of his field goals (24-of-33) and 94.3 of his extra points (83-of-88). With the Titans this season, Badgley went 0-for-1 on field goals and 1-of-2 on extra points. Eddy Pineiro, who didn’t miss a kick in training camp or the preseason with the Colts, remains a free agent. Pineiro was released off Washington’s practice squad back in early September.
- On Hot Rod, the Colts are still evaluating how to handle his situation, still determining if he needs to go on injured reserve (and miss at least three games): “That’s what we haven’t quite worked out yet,” Reich said. “I think whatever it is, if it’s something, it’s going to be short term hopefully. But really want to get all the information, want to sit down with Chris (Ballard), the docs and the trainers and just decide what’s the best course of action this week.”
- Secondary depth will again be tested this week. The Colts have injuries to starting corner Xavier Rhodes (concussion) and backup safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) from Monday night. It’s always a challenge to pass concussion protocol on a shorter week. Ramping Khari Willis back up to a full workload (Willis played just 26 percent of the defensive snaps on Monday in his return from a groin injury) is needed and getting Rock Ya-Sin (practiced limited all three days last week due to an ankle injury, but didn’t play against the Ravens) on the field more are storylines to watch.
- On paper, the Colts (1-4) have a serious chance to gain some much-needed ground on the Titans (3-2) in the AFC South. Here are the schedules for the two over the next 5 weeks: Colts: Texans, @49ers, Titans, Jets, Jaguars; Titans: Bills, Chiefs, @Colts, @Rams, Saints. It’s a great chance to close ground, with the uber-important Halloween meeting with the Titans, at Lucas Oil Stadium, in the absolute ‘must’ category.
- We are starting to see more and more high-level consistency from Jonathan Taylor and now Michael Pittman. Taylor ranks 2nd in the NFL with 11 straight games of at least 50 rushing yards (Derrick Henry tops the NFL with 30). Pittman is tied for 1st in the NFL with 4 straight games of at least 6 catches. He’s tied with Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson. Taylor is definitely ahead of Pittman when addressing the ‘proven’ abilities of the two youngsters, but both are showing serious potential that the Colts saw during that 2020 Draft. Pittman has had a nice, and expected, start to his second season.
- Texans rookie QB-Davis Mills has been needed to start the last 3 games due to the Deshaun Watson saga and Tyrod Taylor getting hurt (Taylor led the Texans to their lone win, over the Jaguars, in Week 1). Mills has completed 61.5 percent of his passes, throwing 5 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. In last week’s loss to the Patriots, Mills did throw for 312 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The third-round pick is getting thrust into major playing time despite not seeing a ton of action at Stanford. Mills will start again on Sunday but he won’t have left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who will miss several weeks after injuring his hand against the Patriots.
- Something to put down on the storyline list for this week is the Texans special teams group. After being the Colts assistant special teams coach for 3 seasons under Bubba Ventrone, Frank Ross now heads the special teams for the Texans. Could that lead to some trickery for the touchdown-plus underdog on the road?
- The sprained foot of Braden Smith continues to be complicated. The Colts thought Smith would return within 3 weeks. He didn’t participate on Wednesday. Smith missing Sunday would be a 5-game absence. “It’s just not going as fast as we want it to go,” Reich said on Wednesday. “He’s making progress. We’re going to try and do some stuff with the guys out on the field today. We’ll have an extra period, kind of a development period where we test some of those guys out a little bit and get them working.”
- Dealing with their first abbreviated week of the season, the Colts are altering their normal, Wednesday-Friday, practice schedule. They had a walk-through on Wednesday, will have a ‘modified’ (or lighter) practice on Thursday and then have a normal session on Friday. A walk-through will take place on Saturday before Sunday’s 1:00 PM kick inside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Wednesday Injury Report (walk-through)
–Did Not Practice: CB-Xavier Rhodes (concussion), OT-Braden Smith (foot), S-Andrew Sendejo (concussion), RB-Jordan Wilkins (illness), CB-Rock Ya-Sin (ankle), K-Rodrigo Blankenship (hip), LB-Darius Leonard (ankle), DE-Kemoko Turay (groin)
Bowen Analysis: Pascal isn’t on the COVID-list, so that’s good news for him. Glasgow developed concussion like symptoms after Sunday’s loss.
-Limited: DE-Kwity Paye (hamstring)
Bowen Analysis: Good step for Paye as he tries to return to game action.
–Full: DE-Isaac Rochell (illness)
Bowen Analysis: Rochell missed Monday’s meeting with the Ravens.