INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts (1-1-1) will have their first divisional home game of the year on Sunday afternoon.
It is the Tennessee Titans (1-2) coming to Lucas Oil Stadium for a pivotal divisional contest.
Here are the takeaways from the Colts first practice of the week:
- As the two-time reigning AFC South Champions, the Titans are definitely on the minds of Jim Irsay. Of course, when your own franchise has watched the Texans win 4 division titles, the Titans win 2 division titles and the Jaguars win an AFC South crown since the Colts last were atop the division, you understand why. “He’s made it very clear,” was how Matt Ryan referred to Irsay’s emphasis on beating the Titans. That message came when the Owner met his team on the first night of training camp in late July.
- After leaving Sunday’s game early, safety Julian Blackmon (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday. Frank Reich said the Colts have test results back from Blackmon’s ankle sprain, but would not reveal the severity of it. He said the Colts will take a day or two to sort out exactly where the safety is for his status.
- It needs to be reiterated improper communication is the most glaring issue causing the pass protection problems right now. And it sounds like the Colts are expecting quite a challenge in that area on Sunday. Frank Reich calls the Titans a big pressure group who really disguises things well. “They can make you look bad,” Reich said on Sunday. Interior guys in Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry are very effective rushers.
- No Colts wide receiver has played more snaps this season than Parris Campbell, yet he has just 5 catches for 47 yards on 8 targets (in 172 offensive snaps). In Week Two, when the Colts were without Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce, the most notable contribution from Campbell came on a 4th quarter offensive pass interference penalty. “Probably in the ideal world, would have liked to see him get more targets,” Frank Reich said of Campbell on Wednesday. “Again, we always say, we call the plays, the ball is going to move around. So, we’ve had protection issues, so we’ve had breakdowns there. The ball’s moving through progressions. There’s been plays designed to go to him that just kind of never got there. So, what my hope is, over the course of the long haul, his role in our offense will start to shine and will be what it’s supposed to be. He’s got to do that too. We all have to do our part in it. We have a lot of confidence in him. I think that he’ll continue to get opportunities.”
- Wednesday marked the 12th straight practice (5th straight week) Shaquille Leonard has participated in, and his 8th straight full session. Yet, Leonard has still not made his 2022 game debut. From the sound of it, Leonard’s not totally confident in how he looks/feels for game action. “What’s left is (Leonard’s) got to know he can go out there and play winning football,” Frank Reich explained last Friday. “That’s the bottom line. He’s got to know he can go out there and play winning football and feel confident in that. That’s mostly coming from him. That’s a conversation with everybody, but deep down it’s the player. Deep down the player has to know he can go out there and play winning football and help this team win. That’s where we’ve got to get to. And like you said, this injury is a BEAR so he’s fighting and scratching every second, every way he can to get back on the field. I promise you that. He’s doing everything plus he can do to get back out there on that field. It’s killing him.” The Colts are keeping the same practice plan for Leonard this week. If Leonard does give it a go this Sunday, would his absence extend (at least) two more games, with the Colts having a quick turnaround to Denver next Thursday night?
- Obviously, anytime you play the Titans stopping Derrick Henry ranks atop the priority list. But Derrick Henry has not had some dominant start to the 2022 season, and the Colts defense continues to be a strength, even without Matt Eberflus. Henry is averaging 3.6 yards per carry this season (54 carries for 192 yards). While the Colts are the league’s top-ranked rushing defense at 2.63 yards per carry. On paper, this matchup is definitely in the Colts favor.
- Both Frank Reich and Mike Vrabel were hired in their respective roles leading into the 2018 season. Reich won the first 3 meetings against Vrabel. But Vrabel has won 4 of the past 5. Sunday’s game is critical for many reasons, and you could argue the Colts have more on the line, having already missed out on two chances to win their first two divisional games this year.
- How wounded are the Titans right now? In losing DE-Harold Landry and OT-Taylor Lewan for the season, the Titans have to replace two of their best players, at two of the most important positions on the field. Couple that with trading away WR-A.J. Brown in the offseason, and the Titans are a much different looking team from the AFC’s No. 1 seed last year. Look at those three names, and put it into Colts terms. It would be like Frank Reich not having Michael Pittman, Yannick Ngakoue and Braden Smith.
- The Colts are on their normal practice schedule this week (Wednesday-Friday). They’ll have a Saturday walk-through before hosing the Titans for a 1:00 PM kick this Sunday.
Wednesday Injury Report
–Did Not Practice: DT-DeForest Buckner (elbow), RB-Jonathan Taylor (toe), CB-Stephon Gilmore (hamstring), C-Ryan Kelly (knee), S-Julian Blackmon (ankle), DE-Yannick Ngakoue (back)
Bowen Analysis: This is a long, and notable list. It’s a different injury for Buckner, compared to his hip last week. Not ideal to see a ‘toe’ injury for a running back. Gilmore played through that hamstring injury in finishing Sunday’s win over Kansas City. Missing Kelly is less than ideal when you want practice reps to nail down the communication issues in protection. It appears the Colts will try and maintenance Ngakoue through this back injury.
-Limited: OT-Bernhard Raimann (ankle)
Bowen Analysis: Raimann was inactive for Sunday’s win over the Chiefs due to his ankle injury.
Full: LB-Darius Leonard (ankle)
Bowen Analysis: Wednesday was the 8th straight full practice for Leonard.
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