O-line Injuries and a Potential Battle at Right Guard
The Colts have worked through free agency and the draft to rebuild their offensive line. They signed free agent RT Gosder Cherilus and G Donald Thomas and drafted C/G Khaled Holmes and G Hugh Thornton.
From the moment Thornton came on board, his ability and potential had many fans and observers believing he could eventually take over as a starter. Embattled starting right guard Mike McGlynn, working to prove he belongs in with the first team, missed the last preseason game with an injury, and initially, Jeff Linkenbach filled in as the starter.
Thornton, finally cleared to play last week, eventually checked in for Linkenbach to take his turn with the first team, and he did not disappoint. “I thought he played really well for a guy that hasn’t taken any snaps since we finished the rookie minicamp prior to training camp,” Chuck Pagano said of the rookie guard. “He knocked off a little bit of rust but he looked pretty good in there, both in the run and the pass game. Very pleased with his performance.” Knocked off some rust? Yes. Knocked a couple defenders on their backs? Also, yes. The coach said if McGlynn can’t go against Cincinnati, Thornton might get the nod right away.
Pagano also called McGlynn “one tough cookie,” and said he believes his starting guard will be ready for the season opener. McGlynn certainly won’t want to give up his spot without a fight (figuratively speaking), but Thornton certainly looks like he can mount a late challenge now that he’s healthy. Whoever holds the starting job by season end, the competition should be good for both players.
At left tackle, arguably the most important position on the line, starter Anthony Castonzo left the game early with a knee injury. Fishers, Indiana’s own Joe Reitz (pronounce “Rights”) filled in very well, but the offense will certainly benefit from having Castonzo back in the lineup.
Pagano said he thinks Castonzo could be ready to go against Oakland. “Yeah, got the MRI and it, like we talked last night, pretty much came back as a mild MCL sprain,” he said. “The MRI was pretty much negative. It wasn’t as bad as anybody anticipated, so he’s going to be day-to-day. He won’t play, obviously, in this next contest but hopefully be ready for the opener.”
We’ve spoken a great deal about Caesar Rayford around here, so this time, I’ll just let Chuck Pagano do the talking. Someone asked him about Rayford yesterday, and he couldn’t say enough about the “rookie” linebacker.
Pagano on Caesar Rayford: “Well, he’s definitely making a case for himself and he’s produced every week. It’s fun to see a guy like Caesar come in from where he came from and do well. And it all goes back, to me, it all goes back to preparation. I think if you asked every man, particularly on the defensive side of the football and the coaches, the kid’s here non-stop and he’s constantly asking questions, asking the right questions. He practices his tail off.
“ He not only gets reps on the defense but when we start doing the look teams in preparation for last week’s game and this week’s game, he’s always out there. He’s doing the scout team stuff on special teams. He’s a football junkie. He’s one of the first guys in and the last guy, one of the last guys to leave the building. And so he’s able to play fast. He knows exactly what to do come game day.
“His measurables and God-given ability, those things we talked about that you can’t coach, it’s unbelievable the size and length that he has. He’s got a knack for edge rush, beating a guy, getting the tackle’s shoulders turned and then he’s got that move down pat now. I’m a firm believer in it. Again, it’s going to be interesting post-Cincinnati game to see how this thing shakes out.”
As for Rayford himself, part of his drive is playing with the powerful sense of urgency that any given play could be his last. “One perspective is working your tail and just going every play like it’s your last because you never know,” Rayford said. “That’s my whole concept just playing as hard as I can like it’s my last play because there is a lot of great competition and a lot of great talent and I’m just trying to work my tail off to make an impact.”
Other Injury Updates from the Coach
Pagano on reserve WR Nate Palmer: “Yeah, Nate’s got an MCL sprain also. MRI came back and wasn’t as severe as we anticipated it might be. So he’s probably looking at a four-to-six week deal is what they’re talking about. At least it isn’t something where they got to do surgery, so that was positive.”
Pagano on OLB Lawrence Sidbury, whom the team placed on IR: “Well again, it’s a shoulder and he’s going for another opinion just to get the thing checked out. And that’s for his own well-being, so he’s going to see another guy. Again, he’s probably going to, obviously, have to have surgery done on it but he’s just going to make sure that he finds the right guy to do the surgery. I can’t give you the medical terms right now exactly what it is at this time.”
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.