Hello, Colts fans, and happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you. The Colts worked yesterday and will again today, and thus the Notebook is here. We’ll be talking defense, Da’Rick Rogers, and, of course, eating, so, sit back in your chair, let some of that good food settle, and read on. Then, if you haven’t yet, read this nice message from our own Kyle Rodriguez.
Colts Hope to Slow Johnson from the Start
Obviously, the Colts don’t want to allow Titans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to have another standout game, but it will be much easier to contain Tennessee’s passing game if they don’t have to worry about Chris Johnson breaking off 30-yard runs on any given play.
The Titans’ rushing attack is ranked 16th in the league with 1,237 yards at 4.1 per carry. They certainly aren’t bad at running the ball, but they haven’t stricken fear into too many defenses.
Nevertheless, the Indy run defense, ranked 22nd by Football Outsiders and 27th in total yard allowed, will look to shut Johnson down early. Two weeks ago, the 6th year running back racked up 80 yards on 13 carries in the first half. In the second, however, the Colts held him to 6 yards on 4 carries.
That 1.5-yard clip was enough for the Titans to abandon the run during the Colts’ comeback, which is very helpful for a team that’s down two scores. The secret? “Execution,” Linebacker Jerrell Freeman said. “Pretty simple, huh? Easy as that.”
Ricky Jean Francois, who had a solid game despite little else going well last Sunday, expanded a bit on the execution theme. “Set the edge and everybody play their assignment,” he said. “If you pop out your gap one time, he’s small enough to get through it. And once he gets through it, he can turn the speed on.”
As essential as strength, leverage, and speed are to stopping the run, none of it matters if players are leaving their gaps and executing poorly. Doing so can open up running lanes for the offense with minimal work for the opponent’s blockers.
“If one guy breaks down and we can’t get him down in the back end, then you have a 30-yard touchdown run,” Chuck Pagano said of the run defense. “That’s what our focus is, to play consistent football in stopping the run against a guy like that.”
Indianapolis corrected many of their issues in the second half the last time they played the Titans. If the Colts can show up playing disciplined defense from the start this Sunday, they may not have to play catchup as the game wears on.
A (real) Chance for Da’Rick?
Earlier this week, the Colts cut WR/KR David Reed, leaving just four wide receivers on the active roster. Reading into the move, besides dissatisfaction with the return game, the Colts may have shown that they’re finally ready to send rookie receiver Da’Rick Rogers onto the field.
Many fans are excited about Rogers as a long-term prospect, perhaps a two-year project player. Others believe he can produce right away and want to see him take the field, especially given the receiving corps’ struggles since Reggie Wayne’s injury.
It will be important to temper expectations for Rogers as he likely approaches his first regular season game. He may have great physical tools, but he’s still an undrafted rookie who was cut by the Bills in the preseason. He has work to do.
Realistic expectations or not, we want to know if he’s going to play (right?). One reporter addressed the question with Pagano by asking if all four remaining wideouts would be active Sunday. “I would venture to say that’s a good probability,” Pagano quickly answered back.
“He’s been in meetings and he’s been hearing the language, the concepts, routes, all the calls, all those types of things,” he added of Rogers. “Until you actually get in and you’re working with the offense, it takes a little bit of time. Like anybody, we’re just going to keep developing and developing and developing.
“And so now he’s at a point where he’s picked things up and we’re going to put him out there and give him a shot. We know he’s a big, athletic, talented guy. He’s put the time in, he’s been here early, he stays late. So, more than confident that that kid can go out there and make a play for us.”
There you have it. They’re going to put him in the game and see what he can do. It’s safe to assume no one is more excited about that prospect than Rogers himself.
He is also aware of the urgent need to perform well, especially now, with only four receivers currently active. “That’s a given,” he said. “Coach Pagano, he puts that pressure on us and pressure makes diamonds. Just go out there and do what we do. It’s nothing. It’s just football, it’s a child’s game and we just got to go out there and execute.”
It’s high time we moved on to some Thanksgiving quotes. The players and coaches fielded the truly hard-hitting questions, like, “Are you hosting a Thanksgiving dinner?” Okay, those aren’t hard hitters, but they’re fun.
Chuck Pagano, on whether he prefers turkey or ham: “Pasta. (Laughs) There will be a turkey laying around somewhere, but there will be a school of pasta boiling somewhere, and that’s what I’ll have.” A school of pasta? That kind of makes it sound as though it can swim (school of fish).
Andrew Luck on whether he sets his usual healthy diet aside for Thanksgiving: “(Laughs) Yeah, a little bit. I love Thanksgiving. I think (it’s) probably my favorite holiday, a great time to get with family and friends. I’m a sucker for cranberry sauce, too. I’ll have to eat some.”
Cory Redding on whether he’ll count calories during Thanksgiving dinner: “Man, I don’t count calories. I got to hold double-teams all day, so the more turkey and pies that I eat, the better. I’ll worry about it in the offseason.”
Practice Report (from Colts.com’s Craig Kelley)
DB Sergio Brown (hand), LB Kavell Conner (ankle), CB Vontae Davis (groin), CB Greg Toler (groin), and WR T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) all sat out yesterday’s practice. FB Stanley Havili Havili, who missed last week with a concussion saw full participation.
Pagano said he expected Sergio Brown to be able to play with a cast on Sunday, but everyone else was day to day.
All quotes and injury information are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department. Have a save and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.