With news from Jim Irsay earlier today, Colts fans now know the fate of a number of players. First, Eric Foster was quite obviously put onto IR. This is not surprising in the least given the nature and severity of his injury. Hopefully his injury is not career ending, and that the damage is not as severe as it looked during the game. If any hope to fans can be given, just look at fellow AFC South D-lineman, Conner Barwin, of the Houston Texans, who also had an almost instantaneous IR placement following his dislocated ankle last year in week 1. Barwin is now one of the primary players for the Texans and has 9 tackles and 2 sacks this year as a backup.
The second piece of news is that second round pick Ben Ijalana has been placed on IR as well following damaging ligaments in his knee against the Buccaneers. This is almost as sad as the Foster news since the team showed quite a lot of faith in Ijalana by having him jump over Jeff Linkenbach, who has experience playing LT, to fill in for Anthony Castonzo. Despite all indications that Ijalana was being trained to play just the Right Tackle position, he stepped into the game and showed some very positive signs during his time on the field. Now, he will be on IR and his development will be stalled as he recovers.
The final loss the Colts took was waiving MLB Nate Triplett. While Triplett was likely the low man on the ST depth chart and in terms of LB skill, having MLB Gary Brackett on IR makes removing the only remaining MLB a little concerning. While Ernie Sims has indications from Head Coach Jim Caldwell of returning to the field this week, he is now the likely candidate to play MLB should Angerer suffer an injury this year.
In terms of additions the Colts have made, 3 players have been announced already as joining the active roster. Again, starting with the most obvious addition, DT Riccardo Mathews who was a rather pleasant surprise at the end of last year in his 1-tech/3-tech hybrid role. While Mathews played as much more of 1-tech Antonio Johnson’s backup last year, given the potential injury concerns with both Drake Nevis and Fili Moala, we could see him playing in the 3-tech role much more, especially against more run heavy teams. For now until Nevis and Moala can have better indications for this Sunday, still expect a heavy dose of DEs Jammal Anderson and Tyler Brayton at Defensive Tackle with DE Jerry Hughes having a much more prominent role as a backup DE.
Finally, 2 offensive linemen were added. The first is perennial Colt Michael Todouze who has been brought back to the team, whether on the active roster or practice squad, at least a half dozen times over the past couple of years, and has essentially been the Colts’ “go to,” Offensive Tackle when a backup is needed. The second lineman is 6th year Offensive Tackle Quinn Ojinnaka who was originally drafted by the Falcons in the 5th round, but is most recently from the St. Louis Rams. Ojinnaka is 6’5 and 315 lbs. He has the size to play either Guard or Tackle, and depending upon his footwork will likely serve as backup to both.
The more concerning thing about this last addition is that it indicates that starting Left Tackle Anthony Castonzo may not be available to play this week (and possibly for weeks to come if its a High Ankle Sprain he suffered). Current Left Guard Joe Reitz is also an Offensive Tackle who could play the position if necessary, so had news on Castonzo been positive the Colts would have had Tepper (and Reitz) to call upon if necessary. As it stands now the Colts are carrying Castonzo, Linkenbach, Reitz, Todouze, and Ojinakka with only Reitz being a real option to double at guard. The only reason to carry that many offensive tackles would be with the possibility of injury limiting one or more of them, and in this case it is likely Castonzo. And to make matters worse, Reitz was only able to practice in a limited role on Thurdsay of last week while being inactive the other two days, so his health is questionable at best still as well.
No news has been released on the availability of RG Ryan Diem either, and so the Colts are potentially looking at having 4 different linemen starting this week from the fully healthy line that premiered in week 1. Of course, we shouldn’t forget about TE Brody Eldridge who has made an appearance on every injury report so far this year and has not been a full participant through an entire weeks practices yet this year. He has continued to play, and play very well, but at some point the question must be asked about his lingering injury issues.
Statistically speaking the team is on pace to match or break last years count on games lost by starters and primary backups, and its only week 4. It hasn’t even gotten to the “worn down by length of the season,” injuries yet. The Colts secondary has luckily escaped injury thus far but with Powers having missed half of each of the past two seasons and Lacey also spending more than a third of 2009 and 2010 on the injury list the real possibility of having to play Chris Rucker and Terrance Johnson as the starting CBs in the future remains a real possibility.
So the moral of the story is suit up people, because what started as a deluge is about to get worse. Injuries have always been a problem for the Colts, but the team no longer has the umbrella Peyton Manning provided to protect us from the storm. The team will now have to weather through with the knowledge that both the run offense and run defense are likely going to struggle considerably more and the already poor passing game is likely to get worse as Painter will not have the beautiful pockets that Kerry Collins squandered in the first 3 weeks.