Colts plummet in defensive rankings

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
3:00
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts' worst defensive performance of the season against Pittsburgh caused them to fall drastically in the statistical standings.

The Colts gave up 639 yards, including 522 through the air, six touchdown passes and allowed the Steelers to go 8-of-13 on third down.

Coach Chuck Pagano didn’t even want to talk about the Steelers game anymore. When asked about reviewing the tape, Pagano pulled a Bill Belichick and said, “We’re on to the Giants.”

Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson reiterated what some other players had said, calling their defensive performance “humbling.”

“Pittsburgh’s offense got a hold of us pretty good,” Jackson said. “It just goes to show you that no matter how well you’re playing in this league, you have to always have to put your best foot forward. Not to say we didn’t. It was Pittsburgh’s day. Ben Roethlisberger had a huge day for a point of time we felt like we couldn’t get off the field on third down.

“We understand how good we can be, we understand how things can fall apart. A great learning tool for us moving forward, no matter what you have to come ready to play, hit guys in the mouth.”

Here’s a look at where the Colts ranked defensively heading into the game:

Yards a game: 3rd (311.1)
Passing yards a game: 5th (214.4)
Third-down percentage: 1st (25.9)
Points a game: 4th (19.4)
Yards a play: 16th (5.4)

Here’s a look at where the Colts are currently ranked:

Yards a game: 15th (352.1)
Passing yards a game: 21st (252.9)
Third-down percentage: 1st (31.1)
Points a game: 16th (23.4)
Yards a play: 23rd (5.8)
History is on quarterback Andrew Luck's side when it comes to back-to-back losses. He's only lost back-to-back games once - Weeks 1 and 2 this season - in 40 career regular-season NFL games.

The Indianapolis Colts can’t afford to lose to the Giants because they come out of their bye week having to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Luck could have a full cupboard of offensive weapons to turn to, as running back Trent Richardson (hamstring) is expected to be back in the lineup and receiver Reggie Wayne (elbow) could be back.

The key is for Luck to avoid throwing interceptions. He's thrown nine this season, and the Giants are second in the league with 11 picks. Luck has thrown for at least 300 yards in six straight games. Combine that with the fact that the Giants are 25th in the league against the pass and that should equal success for him. Luck bounces back after throwing two picks last weekend against Pittsburgh and he adds on to his league-leading totals in passing yards and touchdowns. The Colts are second in the league in points a game (31.3) and the Giants are giving up more than 24 a game. The Colts won’t have any problems scoring points Monday.

Colts 35, Giants 20
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ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells discusses the Monday night matchup between the Colts and Giants, which will see running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks face their former team.

Gruden's QB Camp: Andrew Luck

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
10:27
AM ET
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The Indianapolis Colts will face the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football." In this pre-draft 2012 session of Gruden's QB Camp, Jon Gruden meets with Andrew Luck to break down film.
INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano often prefers not to look too far ahead on the schedule. But for some reason, Pagano couldn't stop himself Thursday afternoon.

Pagano was asked about facing a New York Giants' team that's coming off its bye week.

“They’re going to be rested," he said. "They’ve had time to take a look at themselves. Like everybody, during the bye week, you take a hard look at yourselves. Gives you an opportunity to self-scout, if you will, to look at the areas of concern, go to work on fixing those guys. Like I said, get some guys back from injury. They’ve got more time to prepare for the opponent. Can they add a wrinkle or two? There will be something, I’m sure, that we’ve not seen on both sides of the ball and maybe special teams because of the extra time that you’ve put in. From a disadvantage standpoint and an advantage to our opponent, yeah. Then time off you worry about coming back, being sharp and playing well. That plays into it too."

The Giants are the first of three straight opponents that the Colts will face coming off their bye week. New England has a bye in Week 10, the week prior to facing the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 16. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a bye in Week 11 before facing the Colts on Nov. 23. The Colts also have a bye before facing the Patriots.

"Nice scheduling,” Pagano said.

 

Colts vs. Giants preview

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
8:00
AM ET
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The Indianapolis Colts had won five games in a row before last week's 51-34 loss to Pittsburgh. The New York Giants had won three in a row before losing in Philadelphia and Dallas prior to last week's bye. These two teams are looking to remind everyone of better times as they meet at MetLife Stadium on "Monday Night Football."

ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells and ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano are here with your game preview:

Wells: Dan, the Cowboys went from Super Bowl contenders to having to worry about Tony Romo's back, and the Eagles are coming off a loss. Do you feel like the Giants have a realistic shot at winning the NFC East?

Graziano: It's not impossible, but I don't think it's realistic. They trail Dallas by 2½ games and Philadelphia by two, and they lost to each of those teams before the bye. The idea that they could catch both is far-fetched, especially since they can't go 2-0 against either.

Fundamentally, I just don't think the Giants are very good. Eli Manning is playing well in the new offense, but the group around him is made up of young guys and backups. Injuries to Victor Cruz (out for the year) and Rashad Jennings (who will miss a third straight game) have sapped the offense of much of its explosiveness, and guys such as Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell and Andre Williams have shown promise but are still developing. The offensive line, also quite young in spots, has been inconsistent. On the defensive side, they're extremely banged up at cornerback and they just lost middle linebacker Jon Beason for the season.

The Giants are a team with a clear vision for the future and they've already shown progress in the new offense, but they're going to be outmanned most weeks.

How about the Colts? The group around Andrew Luck seems to have come together better than I expected it would. What are the main reasons (other than himself) that Luck is leading the league in passing yards?

Wells: The main reason is that Luck's ability to spread the ball around makes it difficult for defenses to key on one area. He had back-to-back games earlier this season where he completed passes to nine different receivers. Another reason: Two key players -- receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen -- are back after having their 2013 seasons cut short. Wayne is second on the team with 434 receiving yards -- trailing only T.Y. Hilton -- despite missing the Pittsburgh game. Allen is tied with former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with six.

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton took a lot of criticism last season for being determined to make Indianapolis a power-running team despite having Luck at quarterback. Hamilton is more comfortable in Year 2 as an NFL coordinator and it's showing, as the Colts run the ball just enough to keep defenses honest.

Manning is 22nd in the league in passing yards. Would it be safe to say he's on the decline of his career, or does he have enough left in the tank to win his third Super Bowl ring at some point?

Graziano: I don't think he's declining. They just totally changed the offensive system. Longtime coordinator Kevin Gilbride "retired" (cough, was forced out, cough) and was replaced by Ben McAdoo, a former Packers assistant who brought Mike McCarthy's West Coast offense with him. The emphasis for Manning has been on avoiding turnovers after leading the league with 27 interceptions last year, and as a result the Giants are leaning hard on the run and the short-passing game. A whopping 67 percent of Manning's throws have traveled fewer than 10 yards down the field, compared with 61 and 62 percent the two seasons prior.

It's possible the offense develops more of a downfield element as everyone continues to develop -- especially first-round rookie Beckham, who has field-stretching speed but has only played three games. GM Jerry Reese said Monday that he'd like to see the offense be more aggressive, but coach Tom Coughlin has insisted that they're not looking to take more chances downfield and prefer to play it close to the vest so as to avoid a recurrence of last year's turnover problems.

Long term, I think Manning has enough time to win another Super Bowl if this new group develops around him. I imagine he'll get his contract extension this offseason, and the way the league is set up for quarterbacks right now, it's not crazy to think he has five or six good years left.

When we talked to Eli on Monday, he said he'd watched the Colts' past two games and noted the significant difference in the number of points they surrendered in them. His take was that the defensive scheme wasn't different but that Pittsburgh did a great job against it, while Cincinnati obviously did not. What on earth went wrong Sunday, and which Colts defense is the one we should expect to see Monday?

Wells: I'm not even sure the Colts know what went wrong against the Steelers. There wasn't a defense in the league that probably could have stopped Ben Roethlisberger. Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois summed it up best when he said they got a wake-up call and Roethlisberger was a step ahead of them the entire game. He found the soft spots of the defense when they played zone and torched them when they blitzed. He also laid out the blueprint on how to beat a Colts defense that had 20 sacks and nine turnovers in the five games leading up to that matchup. Indy's front seven couldn't get any pressure on Roethlisberger; it was the first time since Week 2 that the Colts didn't have a sack.

Luck has thrown for at least 300 yards in six straight games. The Giants are 25th in the league against the pass. How do they expect to slow Luck down?

Graziano: Their best bet is that the offense clicks and they put together long, sustained drives that keep Luck off the field for long stretches. Their pass defense is in tatters. Top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been trying to play through leg and back injuries, and he doesn't seem to have improved much over the bye. They lost nickelback Walter Thurmond (arm) and backup nickel Trumaine McBride (thumb) to a season-ending injuries.

To overcome those losses, they've been putting Prince Amukamara on the opposing team's top receiver and experimenting with a three-safety look that includes Antrel Rolle, Quintin Demps and Stevie Brown, who was demoted earlier in the year due to ineffectiveness. It would help if they could generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but in spite of a solid performance against the run, Jason Pierre-Paul and the rest of the defensive line have not been getting sacks. (As a team, the Giants have only 13 in seven games.) Luck has a chance for a big night.

If Luck does have a big night, however, it doesn't seem as though former Giant Hakeem Nicks will be a part of it. Has he been as much of a non-factor there as he was here last year, and if so, why do the Colts think that is?

Wells: The Colts are saying the right things publicly, but it's been a mystery why Nicks hasn't been a factor. Last weekend's game basically summed up his time with the Colts. With Wayne out with an elbow injury, Nicks was the No. 2 receiver, but he was clearly outplayed by rookie Donte Moncrief. Nicks only caught one of the six targets from Luck for 27 yards while playing 60 of 66 snaps. Moncrief only needed 40 snaps to catch seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. You would have thought having a bigger role in the offense would help Nicks. Now you have to wonder if he'll fit in at all this season because Wayne will likely play Monday and Moncrief's performance may have been good enough to move him ahead of Nicks as the third receiver.

Graziano: Thanks, Mike. Travel safe and I'll see you Monday.

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis is on his way to playing against the New York Giants on Monday after leaving last weekend’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter with a knee injury.

Davis was a full participant in practice Thursday. Receiver Reggie Wayne, who missed the Pittsburgh game because of an elbow injury, did not practice, but that’s not uncommon because coach Chuck Pagano gives him a rest day during the week.

Pagano said it’s “too early in the week” to tell if Wayne will play against the Giants. The coach wants to see how Wayne practices the rest of the week before making a decision.

Running back Trent Richardson was not listed on the injury report, which means he should be back in the starting lineup against the Giants after being held out of the Steelers’ game because of a hamstring injury.

“We’ll just go back to how we were,” Pagano said. “We want to be smart with all our players, monitor the reps. Guy gets hot, obviously we’ll try to feed a guy that’s hot, but not go overboard with it and put somebody in harm’s way, if you will.”

Here’s the rest of the Thursday practice report:

Did not practice: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (rest), linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (toe), defensive lineman Art Jones (ankle), linebacker Josh McNary (ankle), linebacker Erik Walden (quad)
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts safety LaRon Landry was a full participant at practice Thursday.

Landry, who just completed a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, is currently on the exempt/commissioner's permission list. The Colts have until 4 p.m. ET on Nov. 3 to release a player and put Landry on the active roster in order for him to play against the New York Giants that night. If not, the team has until 4 p.m. on Nov. 4 to release Landry, put him on the active roster and release another player.

“Well, we’re going to be evaluating him," general manager Ryan Grigson said. "We have the exemption on him this week. We can take it off at any time up until Monday. But I think just like all the players, we have to scrutinize and look at him from every angle, see where his legs are at, today’s our first real day of practice, and just kind of take it from there and have those discussions. We’ll take it day by day.”

Grigson declined to go into details on what Landry’s explanation was for using performance-enhancing drugs.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Grigson said. “That’s in-house stuff. That’s family-type stuff. Those are things that happen within a family, so I’ll leave it at that.”

Landry was welcomed back with open arms despite selfishly letting the franchise down by getting suspended.

“I know he feels like he let us down in a sense,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “We welcome anybody -- we don’t judge -- with open arms. It’s good to have him back and it’s time for us to push forward and get him back in the swing of things.”

Sergio Brown will continue to start at safety until the Colts feel like Landry's ready to move back into that role.
video

The NFL Live crew make their picks for Indianapolis at the New York Giants.
INDIANAPOLIS – Besides addressing the move from A.Q. Shipley to Jonotthan Harrison at center on Thursday, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson also touched on several other issues.

Cherilus
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was arguably the Colts' most consistent offensive lineman last season, but that hasn’t been the case this year. Cherilus has struggled blocking in recent weeks. It turns out he’s been dealing with a knee injury.

Cherilus has only been listed on the team’s weekly injury report once – the week leading to the Cincinnati game in Week 7 – because of an actual injury. It’s been classified as a rest day, something coach Chuck Pagano often does with veteran players, on the other days that Cherilus has been on the injury report. He has played almost every offensive snap since signing with the Colts in 2013.

“He’s been fighting through some things,” Grigson said. “He’s tough as nails, and sometimes that can be to his detriment. He wants to go out there if he’s got a limb hanging. We’ve got to try to watch what he does and make sure he can be ready and be out there. It’s a Catch-22 because he wants to be out there with his guys. He doesn't like sitting out. But he’ll get those things cleaned up and everyone has some things to get cleaned up.”

Here’s what Grigson said on several other topics:

On the Colts (5-3) being a championship-caliber team: “We went into the season, every season, that we can win a championship. I don't know why you get up every morning if you don’t believe that. I think the team we’re playing this week, my first month on the job I watched them win the Super Bowl and they were 7-7 at one point. So, this league is about peaking at the right time, getting your playmakers in a position to make plays, matchups, that ball in January and February, a lot of times it comes down to those physical matchups one-on-one, if you can beat the guy across from you. I feel like this is a championship-caliber team; we just have to be more consistent and keep learning from our mistakes, our losses, and so forth and put together four quarters like we have a couple times this year.”

On owner Jim Irsay: “With Jim gone, things are pretty well structured. Jim is always there for input, but he never forces anything down our throats. Just his presence, it’s great to see. Got alumni back. Taking a team picture, and everyone’s walking over, everyone’s walking over to talk to him. that’s something you can’t fake. These guys are beaming at seeing him, and hugging him, and he was the same way. Great for our players to see. That relationship goes back years and years, because that’s real. If you play for the horseshoe, you’re family.”

Inside Edge: Colts-Giants

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
3:54
PM ET


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ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando delivers stats to help you make a pick for Indianapolis at the New York Giants.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The switch surrounding the switch from Indianapolis Colts center A.Q. Shipley to undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison by coach Chuck Pagano after Week 5 took many by surprise because Shipley’s play wasn’t hurting the team.

General manager Ryan Grigson, addressing reporters for the first time this season, said the move was performance-based.

“Jonotthan is being evaluated like everybody else, but we like the direction he’s headed,” Grigson said. “We have a little bit of a different vantage point, a little different perch from everyone else. We watch them in practice, every little thing they do. On those guys, I think we’re in a good situation. We have three quality guys. We have quality depth in a spot where everyone thought the sky was falling. I feel really good about the center position. I think Jonotthan is doing a heck of a job. He’s an undrafted rookie snapping to Andrew Luck, and I think he’s doing well.”

Khaled Holmes began the season as the starter, but was injured on the opening drive of the preseason opener against the New York Jets. He hasn’t played since.

“I think you look at how it transpired, Khaled is doing a great job, gets hurt,” Grigson said. “He has nine snaps in terms of his evaluation and practice. The games are the bulk of what you go off of. If he gets another opportunity, I’m sure he’ll do well. He has to stay out the training room. I told him that. Tha’s the bottom line.

“A.Q. came in and played quality snaps for us, but we’re up front with these guys. Ultimately it’s up to them. We’re always trying to get to a champion level; a winning level. That’s what we’re aspiring. It’s not that we’re heartless or cold. That’s the expectation, and if you’re going to be part of the train, you have to hop on and keep paving that way.”

Inside The Huddle: Hot QBs

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
11:34
AM ET


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A dozen quarterbacks are on pace for 4,000-plus passing yards this season.

RTC: Passing out grades for the Colts

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
11:30
AM ET
Here's Thursday's Reading the Coverage:

Conrad Brunner of 1070thefan.com gives his midseason report card grades on the defense.

Curt Cavin of the Indy Star writes about how receiver Hakeem Nicks has gotten off to a slow start with the Colts. Nicks will face his former team, the New York Giants, on Monday.

Kevin Bowen of Colts.com has a story on running back Ahmad Bradshaw closing in on most touchdown receptions by a running back in a single season. Bradshaw has six touchdown receptions and the record is nine set by Marshall Faulk.

Speaking of Bradshaw and Nicks, ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano talked to the two about facing their former team next week. "I knew it was a business," Bradshaw said. "I know how this business goes. I gave everything I could to the Giants. Injury-wise, I just couldn't get out there on the field."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Barring a setback, running back Trent Richardson should be on the field when the Indianapolis Colts play the New York Giants on Monday.

Richardson
Richardson missed last weekend's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a hamstring injury. Richardson was active for the game as the emergency third running back, but it wasn't surprising he didn't play because he didn't practice last week.

"Didn't want to throw him out there without a good week's worth of practice," Colts coach Chuck Pagnao said. "He'll be ready to roll, back in the lineup this week."

Richardson's absence impacted the balance of the playing time in the backfield.

Ahmad Bradshaw started against the Steelers and played 48 of the 66 (72 percent) of the snaps. Daniel "Boom" Herron, who backed Bradshaw up played the other 18 snaps.

Go back to the Cincinnati game a week before that and Richardson played 38 of 79 (48 percent) of the snaps and Bradshaw played 33 of 79 (41 percent) of the snaps against the Bengals.

For the season, Richardson has played 266 snaps (47.9) and Bradshaw has played 263 snaps (47.4). That's the type of balance the Colts prefer. They don't want to have to depend on one running back to get the majority of the snaps like against the Steelers last weekend because it impacts their running game. The Colts, who are 13th in the league in rushing at 115.8 yards a game, only ran the ball 10 times against Pittsburgh because they trailed by as many as 25 points in the second quarter.

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