INDIANAPOLIS – After missing his first full practice of 2016, Andrew Luck returned to practice on Thursday, in a limited role.
Even though Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris did the throwing during the open media portion of practice, the Colts reiterated on Thursday that Luck will be under center this Sunday.
With Luck still not practicing full, the bright spots on the injury report now reside on the defensive side of the ball.
Here's a look at Thursday's injury notes and what offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and defensive coordinator Ted Monachino had to say to the media.
- DT-Henry Anderson (knee): This is Anderson's fifth straight week of practice and his third full session in a row. Anderson has a real chance to return to the field on Sunday.
- CB-Darius Butler (hamstring): It's a week-to-week timetable for Butler after suffering a grade one hamstring injury against Denver.
- OLB-Trent Cole (back): Cole was limited again on Thursday, after he missed all of last week.
- CB-Antonio Cromartie (ribs): It was a shoulder injury that took Cromartie off the field for a few plays in Denver. Cromartie upped his workload to a full participation level on Thursday.
- CB-Vontae Davis (ankle): This was Davis' second straight day of practice, an important step for him after missing the last month. Davis was limited on Thursday.
- S-Clayton Geathers (foot): After sitting out Wednesday's practice, Geathers returned to the field on Thursday in a full role. Geathers left last Sunday's game in Denver after 34 snaps.
- T-Denzelle Good (back): It was a second straight day of missed practice for Good. Friday's practice is going to be huge if Good wants to play on Sunday.
- CB-T.J. Green (knee): Just a week and a half after suffering a sprained MCL, Green was back to work in a limited role for a second straight day.
- WR-T.Y. Hilton (knee): Hilton practiced full on Wednesday, but was limited at Thursday's practice.
- C-Ryan Kelly (shoulder): Kelly was at practice on Thursday, doing some stretching during individual drills for the offensive line group. Kelly battled a shoulder injury at Training Camp.
- DE-Kendall Langford (abdomen): Langford was limited again on Thursday with an injury that is different to the knee scope he had back during the preseason.
- QB-Andrew Luck (right shoulder): Luck was back to practice, in a limited role on Thursday. When the media was present on Thursday, Luck did not throw at practice. OC-Rob Chudzinski spoke on Thursday and fully expects Luck to be under center on Sunday.
- WR-Donte Moncrief (shoulder): Moncrief will be out four-to-six weeks.
- OT-Joe Reitz (calf, neck): Reitz was back to practice on Thursday, in a limited role.
- CB-Patrick Robinson (concussion): It was another positive step in the concussion protocol for Robinson. He was in a normal practice jersey, participating fully at Thursday's practice.
Ted Monachino on the improvements for his unit last week:
"This is a production business and we all understand that. Although there were some improvements and some things that we got a lot better at during the course of the game and preparation, there are no moral victories and we don't feel any better this week than we did a week ago."
Bowen's Analysis: The improvements Monachino saw from Week One to Two included improved tackling, slowing down the run game and holding Denver to just one touchdown in four red-zone opportunities. The most glaring negative Monachino saw in Denver was his unit giving up five third-down conversions that all came on distances of at least seven yards to convert. Those down and distances should be money time for any defense.
Even Monachino offered a few smiles on Thursday when asked about the health of his defense rapidly improving. On Thursday, Monachino had none of the expected defensive starters, coming into this season, sitting out due to injury. As those players get up to full speed, the first-year defensive coordinator can finally start to employ what he envisioned all offseason long.Ted Monachino on defending Philip Rivers this weekend:
"The quarterback makes it all go.
"We have a lot of respect for Philip and the job that he does, not only as a physical football player, but more importantly as a mental football player. His football IQ is off the charts."
Bowen's Analysis: What Monachino said on Thursday backs up what Pagano was explaining on Wednesday---the Colts have to disguise things pre-snap extremely well on Sunday. Rivers thrives off defenses tipping their hands late in the play-clock, and the veteran QB is not afraid to wait until the final second or two to snap the football.
Monachino also wanted to point out the physicality of San Diego's offensive line. All five of the Chargers starting lineman are listed at 315 pounds or heavier. San Diego has used that size to pound the football with running back Melvin Gordon, who was taken No. 15 overall last year.Rob Chudzinski on getting the run game growing against San Diego:
"I'm seeing some improvement in what we've done in the run game area and we have to continue to improve and create more opportunities where we can get to more runs."
Bowen's Analysis: San Diego has struggled against the run early in 2016. Teams are averaging 5.1 yards per carry, but opponents haven't really had the chance to expose that too much with the Chargers jumping out to big leads, forcing teams to play catch up through the air.
Such production in the run game would serve the Colts quite well. Chudzinski admitted on Thursday that the injury to Donte Moncrief does force him to do some thinking on how he will use personnel groupings going forward. If San Diego's star corner Jason Verrett does indeed shadow T.Y. Hilton, the Colts will need their inexperienced wideout group to play a role no one saw coming for those guys at the start of 2016.*
Here is Thursday's injury report:*
-DNP: CB-Darius Butler (hamstring), T-Denzelle Good (back), ILB-D'Qwell Jackson (rest), C-Ryan Kelly (shoulder), WR-Donte Moncrief (shoulder)
-LIMITED: OLB-Trent Cole (back), CB-Vontae Davis (ankle), CB-T.J. Green (knee), WR-T.Y. Hilton (knee), DE-Kendall Langford (abdomen), QB-Andrew Luck (right shoulder), OT-Joe Reitz (calf, neck)
-FULL: DT-Henry Anderson (knee), CB-Antonio Cromartie (ribs), S-Clayton Geathers (foot), RB-Frank Gore (rest), OLB-Robert Mathis (rest), CB-Patrick Robinson (concussion)