INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts today officially began on-field preparations for Sunday's Week 5 contest against the Cleveland Browns. What were some of the top takeaways on the day?
Here is today's injury report, the first of the week for the Colts:
Injuries to monitor
The Colts had three key starters watching practice from the sidelines on Wednesday.
Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (rib), WILL linebacker Darius Leonard (groin) and SAM linebacker Bobby Okereke (thumb) all were officially labeled as non-participants.
Linebacker E.J. Speed, meanwhile, was wearing a red non-contact jersey on Wednesday as he works his way back from an elbow injury; he was listed as limited, as was cornerback T.J. Carrie, who missed last Sunday's Week 4 win over the Chicago Bears with a hamstring injury.
» Castonzo suffered a rib injury in last Sunday's win over the Bears. He played 68 of a possible 72 offensive snaps on the day; fifth-year veteran Le'Raven Clark filled in at left tackle for the other four offensive snaps, a week after playing six snaps at left tackle at the end of the Colts' blowout Week 3 win over the New York Jets. Castonzo is coming off a 2019 season in which he didn't miss a single offensive snap.
» Leonard suffered a groin injury late in the first half of last Sunday's game in Chicago; he was initially labeled as questionable to return before being downgraded to out for the remainder of the contest. Leonard played 28 of a possible 62 defensive snaps (45 percent) on the day; his absence in the second half led to a shuffling at the respective linebacker positions, with Anthony Walker moving to the WILL linebacker spot and Okereke primarily playing MIKE linebacker. Zaire Franklin also had two defensive snaps at linebacker against the Bears.
» Okereke on Monday had surgery to correct a thumb injury suffered against the Bears. The second-year linebacker played 53 defensive snaps (85 percent) in all in Week 4, and finished with eight tackles, including one tackle for loss.
Reich said on Wednesday he was "not really ready to make any report or updates" to any of the Colts' injured players, instead deferring to the team's injury report.
Defense's 'biggest challenge'
The Colts' offense had perhaps its best challenge of the year to this point last Sunday against the Chicago Bears, and this Sunday the Indy defense will gets its turn.
The Browns (3-1) head into this Week 5 matchup red-hot on the offensive side of the ball, as they've scored an average of 39.3 points their last three games, all wins, and are coming off a 49-38 shootout victory on the road against the Dallas Cowboys.
Cleveland comes into this game with the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack (204.5 yards per game; 5.88 rushing yards per play), is tied for second in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage (80) and is fourth in the league in scoring (31.0).
The Browns also have the weapons to spread the wealth. While starting running back Nick Chubb will be out indefinitely with a knee injury, the team still has quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Kareem Hunt, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and tight end Austin Hooper, among others, who can make some magic happen with the ball in their hands.
"Yeah, this will be our defense's biggest challenge," Reich said. "You know, you've got the No. 1 offense as far as running the ball. The other thing that they're No. 1 at is explosive plays in the running game."
But, as Reich pointed out, the Colts will counter with their No. 1-ranked defense, which is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (77.0) and sixth in rushing yards allowed per play (3.58), and has already bottled up the likes of Dalvin Cook and David Montgomery.
And, if Mayfield wants to try to test Indy through the air, he'll be going up against the league's No. 1 passing defense (159.3 yards per game; 5.44 passing yards per play) that also has a league-best 5.98 interception percentage.
"This is what it's all about," Reich said. "So we'll see how it stacks up. We've got a ton of confidence in our guys."
'So much confidence' in run game
While the Browns will enter Sunday's game with the league's best rushing attack through the first four games of the season, the Colts haven't been able to approach that same kind of success on the ground just yet.
It's not like Indy has struggled to accumulate rushing yards in its four games so far, ranking tied for 15th in the NFL in that category (115.3 rushing yards per game), but in terms of average yards per attempt, the team currently ranks last in the league (3.52).
Reich admits he wants to see overall improvements out of the Colts' run game moving forward, but he also isn't going to make drastic changes and start taking unnecessary risks during games just to jumpstart that area of the offense.
The Browns, by the way, haven't exactly had a lockdown defense to this point of the season — they rank 25th in the league in total defense (402.3 yards per game allowed) and tied for 28th in points allowed (31.5 per game), but their run defense has been solid; they rank fifth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (91.8) and eighth in rushing average allowed (3.9).
"If my goal was yards per carry and yards per game, would I call the game differently? Yes, I could call the game vastly differently, but that's not the goal," Reich said. "The goal is to win the game. And you could do some more crazy things at the end of the game, or even in the middle of the game, but that comes with a cost and a risk. So that's where you assess it as you go. And you take those shots, but as far as our run game, I've got so much confidence in what we're doing and who we're doing it with, so I think over the course of 16 games, we're gonna be happy with where we end up."