INDIANAPOLIS — Could the Indianapolis Colts have both their starting left tackle and their top running back make their returns on Sunday against the New York Jets?
If their practice status on Wednesday is any indication, the answer to that question could be much closer to "yes" than it has been all season.
Anthony Castonzo and Marlon Mack, both of whom have been dealing with nagging hamstring injuries for multiple months, were both listed as full practice participants on Wednesday's injury report.
The outlook isn't as positive for many other injured players, however; today's practice report featured 11 players who did not practice, and another two who were limited.
Castonzo is yet to make his 2018 debut. The eighth-year veteran injured his hamstring before the start of training camp, re-aggravated the injury about a week into camp and missed the entire preseason, had hoped to make his debut Week 2 against the Washington Redskins, but re-aggravated the injury once again in practice leading up to that game.
Mack, meanwhile, initially suffered his injury Aug. 9 in the Colts' preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, and would miss the rest of the preseason, as well as the team's 2018 regular season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
He made his debut Week 2, getting the start against the Washington Redskins, but would suffer a setback with his hamstring injury and was held out of practice the next couple weeks.
Mack has been able to practice the last two weeks, albeit in more of a limited capacity, but if he's able to play in Sunday's Week 6 matchup against the New York Jets, he could provide a much-needed shot in the arm for an Indy rushing attack that, for a variety of reasons, hasn't produced as well as the team would like in recent games.
Perhaps it's no coincidence the Colts had their only 100-yard rushing output of the season when Mack was able to play Week 2 — which resulted in the team's only win thus far, 21-9, over Washington.
If Mack is able to return Sunday, the team will need to decide if it wants four running backs on its gameday roster — which is "unusual," head coach Frank Reich said today — or if it'll roll with the more traditional three backs. Rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins have carried the load for most of the season thus far, while veteran Robert Turbin just returned last week from a four-game suspension to open the season.
Having Mack back does certainly strengthen the Colts' "running back by committee" approach, however.
"We'll gameplan each guy specifically for certain plays," Reich said. "The good thing about doing it that way is it helps control the reps, as well, and gets everybody involved. And then you always leave a little bit of wiggle room if a guy gets a hot hand and you just feel like he's rolling and has a tremendous feel, then you kind of tend to leave him in a little bit longer.
A few other key players were back on the practice field as full participants for the Colts on Wednesday, including cornerbacks Kenny Moore II and Quincy Wilson (concussions) and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (calf).
Doyle, Hilton remain 'week-to-week;' Geathers update
Jack Doyle and T.Y. Hilton, two of the Colts' top targets in the passing game, were both once again listed under the "Did Not Participate in Practice" list on Wednesday.
And Reich indicated today they could be on there a little bit longer.
Asked for an update on the tight end and the wide receiver, Reich said Doyle (hip) and Hilton (chest/hamstring) likely remain more in the "week-to-week" classification, as opposed to the more optimistic "day-to-day" label.
Doyle has missed the last three games, while Hilton sat out his first game last Thursday against the New England Patriots.
Another key player, this time on the defensive side of the ball, could also be looking some extended time away, meanwhile.
Safety Clayton Geathers, who suffered both a neck injury and a concussion last week against the Patriots, continues to be evaluated, especially as it pertains to his neck, Reich said Wednesday.
The concern with Geathers is a previous serious neck injury he suffered back in the 2016 season. The resulting bulging disk required major surgery, and Geathers would not return to the field until late last season.
The Colts this week signed veteran free agent safety Mike Mitchell, whom Reich believes can contribute right away on defense — as early as Sunday against the Jets — if needed.
"I learned that this team has no quit. I love the story that we'll have. And I say that because we're very young, we're all beat up, and what people don't tend to realize is you don't stay beat up forever, you know? You get healthy, you get guys back, and then you start to establish a dominance. So I like our story. Hopefully it ends the way I'm saying it — guys, don't have me up here saying, 'Ebron said they're going to be great at the end of the year' — no, what I'm saying is we'll get healthy, guys will start coming back. And hopefully it's at the right time when we need that surge, that push, that half-year dominance. And I believe that's going to be our story, and I hope it holds true." — Colts tight end Eric Ebron, on what he's learned about his team through five games so far.
Here's Wednesday's full practice report:
» DNP: DT/DE Denico Autry (hamstring); TE Jack Doyle (ankle); TE Eric Ebron (shin/quad/ankle/knee); S Matthias Farley (shoulder/groin/wrist); S Clayton Geathers (concussion/neck); T Denzelle Good (not injury related); WR T.Y. Hilton (chest/hamstring); S Malik Hooker (back); DT Margus Hunt (knee); C Ryan Kelly (calf); LB Darius Leonard (ankle)
» Limited: CB Nate Hairston (ankle); LB Anthony Walker (concussion)
» Full: T Anthony Castonzo (hamstring); RB Marlon Mack (hamstring); CB Kenny Moore II (concussion); DT Hassan Ridgeway (calf); CB Quincy Wilson (concussion)