INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have boasted their depth along the offensive line a few times already this season, and they'll be ready once again this week if need be.
With Mark Glowinski, the team's starter at right guard, battling an ankle injury, the Colts have several viable options ready to step in and keep the standard high for one of the top offensive line units in the National Football League.
With Glowinski missing practice on Thursday for a second straight day — he suffered the ankle injury last Sunday against the Houston Texans and tried to return before coming right back out — the team today showed a look early in practice that included Joe Haeg at right guard with the first unit.
But the Colts have a couple other viable options at the position, including Evan Boehm and Josh Andrews. Boehm, who has primarily played guard during his three-year NFL career, has filled in at center for the last three games with starter Ryan Kelly nursing a knee injury, but Kelly made his return to practice this week. Andrews, meanwhile, played 32 snaps at right guard in Glowinski's place last Sunday in Houston.
While Haeg has plenty of prior experience at right guard, head coach Frank Reich said the team elected to go with Andrews in Glowinski's place against the Texans due to Haeg's game-specific role as an extra tight end in specific packages.
"All week long Haeg had kind of played the tight end role and so if we had moved Joe into guard then we would have had to make some changes, and Joe playing tight end – I don't want to say it was a significant part of the plan, but it was enough that we just felt that was the right move to make," Reich said this week. "We felt like Josh was ready."
If Glowinski can't play Sunday, it will be just the latest example of the Colts utilizing the "next-man-up" mentality along the offensive line:
» Le'Raven Clark got the start in four of the first five games of the season at left tackle in place of Anthony Castonzo, who was dealing with a hamstring injury.
» Haeg, meanwhile, was entrenched as the starter at right tackle in Weeks 2 and 3, but would be placed on injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury of his own during the third game of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was replaced with Denzelle Good. (Haeg is one of two Colts players who have since returned from IR.)
» In the Week 5 matchup against the New England Patriots, rookie Braden Smith filled in at right tackle after Good missed some time due to the tragic loss of his brother, Overton. Smith has remained at the position ever since.
» Then, the next week, Glowinski was inserted at right guard after starter Matt Slauson was placed on IR with a back injury.
» And, finally, Kelly suffered his knee injury in the fourth quarter of the Colts' Week 11 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, and was replaced by Boehm — who hadn't started at center since his senior season at Missouri.
Despite all these changes, the Colts boast one of the top-performing offensive lines in the league. The line had a five-game span without allowing a sack, led the way for two straight 200-yard rushing performances in Weeks 7 and 8 and its 16 total sacks allowed are the second fewest in the NFL.
The Colts will enter Sunday's crucial Week 15 game against the Dallas Cowboys about as healthy as they've been all year, a theme that continued on Thursday.
The team saw safety Clayton Geathers, who has missed a day or two of practice in recent weeks to rest up his knee, return to his familiar spot in the secondary after missing Wednesday's session.
That left just three players — Glowinski (ankle), wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (ankle) and safety Mike Mitchell (calf) — on the "did not practice" list on Thursday. Hilton also missed the first two days of practice last week with a shoulder injury before returning on Friday and then playing against the Texans, catching nine passes for 199 yards in the team's 24-21 victory at NRG Stadium.
Here's Thursday's full practice participation report:
» DNP: G Mark Glowinski (ankle); WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle); S Mike Mitchell (calf)
» Limited: TE Mo Alie-Cox (calf); S Clayton Geathers (knee); S Malik Hooker (hip); DT Margus Hunt (knee); C Ryan Kelly (knee); LB Skai Moore (neck)
» Full: Dontrelle Inman (shoulder)