INDIANAPOLIS – When the Colts huddled up for their final defensive possession in Sunday's season opener, there was no time for introductions.
But Robert Mathis confesses, he looked around at the jersey numbers and wasn't 100 percent sure who was joining him out there.
"I don't want to admit it, but I'm learning names as well," Mathis says of the current state of the defensive personnel in Indianapolis.
Ted Monachino's welcome to Indianapolis as the team's defensive coordinator has seen so much shifting throughout every level of the defense, particularly in the secondary
If you were to project a starting defensive lineup at the end of June's minicamp and compare that to now, the similarities are hardly abundant.
Mike Adams, D'Qwell Jackson, David Parry and Erik Walden are the only starters who haven't encountered the injury bug forcing them out of game action.
This past Sunday, Jackson found himself watching three of his fellow defenders leave the field on one drive.
"You just kept seeing bodies on the ground and you hoped and prayed it wasn't you going to be next," Jackson said of the injury toll on defense that took Patrick Robinson and T.J. Green with them in Week One.
"It's something that we're dealing with. We'll get through it. It's early in the season. We'll get some guys back here soon but in the meantime, we've got to go with the guys we have."
Take Wednesday's practice for instance.
The Colts were without their top two cornerbacks, their top two pass rushers and two of their top three safeties. Just to have a functional practice, the Colts had to add two defensive backs to the practice squad on Tuesday night.
An even greater onus has fallen on the steady shoulders of safety Mike Adams.
Back on that final drive against Detroit, Adams had five defensive backs join him in the dime package:
- CB-Antonio Cromartie: Signed on August 22
- CB-Darryl Morris: Claimed on September 5
- CB-Rashaan Melvin: Signed on September 7
- S-Matthias Farley: Claimed on September 4, who was also playing his first NFL snaps
- S-Winston Guy: A special teamer, who played two total defensive snaps last season in Indy
For Adams, it was a traffic cop on the final day of school trying to restore some order.
"I just grabbed guys, 'Hey, you stay on the tight end. I'm going to go back. Matter of fact, you go on the post and I'm going to go on the tight end.'
"I just tried to direct traffic that way and try to make it as easy as possible."
If there's good news for the Colts, it's that the health on defense does not include any long-term causalities.
Vontae Davis should be back fairly soon.
Clayton Geathers has returned to practice.
Kendall Langford is nearing full strength after playing just 22 snaps in Week One.
Henry Anderson's 2016 debut is also nearing.
The day will come when this defense looks like the unit envisioned at the start of the summer.
For now it's being duct taped together. But the "e" word isn't going to creep into the lingo of the leader at the back end.
"You are wasting time making excuses, because this is the NFL," Adams says. "The guys that came in, they are getting paid to do a job. Obviously, they are capable and they are here because they are capable, so we expect them to step up when it's time. That's how I got my shot. When I was a young pup, someone got hurt and I stepped in. No one made excuses for me and said, 'It's okay. He's a rookie. He didn't know. That's why he didn't make that tackle.'
"We are not going to do that. We are not going to play that game."