INDIANAPOLIS –When the Colts meet the New York Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, there will be a number of few faces seeing action early.
Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians said today guard Joe Reitz, linebacker Pat Angerer, nose tackle Martin Tevaseu, running back Donald Brown, defensive end Fili Moala and linebacker Robert Mathis will miss the contest.
Additionally, Arians listed cornerback Vontae Davis as doubtful, while saying a trio of players – linebacker Dwight Freeney, center Samson Satele and running back Mewelde Moore – are probable.
Reitz (knee) and Angerer (foot) have missed the first four games, while the others listed as out all played last week.
Mathis and Brown both hurt knees in the second half of the Green Bay game last Sunday. Brown suffered cartilage damage on the two-point rush that tied a bow on the 30-27 comeback win. Mathis incurred his injury on one of the club's five second-half sacks of Aaron Rodgers. Third-year pro Jerry Hughes will start for Mathis.
Rookie Vick Ballard will open at running back, joining quarterback Andrew Luck and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in the starting lineup. They were four of the club's top six picks in the 2012 draft, and one other of those choices, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, sees ample duty as well.
Hilton was on the field for 73 of the club's 89 plays last Sunday against Green Bay, and Arians cited that earlier in the week by saying players like him no longer are considered rookies in the coach's view.
Arians reinforced that notion on Friday.
"It's time to grow up. Some of these guys have logged a lot of snaps already. The youth thing we can't use as an excuse, unless it's your first (game)," said Arians. "We'll use Nathan Palmer as a young guy. He hasn't even been here three weeks, and he's in the game plan. Those guys who just showed up, you can use the youth excuse on them. The rest of the guys, no, they have to play like vets."
Ballard's 21 rushing attempts are second on the team. He is likely to narrow quickly the gap between his total and Brown's team-leading 60 carries. Second-year pro Delone Carter is expected to see action, too. Luck, Allen and Fleener have opened every game.
Arians and the coaching staff demands accountability from the players, something that never has been an issue. One thing the staff also requires of the players is speed.
"Mistakes are okay, just make them full-speed," said Arians, grinning. "Something good will happen. Sure, they're going to make mistakes, they're not going to play perfect. Play fast. If you're not sure of something, just do it fast, and you have a chance to be successful."
Arians said the team had spent significant practice time this week preparing for the possibility of the Jets using quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow on Sunday. Devoting such time to the possibility of facing the Wildcat Offense is necessary.
"Probably 30 percent," estimated Arians of how much practice time was devoted to the Wildcat. "It's (the Wildcat) something I would never do, but it does put a lot of burden on you to get ready for two different offenses. (Defensive coordinator) Greg (Manusky) has done a heck of a job mixing it in and out of practice. They're both in the game sometimes with gadget plays. You can only work so many. You know they have new ones, they're not going to run the same ones they ran. Expect the unexpected when they're in there."
Arians has tangled with Rex Ryan and the Jets before. He warns it will be a dangerous team Indianapolis faces on Sunday.
"Give them the respect they deserve. They have a great coaching staff and they have good players," said Arians. "I've seen Mark Sanchez on fire. I know what to expect, and I'm expecting his best and their best. Their backs are against the wall like ours. We're fighting to get in that playoff hunt."