INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts today officially began on-field preparations for Sunday's Week 2 contest against the Minnesota Vikings. What were some of the top takeaways on the day? Here's today's Colts Notebook.
Here is today's injury report, the first of the week for the Colts:
Worth keeping an eye on
The big injury-related news coming out of the Colts' season opening loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, of course, was the loss of starting running back Marlon Mack, who suffered a ruptured Achilles midway through the second quarter.
Head coach Frank Reich said earlier this week Mack will not be able to return the rest of the season; he was formally placed on injured reserve today.
But while Mack was the only Colts player to have any sort of injury status announced during the game, the team is feeling the effects of some bumps and bruises to a few other key players as they begin preparations for this Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Vikings.
Head coach Frank Reich had told reporters before Wednesdays practice that tight end Jack Doyle (ankle/knee), safety Malik Hooker (illness) and wide receiver Zach Pascal (ankle) each were not expected to practice today.
The Colts are already light at the tight end position. Trey Burton, who was signed as a free agent this offseason, was placed on IR at the beginning of the season with a calf injury; the earliest he can return is Week 4 against the Chicago Bears. Indy had just two tight ends active for last Sunday's opener against the Jaguars — Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox — while a third tight end on their active roster, undrafted rookie Noah Togiai, who was just claimed off waivers by the team at the beginning of last week, was inactive.
The Colts currently have two tight ends — Farrod Green and Charlie Taumoepeau — on their practice squad, if needed.
With Pascal injured, the team also made a move today to address the wide receiver position, elevating Daurice Fountain from the practice squad. The Colts currently have seven wide receivers on their active roster: Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Fountain, T.Y. Hilton, Pascal, Dezmon Patmon and Michael Pittman Jr. Patmon was on the inactive list for last Sunday's season opener in Jacksonville.
Move to the edge
Denico Autry signed a free agent deal with the Colts back in the 2018 offseason to become the team's primary three-technique in their new 4-3 defensive scheme.
Autry's strength, however, has been his ability to play both inside and off the edge, which he showcased in his first season in Indy, when he logged a career-best nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss in just 12 games played.
Autry saw those numbers dip last year, as he collected 3.5 sacks and four tackles for loss in 14 games. The Colts this past offseason then went out and acquired DeForest Buckner, one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL, in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, prompting some to wonder about where Autry's best fit was along the line moving forward.
For now, however, Autry has enjoyed being able to focus mainly on playing off the edge at defensive end, and he earned the start at that spot opposite Justin Houston in last Sunday's 2020 opener against the Jaguars.
Autry had a strong 2020 debut, leading the team with two sacks on the day.
He said today Buckner's presence inside, plus his own individual development, is helping him figure out how to better take advantage of his opportunities off the edge.
"Most definitely, having Buck there is a big help," Autry said. "I hopefully can keep doing that week in and week out, but that's my main goal — just to keep playing hard.
"Things happen not as soon as they do at the three-technique," Autry continued, when asked about the differences between playing inside vs. off the edge. "Certain moves don't work out there that do inside. … The arm-over move — I tried it a couple times last week and it did not work."
It was undrafted rookie Rodrigo Blankenship who earned the Colts' kicking competition against Chase McLaughlin coming out of training camp. Both general manager Chris Ballard and special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone have since commended both kickers for such a close battle; in the end, a strong start and finish to training camp was the main reason why the Colts ultimately went with Blankenship.
Blankenship made his NFL debut last Sunday against the Jaguars and would end up connecting on four of his five total kick opportunities — he hit two of his three field goal attempts, with his miss coming from 30 yards out, and nailed both of his extra-point tries.
On Tuesday, the Colts announced the signing of another kicker, Matt Gay, to their practice squad, which to some outside of the team facility could've been construed as a move made to re-apply that element of pressure back into the team's practices.
Reich said today that wasn't necessarily the case, however. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and expanded practice squads this year, he said the Colts had already been considering the possibility of adding a second kicker to the practice squad for a while.
"This is the NFL — (Blankenship) knows the pressure. Every player, every coach knows the pressure of performing in this league," Reich said. "Chris (Ballard) and I had talked about having an extra specialist on the practice squad anyway. I mean, it's pretty common; I think probably about half the teams in the league that have an extra specialist on their roster. So just thought that was the best thing to do for our team."