NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kemoko Turay showed clear progression heading into his second season in last week's 2019 opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, but he'll have to wait to build upon that strong start.
The Indianapolis Colts today announced that Turay, who was originally labeled as doubtful for Sunday's Week 2 showdown against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, has been downgraded to out for the contest.
The Colts now have three players ruled out against Tennessee: Turay, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and running back Jonathan Williams.
Pass rush help
Turay, the Colts' second-round (52nd-overall) pick in last year's NFL Draft out of Rutgers, was seen as a prospect who had elite speed pass rushing traits that needed refined at the professional level.
As a rookie in 2018, Turay, playing a varying role from week to week, still finished with 4.0 sacks, generating 40 total pressures with 12 combined hits/sacks over 296 pass-rush snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Spending his offseason working one-on-one with Robert Mathis, the Colts' franchise leader in sacks, Turay really worked at his craft to find the moves that fit him best off the edge. He gained momentum throughout training camp and the preseason — he had 2.0 sacks in three preseason games — and headed into Week 1 of the regular season as one of the Colts' primary rushers on passing downs.
It all came together for Turay last Sunday against the Chargers in L.A., as he finished with four total pressures and a strip sack of quarterback Philip Rivers; Turay had already logged a strip sack earlier in the game, but it was negated by an offsides penalty called on the Colts' defense.
For his efforts, Turay was assigned an overall game grade of 95.6 by Pro Football Focus — the highest of any defender in the league.
"It's just the technique of Turay of what he's gained over the course of the offseason of how he's using that technique and applying it to the game," Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said of what he's seen in Turay this year. "I think having Justin Houston here certainly helps with him to model somebody in terms of how to do it and what to do, in terms of his technique and fundamentals. We were really pleased with the pressures that we had."
But dealing with a neck injury that had kept him out of one practice leading up to the Chargers game, Turay would miss all three practices this past week, and was labeled as doubtful heading into Sunday's AFC South Division showdown against the Titans before officially being downgraded to out today.
The Colts have a couple options to keep applying pressure on Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota in Turay's place.
Ben Banogu, a second-round pick in this year's NFL Draft out of TCU, had a strong debut showing last week against the Chargers, finishing with his first career half-sack — and two pressures overall. He could be counted on to play that third-down role on the opposite end of the veteran Houston, who also had a sack last week against Los Angeles.
Al-Quadin Muhammad, who is starting in place of the injured Sheard at defensive end, could also factor in more on passing downs, while the team could always slide guys like Margus Hunt, Denico Autry or Tyquan Lewis — all of whom have position flexibility — from the defensive interior to the edge when needed.
"We'll have different varying spots," Eberflus said. "Guys will play a different inside, outside, right, left – all those things. It's all based on what practice is. Guys that are going to rush and put the effort out in the green rush – those are going to be the guys that are going to be on the field."
Milk was a bad choice
By the time the Colts and Titans kick off in Nashville at noon CT (1 p.m. ET) on Sunday, temperatures are expected to be around 90 degrees. By the end of the game, those temps could very well creep into the mid-90s at Nissan Stadium.
The Colts prepared for these conditions this week, cutting practices shorter than usual and keeping an even closer eye on players, as temperatures in Indianapolis in recent days also were in the low-90s.
Colts head coach Frank Reich told Colts.com's Matt Taylor on Friday that the heat doesn't change the overall gameplan much, but it will certainly continue to be closely monitored throughout the day on Sunday.
"You know, all week long it's been hot, so it's been good. So we've been able to practice in it and feel like what it's going to feel like on Sunday," Reich said. "You know, we did slightly adjust practices a little bit, just to keep guys fresh."
Reich said it was important that his players didn't "empty out their tanks" before Sunday's matchup.
"We want their tanks empty (on Sunday)," Reich said. "We want them walking off the field with an empty tank (Sunday). We don't wanna empty it out beforehand, so we did adjust a little bit."