Colts Daily Notebook: Malik Hooker Returns To Practice; Colts Prepare For Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins

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INDIANAPOLIS — Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson are two of the more elusive quarterbacks in today’s NFL, and the Indianapolis Colts have been tasked with trying to slow both of them down in back-to-back games.

The Colts’ defense was up to the task in Week 5, as it effectively shut down the reigning league Most Valuable Player Mahomes, sacking him four times and limiting his effectiveness outside the pocket in Indy’s 19-13 road victory.

The task doesn’t get any easier this Sunday, however, as Watson and the red-hot Houston Texans come to Lucas Oil Stadium with first place in the AFC South Division on the line.

Watson to this point has played like an MVP in his third NFL season, as he’s completed 140-of-201 passes (69.7 percent) for 1,644 yards and 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions. But he’s also continued to be a threat outside the pocket and as a runner, as he’s compiled 32 rushing attempts for 164 yards and five more scores on the ground.

While Mahomes likes to break free of the pocket and use his big arm to make plays, Watson has proven that he’s just as dangerous running the ball as he is throwing it.

“It’s a different style of offense,” Colts defensive end Justin Houston said when asked to compare preparing for Mahomes to preparing for Watson. “You know, (the Texans) like to run the option; so (with) Pat Mahomes, it wasn’t the option with him. So running the option, definitely you’ve gotta play disciplined football. Everybody’s got a job to do, so we’ve all gotta be on the same page and do our jobs.”

All things considered, the Colts (3-2) did a solid job containing Watson last season in their three matchups — two in the regular season, and one in the postseason.

Watson’s passing numbers got worse in every game against Indy, as he completed just 29-of-49 passes (59.2 percent) for 235 yards with one touchdown to one interception in the Colts’ Wild Card Round victory over the Texans in Houston. That’s an average of 4.8 yards per attempt for a guy that nearly doubled that total during the regular season (8.2 yards per attempt).

The Colts also provided constant pressure on Watson last year, sacking him 15 total times in their three matchups.

Watson was sacked 62 times last season, the most in the NFL, and the Texans allowed 18 sacks in their first three games this year. But that tide has turned the last two weeks, as Houston’s offensive line didn’t yield a single sack in wins against the Atlanta Falcons and the Chiefs.

That puts pressure on the secondary to hold on to its coverage even longer, which is much easier said than done. The Colts are hoping to have a second straight solid performance out of its front and its defensive backfield Sunday against Watson to alleviate those worries, however.

“You’ve gotta stay on top, because just like Mahomes, Watson, he can get out with his feet, he can throw really well. You’ve just gotta stay on your keys, stay on top,” Colts cornerback Pierre Desir said. “Versus the Chiefs, it was a testament to our defensive line; they were able to get to the quarterback. We’re gonna need that from them, and from us in the secondary, we’ve got to just stay on top and just plaster them and make sure we stay on top of our receivers.”

Inspired Hopkins

One of the more inspired players taking the field Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium might be Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was shut down by the Colts in their last two meetings last season.

Hopkins went off for 10 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown against the Colts back in Week 4 last year — a game the Texans narrowly won in overtime — but he was held to a combined nine catches for 73 yards over the next two games, including Indy’s Wild Card Round win at NRG Stadium.

In fact, since 2015 — the first of three seasons he’s been voted to the Pro Bowl — Hopkins has only been held to fewer than 38 receiving yards seven times; two of those performances came against the Colts last season.

The All-Pro Hopkins is up to his old tricks again so far through six games this season, however, as he’s hauled in 40 passes for 402 yards and two touchdowns. It’ll be up to the Colts to slow him down once again.

Last year, it was Desir answering the call for the Colts against Hopkins, as he oftentimes found himself shadowing the talented receiver. Desir said the Texans will try to get creative to free Hopkins up to make plays.

While it’s important to win your one-on-one matchups, Desir said another key is to ensure Hopkins is directed back into the coverage areas of other defenders as much as possible.

“For us, he’s in the slot, he’s out wide, in the backfield, so what you try to do is just make sure that you have your eyes right, because they’re gonna try to do a lot of motions to get you off your keys,” Desir said. “And we have certain situations where you need to be more detailed, and that’s what we did last year — we just paid attention to our details, because they are going to try to get us off our mark by putting him in the backfield and putting him in different positions that he’s not used to doing.”

Desir has missed the first two days of practice this week with a hamstring injury, so if he’s limited or can’t play Sunday, that means others — like Rock Ya-Sin, Quincy Wilson or Marvell Tell III — might have to step up at times against Hopkins.

Injury report

Here’s the full injury report from Thursday’s practice:

» DNP: WR Parris Campbell (abdominal); CB Pierre Desir (hamstring); TE Eric Ebron (illness); DE Justin Houston (calf); DT/DE Tyquan Lewis (ankle); CB Kenny Moore II (knee)

» Limited: S Malik Hooker (knee)

» Full: LB Zaire Franklin (hamstring); S Clayton Geathers (not injury related; rest)

— Hooker on Thursday was able to participate in practice for the first time since injuring his knee Week 3 against the Atlanta Falcons. The Colts have mostly utilized Khari Willis and George Odum in his place in the two games since.

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