ANDERSON, Ind. — It'll be next man up for the Indianapolis Colts along the defensive line — even if that next man doesn't necessarily have much, if any, NFL experience.
For Colts Defensive Coordinator Ted Monachino, the prospects of possibly being without the team's top three players up front — Henry Anderson, Arthur Jones and Kendall Langford — to begin the regular season certainly changes the overall approach some, but the defense has no choice but to forge on.
"Oh no," Monachino said Wednesday when asked if missing Anderson, Jones and Langford scares him. "We've got a good group of guys that are working their tails off to put themselves in a position to play winning football. We're doing everything that we can from a system standpoint, from a scheme standpoint."
Going into the week, the Colts knew they'd likely be without Anderson, who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last season, for their Week 1 matchup against the Detroit Lions, as well as Jones, who is suspended the first four weeks of the season.
But the unexpected blow could be the short-term loss of Langford, who underwent a recent procedure on his knee and is expected to be out three to four weeks. The ninth-year veteran has yet to miss a game in his previous eight NFL seasons, as his 128 consecutive games played is the longest active streak in the league among all defensive linemen.
Several younger players are expected to fill the void left by Anderson, Jones and Langford, including Zach Kerr, David Parry, T.Y. McGill, rookies Hassan Ridgeway and Sterling Bailey, among others.
Monachino said each player brings their own flavor to the defensive line, and hopes to bring out their strengths whenever possible.
"We're going to do everything that we can to make sure that our guys can do what they do best most often," he said. "Sure, those three guys (Anderson, Jones and Langford) are good players and we're going to miss them, but scared isn't a good term to describe how we feel right now. We just know that we've got to maybe approach things a little differently with the group of guys that we have available to us."
More specifically, Monachino said that might mean shaking things up from a coaching perspective to compensate for their lack of NFL experience.
"We only give them the things they can handle," he said. "You try to give them as much as they can. You teach in a way that you overload them then you go back in detail and you start to narrow your focus as you get closer and closer to regular season games."Anderson progressing
Prior to his season-ending injury suffered last November, Anderson was putting together an outstanding rookie season along the defensive line for the Colts.
In nine starts, the Stanford product had racked up 35 tackles, a sack and two passes defensed, establishing himself as one of the top defensive pieces on the team.
Monachino, who was most recently an assistant coach with the defensive-spoiled Baltimore Ravens, knows what a solid NFL defensive lineman is supposed to look like, and that's exactly what he sees when watching Anderson's film from the 2015 season.
"Henry jumps off the tape at you, first of all, because he's an effort-filled tough guy and he plays with a high football IQ all the time," he said. "Hard to trick Henry Anderson. You see a guy that is going to, at some point, become a really, really good player in this league."
Anderson has been seen most days during training camp practices working off to the side with team trainers, and, once he's ready, he'll be welcomed back with open arms by Monachino and the Colts' defense.
"I think that he's already a fine player and he's going to continue to improve with repetition and with time and with added strength and being completely healthy and all those things," Monachino said. "What you saw the first time I turned the tape on is you saw a guy with very high football character, tough, rugged, smart, effort-filled. Those are the things that you look for."Jones increasing reps
Jones also suffered a major injury last year, seeing his season come to an end during the preseason with an ankle issue.
Art Jones in action during the 2014 season.
He was held out of the team's offseason workout program, so this year's training camp practices have been his first action on the field in almost an entire year.
Monachino said the plan has been to slowly, but surely, work Jones' way back into the fold.
"He's not all the way back yet," Monachino said. "We're managing him in a way that he needs to be managed right now. As we move closer and closer I think that his reps will ramp up and he'll start to get his legs underneath him a little bit."
Perhaps the positive coming out of Jones' four-game suspension to begin the season is he has "a good, long time" to fully recover and come back 100 percent come Week 5, his defensive coordinator said.
"We trust that Arthur is going to do the right things between now and the time he does come back," Monachino said. "Right now, he's practicing his tail off and working hard in the meeting room and paying great attention in the unit meeting. Encouraged by him, disappointed like we all are that he can't go out there and trot out there (Week 1) against Detroit, but have great and high expectations for Arthur once he does come back in Week 5."