INDIANAPOLIS – A day after the Colts beat Cleveland, 27-6, in the third preseason game, the team made a series of moves to reach 78 players. Three more moves are needed by Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. (ET).
Chuck Pagano is seasoned to the process, yet never finds it particularly pleasing.
"It's never easy. It's the harsh reality of the NFL," said Pagano. "These guys have given everything they've got. For some of them it's a dream come true to get into a camp. Unfortunately, you have to make the cuts. It's never an easy deal."
The Colts have waived CB-Johnny Adams, CB-Allen Chapman, G-Danous Estenor, DT-Kellen Heard, P/K-Brandon McManus, RB-Davin Meggett, LB-C.O. Prime, C-Rick Schmeig and S-Ashante Williams. WR-Maurice Williams was waived with an injury settlement and CB-Teddy Williams was waived-injured. The team also placed OLB-Lawrence Sidbury on injured reserve.
What has made Pagano's job easier of late has been the performances of his team the last two weeks – victories over the New York Giants (20-12) and the Browns.
Last night at Lucas Oil Stadium, the first-teamers staked Indianapolis to a 17-0 lead one series into the third quarter.
The offense hummed with a game-opening field goal drive and added two more touchdowns as Andrew Luck hit 16-of-25 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
Luck hit Reggie Wayne and Stanley Havili on scoring passes, but the offense did not function as well as Pagano would have liked on three possessions to end the second half.
Indianapolis had 26 first downs, 364 net yards and almost 33 minutes of possession time, along with a blended offense that had 34 rushes for 149 yards.
The offense played without starting tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, plus starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo left early with a sprained knee.
The defense stymied a Cleveland attack that had thrived early in two prior contests. The Browns arrived having scored on five-of-six first-team drives.
The Indianapolis defensive starters blanked Cleveland, limiting it to four first downs, 109 yards on 27 snaps and one third-down conversion in seven chances. Cleveland managed only three plays in Colts' territory.
Indianapolis starters produced three three-and-outs and forced a fumble, and the performance came after seven red zone stops in the first two outings. The first-team defensive unit has not yielded a touchdown all preseason.
Setting a strong tone in the second year of a 3-4 scheme is occurring, and Andrew Luck has seen it during training camp.
"They were a pain in the butt to go against," said Luck. "It's nice to see them going up against someone else. They've been opportunistic – interceptions, guys getting hands on balls, sacks, you name it. They're playing their butts off."
Indianapolis has two defensive touchdowns and has allowed only eight third-down conversions in the last 31 attempts.
"This is the defense we want to play in November and December," said Robert Mathis. "We've got a lot of work to do. We're just sharpening our tools for Week 1."
Pagano said starters are not ruled out for Thursday's Cincinnati finale. It will be a game for evaluation mainly for some younger players, but some veterans will be decided upon on a case-by-case basis.
With competition across the board, Pagano said target moves among defensive linemen and linebackers will be challenging.
"We're going to have to make some tough decisions. We're going to let some good players go. It is what it is. To get to 75 is one thing, to get to 53 is another. There are some guys who have played good football for us over the last month. It will be tough."
INJURY UPDATE – Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo's MRI revealed no further surprises on his knee sprain. Castonzo is out for Cincinnati and is day-to-day. He should be ready for the opener. Joe Reitz will start for Castonzo.
"You never want to lose anybody, particularly the guy who is protecting the blindside of your quarterback," said Pagano. "Joe played well and is an athletic guy. He did a nice job."
Nathan Palmer has an MCL sprain with no added MRI surprises. He is looking at four-to-six week recovery. No surgery is planned.
With Mike McGlynn recovering from a bruised knee bone, Pagano said rookie Hugh Thornton "played really well for a guy who hasn't taken snaps since rookie camp. He knocked off rust and looked good in run and pass game." Pagano would not hesitate to start Thornton at Cincinnati Thursday. McGlynn is expected to be ready for the opener.
Lawrence Sidbury will get a second opinion on his shoulder. Surgery is planned.
No other updates were available for a team that had 14 players out of commission for the Cleveland game due to injuries.
RAYFORD PRAISED – Pagano praised the effort of free agent Caesar Rayford, who had two sacks and a forced fumble Saturday. Rayford leads the club with five preseason sacks and two forced fumbles.
"He's definitely making a case for himself. He's produced every week. It goes back to preparation. He's constantly asking the right questions. He practices. He's always out there doing the scout team work. He's a football junkie. He's one of the last guys to leave the building. He plays fast. He has a knack for the edge rush. It's going to be interesting to see how this shakes out."