INDIANAPOLIS –Every positional unit on a team demands cohesion for success, and perhaps the two areas that demand it the most have been those hardest hit this year for Indianapolis.
The club's offensive line and secondary have seen interruptions in availability through the first half of the season.
While the line has missed tackle Winston Justice and center Samson Satele from some practice this week, neither has been declared out for Thursday's game in Jacksonville. To this point, the line has used five different starting combinations, once starting three straight games with the same five players.
What is definite is the secondary will be without two starters as it lines up on Thursday night.
Cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Vontae Davis will be out of action, thrusting Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler into starting roles.
The secondary has started two different lineups in the first half of the season, and the longest streak of having one group open together was three games as well.
Three members of the secondary, safeties Tom Zbikowski and Antoine Bethea and Powers, have opened every game, while Davis (five games) and Vaughn (three) have shared starting assignments.
Davis will miss a second straight game with a knee injury, while Powers now is down with a toe injury suffered Sunday against Miami.
While Vaughn opens a fourth game, Butler, signed as a free agent on September 25, will be opening for the first time. He has seen reserve action in three outings while battling a shoulder injury of his own.
"It's big. It's a big opportunity for me personally, and a big opportunity for the team to continue the winning streak and keep making our push for the post-season," said Butler. "It's everybody's goal, and we're planning on doing it."
Butler started 14 times in 42 career games with Carolina and New England (2009-11), and this will be his fourth action with the Colts. Vaughn will be making his seventh career start, his 31st career appearance. He started three of 22 games with Denver after joining the Broncos in 2010 as an undrafted free agent.
"The opportunity is great. You always want to go out and try to show everybody what you can do," said Vaughn. "It's a Thursday Night game. It's something you've got to be up for. It's prime-time. It's just you and the other team that everybody is watching. You want to go out there and showcase your talents, so it's going to be good."
It is a matter of adjusting to teammates who are down. Vaughn is fluent with his role and is ready for action.
"It's just another day. We hope all our guys get healthy and we can come back and be that much stronger. Until then, we just have to pick up the pieces and take it one day at a time," said Vaughn. "We've been living the 'next man up' mantra for a long time and the next person has to step up. We can't lose a beat because we're trying to ride this momentum as long as we can."
The absences of Powers and Davis will thrust two other players into coverage packages. Josh Gordy will play in the nickel role, while Marshay Green will be the dime back. Gordy joined the Colts on August 21 in a trade with St. Louis, while Green joined the club's practice squad in October and was elevated to the active roster a week ago.
On Tuesday, Arians was asked if the depth in the secondary were being tested. A "coach 'em up" type, Arians wanted nothing to do with the premise.
"No. You have to come here and play as a starter," said Arians. "If you accept anything less than that, you'll get less. I don't accept anything less than playing like a starter."
Mentioning Gordy and Green as big components for Thursday night, Arians asserted his claim that players new to the program are considered veterans, unless their arrivals were within just a couple of days.
"Marshay Green will go in at dime. I had to learn another name," said Arians, before explaining his quip. "I've known Marshay. He's been here for a couple of weeks. He's a vet now, he's been here three weeks."