INDIANAPOLIS – At the start of the 2016 season, not many would have Edwin Jackson and Antonio Morrison pegged as the Colts inside linebackers needed for the team's playoff push.
That thought is now a reality.
D'Qwell Jackson's four-game suspension will take the team's leading tackler, and quarterback of its defense, away for the rest of the regular season.
Where will the Colts turn to try and fill the quarterback of their defense?
Begin with Edwin Jackson.
The Colts have started Jackson the last four weeks.
Energy is always obvious when Jackson's No. 53 jersey goes between the white lines.
A 2015 undrafted free agent, Jackson has seven tackles in each of the last three games, and was the team's leading stopper on Monday night.
Rookie Antonio Morrison is the probable favorite to fill in for the suspended veteran.
Morrison's playing time on defense has really decreased as of late. He's played in all 12 games this season, accounting for 20 tackles in 111 defensive snaps.
Josh McNary has starting experience, too. It was Morrison though, not McNary, who saw action on Monday night when D'Qwell Jackson left with a concussion.
McNary does have eight career starts (three in 2016), but he's played just five defensive snaps since Week Seven.
Rounding out the inside linebacker group (for now) is Deon King.
The Colts claimed King, a 2016 undrafted free agent, off the Chargers practice squad in mid-November. King has been inactive for his three games with the Colts. He had one tackle in two career games with the Chargers earlier this season.
While another inside linebacker will likely find his way onto the active roster this week, the Colts could also explore an option at safety.
Clayton Geathers has been an effective sub package linebacker in 2016.
But would the Colts feel comfortable bumping Geathers down to linebacker in their nickel/base packages (along with the dime)? Doing so would risk a smaller personnel grouping against opposing running attacks.
The injury status for Geathers is a question, too. A neck injury suffered during practice last week led to Geathers being inactive on Monday night.
Whatever possibilities the Colts do explore over the final four weeks, they must account for no longer having the signal caller this defense has had in every game since the start of 2014.
If the Colts make the playoffs, D'Qwell Jackson is eligible to return to the active roster following the regular season.