Despite an inconsistent performance in last Sunday’s 41-21 season-opening loss to Chicago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano isn’t ready to start making wholesale changes to the team’s offensive line.
That means that the same five starters — left offensive tackle Anthony Castanzo, left offensive guard Seth Olsen, center Samson Satele, right offensive guard Mike McGlynn and right offensive tackle Winston Justice — are expected in the lineup Sunday when the Colts face off against the Minnesota Vikings.
Olsen, who struggled a bit against the Bears, will once again fill in for projected started Joe Reitz, who continues to nurse a sore knee. Justice incurred a concussion in the Chicago game but should be back in his normal position this week.
Offensive guard/tackle Trai Essex, who was signed to a free agent contract earlier in the week, could work his way into the game at some point. Essex is familiar with Indianapolis’ offense and blocking schemes after playing for Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin in Pittsburgh.
“Obviously there is history there. He knows the offense. He knows the calls so he’s a plug-in guy. He also gives you great versatility. He’s played all five spots in the past so he can play inside, he can play outside. He gives you great versatility there,” Pagano voiced.
“He should be able to help this Sunday. Because he knows the offense, he’s been in it for a long time. He gives us great balance. He’s started in all five positions over the last seven years [with the Steelers],” he said.
“He played a full game at center with one week of practice, he’s that type of guy. He’s very versatile and very smart. He’s a really good addition to our ball club. He brings great depth.”
Pagano knows that the offensive line must play better against a Minnesota defense that can get after the quarterback.
“Here are a bunch of new guys in there [on the Indianapolis offensive line]. They are learning the new system,” he said. “We make no excuses. They’d be the first to tell you that they’re going to play better. They want to play better.
“If we can stiffen up in certain situations and firm up the protection for [rookie quarterback] Andrew [Luck], obviously if he can step up in the pocket, he’s going to find guys down the field and make plays.”
• Wayne favorite target — As the most experienced wide receiver on the Colts’ young roster, it’s natural that Reggie Wayne has become the favorite target of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Wayne hauled in nine passes against the Bears last Sunday and could have caught a few more. Luck misfired on a couple of out routes when the Pro Bowl receiver was wide open.
“Reggie knows where to go. He trusts that he knows where to go. That usually happens on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” Arians said.
“On Sunday, you’re going to throw to that guy. He’s the steady force in Andrew’s diet of OTAs, training camp and everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if that ball goes toward him again.”
• Balance on offense — When it comes to the Colts, what constitutes a balanced offense depends on who is asked the question.
“It is first-and-10, run, pass. Each game is a little different but first play of the series, balance. Then the first three quarters you’d love to be 50-50. And then play the fourth quarter whichever way the game plays out, ahead or behind,” Arians voiced.
“[The Chicago game] didn’t quite do it, you know? We went into that game thinking to throw on run downs and run on throwing downs, just to match up against that front. Then we got caught into a throwing game after the turnovers.”
Indianapolis threw 48 passes Sunday, 45 were attempted and Luck also was sacked three times.
“That’s too many in any game, unless you’re just killing somebody. You don’t want to get over the 35 mark. Normally it’s a 65-play game, so 30-30, 32-32 is what you’re looking for,” the Colts offensive coordinator said.
“I don’t care what team you are, in the National Football League, once you get back there over 40 times, he’s going to get hit. They all do. It’s just what kind of hits are they? Are they free guys or are they just whooping somebody, pinning their ears back, that kind of thing. When you get stuck in that, you’ve just got to battle your butt off, and do the best you can.”
• Injury list — Wide receiver Austin Collie (concussion) is expected to play Sunday against the Vikings. Collie has not suited up since he was hurt against Pittsburgh in the second preseason game. Collie, though, was held out of Thursday’s practice.
“He could line up anywhere. He has the position flexibility to do anything. He would start out wide and go from there,” Arians said. “Austin hasn’t really been out there, other than that one practice, for about a month.”
Rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) should be ready to go after missing the game with the Bears. Hilton was hurt against Washington in the preseason and hasn’t been in a game situation for about a month. He did go through a full workout Thursday.
“I’m glad to have him back, but he hasn’t been out there for three weeks,” Arians said.
Offensive tackle Winston Justice (concussion) went through a full practice on Thursday and is expected to start Sunday. Justice was hurt in the Chicago game last and did not return.
Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (ankle) will probably be a game-time decision against the Vikings. Freeney was hurt in the first quarter of Sunday’s game with Chicago and never returned.
“Right now, the situation is kind of discuss it with the trainers and stuff. If he happens to be ready, then it’ll be a game-time decision. Ad if he’s ready to work, we’ll put him in there of course,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said.