INDIANAPOLIS -- The only certainty about the Colts' defense is that they're an unknown unit heading into the regular season. That's because they could be without five starters in their Week 1 game against the Detroit Lions.
That's a scary thought about a defense that finished 26th in the NFL last season.
"Yeah, it's understandable that we're somewhat of a mystery," safety Mike Adams said. “It can be tough. All our big players are not here. But the people in the room, we expect them to play at a high level. We have younger guys that are not use to having to be thrust into starting roles. But they have to prepared to take on those roles."
Cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle), cornerback Patrick Robinson (hamstring), safety Clayton Geathers (foot), defensive lineman Kendall Langford (knee) and defensive lineman Henry Anderson (knee) have all been out with injuries.
The non-stop flurry of injuries has made this the most trying preseason for Chuck Pagano’s in his five years as coach of the Colts. He has a vision of how good his team could be, but he won’t know for sure until those players get back on the field.
“Obviously when they are healthy, I know what they are going to look like,” Pagano said. “I know how they are going to play. I know their DNA, whether they are injured or not. You know that we are going to play for 60 minutes. We’ve got a tough football team. We got to get some guys back, and back on the offensive line, specifically the corner positions. These 48 hours are going to be critical from a health standpoint, and making some tough calls.”
When will those players return?
Not even Pagano knows. He could not give any firm indication if any those players will be on the practice field next Monday when they start preparation to face the Lions. Davis will likely miss several games.
“Our No. 1 corner, with Vonta out, and Pat [Robinson] is our No. 2, and he’s been out,” Pagano said. “You can go on down the line. We’ve had some line issues. There’s nothing that we can do about it. We have to get healthy, and healthy in a hurry. Because the 11th [against Detroit] is going to be here before we know it.”
The rash of injuries on defense means the Colts will likely be forced to rely on some of their younger players sooner than they thought. Rookie T.J. Green is expected to start at safety until Geathers returns. Fellow rookie Hassan Ridgeway is getting some extra snaps on the defensive line with Anderson and Langford out. The cornerback situation remains as murky as swamp water. The Colts have to find a way to generate some pass rush because they don’t have the talent at defensive back that allows opposing quarterbacks any extra time in the pocket.
“It’s early, and we’re going to get some guys back, but the good thing about it is, they’re not dealing with season-ending injuries,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “Guys will trickle back in. We’ve had some young guys step up and do a phenomenal job this year. We have no choice we have to go with the bullets that we have. And we have to do a good job being leaders on the field to make sure everybody is on the same page.”