Joe Haeg Jersey

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have had the best offensive line in the NFL the past few weeks, and now it could be getting even better.

The Colts today designated tackle/guard Joe Haeg as their second and final player to return from injured reserve to the practice field, setting in motion a 21-day period in which the team could decide to move Haeg to the active roster or revert him to IR for the rest of the season.

The third-year North Dakota State product was placed on IR Sept. 28 after suffering an ankle injury in the Colts’ Week 3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Haeg had started Indy’s first three games of the season at right tackle.

Since that time, Haeg has been seen working off to the side with team trainers, with hopes that he could re-join the team at some point later in the season.

Colts head coach Frank Reich said last week Haeg was “getting close” to a possible return.

“He’s making really good progress,” Reich said.

If Haeg is eventually able to return to the active roster, he gives the Colts another versatile piece that can play all five positions up front.

A fifth-round (155th-overall) selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, Haeg that year started 14-of-15 games at three different positions (left guard, right guard and right tackle), becoming the first league rookie to start at three different spots dating back to 1998 (Kyle Turley).

Last season, Haeg competed in all 16 games with 15 starts at right tackle and right guard.

Haeg added center duties to his repertoire this past offseason, and was oftentimes seen working in with the second team at that spot during training camp and the preseason.

Just when they finally start to get their offensive line sorted out on the interior, the Colts run into a slew of injuries at the tackle position that leave them scrambling. The loss of Anthony Castonzo for the early part of the season has left the Colts shuffling players around to fill in. Joe Haeg played week one at left tackle with J’Marcus Webb holding down the right tackle spot.

Week two saw Haeg shift to the right side and Le’Raven Clark did his best to hold down the left side after Webb was lost for the season. Now it looks as though Haeg will be going to injured reserve with the hope that he can return in November when his ankle is healed.

The return of Denzelle Good as well as the hopefully impending return of Anthony Castonzo means that the picture might not be as bleak in the near future, but right now, the Colts enter Sunday’s game with just two healthy offensive tackles and guard Braden Smith, who has practiced at right tackle, as a potential backup should someone need to leave due to injury.

Having Joe Haeg healthy on this roster has been invaluable, as he has proven a capable backup at just about every position across the line. His loss for a significant amount of time makes it even more critical that the Colts get Castonzo back and healthy. Until then, the offense is likely to struggle as they have made it their primary goal to keep Andrew Luck healthy, which has meant getting the ball out quickly. Without better blocking, they will continue to be a very limited offense.

Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Joe Haeg has been nominated as the team’s representative for the 2018 Salute to Service Award, the league announced Thursday.

Currently in his third season with the Colts, Haeg found himself working on the right side of the offensive line at both the guard and offensive tackle positions before suffering an injury that landed him on the injured reserve list.

The award, which is given annually, “honors a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community,”

Below is a write up on Haeg, who has many ties with the military community:

Joe Haeg is entering his third season with the Indianapolis Colts. Joe is known as a friend, supporter, and teammate to military service members and veterans nationwide. Joe’s best friend is an officer in the U.S. Marines and his cousin serves in the U.S. Air Force. Joe plays in the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Game to benefit the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team every summer while home in Brainerd, Minnesota. Haeg wears his military pride on his sleeve and on his cleats. Joe is once again representing the Wounded Warrior Project as his charity of choice for the League’s My Cause My Cleats game, just as he has for the past two seasons. For Haeg, it’s about giving back to those who sacrifice so much, he uses his platform with the Colts and the NFL to shine a light on the real heroes – the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and those who served before them.

Finalists will be announced after the regular season while the recipient will be honored during the NFL Honors Awards show on Feb. 2.

Devin Funchess Jersey

Boasting more salary cap space than any other franchise, the Indianapolis Colts will dive into free agency with the signing of former Panthers receiver Devin Funchess.

The Colts will sign Funchess to a one-year deal worth a max of $13 million, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Monday.

Funchess will complement a Colts receiving corps led by T.Y. Hilton and provide quarterback Andrew Luck with a big target as the four-year veteran measures up at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds.

All four of Funchess’ NFL seasons were spent playing in Carolina and he’s coming off a season in which he had 44 receptions for 549 yards with four touchdowns. Those stats came in the aftermath of a career-best 2017 showing (63 catches, 840 yards, eight TDs).

The departure from the Panthers likely comes as little surprise to Funchess.

“Now I’m just ready for whatever team is ready to come get me,” he recently told NFL.com. “I’m ready to play and ready to get a Super Bowl.”

That’s likely to bode well in the eyes of the Indianapolis faithful, along with this being just the first signing of what could be an eventful offseason for the Colts after a march to the AFC Divisional Round last season.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Giants had their hearts ripped out of their chests Sunday.

There’s no other way to say it.

Graham Gano kicked a 63-yard field goal with one second to play and the Panthers down by one to drop the Giants, just one year after the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jake Elliott booted a 61-yarder at the buzzer in Philly in Week 3 last season to bury Ben McAdoo’s season

The Giants didn’t stop fighting.

Give them that.

Odell Beckham Jr. threw a touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley. Eli Manning threw one to Beckham. The Giants snapped their league-worst 37-game drought of not scoring 30 points. A terrible fourth-down penalty call against Landon Collins hurt the…

The Carolina Panthers are listing leading receiver Devin Funchess as doubtful for Sunday’s home game against the Seattle Seahawks but might be getting receiver Torrey Smith back for the game.

Funchess, who leads the Panthers with 516 yards, hasn’t practiced this week because of a back injury. Coach Ron Rivera said Friday that there is a “little glimmer” that Funchess will be able to play for the Panthers (6-4), who have lost two straight games.

Smith is officially listed as questionable but Rivera said he is “pretty confident” that Smith will be able to return after missing the past four games with a knee injury. He has been a limited participant in practice this week.

If Funchess can’t play, it will be just the second game he will have missed in his NFL career. He also missed a game in 2016, his second season.

Funchess has the most receptions among Panthers wide receivers with 41, which is second on the team behind running back Christian McCaffery’s 71 catches. He also has three touchdown receptions.

INDIANAPOLIS — Devin Funchess is just 24 years old, but he has already seen a lot in the first four seasons of his NFL career.

During his rookie season in 2015, he was a key playmaker for a Carolina Panthers team that went 15-1 in the regular season and advanced all the way to Super Bowl 50, where they would be bested by Von Miller, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, 24-10.

Funchess has been itching to get back to that big game ever since, which explains why he found himself in Indianapolis on Thursday morning.

The wide receiver officially became the Indianapolis Colts’ first outside free agency signing of 2019, putting pen to paper on a reported one-year deal to become the team’s newest offensive weapon.

“You can’t hear it, but it’s probably about a 10 right now,” Funchess told Colts.com’s Matt Taylor about his emotions, moments after officially joining the squad. “I mean, I’m excited. I’m joining a new team, a new chapter in my life, and just ready to go win a Super Bowl.”

And while a one-year deal might not be as lengthy as some of the other contracts being signed elsewhere this week during free agency, Funchess said he never considered the opportunity in Indy a “prove-it” type of situation in the first place.

The fit within head coach Frank Reich’s system, matched with the obvious trajectory of the franchise, were the main factors at play, Funchess said.

“I felt as if they were good for my skillset and they were ready to go to the next level,” Funchess told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “My whole thing is if we go get a Super Bowl everything else will take care of itself. I don’t really care about proving anything to anybody. I just wanted to go to the best team that had the best chance of getting to the Super Bowl and that is why I picked here.”

Those two words, “Super Bowl,” came up a lot in Funchess’ various interviews on Thursday — nine times, to be exact.

And he could just be the type of piece the Colts were needing to get back to that level after finishing the 2018 season with a 10-6 record and advancing to the Divisional Round of the playoffs for the first time in four years.

A huge target at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Funchess, who played tight end his first two years at the University of Michigan before switching over to wide receiver, has the potential to be a matchup nightmare, much in the same way Eric Ebron was in his first season in Indianapolis in 2018.

A former second-round pick, Funchess certainly has produced his first four NFL seasons — he has 161 receptions for 2,233 yards and 21 touchdowns over 61 career games played — but he’s hoping to absolutely take off in the Colts’ system.

“Just versatility. Just being my size, speed and then the frame that I have; the wingspan is wide. So you’ve got a big target to throw it to,” Funchess said of what he feels he brings to the table. “I can run any route in the book, so let’s just go have fun.”

“Fun” is another common word for this Detroit native.

And “fun” and “winning” usually go together, so Funchess is ready to do what he can to provide both for the Indy offense in 2019.

“My whole thing is: they like to have fun. If you do that, then that means that you like to have fun, because you try to pull the best out of everybody,” Funchess said.

“So that’s why I’m ready to go win this Super Bowl. That’s why I came here. I had other places that I could’ve went, but I picked here because they were ready to go win the Super Bowl.”

Jordan Wilkins Jersey

The Indianapolis Colts walked away from the 2018 NFL Draft with two running backs in the fourth and fifth rounds, which included Jordan Wilkins in the latter round.

Wilkins had an interesting season. He started the regular season as the starter with Marlon Mack dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, starting three out of the first four games. But then fell into irrelevancy during the second half of the season.

In all, Wilkins played in 16 games taking 60 carries for 336 yards and one touchdown.

Selected in the fifth round, Wilkins joined the Colts out of Ole Miss and impressed the coaching staff immediately with solid vision and a knack for grinding out yards.

This allowed him to take a share of the backfield, which earned him a season-high 14 carries in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Once Mack took over the backfield in the second half of the season, Wilkins saw a massive depletion in snap count. He wound up playing 17.4 percent of the offensive snaps and 31.3 percent of the special teams snaps on the season.

After Week 7, Wilkins didn’t see more than 13 snaps in a game. That isn’t to say he didn’t show development in his game, though. The rookie made strides and broke off some big plays when being sprinkled into the game plan. But he simply wasn’t a necessary part of the offense during the playoff run.

The Colts have shown confidence in their backfield with Mack, Nyheim Hines and Wilkins, and the latter will be looking to prove he deserves more of a role in the offense in Year 2.

—Wilkins is one of the sleepers of the loaded running back class thanks to his size, vision and top-notch agility.

—Has start-stop speed and can pull away from defenses. He’s shown nice moves with footwork and hip agility.

—Wilkins has the ability to be a one-cut performer in a zone scheme. He gets downhill in a hurry and has enough agility to shake a defender suddenly and re-direct.

—Overall running back traits like balance, vision and agility are high level from Wilkins.

—NFL scouts we spoke to love that Wilkins is relatively fresh coming out of the SEC.

—Wilkins missed the 2016 season with an academic suspension and missed time during summer practices before his senior season with an injury.

—Despite a big frame, he does not run well through contact. Can be soft in traffic and go down on first impact.

—Runs high and doesn’t drive with his legs to push piles.

—Tends to just make the most from big lanes and doesn’t always create well on his own.

—Will get caught tip-toeing through the tulips when he needs to just hunker down and run hard.

Wilkins is a bit of a hard evaluation coming off a knee injury, but he does have traits that project well to the NFL. He’s agile and quick, and his frame could support a role as a third-down player.

Le’Raven Clark Jersey

Sometimes you hear of big football players who do ballet or take tumbling classes in their spare time to keep in prime athletic shape. Then there are those players who take up more stereotypically manly hobbies, and it just makes more sense. Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Le’Raven Clark is an example of the latter.

Clark, all 6-foot-5, 311 pounds of him, is a woodworker. He’s pretty good at it, too — at least good enough to sell some of the stuff he makes. Clark said it’s “nothing expensive or anything like that,” but it’s enough to open the door to a life after football.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” he said. “It’s something that I’ll have fun doing after I’m done playing.”

It may be awhile before Clark’s playing days are over. At 25 years old, he’s widely seen as the one of the key pieces for the Colts’ resurgent offensive line going forward. He made four starts and played in 12 games this past season for an offensive line that went five straight games without allowing a sack on star quarterback Andrew Luck. When he appeared on “The Dan Patrick Show” on 1070 The Fan in January, Colts general manager Chris Ballard said Clark is at a “prove-it” point in his career. Clark will continue to prove his worth in what will likely be a backup role as all five offensive line starters are returning.

Working with the hands runs in Clark’s family. His grandfather was a welder, and his father was a carpenter. Clark said his father taught him some of the basics with tools and showed him “some tricks here and there.”

“We definitely have a bunch of crafty people in my family, I’d say, so I think that’s where the interest sparks from,” he said.

Most of what Clark has learned about woodworking, though, has come from reading woodworking books and watching videos on YouTube. Clark started his woodworking hobby in college at Texas Tech University, but the NFL is a different game, literally.

It’s difficult as a professional athlete with nearly unfathomable time commitments during the season to keep up with woodworking. Clark has a shop in his garage where he can do some work, but there’s hardly any time for a commitment. There’s more flexibility in the offseason, but even then, it’s not something Clark can give a lot of time to. Between his offseason training in Indianapolis and going back home to Texas, there are still some considerable limitations on what he can do.
But that’s what retirement is for. Along with perhaps ramping up his hobby when football is no longer front and center, Clark said he could even see himself going to work in a saw mill when the time comes.

The Colts have made a few moves along the offensive line this offseason that have put Le’Raven Clark squarely on the roster bubble heading into training camp.

Most of general manager Chris Ballard’s offseason moves focused on the interior of the offensive line by re-signing Jack Mewhort, drafting Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith, and inking Matt Slauson to a deal in free agency. However, Ballard also added a veteran tackle that will likely be ahead of Clark on the Colts’ offensive tackle depth chart in Austin Howard.

I would expect Howard to start at right tackle on the opposite side of Anthony Castonzo. That leaves Clark without a clear path to a starting job after starting eight games at right tackle and right guard for the Colts over the past two seasons.

Clark hasn’t been very impressive when he’s been able to get some playing time in Indianapolis as he’s been a major part of the Colts’ offensive line issues.

Clark still has two years left on his rookie contract after being selected in the third round of the 2016 draft, and he would cost the Colts about $550,000 in dead cap money if they cut him this offseason according to Spotrac. But it looks like many players from that draft class are in danger of losing their jobs including T.J. Green and Hassan Ridgeway.

Clark’s ability to play both tackle and guard has made him a useful rotational lineman over his first two NFL seasons, but he hasn’t played at a high enough level to deserve a roster spot.

With the multitude of guards and tackles on Colts’ roster, I don’t expect Clark to stick around in Indianapolis this season.

Indianapolis Colts offensive tackle Le’Raven Clark got the start at left tackle in Week 2 when it was revealed Anthony Castonzo suffered a setback with his hamstring injury.

Though Clark had a solid preseason, he was inactive Week 1 and it wasn’t clear how he might hold up against Ryan Kerrigan and the Redskins pass rush.

He answered the call admirably by giving the Colts a strong performance on the blind side in protecting quarterback Andrew Luck.

“A lot of heart, a lot of – it’s hard to go into Washington and play on the road and he did a great job,” said offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. “He truly showed the next man up mentality. It’s as if it didn’t faze him. I know he has played a lot of football. So it was just great to see him come into the game and not miss a beat.”

Clark survived the roster cuts on Sept. 1 but then was named inactive for the season opener. After Castonzo suffered his hamstring setback in Week 2, he was called upon to deliver on the offensive line.

The third-year offensive tackle proved he can provide solid depth and even though he did allow a sack, he’s shown he can step in if the Colts need him at left tackle.

Sirianni also gave some credit to Clark’s supporting cast, who helped him get ready for the matchup with the Redskins.

“Le’Raven is playing left tackle so that’s a lot on him. So I thought he did a great job and Coach Guge (Dave DeGuglielmo) and Coach (Bobby) Johnson did a great job preparing him,” Sirianni said. “I think Coach Guge and Coach Johnson prepped him to be in that position and really prepared, helped him prepare as well as the other offensive linemen, especially our veteran offensive linemen like Matt Slauson and Anthony (Castonzo).”

It isn’t clear yet if Castonzo will be able to play in Week 3, but Clark will be waiting in the wings if he’s called upon again.

T.J. Green Jersey

T.J. Green is entering his third season with the Colts, and this may be the most crucial year of his young career.

Green has been a dissappointment after being selected in the second round of the draft in 2016. The Colts have a new front office in place that would not be embarrassed to cut a former top draft pick if he doesn’t show some sort of improvement.

Green had a disastrous rookie year, but he showed some signs of promise against the run last season. At 6’ 3” and 211 pounds with a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, Green has the potential to be a missile in the run game coming down from his safety position.

Unfortunately, a run-stuffing safety is not a very valuable player in today’s NFL that is almost entirely based upon the success of the passing game. And the Colts already have a solid player to fill that role in Clayton Geathers.

Green has yet to become a reliable player in pass coverage at the NFL level. Green has all the physical tools to make plays from in coverage, but he’s only broken up three passes in his career with zero interceptions.

He has yet to figure out the mental aspect of the game, and that was one of the criticisms of his skill set coming out of college.

Green hasn’t had the requisite experience at defensive back to become a cerebral player in coverage. He began his career at Clemson as a wide receiver and only started at defensive back for one year before entering the NFL.

Green’s struggles in coverage have kept him off the field in Indianapolis, and that has prevented him from getting those in-game reps to improve in coverage.

With a new coaching staff in place T.J. Green has been given a second chance with the Colts. However, safety is probably the deepest position on the roster and there may not be room for Green by the time the regular season rolls around.

If Green wants to stay in Indianapolis, he’ll need to have an impressive training camp that proves he still has unrealized potential.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – We’re about to discover whether T.J. Green has been a two-year tease, or is capable of finally emerging as a viable component in a revamped Indianapolis Colts defense.

The clock is most definitely ticking, and the 2016 second-round draft knows it.

“I feel there ain’t no time to waste,’’ Green said earlier this week. “This is a business league. You’ve got to perform.

“That’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to produce.’’

And, again, the time is now.

Or else.

Green was locked in and focused during a meeting with the local media this week. He matter-of-factly discussed the Colts switching from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3, and how that should maximize his skills.

“Yeah, definitely,’’ he said. “I feel this scheme is built for players like me: fast, big, physical and (with) an instinctive game. I feel like it will be good for this team, good for athletes we have on the team.’’

It’s got to be good for Green.

For two seasons, he’s offered glimpses of being the talented safety the previous regime – coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson – envisioned when it selected him with the 57th overall pick in the ’16 draft. Green possessed intriguing size for his position (6-3, 211 pounds), athleticism and speed (4.34 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine).

Green has appeared in 30 games, 11 as a starter, but the type of development expected of a top-tier draft pick has been missing. Too often, his aggressive style was sabotaged by a lack of discipline.

“I wish I could put a (finger) on it,’’ Green said. “It’s been a learning experience. Every down, every snap I was learning something new.

“Hopefully I can put it all together this year and be that guy.’’

If so, Green gives the Colts four solid safeties, joining 2017 first-round draft pick Malik Hooker, Matthias Farley and Clayton Geathers. Hooker’s availability for training camp and the start of the season is uncertain as he’s in rehab mode after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 22 against Jacksonville.

From the outset, the Colts realized Green was something of a project. He had just turned 21 when they drafted him, and arrived at Clemson in 2013 as a receiver. He switched to safety the following season; started 16 games over the next two seasons, including the Tigers’ 2016 national championship game loss to Alabama; then declared early for the NFL draft.

After Green’s uneven rookie season, the Colts actually did him a disservice. Midway through his second training camp, they switched him to cornerback.

“It was random,’’ he said. “They called me in and said, ‘Hey, we want you do to this.’ Kind of threw me out there in the fire.

“To just throw me in there without preparation, without an offseason learning the game of corner, that part probably was a mistake. The idea wasn’t a mistake. You just need more time to do something like that.’’

General manager Chris Ballard took the blame for what was a failed experiment. As Kansas City’s director of football operations in 2016, he was part of the Chiefs’ personnel department that evaluated Green. The Chiefs projected Green as an NFL corner.

“That was a little my fault last year . . . blame it on me,’’ Ballard said.

With Vontae Davis dealing with a groin injury, Green started the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams. He naturally struggled, and found himself shuffling between corner and safety before the coaching staff finally abandoned the cornerback experiment and allowed Green to re-commit to safety.

“He’s a safety,’’ Ballard said. “He’s only 23 years old. It takes time for (the) young guys to understand what it takes to play in this league.’’

That reality seemed evident as Green rehashed the last two seasons and offered optimism for what’s to come. The Colts’ recent past is littered with top draft picks who, despite their potential, failed to deliver: Bjoern Werner, D’Joun Smith, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett.

At some point, the talent has to emerge. Failing that, a team’s patience runs out.

“I’m here to work,’’ Green said. “I want to be the guy. It’s year 3 for me. I’m focused. I have a family to take care of and a daughter to take care of.

“You know your goals. You know what you want to be in this league. So you just have to work for it.’’

Ryan Kelly Jersey

INDIANAPOLIS – Ryan Kelly won a National Championship at Alabama.

In 2015, Kelly not only was on the undefeated National Champs, but he also took home the Rimington Award, given to the nation’s best center.

Yet, Kelly calls last season—one in which injuries limited him to 12 games played, and the Colts lost in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs—his favorite year in football.

And Kelly points to the continuity of this offensive line group returning every single player, except the retired Matt Slauson, as to why he loved last year so much.

“I think we have an incredible group,” Kelly says of his fellas in the trenches. “I give a lot of credit to coach Frank (Reich) and Chris (Ballard) for developing a room with high character guys.

“Last year was the most fun I’ve had playing football. I want to keep that rolling as much as I can.”

Kelly answered that question with a bit of an eyebrow raiser.

The fact that he went down that path with such an answer wasn’t expected when the question was asked.

The initial inquiry was about Kelly entering a critical season.

With a decision on Kelly’s rookie contract possibly being extended through 2020 due by May 3, the center must prove his durability this fall.

The fourth-year center says he is not too concerned about the pending second contract.

“You don’t come in this league playing for contracts,” Kelly says. “Maybe initially that’s what you are thinking, but once you get into that, you just want to be out there with your guys. At the end of the day, watching games from the sideline is not fun…”

“Obviously, a big thing for me will be going throughout the year and trying to be healthy the entire year.”

Kelly has missed 13 games over the last two seasons.

It’s no secret that the Colts are a much less effective offensive unit when their first-round center is out of the lineup.

A future Colts offense with Kelly snapping to Andrew Luck is exactly what Ryan Grigson envisioned back in 2016.

That pairing now is working together for the entire spring for their first time ever, forming a combination that needs to maintain their health for this team to continue its ascension.

“It’s huge,” Kelly says of working together with Luck this spring. “Obviously, you can never really replicate game day experience and having those valuable reps that we have had together but just in Phase II, we can start doing it on the field and kind of seeing things the way they are broken down. I know that we are always going to have something new. We do a lot of self-scouting so I know there are going to be some new routes, new concepts of what we put in and just being able to iron those out now, it kind of accelerates us for those OTA days that are going to come.”

Ryan Kelly says he’s playing in Saturday’s wild-card game versus the Houston Texans. The Colts can only hope.

Indianapolis’ starting center was in and out of the lineup in the second of half of last week’s playoff-clinching win against the Tennessee Titans because of a neck injury. He told reporters that the issue has made it difficult for him to snap the ball. But he was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, and when asked if he would be available to make his postseason debut this weekend, Kelly didn’t hesitate.

“Yeah, I’m ready to go,” the third-year veteran said.

Kelly’s prowess in pass protection and as a run blocker makes him one of the Colts’ top linemen. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate in December. Kelly started in all 12 games he appeared in during the regular season, missing time because of neck and knee injuries.

Safety Clayton Geathers (knee) also returned to practice Wednesday, while wide receivers T.Y Hilton (ankle) and Ryan Grant (toe) were out.

Here are other injuries we’re monitoring around the league:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who exited Week 17’s game in the fourth quarter because of bruised ribs, told reporters he’s still feeling some soreness but that he’ll be good to go for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. The Eagles held a walkthrough Wednesday and Foles was listed as limited.

Linebacker D.J. Alexander (hamstring), defensive end Michael Bennett (foot) and cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) did not participate. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (knee), center Jason Kelce (knee), offensive tackle Jason Peters (quadricep), guard Isaac Seumalo (chest) and wide receiver Mike Wallace (ankle) were limited.

  1. Bears safety Eddie Jackson (ankle) told NFL Network’s Stacey Dales he is “most likely” playing Sunday versus the Eagles. Jackson has missed the past two games after spraining his ankle late in the Bears’ Week 15 victory against the Green Bay Packers. He did not practice Wednesday.

Linebacker Aaron Lynch (elbow) was also out. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and wide receivers Taylor Gabriel (ribs), Anthony Miller (shoulder) and Allen Robinson (ribs) were full participants.

  1. Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) and defensive end J.J. Watt (elbow/knee) were limited Wednesday. Wide receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring), defensive tackle Brandon Dunn (ankle) cornerback Johnathan Joseph (neck), linebacker Benardrick McKinney (heel) were full participants. Houston placed safety Mike Tyson (knee/ankle) on injured reserve.
  2. Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (groin) was limited in practice.
  3. Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tavon Young (groin) didn’t participate in practice.

Marlon Mack Jersey

While many believed the Colts would run a full-blown committee in Frank Reich’s offense, Mack took the majority of the work in the backfield upon his return in Week 6 from a nagging hamstring injury.

From what they saw from Mack in 2018, general manager Chris Ballard expressed his confidence in the third-year rusher to be the workhorse.

“He’s a pretty good back. I mean 1,200 yards – I think – through the playoffs. I mean there is not a lot of – and that is after missing four games,” Ballard said Wednesday at the NFL combine. So no, we think a lot of Marlon Mack. We think he can play on all three downs. We think he can carry the load.”

Behind an offensive line that found its groove throughout the season, Mack finished the season carrying the ball 195 times for 904 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry on the season and had four games with at least 118 rushing yards.

The Colts offense found a nice balance with Mack leading the backfield. He helped move the chains while additionally taking pressure off of quarterback Andrew Luck.

Reich’s offense will always be pass first as it should be with an elite quarterback in Luck, but having a player of Mack’s talent helps balance out the game plan, especially late in contests.

There is still a chance the Colts might add some depth to the running back room, but it seems that Mack is the workhorse until proven otherwise.

Since Joseph Addai’s 2007 campaign, the Indianapolis Colts have been vehemently searching for answers in their backfield. Donald Brown appeared to be the man for the job, but the former first-round pick never quite lived up to expectations in five years with the Colts. Then there was Brown, Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Frank Gore — all temporary solutions to the revolving door in Indianapolis. But now, Marlon Mack has the reins as his team enters its Divisional Round showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs, and he’s proven he can be the one to break the mold.

Mack is putting up numbers that few Colts running backs have reached. Since at least 2006, no Colts running back with 150-plus attempts has a higher yards after contact average than Mack (3.04) — and that includes Addai, who had three 1000-yard seasons from 2006-2011. In the 2018 season alone (including playoffs), Mack’s 3.02 yards after contact average is the highest for a Colts running back since Donald Brown’s 2013 season (and since Mack himself recorded a 3.09 average just a season ago).

But aside from Mack being able to simply brute force his way past defenders, he’s been wildly efficient. His 58 first down runs in 2018 are the most by a Colts running back since Addai rumbled for 69 in 2007. And Addai accomplished that feat on 66 more carries than Mack currently has, so while Addai averaged a first down every 3.98 carries, Mack has done so every 3.77 carries. The difference between those averages appears insignificant, but NFL teams are well aware of how important even one extra first down is — and Mack is giving the Colts those drive extenders at an impressive rate.

And then there’s Mack’s ability to break away. A lot of what he’s been able to accomplish this year can be credited to a vastly improved front-five, which finished the regular season as PFF’s third-best offensive line. However, Mack’s 15 runs of 15 or more yards are the most by a Colts running back since at least 2006. In that year, the Colts had PFF’s fourth-ranked run blocking unit (83.0 grade), yet Addai managed only 12 runs of 15 or more yards on 303 carries. Mack accomplished his 2018 feat on just 219 attempts.

Despite Mack’s 70.8 overall grade through Wild Card weekend pitting him 34th among 59 running backs, he is exactly what the Colts need and have needed. A snapshot of the team’s past three years of run offense grades: 68.3, 56.5, 60.5. In 2018, they’ve graded out at 79.1 — their best mark since at least 2006 when PFF began grading.

It’s also worth noting that the Colts are 5-0 when Mack has rushed for 100-plus yards this season, which is to be expected. His success complements that of Andrew Luck’s — and it’s making for an offense that could become one of the NFL’s deadliest very soon.

All things considered, Mack is objectively the best running back the Colts have had in some time. And although those at the position rarely stay in the starting role with the same team for more than a few years, Mack might just be what Indianapolis needs to get past the prolific Kansas City Chiefs.

Tarell Basham Jersey

Last week, the Jets claimed edge defender Tarell Basham, a former third round pick, on waivers from the Colts. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at his strengths and weaknesses.

The 24-year old Basham is in his second season having been drafted last year. He played in 15 games last year in a reserve role and registered seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He was the MAC defensive player of the year in 2016 and is the all-time leader in sacks for the Ohio Bobcats.

Background

Having been a productive pass rusher in high school, Basham attended military school for a year before attending Ohio University and making an immediate impact as a true freshman. He was eventually a four year starter for the Bobcats, racking up a school record 29.5 sacks. His production improved year on year and he won the MAC defensive player of the year award as a senior in 2016, having recorded career bests in tackles (49) and sacks (11).

Basham had a decent performance at the scouting combine, but it was at the senior bowl where he really boosted his stock as he was dominant in drills all week. The Colts eventually drafted Basham with the 80th overall pick.

As a rookie, Basham saw action as a rotational outside linebacker and on special teams, but struggled to move up the depth chart. He had some positive flashes, including a couple of sacks, but overall his rookie year was considered a disappointment.

In the offseason, Basham was getting plenty of work with the first unit and seemed to be in the mix for a starting role, but a minor knee injury set him back and he got lost in the shuffle following a nondescript preseason.

Basham played in the opener this season, in a situational rusher role, but he only had one pressure and had been inactive ever since. The Jets claimed him off waivers last week.

Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Basham brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.

Usage

The Colts have switched from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense this year, which is one of the reasons Henry Anderson was no longer a fit for them. However, this is not the case with Basham.

In college and high school, Basham only ever played in four man fronts with his hand(s) in the dirt, so he wasn’t really a fit for them as a 3-4 outside linebacker, which explains some of his struggles last year and the optimism that he would show progress in 2018.

With the Colts last year, Basham lined up on both sides and played a mixture of linebacker and lineman roles. He didn’t play inside or off the ball very often, but this did happen occasionally.

Basham has also said he mostly lined up on the left in college, so playing on the right was an adjustment for him too.

Measurables/Athleticism

Basham is listed at 6-foot-4 and 266 pounds and has decent length and big hands. However, he might be lighter than that at the moment, because he told reporters in the offseason that he’d slimmed down from about 270 to 250 since the end of the previous year. The coaching staff praised him for getting into better shape than he had been as a rookie.

At the combine, Basham had some nice numbers with a 4.7 40-yard dash, 4.45 short shuttle and 119-inch broad jump. However, his three cone drill and vertical jump were below average and his bench press was poor (15 reps).

Basham worked out again at his pro day, but didn’t improve on any of his numbers, others than adding an inch to his vertical.

Motor

Basham is regarded as having a good motor as he works hard in the trenches to battle for position.

At the NFL level, he’s yet to play 30 snaps in a game, either in preseason or regular season action, but did play over 70 snaps in a game in his senior year, so he’s shown he can handle a good workload.

Run defense

Basham isn’t known for his run defense and his lack of functional strength would be a concern if playing on the line, especially with the weight he’s lost since last year.

Nevertheless, he showed some development against the run in college. In his first two years, he only had two tackles for loss against the run, but he had 9.5 in his last two years.

In pursuit, Basham can sometimes overpursue or react a beat late and has had issues with not getting upfield far enough when setting the edge in the past. He also needs to work on getting off blocks.

He makes a solid play against the run here as he shows some good hustle in backside pursuit.

Pass rush

Basham took his game to the next level in his senior year, as he almost doubled the amount of total pressure he created. However, at the NFL level, his pressure numbers have been modest at best, even in preseason action.

Basham has good initial burst and converts from speed to power well. In college he showed off some good pass rush moves, strong hands and an ability to bend the edge.

However, at the NFL level, he’s struggled to replicate this success. He seems too eager to engage with his blocker and doesn’t seem to exhibit many counter moves once his initial move is repelled. Of the pressure he has created, much of it has come from being unblocked or beating a tight end.

However, as noted, there have been flashes of potential. On this play, against an experienced starter in Jeremy Parnell, Basham’s speed off the edge is too much for the veteran.

Basham has a pretty good spin move based on his college film, but he hasn’t used this much at the NFL level.

Tackling

Basham hasn’t been a particularly productive tackler at the NFL level with just 18 tackles in 23 regular and preseason games. However, he racked up 49 in his best season at Ohio.

Missed tackles were sometimes an issue over the years, although he will usually wrap up and finish effectively. However, he will miss the occasional tackle, especially if faced with an elusive player in space.

Coverage skills

Basham doesn’t have a lot of experience of dropping into coverage and it shows whenever he’s asked to do it. On this play, a teammate had to tell him to stand up prior to the snap and he made no effort to disrupt the slot receiver’s route while looking very robotic in his backpedal.

He was targeted one other time last year, on a play where he dropped way off the line on 3rd-and-long and was able to get in on the tackle shy of the marker.

Basham had five passes defensed in college, all from batting passes down at the line.

Making reads/instincts

Basham has said he feels most comfortable in an attack-and-react style of defense. There is occasional hesitation in play-action and read-option type situations, but it looks like he did a better job of keeping his eyes up to see the play develop as the season progressed last year.

Technique

Basham has shown some ability to get off blocks at the NFL level, but this has mostly been against tight ends.

One thing he does well is extend his arms to get some separation from his blocker, but he doesn’t always translate that into a pass rush move to get off the block.

On this play, however, he extends his arms well and displays some power to drive veteran Andre Smith off his spot, gaining an outside leverage advantage. This time, he does get off the block, using his right hand to free himself from Smith’s outside arm to complete the sack.

Physicality

Basham displays some good power off the edge and can be an effective bull rusher. However, at times, he will engage his blocker in a battle for leverage rather than making an effort to shed the block.

His only penalty at the NFL level was a neutral zone infraction before a punt (on 4th-and-8).

Special teams

With Josh Martin on injured reserve, it would be useful if his replacement could show some potential on special teams and Basham has done that.

In his rookie year, he had four special teams tackles in preseason and, although he didn’t carry that production over into the regular season, he did contribute this punt block.

Basham has also fielded one kickoff and generated pressure on a field goal attempt.

Injuries

Injuries were not an issue for Basham at Ohio, as he played in 50 games over four seasons. In his rookie year with the Colts, the only game he missed was as a healthy scratch, although he did miss a few practices through illness and heat exhaustion.

During preseason, he had a minor knee injury, which was part of the reason he fell down the depth chart.

Attitude/Demeanor

Basham has admitted that, in college, he relied too much on his athleticism. He has found that, at the NFL level, you also need good technique and preparation to be successful.

General manager Chris Ballard praised the work Basham had put in during the offseason to get in shape and work on his technique, but obviously this wasn’t enough for him to retain his roster spot.

Scheme familiarity

As noted above, Basham is going to be most comfortable in four-man fronts and rushing from the left side with his hand in the dirt. With his struggles against the run, the most obvious use for him would be in subpackages as a situational rusher and that’s how the Colts used him in game one.

Anderson’s own success in the new system could make him a useful sounding board for Basham as he integrates himself in the new scheme.

Conclusions

Basham was an impressive college prospect with excellent tape, but has been slow to develop at the NFL level. The scheme changes in Indianapolis haven’t helped, but his main issue is that he needs to work on and improve his technique and approach.

The Jets can afford to be patient with Basham, whereas the Colts were pretty deep on the edges and already have some development projects with two rookies brought in this year. Ultimately, this should be a fun project for Kevin Greene. However, it might be overly optimistic to expect any immediate success.

Quincy Wilson Jersey

Starting in Week 10 of the 2018 season, Indianapolis Colts’ CB Quincy Wilson played 27-plus defensive snaps at outside corner in 10 consecutive games (including the postseason), and his play in his increased role bodes well for his future in the NFL.

Wilson, a second-round pick in 2017, allowed just a 65.2 passer rating and 0.73 yards per coverage snap in the Colts’ last 10 games of the season, ranking seventh in both respects among the 66 cornerbacks with 200-plus coverage snaps in said span. Also, when targeted 10 or more yards down the field, he allowed just a 9.3 passer rating and forced an incompletion on 27.3% of such targets, both marks ranking inside the top 10.

The positives in Wilson’s 2018 season were weighed down by his five missed tackles and high overall completion percentage allowed (73.2%), dragging his overall grade down to just 70.4. However, the flashes Wilson put forth correspond well with what we saw from the former Florida product while in Gainesville, a sign that such flashes could be sustainable in the future.

Wilson’s final three years with Florida were all very strong. His three-year coverage grade (90.6) ranked among the FBS’ best, and he ranked seventh in completion percentage allowed (43.2%), sixth in passer rating allowed (46.1) and second in yards allowed per coverage snap (0.70) behind just Minkah Fitzpatrick.

In his final season with the Gators, Wilson allowed receptions on just 16-of-43 targets and ranked fourth that season in completion percentage allowed (32.6%) among qualifiers. He also ranked third in passer rating allowed (29.9) that season, ranking just two spots behind Gareon Conley and a spot ahead on Marshon Lattimore.

Wilson should see his development continue at outside cornerback and chase his Florida stardom in Indy as a starter for the Colts’ defense in 2019.

The Indianapolis Colts were hoping to see some development with cornerback Quincy Wilson in his second season, and there was enough encouragement to warrant optimism entering the 2019 season.

Wilson has had an interesting career thus far as he hasn’t quite lived up to his draft stock as a second-round pick, but he carved out a role during the second half of the regular season and showed that his game is on the rise.

Wilson wound up playing 13 games (five starts) while recording 28 tackles (20 solo), two passes defended and one interception.

Working as the CB3 for the Colts behind Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir, Wilson wound up playing 41.6 percent of the defensive snaps throughout the 2018 season. Most of his consistent playing time came throughout the second half.

Over the final eight games of the regular season, Wilson played an average of 63.6 percent of the defensive snaps. For a CB3, that’s pretty significant.

The Florida product didn’t put up huge numbers in Year 2, but he did make strong developments in the preparation and mentality parts of his game, which goes a long way for a young player.

Wilson credits his turnaround to the mentorship of veteran safety Mike Mitchell. After Wilson saw Mitchell make an immediate impact the week he was signed, the young cornerback asked to be mentored.

It paid off as Wilson showed vast improvement working in zone coverage. Learning how to prepare each week while keeping a stable mentality is something that Wilson seemed to learn how to do in his second year.

Entering Year 3, Wilson is a prime candidate to make a jump. He had an encouraging second half but must prove he can continue his development during the 2019 season.

Malik Hooker Jersey

The 2018 Indianapolis Colts are a very young team that is hoping to build for the future. One thing that they desperately need from these young players is one to emerge as a star. The most likely candidate to breakout has been second year safety Malik Hooker. Hooker has been very quiet to this point in the season though, as he has accumulated just 25 tackles and one pass deflection in five games played.

This begs the question: Is the lack of statistical output a result of Hooker’s failure to develop after his strong rookie season or is Matt Eberflus’ new defensive scheme effecting Hooker’s numbers? After breaking down the film, I can confidently say that the lack of production from Hooker is primarily due to scheme.

The Colts primarily deploy a cover two base defense, a very new system for Hooker who has primarily played a center field role in man coverage base defenses. This is an entirely new defense to learn and there will be some hiccups. Despite the expected learning curve, I have seen signs of positive progress for Hooker from year one to year two in the NFL.

Let’s look at some film for examples.

A very underrated aspect of safety play is understanding run fits. When I say understanding run fits, I don’t mean being an excellent run defender or tackler. I mean being in the right position when the runner is coming downhill.

Ideally, every defender on the field understands their assignment in run defense and fills the necessary hole so that a tackle can be made before a big play happens. Once a player loses their run fit— or assignment— that is when the big plays occur.

Hooker really struggled with this his rookie year. Not really known as a run defender in college, Hooker came into the NFL with more of the mindset to avoid contact and try to make a play. This often resulted in a big play for the offense.

In this clip, we see improvement in that area. Notice that Hooker comes downhill and fills the run lane. As a rookie, he shied away from contact and let others make the play but here he gets involved. Physicality and form tackling are another matter, but this is a mark of improvement for a young safety.

In the following clip, Hooker comes downhill to fill a potential running lane. Again, as a rookie Hooker often sat back and relied on others to make this play. This year, in a new scheme, it is a positive sign to see him both willing and able to get downhill.

The biggest flaw I found in Hooker’s rookie film was terrible pursuit angles. Hooker too often relied on his natural athleticism and found himself giving up extra yards in pursuit. He seems to have matured in this area, and has been limiting big plays by taking much better support angles.

In our first clip, Bengals’ running back Joe Mixon has a ton of running room. Hooker— who starts the play on the midfield logo— comes all the way across the field and limits the damage to twenty yards. A twenty yard gain is not ideal but having a player with Hooker’s speed on the backend turns a back breaking touchdown into just big gain.

As a rookie, Hooker had this closing speed and burst but lacked the proper angles to make the play. Here, he shows signs of improvement.

Here’s another example. If Hooker takes a poor angle, it is a touchdown for Eagles’ running back Josh Adams. He is literally the last line of defense. He starts on an aggressive path that would have likely led to a missed tackle. Hooker adjusts to take the correct angle and makes a touchdown saving tackle. This is another sign of his growth and potential to become a well rounded safety.

Hooker is a gifted athlete. His natural speed and burst out of his backpedal will always be highly coveted. While much of this review focuses on areas he has shown improvement, I want to also take a look at the natural abilities that got him drafted in the first round.

This clip may look like a simple play but few have the physical ability to make it. Hooker (who is at the top of the screen) drops into his backpedal at the start of the play. Once he notices Deshaun Watson release the ball, Hooker bursts out of his backpedal and, like a blur, is tackling receiver Keke Coutee for a minimal gain. His closing speed to close the gap between him and his desired destination is absolutely incredible.

How does one talk about Malik Hooker and not mention his range? One of the most coveted traits in safeties and Hooker not only has it, he is borderline elite in this department. A combination of his athleticism and his understanding of routes, Hooker is able to make plays many safeties in the NFL can only dream of making. The range that he showed in college on a weekly basis is the main reason that he was selected so high in the 2017 draft.

This clip may see like a weird one to show for Hooker’s range. This is certainly a miscommunication by the defense as two players are streaking open down the field with only Hooker in deep coverage. What I want to focus on is how Hooker moves and how much ground he is able to cover on this play.

He initially opens his hips to assist in over the top coverage up the hash. He notices the wide open running back streaking behind him and flips his hips around in an instant to be in position to make a play on the pass catching running back. I understand that the running back falling prevented a potential touchdown here but Hooker’s ability to stay deep and flip his hips left him in a good position to make a play, even if the running back kept his balance.

This last clip is where his range and ball skills meet for a highlight reel type pass breakup. Hooker, starting on the bottom of the screen, notices the post route immediately off the line and opens his hips to the middle of the field. He breaks with Nelson Agholor across the field and at the last second is able to break on the ball and bat it away. The range he shows to track Agholor all the way across the field and then make a play on the ball is the reason why so many hyped up Hooker before the season.

These traits rare athletic traits, along with his development in run defense, have really made me hopeful for the rest of this year.

I’ve shown a few clips that display my concerns with Hooker and his tackling. He is just not a form tackler right now and really needs to improve. He is still an arm tackler who throws his shoulder at runners and hopes for the best. In the open field, Hooker struggles to break down and make the sure tackle. When he does contact runners, he is not nearly physical enough to get them down without a form tackle.

This clip shows an atrocious miss in the open field. Hooker gets to the receiver in a hurry but fails to properly break down and make the tackle, resulting in more yards. This cannot happen from your safeties. I understand that Hooker has mainly been a deep safety his entire life and hasn’t been asked to make many tackles like this in space but this is part of his growth as a safety. So far, I have not seen enough consistency in the open field to fully trust him as a tackler yet.

The last opportunity is more due to the scheme change than Hooker’s play. In this predominantly cover two scheme, what he is asked to do has increased dramatically. He is now playing as an interchangeable zone safety where his responsibility is a deep half of the field rather than just sitting over the top in man coverage. With that comes a lot more cerebral processing that Hooker just doesn’t have yet.

Here’s an example. The call by the Redskins is a deep flag route. Hooker— top of the screen— gets way too much depth in his back pedal and gives up the fifteen yard completion. A way to measure this is to look at Clayton Geathers on the other side of the screen. Notice how Geathers sits on the route and is in position to break on the ball if the ball is thrown his way. This is just a natural feel thing for Hooker. Once he realizes that he has the speed to turn and run with receivers, he will start sitting on more routes in deep coverage.

In this next clip, Hooker does the complete opposite, as he does not get enough depth in his coverage. Hooker— top of the screen— comes up into the box presumably to drop into zone coverage in the flats. Hooker’s first mistake is over-committing to the run which prevents him from getting into his drop at the snap. He then does not get enough depth which allows the comeback route to open. This again just shows Hooker’s inexperience as he has rarely played in the box in his football career.

So we’ve gone through enough clips now to where I think that we all have a good idea for what kind of player Malik Hooker is. He has the ability to be an absolute playmaker and showed that with his 3 interceptions and 4 pass deflections in just seven starts last season. So why does he have no interceptions five games into this season?

Well, it’s simply not what he’s asked to do in this new scheme.

This cover two scheme is dependent on Hooker doing his job, which is locking down his deep half of the field and preventing big plays while keeping the ball in front of him. For the most part, he has succeeded in doing that. Therefore, he is accomplishing his job in the realm of this defense.

Lets look at a clip or two to show this. Against the Redskins here, Hooker— top of the screen— is in deep coverage. Alex Smith’s main target appears to be one of the two receivers streaking downfield. Hooker plays the deep man then breaks off and comes down on the inside guy who is also streaking deep. Hooker taking away both of these option results in Smith having to come to his third option— late I may add— which nearly results in an interception for Pierre Desir.

This next clip shows Hooker’s role in Kenny Moore’s interception against the Bengals. Hooker— top of the screen— is playing his deep half of the field and backpedals to around the 45 yard line. The Bengals are trying to hit the deep post on the second play of the game. If Hooker was out of position or did not get proper depth, Andy Dalton is likely able to make this throw before the pass rush gets to him. Instead, Dalton recognizes that Hooker is the deep safety where he wants to go and elects to go to his check-down as he gets hit, resulting in an interception. Hooker’s reputation and being in the right position are two of the factors that led to this interception.