INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Andrew Luck’s surgically-repaired right shoulder dominated the discussion Monday as the Indianapolis Colts opened their offseason program.
And rightly so. The present and future of the franchise hinges on the NFL’s $140 million QB returning to form sooner rather than later.
But overshadowed by Luck’s health – he offered no timeline for a return to the practice field – was the status of three other prominent Colts on the mend from injuries that essentially wrecked their 2016.
That would be guard Jack Mewhort and defensive linemen Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson.
The fitness of each is critical if Luck’s offensive line is to take another much-needed step and the defense is to shed its ineffective ways. Mewhort helps solidify the interior of the line at left guard while Langford and Anderson, at full strength and with the addition of nose tackle Johnathan Hankins, potentially gives coordinator Ted Monachino a formidable front.
A look at each:
- 2016: It was an uphill battle from the outset for the 2014 second-round draft pick. Mewhort sprained his right knee in the third preseason game against Philadelphia, but started the season-opener against Detroit. He suffered a triceps injury Oct. 16 against Houston, missed three games, returned, then spent the final three weeks on injured reserve after injuring his left knee against the Texans.
Mewhort offered a quick response when asked to grade his third NFL season: “Yeah, I’d give it an ‘I’ for ‘Incomplete.’’’
“It was one of those things where freak things kept hitting me,’’ he said. “It was one thing after another. That’s how football is. That’s what you sign up for when you play this game. I started playing football in fourth grade. (Injuries) come with it.
“It’s my job as a professional, rehabbing and move past that and not let those things hijack me.’’
- Update: Mewhort insisted he’s good to go.
“Positive, good energy and physically feel the best I’ve felt,’’ he said.
- Looking ahead: Flanked by left tackle Anthony Castonzo and center Ryan Kelly, Mewhort offers returning continuity. Still to be determined is how the right side of the line shakes out. The Colts might open camp with Joe Haeg at right guard and Le’Raven Clark at right tackle.
Continuity has been lacking since Luck’s arrival in ’12. He has played behind 35 different starting combinations in his 70 regular-season starts.
“Continuity is a big thing on the offensive line; continuity and then consistency with the guys that you have in there,’’ Mewhort said. “Once you establish those two things, I believe you have a chance to have a really good offensive line.
“I believe we have the talent in that room.’’
- 2016: Like with Mewhort, Langford’s dance with injuries a year ago began during training camp. He underwent surgery in August to repair a “chondral defect’’ in his right knee. Langford returned and started the first seven games to extend his streak of consecutive games to 135 – at the time the longest active streak among defensive linemen – but was a shadow of himself. The team announced Oct. 28 it was “shutting him down’’ for an indefinite time to allow for additional rehab, but then placed him on IR Nov. 19.
“It sucked,’’ Langford said. “Even when I was playing and I wasn’t myself, that sucked. To see my brothers out there fighting and I couldn’t do nothing about it but sit on the sideline and try to make suggestions and things like that, that really sucked.
“I’m definitely looking forward to getting out there this year and having some fun.’’
- Update: Langford insisted he’s “progressing.’’
“One guarantee I can say is I’ll be ready come season, training camp, all those good things,’’ he said. “So I’m moving in the right direction right now on my rehab and taking it one day at a time.’’
- Looking ahead: At first glance, the defensive line appears robust with Langford at end, Hankins at nose and Anderson at tackle. The depth includes Hassan Ridgeway, David Parry, T.Y. McGill, Al Woods and Margus Hunt.
“We will be better this year than we were last year,’’ Langford said of a defense that a year ago ranked No. 30 in yards allowed and No. 22 in points. “I just feel like there’s no other choice. We will be better than we were last year, I can guarantee that.’’
- 2016: Last year was supposed to be the next major step as Anderson recovered from a torn right ACL sustained midway through what was a promising rookie season in ’15. But while he was regaining confidence in the knee, he dealt with minor dings to the same knee while also an injury to his left knee.
It’s easy to forget he started 14 games when you consider he managed only 15 tackles.
“Last year was obviously very frustrating and just nagging injuries that I have to learn how to play through those a little bit better,’’ he said. “I am over a year removed from my ACL, which is obviously good. I have a lot more confidence in that knee so I am definitely very excited to be back healthy again and playing.’’
- Update: Anderson, knock on wood, should be good to go.
“I feel good and hopefully all the injuries are kind of in the past now and I can kind of be injury-free for as long as possible,’’ he said.
- Looking ahead: As mentioned, Langford, Hankins and Anderson represent as solid a front-three as the Colts have had since adopting Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 scheme in 2012.