INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The mixed bag of medical updates following the Indianapolis Colts’ third preseason game was overshadowed by one glaring, lingering concern.
Who’s the starting right tackle? That’s not a question a team wants to be debating with the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks away.
Yet it’s a question the Colts have yet to answer.
“We’re going to take one more week to evaluate that,’’ coach Frank Reich said Sunday afternoon. “We’ll figure out what’s best for the team and use these last couple of days and the last game to zero in on that.
“Feel confident with the guys we have competing for that position, but we’ll take all the time allotted to us to make that decision.’’
Saturday night’s meeting with the San Francisco 49ers failed to add clarity, other than to affirm Austin Howard isn’t the answer. He was signed to a one-year, $3.75 million contract in May but has steadily fallen down the depth chart.
Howard, 31 and an 88-game starter during his eight-year career, started against the 49ers, and was benched after three plays. The clincher was giving up a third-down sack of quarterback Andrew Luck on the first series.
Denzelle Good made his first appearance of the preseason after battling a hamstring injury, and the coaching staff was hopeful he would emerge as a viable candidate at right tackle. However, he suffered an injury to his left knee on his 25th snap, which likely would have been his final play of the game.
Reich revealed Good’s injury is “a week-to-week deal’’ that will keep him out of Thursday night’s preseason finale at Cincinnati.
The right-tackle candidates against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium: J’Marcus Webb, Joe Haeg and Braden Smith. Webb was the right tackle starter in the preseason opener at Seattle while Smith got his audition against Baltimore.
Also in the week-to-week status are safeties T.J. Green (hamstring) and Ronald Martin (shoulder).
The good news on the medical front involved John Simon. The veteran defensive end was forced from the 49ers game in the second half with a neck injury. That sent up red flags considering he suffered a neck injury against Jacksonville in week 7 that ultimately sent him to the injured reserve list.
“Good news on Simon,’’ Reich said, adding his injury was “a little bit less severe. We were being a little bit precautionary just because he had the neck last year.
“We wanted to be safe and smart with it. We know who he is.’’
Simon is considered “day-to-day,’’ and is one of many front-line players who won’t play Thursday night.
Areas to watch
Preseason rosters that sit at 90 must be trimmed to 53 Saturday. The Colts have their work cut out for them, starting with Thursday’s wrap-up at Cincinnati.
Along with settling on a starting right tackle, Reich pointed to the overall depth of the offensive line as an area that will demand serious discussion. That’s also true at tight end.
“I think we’re going to have a really tough decision to make at tight end because we feel we have confidence in the tight ends we have,’’ he said.
The group includes Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Ross Travis, Darnell Daniels, Eric Swoope and Mo Alie-Cox. Look for the Colts to carry four on the 53-player roster.
At receiver, T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant are the top three. The prevailing question: Who’s No. 4 and No. 5?
“A real tight battle,’’ Reich said.
The competition includes Zach Pascal, who offers value as a punt returner and in coverage on special teams, and Seantavius Jones, who pulled in a 53-yard reception from Jacoby Brissett against San Francisco, the Colts’ longest offensive play of the preseason.
Determining the mix in the secondary also is on the coaching staff’s agenda.
“There’s some good battles left at these positions,’’ Reich said, “and we’ll use the whole body of what to determine that, but certainly last impressions always help.
“This last game will be important.’’
General manager Chris Ballard’s on-going effort at upgrading the roster included acquiring cornerback Lenzy Pipkins Sunday in a trade with the Green Bay Packers. The cost: linebacker Antonio Morrison.
“Obviously Chris and his staff know him well,’’ Reich said. “Just feel like it’s a good fit. He’s got good awareness, good technique. He’s a guy our guys had their eye on.’’
The 6-0, 190-pound Pipkins signed with the Packers last season as an undrafted rookie. He appeared in 12 games with one start.
Morrison was a 2016 fourth-round draft pick who never seemed to be a good fit as the Colts switched from a 3-4 defense to coordinator Matt Eberflus’ 4-3.
Morrison appeared in 31 games with 19 starts, and led the team with 109 tackles last year.