INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Here’s where the Indianapolis Colts are with their injury-ravaged offensive line: the starting unit Sunday against the New York Jets very well could feature two players making their season debuts.
Welcome back, Anthony Castonzo.
Welcome to Indy, Evan Boehm, and we’ll get to him in a minute.
A hamstring injury and two setbacks have forced Castonzo to miss the first five games of the season, but apparently has progressed to the point it won’t keep him out of the first six. The veteran left tackle has been a full participant in practice the last two days, which also represents the only full practices he’s handled all year.
“I’m playing,’’ Castonzo said prior to Thursday’s practice. “I hesitate to say that only because I’ve cursed myself the last couple of times.
“My strength is there. My movement is there. Everything feels good.’’
For those who’ve forgotten Castonzo’s frustrating path to the starting lineup, he injured his right hamstring while working out on his own in late July. He was cleared for training camp practice Aug. 1, but aggravated the injury two days later. He began practicing on a limited basis and was confident he’d be ready for the Sept. 16 trip to Washington – “No question,’’ he said, “I’m full go’’ – only to again tweak the hamstring.
Castonzo has kept the two previous setbacks in his mind as he’s again worked his way back. The 2011 first-round draft pick had missed only seven of a possible 118 games heading into this season.
“They definitely made sure that I was good to go,’’ he said. “Nobody really pushed me to come back before I was ready. I definitely feel ready to go.’’
Castonzo was in uniform and ready for an emergency role last Thursday at New England, but wasn’t needed.
“That was weird,’’ he said. “I told (coach Frank Reich) the last time I dressed for a game in which I was not going to play as my junior year of high school.’’
Castonzo’s return coincides with that of Denzelle Good, who missed the Patriots game following the death of his younger brother, Overton. That should stabilize what has been an incredibly unsettled tackle situation that has seen five different tackles start.
Good likely is back at right tackle against the Jets, which will allow rookie Braden Smith, the starting right tackle against the Patriots, to return to his natural guard spot. And that’s critical in the wake of right guard Matt Slauson suffering a season-ending back injury at New England.
And that brings us back to Evan Boehm.
Monday morning, the 6-3, 310-pounder was in Los Angeles and a member of the Rams’ practice squad.
Monday evening, he was headed to Indy. A byproduct of placing Slauson on the injured reserve list was filling his spot on the active roster with Boehm.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a week,’’ Boehm said, “but things are starting to settle down.’’
Things might intensify again this weekend. Blame the trickle-down effect.
Center Ryan Kelly has missed the last two days with a calf injury. While his teammates were going through Thursday’s practice, he was working on the side with the rehab staff.
Perhaps Kelly practices Friday and starts against the Jets.
Or perhaps Boehm is charged with snapping to Andrew Luck less than a week after becoming his teammate. Slauson had started all five games at right guard, but also was the backup center. Another center option, Joe Haeg, is on IR with an ankle injury.
Boehm has done his part. He’s attacked the playbook and is getting to know his teammates. He’s also making the most of practice reps. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni joked Boehm and assistant line coach Bobby Johnson have been “living together’’ this week.
“I’ve been in the building a lot since Monday,’’ Boehm admitted. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a great opportunity to get on an active roster and show people what you’ve got.’’
Boehm’s NFL resume is short: two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, and a short stint on the Rams’ practice squad. However, he appeared in 31 games with the Cardinals with nine starts. He started eight games a year ago at right guard.
At least initially, the Colts need Boehm to return to his roots. He set a school record with 52 consecutive starts at Missouri, and the final 40 were at center.
“It’s been a little bit since I’ve done it in a true game,’’ he said, “Should be like riding a bike. You get used to it and remember everything you need to do and we’ll be good.’’
The Colts will use a fifth different starting offensive line in six games this weekend. It will mark the 40th different combination in Luck’s 76-game career.
Also, if Kelly is out, the Colts will turn to a 10th starting center since Luck’s arrival in 2012.
The list, since you’ve probably lost track: Kelly, Deyshawn Bond, Mike Person, Anthony Fabiano, Khaled Holmes, Jon Harrison, A.Q. Shipley, Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn.