INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The prevailing question as the Indianapolis Colts prepare for Saturday’s regular-season “dress rehearsal’’ against the Philadelphia Eagles?
OK, it’s easier to list who won’t, but that’s the point.
With the Sept. 11 opener against the Detroit Lions looming, the Colts are dealing with a list of injuries, including a rash of them that has ravaged the cornerback position, and it’s stressing the coaching staff.
Thursday, Coach Chuck Pagano revealed at least 13 players won’t play against the Eagles, and it could be 14. Starting right tackle Joe Reitz is dealing with tightness in his back that has kept him out of the last two days of practice.
“It makes it tough, but we’ve got to go,’’ Pagano said. “That’s why we challenge every one of these guys that comes through here to prepare like starters because it’s next-man-up.
“You guys get tired of hearing me say it, but it’s reality. If some of those guys thought I was kidding, thought we were kidding, we were lying about next-man-up, they’re going to get a big dose of reality if they haven’t already because they’re going to trot out there.
“Somebody’s going to have to play. And we’ll put somebody out there that’ll be ready. We’ve got enough. We don’t make excuses. They’ll go play hard and they’ll be tough, be physical, play smart. We have no choice.’’
The Colts won’t expose linebacker Robert Mathis and recently-signed cornerback Antonio Cromartie to the risk of injury against the Eagles.
Cromartie could start, Pagano admitted, “but I’m not going to play him. I’m not going to throw him out there. He’s not had an offseason.’’
The other 11 are dealing with injuries: cornerbacks Vontae Davis (ankle), Patrick Robinson (groin), Jalil Brown (foot), D’Joun Smith (foot) and Tevin Mitchel (unknown); guards Joe Haeg (ankle) and Hugh Thornton (ankle); defensive linemen Henry Anderson (knee) and Kendall Langford (knee); safety Clayton Geathers (foot) and linebacker Sio Moore (hamstring).
It’s worth noting list includes four top-level corners – Davis, Robinson, Cromartie and Smith – and six overall.
So, who gets the corner reps against the Eagles?
“You’ve got a laptop right there in front of you, right?’’ Pagano joked. “Pull up the roster real quick and you’ll see 39, Tay Glover-Wright. You’ll see Chris Milton. D-Buts (Darius Butler) is going to be there. He’s going to be rolling.
“Mikey Adams will be out there, line him up outside. T.J. (Green) runs 4.3, might try him.’’
Seriously? Adams and Green are the starting safeties.
“We are going to have to be creative,’’ Pagano said.
For those who need a quick refresher course, the available corners for Saturday are Butler, Glover-Wright, Milton, Frankie Williams, Darius White and Winston Rose.
Of the 13 players definitely ruled out of the game, seven are projected starters, including six on defense.
That might make it difficult for the Colts to field a competitive defensive unit against Philadelphia as they focus more on individual evaluation than how the group performs.
“You’ve got to look through it with the right lens,’’ Pagano said. “I’m not worried about numbers, stats, those kinds of things.
“We want to keep moving forward. We want to keep playing well as a unit. We don’t want to give up big plays and we want to stop the run and want to be effective in situational football . . . but we’re not interested in that stuff right now.
“Just continue to evaluate these guys and it’s a great opportunity for the young players. We’re going to get to look at a lot of young guys that normally wouldn’t get the amount of reps that they get in the third preseason game.’’