Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

November 08, 2018 at 1:32 am.


–Rookie DE Tyquan Lewis (toe) could be brought back from injured reserve to make his NFL debut in this game, head coach Frank Reich said. The second-round selection has been sidelined since preseason but is practicing for a second week. League rules dictate that the Colts must decide as late as next week whether to add Lewis to the active roster or keep him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

–Safety Mike Mitchell (calf), safety Clayton Geathers (knee) and tight end Erik Swoope (knee) were among those Colts not practicing on Wednesday. The Colts have been thinned by injuries at safety in recent weeks, although second-year starter Malik Hooker (hip) has returned on a limited basis. Hooker missed the Colts’ win at Oakland.

–As long as Swoope is inactive, the Colts won’t have to make the difficult decision of waiving another tight end and risk losing that player to the waiver wire before re-signing him to the practice squad. Both Swoope and Mo Alie-Cox have endured this yo-yo existence this season. Swoope caught TD passes in three consecutive games before being sidelined for the last game by the knee injury. The return of Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle from a hip injury in the previous game and the continued success of Eric Ebron, who leads all NFL tight ends with seven TDs, means either Swoope or Alie-Cox could be a yo-yo again when or if Swoope returns. Alie-Cox caught his first NFL TD pass against the Raiders, an impressive one-handed grab that showed the jumping ability of a former basketball player who like Swoope didn’t play football in college.

–Doyle returned to the lineup with a team-best 70 receiving yards on six catches with one TD against the Raiders.

–Colts tight ends have combined for 62 receptions, second most in the league.

–Rookie RT Braden Smith has made a solid adjustment to his new position, where he’s started the past four games, although he played guard in college. The second-round pick suffered a hand injury against Oakland, but finished the game and it wasn’t enough to keep him from being a full-practice participant on Wednesday.

–Luck has thrown a TD pass in 31 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league and eighth on the all-time list. He’s also had three or more TD passes in four consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league.

–The Colts defense has forced 10 fumbles and recovered seven this season. The unit’s 16 takeaways are tied for fifth most.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RB Marlon Mack. The second-year back’s return to health after being sidelined for three games with an ankle injury has bolstered the Colts’ rushing attack. Mack is coming off back-to-back career bests with 132 yards rushing on 25 carries and two TDs in a road win over Oakland and 126 yards on 19 carries with one rushing score and another receiving TD in a home win over Buffalo. Mack’s ankle injury, which sidelined him for three games, means resting him at times during the week; he missed practice before the Raiders game. But he’s proven to have enough burst to provide the Colts with an offensive balance they had lacked for much of this season. He’s the first Colts back to have 100 yards rushing in consecutive games since Joseph Addai in 2007.

GAME PLAN: The Jaguars would like nothing more than to play a physical, smash-mouth game against the Colts, who have scored 21 or more points in all but one game yet typically relies upon the passing game to set up the run. The visitors expect to have second-year running back Leonard Fournette back in the lineup after being sidelined by a hamstring injury since Week 4. That means a struggling Jaguars offense will look to make life easier for beleaguered quarterback Blake Bortles with hand-offs to Fournette as well as Carlos Hyde, who was acquired from Cleveland in a trade three weeks ago. The Colts defense is a bend-and-sometimes-breaking unit that allows yards in bunches but has been adept at getting turnovers to make stops (at least one in each game). They must contain Fournette, the fourth overall pick a year ago who debuted with 1,040 yards rushing and nine TDs as a rookie. The Colts are just 19th in rushing yards allowed at 109.9 per game.

On the flip side, the Colts will also be looking to establish the run game with their own second-year back, Marlon Mack, who has contributed 258 rushing yards and three TDs (as well as one receiving) in the last two games. The Colts have struggled to be balanced, typically relying upon quarterback Andrew Luck, who is on pace to put up career-best numbers, but they’ve rushed for more than 200 yards in back-to-back games, the first time that’s happened since 1985. The Jaguars are No. 1 against the pass (190 yards allowed per game) and second in fewest total yards allowed (313.2), but teams have been able to run the ball on a unit that’s 24th in rushing yards allowed at 123.2. Because the Jaguars have a strong pass rush, look for the Colts to try to open run lanes with short-range passing to move the chains. Luck has thrived in head coach Frank Reich’s new offense, which will be put to the test by the toughest defense the Colts have faced this season.


–Colts LT Anthony Castonzo and RT Braden Smith vs. Jaguars RDE Calais Campbell and LDE Yannick Ngakoue. The Jaguars like to move Campbell around, even lining him up inside, but look for the three-time Pro Bowl pass rusher to test the edges against the rookie Smith as well as the eighth-year veteran Castonzo. Coming off a career-high 14.5 sacks in 2017, Campbell has five sacks in his 11th season, which ties Ngakoue for the team lead. Ngakoue had 12 sacks in his second season last year. The Colts have allowed just 10 sacks and QB Andrew Luck hasn’t been sacked in three consecutive games, a career-best clean streak of 156 pass attempts. The Colts lead the league with the lowest sack rate per pass attempt (2.92 percent). An injured Luck didn’t play last year, when the Jaguars had 10 sacks in their win at Indianapolis.

–Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Jaguars LCB Jalen Ramsey or RCB A.J. Bouye. The Colts also like to keep defenses guessing by lining up Hilton outside and in the slot depending upon the play. Hilton, named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past four seasons, is one of the NFL’s most established deep threats, but he’s been using his speed and elusiveness more in a Colts passing attack that’s designed to get rid of the ball quicker to targets running shorter-range patterns. That said, Ramsey and Bouye know Hilton can still stretch the field with his 4.34-second speed in the 40-yard dash. Hilton missed two games due to a hamstring injury, but has 26 receptions for 353 yards and four TDs. The Jaguars have the No. 1 pass defense because both of their corners are excellent in coverage and can be counted upon to play man-to-man coverage while the effective defensive front can still apply pressure when rushing just four defenders. Bouye didn’t practice Wednesday due to a calf injury, so his status is uncertain for game day.