Colts trying to juggle banged-up offensive line
Let the juggling act begin in Indianapolis.
With starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo expected to miss Sunday's game because of an ankle injury, backup left tackle Ben Ijalana out for the season with a torn ACL and starting right guard Ryan Diem still recovering from a sprained left ankle, the Colts depth chart could have as many lines through it as an NFL play.
Yes, they're in full scramble mode.
''Practice will go along this week and we'll see where we are. We do have a lot of possibilities and some of them are too endless to go through,'' coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday. ''It's just the way it is. You take a look at where you are and adjust accordingly.''
Actually, the offensive line could get a complete overhaul by the time Kansas City comes to town Sunday.
Losing Castonzo and Ijalana would probably force the winless Colts to move right tackle Jeff Linkenbach to the left side, where he finished Monday night's game. Linkenbach, an undrafted free agent in his second season with the Colts, is now the most experienced left tackle on Indy's active roster. He has one career start at that spot.
Moving Linkenbach would allow Indy to insert Michael Toudouze, who spent the past four years in Indy and was re-signed Wednesday, at right tackle. The Colts also could use Mike Tepper, a first-year player who replaced Linkenbach at that spot for the final eight minutes at Tampa Bay, or they could move Diem back to his old spot - if he's healthy - and keep Mike Pollak at right guard.
This version of musical chairs probably will not include the Colts' other new signee, former Atlanta Falcon and New England Patriot Quinn Ojinnaka, but if the downward spiral continues, they might not have a choice.
Just ask Tepper.
''I had played a little left tackle in college, so I said 'Hey, Seth, when was the last time you played left tackle?''' Tepper said, recalling his sideline conversation with Seth Olsen after Ijalana went down Monday. ''He said 2007, so I said, 'It looks like I'm going in.'''
Things have gotten so bad in Indianapolis that veteran guard Jaimie Thomas, already on season-ending injured reserve, was given a four-game suspension by league officials for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
And that's just the offensive line.
There are still questions at quarterback, too.
With Peyton Manning still out because of a neck surgery, and Kerry Collins not yet cleared to play after sustaining concussion-like symptoms Sept. 25 against Pittsburgh, Curtis Painter is in line to make his second straight start. Collins was limited in practice Wednesday.
''Right now, Curtis is our starter and Kerry can't practice at this point,'' Caldwell said. ''So I'm not sure there's any need to go into any long elaborate reasoning.''
How long Painter can last behind this makeshift line is anybody's guess.
Collins got roughed up against Pittsburgh playing behind four of the regular starters. The Buccaneers sacked Painter four times Monday night, and when the third-year veteran wasn't getting knocked to the ground, he was still under pressure.
At times over the years, the Colts have enjoyed so much depth, that even Manning sometimes didn't realize when starters were out.
''I was aware of it,'' Painter said. ''Our guys are pretty versatile, and you can move them around out there and they did a good job.''
Indy also is trying to find healthy bodies to fill in along the defensive line after Eric Foster was put on injured reserve with a dislocated right ankle. Foster had replaced the injured Fili Moala the past two weeks, and there's no assurance Moala will be back this week.
Rookie defensive tackle Drake Nevis also couldn't finish Monday night's game, so the Colts used defensive ends Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton inside. On Wednesday, they promoted Ricardo Mathews, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010, from the practice squad to the active roster. They also signed defensive tackle Kade Weston, a seventh-round pick of New England in 2010, to the practice squad. Tight end Dedrick Epps to the practice squad.
But the most immediate concern is an offensive line that has been decimated by injuries and lacks experience.
Indy already had three first-year starters in the lineup, with Diem playing a new position and longtime center Jeff Saturday the only player back in the same spot from 2010.
And now the Colts could be in even more dire straits against a Chiefs defense that can put pressure on opponents.
''When guys go down, we just try to patch things up,'' Saturday said. ''Look, we are where we are. You can't reduce the offense much more, we've just got to help our playmakers make plays.''