CINCINNATI — Two centers down, the Indianapolis Colts turned to rookie offensive guard Jack Mewhort to handle snapping footballs for about a quarter in Thursday’s 35-7 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The second-round pick out of Ohio State has hiked before, in high school at Toledo St. John’s and also in practice with the Buckeyes. And when starter Khaled Holmes went down with an ankle injury in the preseason opener, Mewhort handled some snaps in Colts practice.
Five years removed from his last game action at center, Mewhort was ready to accept the challenge.
“I tried to go out there and get everybody on the same page,” he said. “Obviously there’s a lot of stuff I can improve on at that position. And that’s what I intend to do, just keep making strides forward. God forbid there’s a situation where I need to step in there and contribute, but at center I’ll be able to do that.”
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said the team is “hopeful” Holmes will be ready for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at Denver. Behind the second-year Holmes is undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison, who sat this game out with a thumb injury.
“The center has to get up there and identify a lot of different things going on with the defense, make sure that everybody is on the same page,” he said. “Everything is kind of based off the center, it is a little bit more responsibility but when you’re out there with a great group of guys it makes it a lot easier to go out and play center.
“I had a lot of fun this (past) week at practice, trying to get back into it, having that little bit more responsibility. I just want to keep improving on it. I’m nowhere near good enough where I need to be at guard or center. I just want to keep making strides so I can contribute any way possible.”
If the Colts regain some health, Mewhort is expected to start at offensive left guard. But like he said, he’s his toughest critic.
“I don’t think anybody is harder on myself than me,” he said. “I try not to dwell on the stuff that I’m working on, but as a football player you have to have a short memory and keep moving forward. You have to know where you’ve been and what you’ve done so you don’t repeat the same mistake twice.”
Defender switches sides
Tyler Hoover hadn’t played offense since high school, but the rookie defensive end out of Michigan State was called upon to play offensive left tackle when Joe Reitz suffered a left high ankle sprain near the end of the first quarter.
“It was a huge opportunity, and that was the most I’ve ever played offense,” said the undrafted rookie. “High school was the first time I had ever played offense. Coming in here, it’s a lot different competition, a whole different story, a lot to learn.
The Colts worked him in at the position in the final two minutes of the previous preseason game. This time, out of necessity, he played three quarters.
“To tell you the truth, when I came into it, all I had to think was positive thoughts, just play my heart out and go out and knock someone out,” he said. “That’s the only thing I tried to do. I tried. We’ll see some tape and see.
“If I can be able to play any position, obviously I’m going to step up and try to do that.”
Colts head coach Pagano said the team had depth at defensive line and decided recently to give him a look on offense.
And what if quarterback Chandler Harnish audible to a tackle-eligible pass?
“I can get down field,” he said, laughing. “It was a blast.”
Added Harnish, “I haven’t seen him catch a ball yet, so I probably wouldn’t have thrown to him.”
Or perhaps he could go old school and be a two-way player on offense and defense?
“I was ready,” he said, with another laugh.
Pagano said the team would know more about Reitz on Friday. If the injury lingers, it could impact how the team makes roster cuts by 4 p.m. Saturday. The Colts are already without backup tackle Xavier Nixon, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Aug. 8.
Reserve tackle Matt Hall exited with an elbow injury. His status is unknown, although he’s likely among the players to be cut. Linebacker Andrew Jackson, a sixth-round pick, had to come out in the final quarter with cramps. Jackson is also thought to be on the bubble.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.