Asked if the decision to start Khaled Holmes over Jonotthan Harrison at Dallas Sunday was performance-based or because Harrison was dealing with injuries, Pagano said, “A little bit of both, but Khaled had practiced well through the course of the time that he’s been out, most of that has been on the (scout) team.”
Harrison suffered a burner injury in the Colts’ 25-24 win at Cleveland on Dec. 7. He returned as the starter the next week, but evidently still has some physical issues. Holmes, a 2013 fourth-round selection, began preseason as the starter but suffered an ankle sprain in the exhibition opener.
Pagano said Holmes will start again Sunday, when the Colts (10-5) visit Tennessee (2-13).
“He had a great week of practice,” Pagano said of the decision to go with Holmes last week, “and we decided to give him a shot.”
When asked on a Monday conference call how Holmes played in his first NFL start, the coach said, “He had a hiccup here or there, but overall I thought it was a good outing for Khaled. He played good. He was solid with his communication, his points and his ID of the defense, good communication across the line with the other linemen.”
The continual question about who hikes the ball and why has revolved around those two players and A.Q. Shipley in what has at times seemed like a soap opera. Harrison, an underrated rookie, started in preseason after Holmes got hurt. Then Shipley was claimed off waivers from Baltimore at the end of preseason and started the first four games of the regular season.
Much to the surprise of many, the Colts benched Shipley in favor of Harrison in Week 4 against Baltimore. In 10 consecutive starts, Harrison played like a rookie at times with at least a half dozen plays victimized by bad snaps or communication issues. Fans and media questioned what was wrong with Shipley?
Meanwhile, Holmes was a forgotten man, inactive for the first 11 games. When Harrison got hurt at Cleveland, Shipley subbed in. When right guard Joe Reitz got hurt, too, Holmes entered at guard. Pagano praised Shipley after the win, but the playing time proved to be temporary. Shipley has since been inactive for two games.
So now Harrison and Shipley are sitting and Holmes has re-emerged as the starter. The Colts have had nine different starting combinations on the offensive line this season. The only 15-game O-line starter has been left tackle Anthony Castonzo.
“Yeah, you wish the other four spots were just like that,” Pagano said of Castonzo, who has started 59 games in his four-year NFL career, including the last 55 consecutive games. “We might not be talking about the O-line as much as we talk about the offensive line, but it is what it is. Injuries obviously play a factor into that.
“But from a continuity standpoint, chemistry, communication, it’s tough when you change. I’m not making any excuses, but it’s reality. It makes it hard on everybody. I’m not going to say that’s the root of our issues, but it doesn’t help when you have to change week in and week out and you’re plugging in new guys.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.