No disrespect to the Cincinnati Bengals, but the Indianapolis Colts are already thinking ahead to the Buffalo Bills.
Those players looking to earn a Colts roster spot will be focused on making a lasting impression in Thursday’s home preseason finale against the Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. But the team has started preparations for the Sept. 13 season opener at Buffalo.
“It’s already begun,” head coach Chuck Pagano said Tuesday. “I think we’ve been working probably on that since the start of training camp, getting this team ready for not only the opener, but the entire season.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck, who like most starters isn’t expected to play against the Bengals, has been studying Bills film.
“It starts this week,” the three-time Pro Bowl passer said Tuesday. “You start preparing. You start looking at film obviously and figuring out what your plan is going to be. It’s going to be tough. That’s a good defense.
“(Bills) coach (Rex) Ryan is a heck of a coach. They’re always going to bring some funky stuff at you. It’s going to be tough on the road, but it’s always tough on the road in the NFL. Looking forward to it.”
While Wednesday’s news that defensive tackle Arthur Jones will need ankle surgery was a big disappointment, some of the other injured players are improving.
Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (concussion protocol) and rookie wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (knee contusion) practiced Tuesday. Reserve running back Vick Ballard (hamstring) is “trending in the right direction,” according to Pagano. It remains to be seen if Ballard will play against the Bengals.
Aside from Jones being out, starting cornerback Greg Toler (neck) has not returned to practice. Neither have outside linebacker Cam Johnson (ankle), rookie running back Josh Robinson (concussion) nor reserve offensive guard Hugh Thornton (knee).
Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis spoke Tuesday about how most of the defensive players are familiar with the 3-4 scheme and is ahead of schedule for the opener.
“I think we’re making strides,” Davis said. “I think around this time last year we’re probably ahead because we’ve played together for some time. There are a lot of guys on this defense that have played two, three years together, so we’re more comfortable with each other.”
Between now and a week from Sunday, the Colts will have to figure out a plan for life without Jones, a key component to the run defense. Zach Kerr, Montori Hughes, rookie Henry Anderson and rookie David Parry are all possibilities.
After Thursday's game, the Colts have until 4 p.m. EDT Saturday to trim their 75-man roster to the league-mandated 53 players.
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