Next man up for Colts' Henry Anderson is trio of D-linemen

Fourth-year pro Billy Winn will get his share of snaps along with Zach Kerr and T.Y. McGill as Colts adjust to losing rookie starter.

Billy Winn couldn’t help but admire the guy he was playing behind on the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive line.

The fourth-year pro marveled at how rookie defensive tackle Henry Anderson studied intently and made plays. But Anderson suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Colts’ previous game, which means more will be expected of Winn.

Actually, it’s up to Winn, second-year pro Zach Kerr and rookie T.Y. McGill to try to fill the void left by Anderson’s exit when the Colts (4-5) visit the Atlanta Falcons (6-3) Sunday.

“I have all the faith in the world between me, T.Y. and Zach,” Winn said. “We all have that versatility. We can play inside and out.”

Head coach Chuck Pagano said it's imperative the trio rotate to stay fresh and productive.

"(Defensive line coach) Gary Emanuel does a great job coaching those guys and rotating those guys, but you want to keep them fresh," Pagano said, "obviously a bunch of three-and-outs and getting off the field and offense moving the chains much like we did in our last ball game, time of possession, running the football, 60 percent on third down -- anytime we play 70 plus plays on offense, anything fewer than 60 plays on defense, we win a lot of games. I’m sure everybody else does, so keeping those guys fresh is going to help you, especially in the fourth quarter.”

The Colts acquired Winn from Cleveland in September for a conditional 2017 late-round draft choice. He’s appeared in seven games as a reserve and made 11 tackles with one fumble recovery. Kerr has 10 tackles in five games. McGill has three tackles in five games.

“Henry was playing great,” Winn said Wednesday. “As a fourth-year guy, seeing a rookie like him go out and as explosive as he is and making the plays that he does, oh man, it was sad that we lost him. But it’s part of the game. Injuries happen.

“Watching that guy study in a room and how he watches film and the notes he takes. He acted and presented himself like a pro, and he was a rookie and he amazes you. I’ve been working at this for four years, and this guy has got it knocked down in one training camp.”

The most reasonable explanation for that, Winn suggests, is because Anderson is a Stanford guy.

“I was in shock, the initiative that he took to make sure he was on top of his stuff, week in and week out.”

Anderson had a team-high nine tackles in his NFL debut at Buffalo. He made 31 tackles, including five for losses with four quarterback hits.

What makes Winn the most likely candidate to get most of Anderson’s snaps is experience to go with versatility. In 47 career games, he has 89 tackles with three sacks.

“I’ve played three technique, I’ve played nose, I’ve played the five,” Winn said. “I’ve done it all. 

“A lot of it is just balance and footwork. If you can manage those two things, you may or may not already have your opponent beat.”

As is often said by players in the NFL, Winn added, “The more you can do, the longer you can stay.”

Winn has one more advantage on his two teammates. He played in Cleveland with assistant coach Kyle Shanahan, now the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. 

“I know a lot about what kind of scheme he likes to run,” Winn said.

Falcons leading rusher Devonta Freeman is No. 1 in the NFL with 11 touchdowns, nine of them rushing, and the second-year pro’s 721 rushing yards rank third overall.

“We’re going to have to go out and execute and do our job,” Winn said. “If we want to go out there and compete with these guys, we’ve got to be on top of our stuff.”

Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.

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