Terrelle Pryor or Matt Flynn. When it comes to Sunday's regular-season opener with the Oakland Raiders (1 p.m., Lucas Oil Stadium, CBS Sports), Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano says his team will be ready for whoever ends up starting at quarterback.
“I think they’re both really good players, as we all know. I think Pryor, obviously with his athleticism, we’ve watched him in the preseason. We’ve watched him for a long time. We all know what he can do outside the pocket and the way he can create and the way he can run the read option. He gives you another dimension from a defensive standpoint that you got to take care of. He’s dangerous on the move,” Pagano said Wednesday.
“Whether they’re running read option with him, drop back to pass, if it’s not there then the guy can take off. He can scramble. He can scramble to run. He can scramble to make a play down the field. Again, they’re both really good quarterbacks. We’ll prepare for both guys and be ready to face whoever they decide to line up under center.”
• Which will it be? – While Oakland head coach Dennis Allen won't publicly disclose who his starting quarterback will be, media reports indicate that Pryor will most likely get the call.
“I haven't made an announcement yet. Nor will I,” Allen said during a Wednesday teleconference with the Colts media. Earlier in the day, while previewing the Indianapolis game with the Raiders' beat reporters, he said that he would not name a starter in order to have “a competitive advantage.”
• Stopping the read option – Should Pryor, the former Ohio State standout, end up getting the nod as the Raiders' starting quarterback, expect the Indianapolis defense to prepared for an option attack.
“I just think because of the success that people had last year running the read option, everybody went out in the offseason and did their due diligence, just like we did, as far as researching the things that you need to do to stop it. Some teams are a little bit more complex than others. Some are in the pistol and have one back back there,” the Colts coach said. “You’ll see this team come in here on Sunday and there could be that situation, that scenario right there, or there could be as many as three backs back there in a diamond formation with the quarterback in the pistol. So we definitely did our research as well as everybody else did. You get caught with your pants down, they can make you look really silly.”
• Going back to college – In order to get a better feel for defending the read option, Pagano and his defensive coaches did some research with the help of a few college coaching friends.
“We spoke to a lot of coaches, mostly collegiate because obviously those guys are facing it week-in and week-out. We got guys on our own staff that have been in college, most recently guys like [offensive line coach] Joey Gilbert and [offensive coordinator] Pep [Hamilton] coming from Stanford and having some experience with it,” the Colts coach explained.
“We’ve got guys on our own staff that have been involved with it, guys on our staff that have defended it. [Secondary coach] Mike Gillhamer’s a guy that was, obviously, at Illinois and faced it. Between our own guys on our own staff and then talking to guys at different places around the country, [we] gathered as much film as we can, made cut-ups of every snap that was ran in the NFL, along with college tape. [That] is what we studied.”
• Hit the quarterbacks – During training camp, NFL referees explained to teams and coaching staffs what will be allowed when facing read option offenses. Quarterbacks will be fair game to be hit under the right circumstances.
“That’s how the rule reads now. They’re very specific, and they were very specific with us in the offseason at the owners’ meetings, when the NFL officials came to training camp. As long as that guy’s running an option play and he’s involved in that option play, then he’s considered a runner. And he does not garner the protection that a normal quarterback who drops back to pass, the protection that he’s awarded based on the rules,” Pagano said.
“There’s a fine line there. Read option, a guy takes it and he hands it off and he backs away and doesn’t carry out a fake, can you go hit that guy? Obviously not. So we’ve educated our guys on that and we’ll practice that this week and for weeks to come.”
• Boyett waived – Rookie safety John Boyett was waived Tuesday from the Colts' non-football injury list. Boyett was arrested early Monday morning on charges of disorderly conduct, public intoxication and resisting law enforcement.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound defensive back was a sixth-round draft pick by Indianapolis in April.
“As you know, we released John Boyett. I’m not going to get into the details. Every situation is different and we’ll handle each of them accordingly,” Pagano said.
• Roster moves – Undrafted outside linebacker Caesar Rayford was traded to Dallas Tuesday in exchange for an unspecified conditional draft pick in 2015.
The 27-year-old Rayford had been signed in May after stints in the Canadian and Arena Football Leagues. He had become a fan favorite after posting five sacks in the Colts' four preseason games and had made the regular-season roster with his performance.
“Yeah, I mean anytime you have a player that has the production that he had and came in here and did what he was capable of doing in the preseason, you hate to lose anybody like that,” the Colts coach explained. “But I thought it was a win-win for both sides. We wish Caesar well and maybe we’ll see Caesar [at the Super Bowl] in New York on February 2.”
The addition of outside linebacker Cam Johnson, who was acquired in a trade with San Francisco on Monday, helped to spur the Rayford deal.
“The roster mechanics are day-to-day and like I said before, it’s fluid, so that played a role,” Pagano said.
In other moves, tight end Dominique Jones was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster. Rookie tight end Justice Cunningham, who had been released on Monday, was signed to the practice squad on Tuesday.
• Injury list – Offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has been sidelined with a sprained knee, is expected to start Sunday against Oakland. He could return to practice today.
Inside linebacker Kavell Conner, meanwhile, may end up being a game-day decision. Conner sprained his ankle against the Bengals in Indianapolis' preseason finale.
“They’re both day-to-day,” Pagano said. “[Castonzo] just needs another day [of rehab]. We’re just erring on the side of caution.”
The fourth-year left offensive tackle has been biding his time, waiting for the opportunity to get back on the practice field.
“Yeah, I’m looking to be cleared as soon as possible. As soon as I feel like I’m ready to go, I’ll definitely be out there,” Castonzo acknowledged. “Each day just kind of getting more and more closer to true football on-the-field type stuff.”
Tight ends Dwayne Allen (foot) and Coby Fleener (knee) went through a full workout on Wednesday and both are slated to play Sunday. How much work they get remains to be seen though.
“I’m expecting to play. I’m not sure how much right now. Coach is going to work me in slowly, and see where we go from there,” Allen said. “I feel great. I’ve been feeling great for the past couple of weeks, but [Pagano] didn’t see any reason in risking it in a preseason games.”
Fleener is also optimistic.
“It’s nice to be back out there. Any time you’re standing on the sidelines, it's tough,” he admitted. “That first day back out there is really exciting. I expect to fully participate [Sunday]. Absolutely.”
Besides Castonzo, Conner, Allen and Fleener, running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), inside linebacker Mario Harvey (knee), safety Joe Lefeged (knee), offensive guard Mike McGlynn (knee) and wide receiver David Reed (concussion) all fully practiced.