If the Indianapolis Colts could get both of their starting outside linebackers — Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis — on the field together for more than four quarters this season, it would be interesting to see how quickly the team’s defensive unit could continue its development.
The Pro Bowl pair started the season opener against Chicago, but Freeney incurried a high ankle sprain in the first quarter of the Colts’ 41-21 loss to the Bears. He returned for last Sunday’s win over Green Bay, recording his first sack of the season.
Mathis, meanwhile, held things down as one of the defense’s senior leaders for the first three games. He was playing well against the Packers before being sidelined with a sprained knee early in the fourth quarter. Mathis is expected to be out for two to three weeks, although it could be longer than that.
For his part, Freeney came out of the Green Bay game in relatively good shape, although his ankle was a bit sore. He is not expected to practice much this week but should play Sunday against the New York Jets.
“I’m going to limit his reps to make sure he’s there on Sunday. You do that with five-star guys. With young guys, you get every rep. But he’ll be fine,” interim coach/offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said this week.
Freeney said that he kidded Mathis in the Colts’ training room about missing the next couple of games.
“I was giving him a hard time this morning. I was like, ‘Man, you’re taking time off because I’m back now. What are we doing, switching roles?’ It’s football. It’s a violent game. You hate to see a guy go down, but it’s part of the game,” he said.
Mathis is expected to be replaced by the tandem of Justin Hickman and Jerry Hughes.
“I think the big thing is just communicating more with the other guy, whoever it is on the opposite side. When Rob’s out there, there is not much that needs to be said. He understands what to do, where to be, we kind of mesh together pretty well,” Freeney explained.
“Whoever is going to be on the other side, it’s going to be kind of a rotation deal probably. I’ll probably be communicating a little more.”
While defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is going to try and make the best out of the situation, defensive end Cory Redding and Freeney will be expected to lead the way for a few weeks.
“Having Dwight back out there [against Green Bay] was a big plus for us because he’s a Pro Bowl player that they have to account for. I think he kind of gets everyone revved up along with Cory,” Manusky said. “It was great to see that Cory got two sacks last week and we expect him to get a couple more this week.”
• Good start by Luck, offense — It’s probably safe to say that rookie quarterback Andrew Luck is off to a pretty impressive start with the Colts.
Through the first four games, Luck has completed 96 of 177 passes for 1,208 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He has completed 54 percent of his passes and has a 77.1 passer rating.
He’s also rushed 16 times for 104 yards and a TD. That’s good enough for second on the team in terms of total yardage. Most importantly, though, he has guided the Colts to a 2-2 record.
If not for a late touchdown scored by the Jacksonville Jaguars three weeks ago, Indianapolis would be rolling along with a somewhat-surprising 3-1 record. Not bad for a team that retooled the roster in a major way during the offseason.
The Colts have gotten younger quickly. How young? Going into Sunday’s road game with the Jets, Indianapolis will start four rookies — Luck, running back Vick Ballard, tight end Coby Fleener and tight end Dwayne Allen.
And when the Colts go to three wide receivers, rookie T.Y. Hilton will come into the game. And rookie LaVon Brazill also is in the rotation.
Luck likes the way Indianapolis’ offense is starting to come together. He knows, however, that the only important stat is the won-loss ledger. Anything beyond that doesn’t mean much.
“I think wins are important, probably the No. 1 thing. I think there are stats that do tell you a little bit of a story. I’ve always believed in third-down percentage, completion percentage, touchdown-interception ratio,” he said this week.
“I think they all are combined and entered to form a passer rating or whatever they may have. Wins, I think are the most important.”
• Injury report — Running back Donald Brown (knee), inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot), cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle), offensive guard Joe Reitz (knee), defensive tackle Fili Moala (knee), nose tackle Martin Tevaseu (ankle) and Mathis did not practice Thursday.
Center Samson Satele (knee), running back Mewelde Moore (ankle) and Freeney fully participated in the workout.