INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck’s job just got a little tougher.
When the Indianapolis Colts head to Tennessee this weekend, he likely will be missing three of his top four receivers and his starting tight end while trying to dodge pass rushers from a defense that is ranked No. 5 in sacks.
No, it’s not ideal, but Luck and the Colts don’t have time to fret about their plight. There’s too much work to do before Sunday’s trip to Nashville.
“It’s about throwing to them in practice and them going in and getting reps,” Luck said. “But it is part of the NFL, you have to make it work. It’s easier when guys take practice seriously and are hard workers, and these guys are.”
Luck has overcome many daunting challenges in his first 4 1/2 pro seasons.
As a rookie, he became the hand-picked successor to the popular Peyton Manning. In Year 2, Luck engineered the second-largest comeback in NFL playoff history. After dealing with an injury-plagued and uncharacteristically poor 2015 season, he has reverted more to his previous form in 2016, throwing 11 touchdown passes and four interceptions in the first six games.
This time could be different.
At the end of last weekend’s game in Houston, Luck was missing so many receivers that he couldn’t put away a 14-point lead. The Texans rallied for two scores in the final three minutes of regulation, then won the game in overtime, leaving the Colts (2-4) in last place in the AFC South.
The situation looks nearly as dire heading to Tennessee (3-3).
— Donte Moncrief, Indy’s No. 2 receiver, has missed four straight games with a fractured shoulder blade and still hasn’t resumed full workouts.
— Phillip Dorsett, the Colts’ first-round draft pick in 2015 and No. 3 receiver, left the Houston game with a foot and hamstring injuries, is listed as day to day and did not practice Wednesday.
— Quan Bray, the No. 4 receiver who doubles as Indy’s return specialist, went on injured reserve Tuesday with an injured ankle.
— Tight end Dwayne Allen (sprained right ankle) was getting around on crutches Wednesday and is listed as week to week, a designation that usually means he’ll miss more than one game.
Until Tuesday, that left the Colts with only three healthy receivers on the roster — Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton, who has been fighting knee and hip injuries most of this season, undrafted rookie Chester Rogers and Devin Street, who was signed off the Patriots’ practice squad Sept. 21. Hilton did limited work Wednesday.
Allen’s absence also left Indy thin at tight end — Jack Doyle and Eric Swoope, two former undrafted players, have a combined 57 receptions, 22 this season.
But those who will be asked to do more insist they’ll be ready.
“It’s knowing your assignment, knowing what you have to do,” said Rogers, an undrafted rookie who could make his first career start this weekend. “If you know what you’re doing, then you can play with confidence.”
The Colts also are trying to give Luck some additional options.
Indy promoted undrafted rookie Tevaun Smith from the practice squad, signed tight end Chase Coffman, a free agent who was with the team until the final cut in September, and added rookie receiver Marcus Leak to the practice squad. Leak also was with the Colts in training camp, and all three may need to contribute to prevent Indy from falling to 0-3 in divisional play.
Hilton’s advice to the revamped receiving corps is simple.
“Don’t try to do too much,” he said. “You have to go out and know the plays, understand the plays and then just go out there and play.”
NOTES: Coach Chuck Pagano said Henry Anderson (right knee) and outside linebacker Curt Maggitt (ankle) are both listed as week to week. Neither practiced Wednesday. … Cornerback Darius Butler (calf and hamstring), safety T.J. Green (knee), defensive linemen Zach Kerr (ankle) and left guard Jack Mewhort (triceps) all sat out practice. Safety Mike Adams, cornerback Vontae Davis, running back Frank Gore, defensive lineman Kendall Langford and outside linebacker Robert Mathis were all given the day off. … Offensive linemen Jonotthan Harrison (appendix) returned for limited work and cornerback Patrick Robinson (ankle) was a full participant at practice. … As for the vote of confidence team owner Jim Irsay gave at this week’s owners meetings in Houston, Pagano said: “I didn’t see it, obviously, you know where my focus is. But that’s never a bad thing.”