INDIANAPOLIS — A bye weekend behind them, the Indianapolis Colts say they’re refreshed and ready to focus on an important AFC South Division home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Because the Houston Texans (6-3) have reeled off six consecutive victories, neither the Colts (3-5) nor Jaguars (3-5) can afford a division loss.
The Colts haven’t forgotten the last time the Jaguars came to town, when the visitors had 10 sacks in a 30-10 rout last December. The Jaguars swept the season series for just the second time since the division’s inception in 2002.
Since then, the Colts have shored up their offensive line. Quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t been sacked in three consecutive games over a stretch of 156 pass attempts, the longest “clean” streak of his seven-year career. Luck has taken just 10 sacks, the second-fewest total in the league. And the Colts boast the lowest sack rate per pass attempt (2.92 percent).
But this team doesn’t need to be reminded of how the Jaguars can pressure the pocket. Despite a four-game losing streak, the Jaguars are second in the NFL in fewest total yards allowed at 313.2 per game and No. 1 in pass defense at 190 yards allowed per game.
Colts first-year coach Frank Reich was asked on Monday if this will be the biggest challenge yet for an offensive line that can prove once again Sunday it is for real.
“Yeah, I think it is the toughest test and certainly there is an element of what you’re saying there that’s true, I mean for real,” Reich said. “On the other hand, I mean I don’t want to diminish the positive that’s happened because each week in this league in one sense is for real and every game that we play poorly or well — it all counts. But this is definitely going to be the toughest test of the year.”
Jaguars defensive ends Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue each have five sacks.
The sack-less streak coincided with the return of left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who missed the first five games and all of preseason with a hamstring injury. The eight-year pro says his group of blockers aren’t thinking about what they’ve done. They’re looking ahead.
“I am aware of it as much as you guys bring it up, that’s about it,” Castonzo said with a chuckle about the sack-less streak. “It’s play by play, that’s legitimately how we play and we don’t really look at that kind of stuff. But we start our preparation, we started today so it’s all about this game coming up.
“That (streak is) the type of thing I think at the end of the year you kind of look back on and say, ‘What did we do?’ But in the moment, you can’t really take any time to look at stuff like that.”
Reich didn’t offer any injury updates, sticking to his weekly routine of relying on Wednesday’s report. But the Colts were banged up heading into the break. Safety Mike Mitchell exited the last game, a 42-28 win at Oakland, with a calf injury.
The Colts were also without safety Malik Hooker (hip), wide receiver Ryan Grant (ankle), tight end Erik Swoope (knee), running back Robert Turbin (shoulder) and defensive tackle Jihad Ward (ankle). Ward has been placed on season-ending injured reserve.
Hooker and Turbin returned to practice on Monday. Rookie Tyquan Lewis (toe) has also been practicing and the second-round pick could be brought back from injured reserve to make his season debut.
–LB Darius Leonard has been playing on a sore ankle that kept him out of the team’s last loss in Week 5 at New England. The NFL tackle leader with 88 total stops conceded his body needed the rest they bye provided. “Perfect timing,” Leonard said. “Going into the last week I was pretty sore, banged up a little bit. Having that week off kind of got my body enough time to rest.”
–QB Andrew Luck has thrown a TD pass in 31 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league and eighth overall on the career list. He is on pace to put up career numbers in pass completion percentage (65.8), completions (450), attempts (684) and TDs (46).
–TE Eric Ebron leads all NFL tight ends with seven TDs.
–C Ryan Kelly was named the NFL’s top player at his position on the 2018 Midseason All-Pro Team selected by Around the NFL writer Chris Wesseling. “For the first time in the Andrew Luck era, they can boast a back-to-back 100-yard rusher to go with three consecutive games allowing zero sacks. As bizarre as it may sound, the strength of this team is the offensive line, led by Kelly,” Wesserling wrote.
–G Quenton Nelson became the first player at his position to ever be named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month, an honor announced last Thursday. Nelson, the sixth overall selection in the NFL Draft, is the only Colts player who hasn’t missed a snap (589) this seaso