INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts are preparing for their annual dress rehearsal this week without the lead actor.
Starting quarterback Andrew Luck continues to be sidelined during practice while he works on full-speed movement and tests the pain threshold in his left calf and ankle.
That means his understudy, Jacoby Brissett, will continue to get the first-team reps and prepare as though he will start the regular-season opener Sept. 8 at the Los Angeles Chargers.
It’s a familiar spot for Brissett, who started 15 games for Indianapolis after being acquired in a trade from the New England Patriots just days before the 2017 regular season began.
This would be a much easier transition because Brissett has taken all the first-team snaps since practice began in April, and he’s playing for the second straight season in head coach Frank Reich’s offensive scheme.
Brissett is making no changes this week as the Colts prepare to host the Chicago Bears in the third preseason game.
There’s more of a regular-season feel around the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center as the team engages in game planning for an opponent for the first time.
But that doesn’t factor into Brissett’s approach.
“That’s how you prepare, as the starter,” he said. “And you’re ready to go whenever your time’s called.”
Reich has seen a quarterback who is ready to do whatever is asked of him.
Brissett’s brightest public moment so far came early in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Browns. He capped a 10-play, 85-yard drive with a perfectly placed 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Eric Ebron.
Brissett kept the drive alive a few plays earlier with a 16-yard completion to Ebron on fourth-and-3 after side-stepping a free-running defender in the offensive backfield.
But Reich said it’s more than just the highlight-reel plays that have stood out in his mind.
“I feel that Jacoby has had an outstanding offseason and training camp,” he said. “Really, really good. Very pleased with Jacoby in every aspect.”
That confidence extends to the quarterback’s teammates.
One benefit of Luck’s extended absence has been the amount of time Brissett has spent leading and bonding with the first-team offense.
The Colts believe in their back-up signal-caller, and that faith is only growing stronger.
“He’s very poised in the huddle,” wide receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “Getting to the line, he’s making the right reads, right calls. We know he’s building more confidence, and the more confidence he gains, it’s gonna be scary.”
RUNNING IN PLACE
Injuries have hit the running back position hard this preseason.
Veteran Spencer Ware has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp, and recently acquired D’Onta Foreman was placed on injured reserve Monday after suffering a torn bicep against the Browns.
Second-year rusher Jordan Wilkins (foot) hasn’t practiced since late July, and Johnathan Williams (rib) also was injured in the game against Cleveland.
That’s led to a round of signings this week. On Monday, Indianapolis added veteran Charcandrick West and undrafted rookie Marquis Young. On Tuesday, undrafted free agent James Williams was added to the mix.
“We need to get that position right,” Reich said. “We need to have some depth. We need to see how everything’s going to unfold with the other injuries, with Jordan and with Johnathan. And (we) just need to make sure that we’re ready to go.”
Projected starter Marlon Mack has been a full participant in every practice this offseason, and backup Nyheim Hines suffered no long-term effects following an illegal hit during a punt return Saturday.
But the make up of the roster beyond that pair is very much in flux as the regular season approaches.
Defensive end Dadi Nicolas was waived Tuesday to make room for James Williams on the roster. Williams earned all-Pac-12 honorable mention last year at Washington State and previously participated with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason.
Wide receiver Reece Fountain (ankle) was placed on injured reserve along with Foreman on Monday, and veteran safety Derrick Kindred was waived.
West, Young and safety Kai Nacua were signed. West has appeared in 52 games in five seasons with the Chiefs, Young previously participated in the Colts’ rookie camp as a tryout out of UMass this spring and Nacua has spent time with the Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers since signing as an undrafted free agent out of BYU in 2017.