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Another new QB, familiar foe: Colts open against Texans

Sportsnaut
Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kemoko Turay (57) sacks Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) during the fourth quarter of the game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, at NRG Stadium in Houston.Indianapolis Colts Versus Houston Texans On Sunday Dec 5 2021 At Nrg Stadium In Houston Texas
Credit: Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Andrew Luck’s retirement in August 2019 continues to have ripple effects on the Indianapolis Colts.

When they open the 2022 season Sunday in Houston with an AFC South matchup against the Texans, Matt Ryan will be their fifth different starter in as many years. He follows Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz.

The first three seasons without Luck have basically been the same for Indianapolis. The Colts won all three years, but not enough to make the playoffs in 2019 or 2021. Their postseason in 2020 ended in the wild-card round at Buffalo.

The Colts collapsed down the stretch last season.

Needing just one win in their last two games, they lost in Week 17 to Las Vegas on a last-second field goal. Then they were embarrassed at hapless Jacksonville, losing 26-11 in a game that really wasn’t that close.

That ended Wentz’s year in the horseshoe helmet and brought on Ryan, who knows a little something about disappointment at the end. His 14 years with Atlanta included many highlights and a league Most Valuable Player award in 2016, the same year the Falcons famously gassed a 28-3 lead in losing the Super Bowl to New England.

Ryan has brought a tremendous sense of urgency to a team that has sometimes played without it in situations where it’s most required, according to those around the team every day.

“You can just feel it,” said coach Frank Reich of Ryan’s daily intensity. “He’s had that same sense of urgency every day, every week through training camp. Now it’s here, it’s nothing new. That’s the way it should be.”

Ryan also inherits one of the best running backs in football, Jonathan Taylor, and one of the top offensive lines. Taylor won the NFL rushing title last year with 1,811 yards and should threaten to do the same this year with guys like Quenton Nelson blocking for him.

Taylor could get off to a nice start against an opponent that he and Indianapolis dominated last year. The Colts swept the season series by a combined score of 62-3, with Taylor rushing for 288 yards and four touchdowns in the matchups.

New Houston coach Lovie Smith, who was the team’s defensive coordinator last year, is eager to see if the Texans can keep Taylor in check.

“We feel like as coaches we’ve addressed all those issues that we had,” he said. “Now it’s about doing it. From what I’ve seen in practice, saw in the preseason games, I think we have improved. I’m anxious to see it this Sunday also.”

This will be the first full season as starting quarterback for Davis Mills, who enjoyed some good games at the end of 2021. That included a 41-29 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16 that helped eventually keep them out of the playoffs.

Mills completed nearly 67 percent of his passes and has one of the top receivers around in Brandin Cooks, who caught a career-high 90 passes and recorded the sixth 1,000-yard season in his eight-year career.

Indianapolis linebacker Shaquille Leonard (back) was a full participant in practice Wednesday. The only names on Houston’s injury report were defensive ends Mario Addison (thigh) and Rasheem Green (thigh).

–Field Level Media