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  • Associated Press
    Colts defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, left, and defensive end Zach Kerr bring down Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian during Sunday’s game in Denver. The banged-up Colts defense held its own in losing to the reigning Super Bowl champions.
September 23, 2016 1:01 AM

Injuries on defense test Colts' patience

MICHAEL MAROT | Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Maybe starting defensive tackle Henry Anderson will suit up Sunday.

Perhaps Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis will make it back this weekend, too.

About the only clear thing heading into Sunday’s game against San Diego is this: The Indianapolis Colts’ injury-riddled defense needs some reinforcements.

“We’re really banged up right now, waiting on guys to get back,” said Anderson, who hasn’t played since November. “I am eager to see how things shape out when we’re back to 100 percent.”

Don’t expect that to be the case this weekend – regardless of who returns from this rugged start.

For the third straight season, Indianapolis is attempting to stave off a 0-3 start – largely because of poor tackling in a season-opening loss to Detroit and two turnovers that were returned for touchdowns last week at Denver.

The offense has been inconsistent. Pat McAfee somehow managed to avoid having two punts blocked last weekend and the defense has been, well, decimated.

Starting defensive tackle Art Jones will serve the third game of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy Sunday.

Anderson said he’s just waiting for final clearance from team doctors as he comes back from a torn ACL in his right knee and although starting defensive end Kendall Langford returned from arthroscopic knee surgery in early August, he hasn’t been at his previous form.

The secondary has been hit even harder. Last weekend, the Colts starting cornerbacks, Davis (ankle) and Patrick Robinson (concussion) and starting safety T.J. Green (sprained right knee) all sat out.

Then, against the defending Super Bowl champs, the next two cornerbacks on the depth chart, recently signed Antonio Cromartie (shoulder) and Darius Butler (hamstring), both went down early in the game.

Davis practiced Wednesday for the first time in almost a month, Robinson went through non-contact drills and Cromartie is expected to play.

Butler, meanwhile, is expected to miss a few weeks, leaving the Colts in a potential predicament similar to the one they faced late against the Broncos.

“When we ran out of guys and we didn’t have a guy to play the nickel positon and a guy like (Matthias) Farley, you look to him because he was the last guy standing at the time,” coach Chuck Pagano said.

“It was third down and (defensive coordinator) Ted (Monachino) was asking if we had enough to go sub personnel. He looked at 41 (Farley) and asked if he knew what to do in nickel and he (Farley) said, ‘Yes sir.’ So he runs in there and did a good job.”

Monachino said Thursday that Farley, a rookie from Notre Dame, hadn’t even practiced at that spot but still made the tackle.

Now, suddenly, things are starting to look more upbeat.

Green and safety Clayton Geathers (sore foot) are both expected to play Sunday, possibly giving the Colts their top three safeties for the first time since June.

Jones is eligible to return after Indianapolis’ trip to London on Oct. 2. Davis recovered well enough from Wednesday’s workout to do limited work again Thursday.

If all goes according to plan, Sunday will be the first time since this summer that the Colts will have a starting defense even resembling what was anticipated.

Players and fans are eager to see the results, even if it takes a few weeks to work it all out.

“When you have those guys start to come back, it opens up some other areas of the playbook,” Monachino said Thursday. “It’s allowed us to game plan a little more this week. I’m excited to see it.”

Note: Quarterback Andrew Luck returned to practice Thursday but did limited work and did not throw during the open portion of practice. Still, the appearance alleviated some of the concerns that popped up after he missed Wednesday’s workout with a sore throwing shoulder.