Bye week report: Colts' questions

Lingering questions about the 1-2 Colts at they hit their Week 4 bye:

How good is a healthy defense?

Dwight Freeney went out of the opener early with a high ankle sprain and hasn’t played since. He and Robert Mathis are supposed to be a major feature as threatening pass-rushers coming from a variety of places in the new hybrid 3-4. But we’ve hardly see it. Jerry Hughes has been virtually invisible as Freeney’s replacement, proving he’s not an NFL talent no matter the scheme. Jerrell Freeman’s been a far better fill-in at inside linebacker, where he’s played for Pat Angerer (foot). If Angerer and Freeney are back in the lineup for Green Bay on Oct. 7, how much better can the Colts be? And will the additions be offset by losses in the secondary? Starting corner Vontae Davis and nickelback Justin King did not finish the Jacksonville game due to leg injuries.

How’s Andrew Luck’s progress?

He’s had great moments and he’s had not-so-great moments. But I think his growth rate is what we came to expect when we became more familiar with him in the preseason. He doesn’t repeat a lot of mistakes. He can make all the throws. He is fantastic as a scrambler, something he’s had to do too frequently. He needs better and more consistent protection, so he’s not forced to run it, and he needs more reliable work by pass targets beyond Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery. Rookie tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen have not been as productive as expected early on in terms of receptions.

Is there a reason to believe they can run it?

Not really. Donald Brown is averaging 3.8 yards a carry, but the Colts don’t have the feel of a team that can sustain any solid run-game presence for the duration of a game. Luck’s the team’s second-leading rusher on 10 carries for 80 yards. Indianapolis is tied for 23rd in the NFL in rushing offense. That’s not offering much protection for Luck, much relief for the pressure on the pass game or much help in getting the defense any rest. They have to keep working at it, but I’m not convinced they have the personnel on the line or in the backfield to be much better.