Versatile Young Linemen Impress in Preseason Opener
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Upon review, Jeff Saturday said the future of the Colts' offensive line could be bright.
The immediate future.
In the Colts' preseason opener against Washington Sunday, the team's three rookie draft selections along the interior of the offensive line – Jamey Richard, Steve Justice and Mike Pollak – played extensively and played well enough to draw praise from Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy.
On Tuesday, Saturday said he saw the same thing:
A young group of offensive lineman capable of providing quality depth immediately.
"I think all of those guys played very well," Saturday, a Pro Bowl center the last three seasons, said Tuesday between a pair of 2008 Training Camp practices at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
"We just watched some of the game film. I thought those guys played well. They were confident. They knew what they were doing – very few mistakes. I don't think there were any mental errors. Physically, you're going to get beat from time to time, but I thought those guys played well and really met the challenge."
The Colts this past off-season selected Pollak – who played center at Arizona State – in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He is competing with veteran Charlie Johnson for the starting right guard position. Johnson started against Washington Sunday and Pollak also played extensively.
The team also selected Justice, one of the nation's top centers while at Wake Forest, in the sixth round and Richard – who played center at Buffalo – in the seventh. Justice is currently listed as the backup center and Richard is listed as the backup at left guard.
But Colts offensive line coach Howard Mudd utilizes a system in which most offensive linemen – particularly the backups – work extensively at multiple positions along the line. Richard played as a reserve at center on Sunday, and Dungy said the young trio's versatility should be beneficial.
"Our style is that way, that guys have to learn to play a lot of positions," Dungy said. "They fill in at different places and to see not only them play well, but playing different spots – we feel like we can count on them to be flexible and move around. It was really a big plus coming out of Sunday night."
Said Saturday, "That's the way we all are. You have to be interchangeable no matter what. No matter if you play center for five years, you have to be ready to go do guard -- however that works out."
Mudd, speaking last week before the preseason opener, said he liked the play of the rookies, and that each had the ability to move quickly past a mistake.
"They still mess things up, but one thing I like about them is they're not hanging on the edge," Mudd said. "When they don't do something right, they're not . . . getting down and staying down. That impedes progress. They seem to be able to get rid of it and get on with life. They've made a lot of progress that way."
And Saturday said that's the sort of progress the Colts need from the group, and the sort of progress that could provide the line needed depth entering the season.
"You have to have backups who can come in no matter what," Saturday said. "You can't drop off. (Colts President Bill) Polian went out and got guys that he felt could make an impact on our team, step into those roles and fill spots if we needed them.
"I have confidence in all of those guys. They've come along very quickly. We've done a lot to bring them along. We get them involved with us, interchanging them with the ones, or however you want to slate that. I think all of those guys have stepped up and played well."