A Day Later, Dungy Still Pleased with Preseason Opener
INDIANAPOLIS – Tony Dungy knew Sunday the Colts played well in their preseason opener.
It wasn't until Monday he knew just how well.
Dungy, entering his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said Monday – a day after the Colts lost to the Washington Redskins in the Hall of Fame Game – that not only had the team's young players played well, they did so on a relatively historic level.
The Colts, Dungy said, have played well in preseason openers in his first six seasons.
But perhaps not quite as well as they did Sunday.
"It was really quite encouraging," Dungy said Monday, a day after the Colts lost to the Redskins, 30-16, in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
"It's probably the best first game we've played since I've been here. It's a shame the score ended up the way it did, but we got a number of things done. Some of the young guys we hoped would play well really did step up and play well. It was really encouraging in a lot of areas."
The Colts played without several starters Sunday, and had six players on the Physically Unable to Perform List – quarterback Peyton Manning, defensive end Dwight Freeney, safety Bob Sanders, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, offensive guard Ryan Lilja and rookie tight end Tom Santi.
Wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who missed 11 games last regular season with a knee injury, also missed the preseason opener.
But Dungy said it was the play of many young players that was notable Sunday, particularly that of the three offensive linemen selected in the 2008 NFL Draft – guard Mike Pollak, guard Jamey Richard and guard Steve Justice.
The Colts' offense moved well throughout the game, rushing for 113 yards on 20 carries and completing 29 of 50 passes for 319 yards and a touchdown.
"That's really because of our young offensive linemen," Dungy said. "Those guys did a good job. We were able to go in with our second unit and protect the passer enough. We had some experienced quarterbacks playing (newly-signed veterans Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray), which helped even though they had only been with us about two weeks.
"They know how to manage games and get some things done."
Dungy said veteran reserve linemen Corey Hilliard and Michael Toudouze played well, but the draft selections were particularly notable.
"It was predominantly them on the inside – Mike, Steve and Jamey playing in those three inside spots," Dungy said. "It was just a matter of everyone out there doing a good job.
"They played a lot. We wanted to see them, and they did a good job."
Rookie running back Mike Hart rushed four times for 53 yards, with all of the yardage coming on a third-quarter drive, and rookie Chad Simpson rushed twice for 10 yards.
Rookie Pierre Garcon caught four passes for 33 yards and second-year wide receiver Roy Hall caught four passes for 31 yards, with veteran Onrea Jones catching two passes for 28 yards and a touchdown and veteran Devin Aromashodu catching two passes for 28 yards.
First-year veteran tight end Gijon Robinson caught four passes for a team-high 49 yards.
"The young receivers played very well when they got in," Dungy said. "Mike Hart and Chad Simpson ran the ball well and caught it and we were able to generate that offense and not have problems moving the ball because our young offensive linemen came on. There's a lot to be pleased about.
"It's usually a struggle and usually defenses are ahead of the offenses at this time of the preseason. The fact that we were able to move the ball and Washington moved the ball pretty well just shows you how sharp the offenses were."
Quarterback Jim Sorgi, making his third career preseason start in place of Manning, played one series, leading a 16-play, 73-yard drive that resulted in a 26-yard field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri. Sorgi completed 7 of 10 of passes for 66 yards on the drive, three times completing first-down converting passes – two 6-yarders to tight end Dallas Clark and a 10-yarder to Robinson.
Sorgi and the first-team offense were scheduled to play 12-to-15 plays and left after the long first series.
"Jim did a good job," Dungy said. "He managed the game really well. He didn't make any errors. He converted some third downs we had to have. He threw the ball on target and just was very calm and very poised out there. He had to make about five third-down throws. He hit them and put them in the right spots. He knew what we needed to get. He really did a good job and threw accurately."
Defensively, the Colts allowed 355 yards, but sacked Redskins quarterbacks four times, with rookie end Marcus Howard registering 1.5 sacks, end Jeff Charleston, end Raheem Brock and end Josh Thomas registering a half a sack each and end Curtis Johnson registering one.
"We had some things that went pretty well, especially our pass rush," Dungy said. "I thought we had some of our young defensive linemen in there really active and playing well – Jeff Charleston and Marcus Howard, in particular. That was good to see.
"We had some really good performances from a lot of young guys and guys who are going to make the team playing really well. That does lead me to believe that when we get down to 53 we'll have a lot of good players."
Dungy said he also was pleased with the play of the special teams, with punter Hunter Smith punting once for 54 yards and kicker Adam Vinatieri converting field goals from 26 and 24 yards. Vinatieri's kickoffs traveled 70 yards (touchback) and 72 yards.
T.J. Rushing had a 29-yard punt return and Garcon had a 51-yard kickoff return.
"I was happy with our special teams," Dungy said. "I thought Adam kicked the ball really well. His kickoffs and his field goals were high and accurate. Hunter punted well and for the first time in a long time we were able to get off some long punts and cover them well. That was a good sign.
"I thought T.J. Rushing and Pierre each had an outstanding return. That was good to see, our special teams get going the way they did."
And that, Dungy said, was the story of the entire night for the Colts, a night that he said – except for the final score – went for the Colts about as well he could expect.
"You really are looking at things from a different perspective," Dungy said. "They're missing some players, too, but you want to see how efficiently they play the game and you want to see if young guys look like they belong and if they fit in. That was the most encouraging thing, that you saw some young guys – and I'll include Jim Sorgi in that – that looked fine and looked like they had been there a long time. That's what you're hoping for early on like this."