Facing Lewis, Ravens Defense a Difficult Challenge, Saturday Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Saturday shares his quarterback's respect for Ray Lewis.
Peyton Manning, the Colts' eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback, on Wednesday discussed at length his regard for Lewis, a nine-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.
Saturday, the Colts three-time Pro Bowl center, like Manning has gotten to know Lewis on multiple Pro Bowl trips. On Thursday, Saturday said he agreed with Manning, that Lewis' intelligence and experience makes playing the Ravens difficult, and said often Lewis anticipates plays before the snap.
Yet, Saturday jokingly agreed with Manning on another point.
Lewis may not be correct quite as often as he believes.
"Ray will pull a few out," Saturday said with a smile Thursday as the Colts (2-2), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the Ravens (2-2) in an AFC game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.
"But a lot of times, he'll tell you he got it and I don't know that he necessarily got it."
On a serious note, Saturday said preparing for – and playing the Ravens – is a particularly difficult challenge.
The Ravens long one of the NFL's top defenses, are so again this season, and lead the NFL in total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed. They're good, Saturday and Manning each said, not only because of quality players such as Lewis and safety Ed Reed – like Lewis, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year – but because of a complex, ever-changing scheme.
The Ravens play two-, three- and four-lineman fronts, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said, and they feature a wide variety of blitz packages from all areas of the field.
"Baltimore gives you a lot of problems that way," Dungy said. "Jeff's done a great job in the past against them, but there's a lot going on for him."
Said Saturday, "The last thing you want to do is give good players – which they are – an advantage of being unblocked. We have to make sure we're putting a hat on a hat and a body on a body, then just using normal techniques and fundamentals and getting the blocks won."
Saturday also said kidding aside, Lewis' instincts, and those of the entire Ravens' defense, make the mental approach playing Baltimore as imant as the physical.
"He's a very good football player in knowing tendencies – where you're lined up, how you're shifting and those kinds of things – picking up what your tendencies are," Saturday said. "You have to throw a couple of tendency-busters at him early, then let him see if he'll stick true to it.
"And it's not just Ray. Ed will do the same thing. Their defensive linemen will do the same thing, so we're going to have to be on top of our game."
In other Colts news, cornerback Marlin Jackson – after not participating in practice Wednesday with an ankle injury – participated in the team's walkthrough and Thursday, Dungy said. Jackson said he expects to play against the Ravens.
"Marlin went through all the stuff in the walkthrough and feels good," Dungy said.
"I'm going to play," Jackson said. "I'm all right. I'm good enough. Luckily, everything worked out and it wasn't as bad as everybody thought."
The Colts on Thursday released their second injury report of the week, with cornerback Kelvin Hayden (knee), defensive end Dwight Freeney (hamstring), wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), safety Bob Sanders (knee), offensive guard Jamey Richard (shoulder), linebacker Clint Session (calf) and cornerback Tim Jennings (not injury-related/rested) listed as not participating in practice.
Dungy, who said Freeney – like Jackson – told him he expected to play against Baltimore, said he wasn't sure about the long-term prognosis for Hayden, who sustained his injury against Houston last Sunday.
"I just know he's not playing this week," Dungy said of Hayden.
With Hayden out, Dungy said on Wednesday that Jennings – the team's third cornerback in the first four games – likely will start Sunday, with second-year veteran Dante Hughes filling Jennings' role as the nickelback.
"Tim just has to step up," Jackson said. "He has to do the job like Kelvin does. Everybody knows Kelvin does a great job while he's in there. We just need Tim to play at that same level. I think Tim's definitely capable of doing that and I think he will do that.
"We're definitely going to miss Kelvin. He's a great defensive player and it's going to be tough to replace him, but Tim has to come on and step up and I think he will."
Also, with the Colts releasing running back Justin Forsett – the team's punt and kick returner the last three games – recently-signed cornerback Keiwan Ratliff will handle punt return duties while rookie wide receiver Pierre Garcon will handle kickoff returns, Dungy said.
"I feel ready for it," Garcon said. "I'm ready to do what I have to do. Now, I just have to make it happen. Look for a seam and hit it as hard as you can. It's not that simple, but if you get lucky and one pops open for you, hit it as hard as you can and go through it."