YOUNGER PLAYERS STEPPING UP, RUSHING A KEY TO SUCCESS AND MONDAY QUOTES
'A GREAT VALUE'With the loss of many Colts veterans due to injuries throughout this season, players like Jeff Linkenbach, Blair White and Javarris James have taken center stage and been able to provide major contributions on the offensive side of the ball.
Filling in for key veterans and being able to produce is one attribute these three Colts share. Another? They all are undrafted rookie free agents.
Linkenbach has played in each of Indianapolis' 13 games, starting in four. White has started three games and played in nine after beginning the season on the practice squad. James' journey took him from training camp in Indianapolis to New England's and Washington's practice squads before returning to the Colts in Week 5. Since then, he has played in nine games.
"There have been a number of guys that have stepped in and done a nice job because of injuries," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's something, I think, all of us understand that is a great value to us to have young guys that can perform, particularly in some tough situations. We have to continue to do it that way."
And why have they been able to succeed?
Coach Caldwell believes it is a combination of factors.
"I think you have to attribute that to the coaches that are getting them ready, the transfer of information from the older players to the younger guys and being surrounded with guys that know what they are doing and give them a little assistance," Caldwell said. "Also, young, gallant men that are interested in taking advantage of their opportunity. I think all of those things come into play, and we're fortunate to have enough young guys to at least keep us in position to have a shot at this thing."
James leads all NFL rookie running backs with six touchdowns and is fourth overall among all first-year players. White is fourth among rookie wide receivers with four touchdowns and ninth among all rookies. Linkenbach has been shuffled all over the offensive line, finding playing time each week and filling in wherever he is needed.
"Javarris has been a real solid contributor," Caldwell said. "He has been a guy that kind of sometimes can move the pile for us. I think he runs really well behind his pads and he has been able to get some tough, gritty yards. He has kind of been a battering ram for us.
"Blair White has been a very good all-purpose receiver. He has been able to come in and play a number of different positions and play them pretty well for a young guy. Certainly he is gong to make a mistake here or there, but overall he has caught the ball pretty consistently, and he has done a pretty good job for us in terms of punt return and our kicking game. I think he has been able to find a way to use his assets to get open and make plays for us."
James, in the locker room Monday, echoed Caldwell's assessment as to why these three are thriving in their roles.
"A lot of us guys, when you look at a guy like me, Blair White or Jeff Linkenbach, we all were free agents," James said. "I remember Joseph (Addai) coming to me and saying, 'Once you get your opportunity, take advantage of it.' We have great leadership around here. I just feel like we are going in and doing everything they ask for. As long as we continue to do that, I feel like the young guys who are playing now will be successful."
ONE KEY TO VICTORY
The Colts are 7-0 this season when they run the ball 22 times or more in a game, and some of the most important rushes are coming while the Colts are in the red zone.
According to Caldwell, that is not a coincidence.
"Last year, I don't know what the stats will end up this year, but last year we were somewhere around between eighth and sixth in rushing offense in the red zone. I think you will see a little more efficient running down there from us, but also I think that we have a very, very good quarterback who is extremely accurate and can get the ball out quickly in tight windows and receivers that can catch the ball and get open.
"I think that is all part of it. Usually, if you can get down in that area and we can establish some running action in that area, then typically we are able to find a way to get into the end zone."
In 2009, Indianapolis ranked sixth in the NFL in red zone rushing with 225 yards on 74 attempts (3.0 avg). Through 13 games this season, the Colts rank eighth with 165 yards on 58 attempts (2.8 avg).
But Caldwell said the goal is for that effectiveness in the red zone to translate to the rest of the field.
"That's one of our challenges in terms of during the year as well," Caldwell said. "We realized what our stats were in that area and we said, 'Hey, if we can run it down there extremely well, why not out in the field?' I think you saw some of that last week (against Tennessee), where it may not be pretty, but we still think if we are efficient in that area it is going to serve its purpose."
"What we have to do is be able to be respectable in our running game, to run the ball efficiently, primarily because teams start playing more coverage against you and don't concentrate on the run phase of it unless you show you can run the ball in situations. That is what we try to do. We try to make certain that we take advantage of some of those opportunities and add some balance to our offense. It also sets up our play-action passes, which certainly come off of that, but also gives us an opportunity to run the ball in more designated areas that are very important to us, like the red zone."-Head Coach Jim Caldwell on why the offense needs to be able to stick with the run.
"Most definitely. We have been emphasizing the run game all year and we knew we needed a balanced attack. A lot of guys have not been dropping back or taking our play action as serious as we wanted them to. The offensive line did a great job blocking, the tight ends were blocking good, receivers were blocking downfield and Donald (Brown) and I were just making the right reads. It all came together for us."-Running back Javarris James on if he felt the running game got a little better at Tennessee.
"It is kind of different and we are in unfamiliar territory. By this time the division has been clinched and the playoffs have been clinched as well. I think it is keeping guys knowing our backs are against the wall and we need every game. We kind of said our playoffs started last week, and we just want to continue to be in the mode of, 'It is win, or go home.' We just want to continue to try and keep winning and make this thing happen."-Defensive back Kelvin Hayden on if it is different knowing each game is a possible elimination game.
"Jacksonville is a tough and physical team. They like to try to intimidate you and try and come out and hit you in the mouth. They are always tough to beat. So, we need to make sure we have our 'A' game ready and come out and play."-Linebacker Tyjuan Hagler on the Jaguars always being tough against the Colts.