Young Interior Linemen Will Expect to Perform Well, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – The faces will be new, and relatively young, too.
But quarterback Peyton Manning said if history has proven anything when it comes to the Colts' offensive line – and with the entire roster, for that matter – it's this:
There may be new faces. And there may be familiar faces in new places.
But the expectation level?
That remains the same.
"Just like when any other injury comes up, the older, veteran players have to help them out," Manning said as the Colts (13-3 last season) prepared to play the Chicago Bears (7-9) in the first regular-season game at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8 p.m.
"(Tight end) Dallas (Clark) has to help them out with some calls, (offensive tackle Ryan) Diem, (offensive tackle) Tony (Ugoh) – who's still a young guy, but has been around for going on two years now – he has to help those guys and I have to do whatever I can to help those guys.
"Like you've heard (Colts) Coach (Tony) Dungy say many times, 'We can't slow down because somebody's not in there.'''
With Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday and rookie guard Mike Pollak out at least the first week with knee injuries – and with veteran guard Ryan Lilja on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a knee injury – the Colts' likely will start a trio of young players on the interior of the line, Dungy said this week.
Charlie Johnson, a third-year veteran who started 10 games at tackle last season, likely will start at one guard position, while third-year veteran Dan Federkeil – who has played 10 career games – is expected to start at the other, Dungy said.
Dungy also said this week rookie center Jamey Richard likely will start at center, with rookie Steve Justice likely backing up the guard positions.
"The thing about it is, you can't over blow it," Dungy said. "Whether it's (wide receiver) Anthony Gonzalez starting (at wide receiver as a rookie last season) or (running back) Joseph Addai playing as a rookie (in 2006) or new tight ends (this season), guys have to feel like they have to do their job."
Dungy said the Colts faced a similar situation in 2004, the last time Saturday missed a start because of an injury. Against Detroit on Thanksgiving Day that season, the Colts started three players then in their rookie seasons on the interior of the line – Trevor Hutton at center, Jake Scott at guard and Lilja at guard – in a 41-9 victory.
"The guys went out and did their job and we put up a lot of points," Dungy said. "That's kind of how we look at it, that the guys who are here are here because they can do the job. I think they will."
Said Manning, "The guys who are the backups have to know the offense, have to know the checks, the audibles. We still have to be able to run our normal offense and that'll be the case this Sunday."
Saturday said this week he has spent time working with Richard.
"You can do a lot," Saturday said. "You share keys you pick up on. I know just watching Jamey through practice, telling him little techniques, things he can pick up on – he'll do fine. Everybody who goes in, we play well as a unit.
"He'll talk and do the job he's supposed to do. I think he'll play a good football game for us."
Joseph Addai, a Pro Bowl running back last season who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, said he agreed with Manning, that no matter who is on the line, Indianapolis must run effectively for the offense to work effectively.
"In life, you're going to have changes, so I don't think it affects me in any way," Addai said. "You have to trust the person next to you. That's football. It's a team effort no matter what syou're in. You have to trust your teammates regardless and believe they'll get the job done.
"Backups step up. Third-stringers step in. Whoever we have, that's who we're going to fill in with, so we feel like we'll get the job done."
Said Clark, "It's definitely going to be a challenge with some very important guys out. Coach Dungy's first thing is, 'Next guy in. No excuses.' He has a list of them and all of them fall under this type of category. We can't worry about who's not playing. We have to worry about who's playing. It's their job to get ready. It's everyone else's job to help them wherever they need it.
"We have five preseason games, so we've been able to get a lot of good looks for our younger guys. This will be a little different, a little quicker, for them, but everybody will come up fine."