INDIANAPOLIS– When Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano took over back in January, he made one thing clear of a philosophy that his Colts team would bring to the table.
Stop the run on defense. Establish the run on offense.
During the Colts' preseason opener against St. Louis, both rushing units were able to achieve the goals stressed by Pagano.
The offense gained 116 yards on the ground, which was good for 3.6 yards per carry, and included a pair of touchdowns. Defensively, the Colts held the Rams to 2.8 yards per carry.
Injuries hit the club early and since then, the Colts have been searching for success in the running department on both sides of the football.
First, the Colts lost signal-caller and middle linebacker Pat Angerer for several weeks with a foot injury. The mishap came on the first snap of the first game.
Middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman has been inserted into the starting lineup. Freeman had three tackles at Pittsburgh and then led Indianapolis with six tackles against the Redskins.
"Things are coming along pretty good," Freeman said. "I'm learning a lot of nuances of the defense. We've got a great coaching staff, a lot of great guys around me so it's getting a lot better.
"I'm coming behind Pat Angerer so it's some big shoes to fill, and I'm trying to do my best to step in and do my part."
The defense has battled numerous injuries in the preseason, including missing defensive end Cory Redding and outside linebacker Robert Mathis for the Washington game.
On Saturday, the Redskins had a successful day on the ground with running back Alfred Morris gaining 107 yards on 14 carries, a 7.6 average. As a team, Washington totaled 147 yards and one touchdown on the ground. The 5.4 average was the highest allowed by Indianapolis in three preseason outings.
"We were basically trying to set the edge, and they cut it back numerous times. We've just got to fix those loops in the defense," defensive end Ricardo Mathews said.
After a successful opener against the Rams as well, the offense has seen its share of injuries in the run game.
The Colts have played without running backs Delone Carter, Mewelde Moore and offensive guard Mike McGlynn the past two weeks.
Despite the injuries, center Sampson Satele made no excuses and knows the offense must produce on the ground in order to become a two-dimensional attack.
"If we run the ball, it's going to open up a lot for us, take a lot of pressure off (Andrew Luck)," Satele said. "There are a lot of corrections we have to make, but we're going to make the corrections."
While Pagano stressed the importance of getting guys healthy this week, there undoubtedly will be an emphasis on the running game with the season opener less than two weeks away.
"That's a lot more than enough time we need," Satele said of the time between now and Chicago. "We'll clean it up. (Offensive line coaches Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert) do a great job, so they'll have it cleaned up by the next day of practice."
Through three preseason games, the Colts lead all teams in the AFC with five rushing touchdowns, while only Arizona (6) has more.
However, it is the consistency from both the rush offense and rush defense that needs to be ironed out in time for the regular season opener.
"We've had some ups, had some downs, like you do in the preseason," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "I think we'll be hitting it strong come September 9, but we're still working, still in training camp mode."