Colts Address Offensive Line Throughout 2008 NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS - The Colts entered the 2008 NFL Draft with a clear objective.
An up-front, offensive objective, actually.
How well the Colts achieved the aforementioned objective, Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said, might be assessed by the post-draft mood of Howard Mudd, the team's offensive line coach for the last 10 seasons.
"Howard's happy," Dungy said early Sunday evening.
"It's imant to always keep that green and growing," Colts President Bill Polian said Sunday shortly after his 11th season directing the Colts' drafts.
The Colts, who used their lone selection of the draft's first day on Arizona State guard Mike Pollak, took two more interior offensive linemen on Day 2, selecting Wake Forest center Steve Justice in the sixth round and Buffalo guard Jamey Richard in the seventh.
Also Sunday, the Colts selected Georgia Tech inside linebacker Philip Wheeler (third round), Kentucky tight end Jacob Tamme (fourth), Georgia defensive end Marcus Howard (fifth), Virginia tight end Tom Santi (sixth), Michigan running back Mike Hart (sixth) and Mount Union wide receiver Pierre Garcon (sixth).
The count for the weekend: two players on defense and seven on offense.
"We hit the offense a little harder than we usually do, but we drafted a lot of good young defensive players last year and a lot of those guys got to play because of injury situation," said Dungy, now in his seventh season with the Colts. "We talked about really addressing the offensive line.
"Since I've been here, we've kind of let Howard do it through smoke and mirrors and an occasional later choice. We really did feel there were some quality offensive linemen we could get that could really help us and it was time to address that.
"We did that and feel good about it. We think it's going to add competition to our offensive line and help make up for some of the guys we've lost in the last couple of years."
The Colts lost guard Jake Scott - a starter since 2004 – to unrestricted free agency in March, and three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tarik Glenn retired this past off-season.
The Colts drafted left tackle Tony Ugoh last April with a second-round selection obtained for this year's first-rounder. He started 10 games this past season, and Polian and Dungy each said over the weekend that they consider Ugoh in a very real sense this year's first-round selection.
"We had a loss there with Jake," Polian said. "You want to make sure you replenish that. We both felt there was a necessity to try and bring in some young depth there. I think we did that.
"Give Howard 14 guys and he's going to come out with the right eight at the right positions. It's our job to give him those 14 guys. We have, and I think we'll be fine with it.
"I feel really good about that."
Polian said the process of determining where the three linemen will play will begin at next weekend's rookie mini-camp. The trio very much fits the mold of athletic, versatile offensive linemen the team has featured the last 10 years, Dungy said.
"They're athletic guys who can all move," Dungy said. "They fit the parameter of what we're looking for. I think they'll still be considered undersized compared to the rest of the league. They're going to be good players for us. They're going to be just like what we've had. They're (Mudd's) type of guys. They're athletic guys who can play multiple positions and they're smart guys. They're going to be just like the guys we have here. I think they'll all fit in real well.
"They're guys who have played a couple of different positions in college, but they're what we would call inside guys for the most part. They'll be like a number of our guys. They'll play a number of different spots. Until you become a starter, you do. You have to play different spots."
The Colts' eight second-day draft selections:
• Philip Wheeler (6-feet-2, 240 pounds), inside linebacker, Georgia Tech, 30th selection third round, 93rd overall. A three-year starter for Georgia Tech, he was recruited as a defensive end, moving to outside linebacker before moving inside as a junior. A two-time second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, he finished his career seventh on the school's all-time career sacks list with 19. He had seven sacks in 2007, 10th in school history. "We think he can play multiple linebacker positions," Polian said. "He did there (at Georgia Tech). He runs 4.7 (seconds in the 40-yard dash), which is what we expect of our linebackers. He played in a blitzing defense there and obviously will play in a different style here, but we're very confident that he can make the transition."
• Jacob Tamme (6-3, 236), tight end, Kentucky, 28th selection fourth round, 127th overall. He began his career at Kentucky as a wide receiver, moved to tight end as a sophomore and finished his career as the all-time leading receiver among tight ends in school history with 133 receptions for 1,417 yards and 11 touchdowns. He caught 53 passes for 619 yards and six touchdowns this past season. "We thought he had very special receiving skills," Polian said, saying Tamme is similar to Colts starting tight end Dallas Clark. "He's an outstanding pass receiver in the mold of Dallas Clark. . . . He's taller and a little thinner, but an outstanding, acrobatic, big-play receiver. We see him playing an active role as a move guy, an H-back, whatever you want to call him." Polian said he believes Tamme blocks well enough to play in two-tight end sets with Clark.
• Marcus Howard (6-0, 237), defensive end, Georgia, 26th selection fifth round, 161st overall. Howard, who played four seasons for the Bulldogs, started as a senior this past season, finishing the season with 10.5 sacks and had 12 sacks in four seasons. He also registered 42 quarterback pressures as a senior, with 12 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles. Polian said Howard had similar qualities to Colts defensive end Robert Mathis. Polian said the Colts' pass rush was an issue at season's end with the loss of defensive end Dwight Freeney to an injury. He said Howard could address that area. "We think he gives us the opportunity to have a third rusher who if anything happens to the other two (Mathis and Dwight Freeney) we have the ability to fall back on him and still rush the quarterback at the end of the season when it counts," Polian said. Polian added, "He is not Robert Mathis and we don't want to make him out to be Robert Mathis, but he's like Robert Mathis in style." Added Dungy, "He's just really a fast, fast guy who has some power coming off the corner. He's going to be an interesting guy to work with."
• Tom Santi (6-3, 250), tight end, Virginia, 30th selection sixth round, 196th overall. He finished a four-year collegiate career with 97 receptions for 1,184 yards and six touchdowns. He caught 36 passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns this past season. "He's an outstanding student, an outstanding football player in terms of football smarts – very good receiver," Polian said. "He also has played fullback for them. He's a very versatile tight end, and at 250, he'll be the biggest tight end we have on the squad."
• Steve Justice (6-3, 293), center, Wake Forest, 35th selection sixth round, 201st overall. An Associated Press first-team All-American as a senior, he played four seasons for the Demon Deacons, starting the last three seasons and earning All-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors the past two seasons. "He's typical of the offensive lineman we've drafted here over the years," Polian