Colts QB-Peyton Manning Hoping for More Playing Time Thursday
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Peyton Manning says certain things need to happen.
And as the Colts' nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback sees it, the only way those things can happen is for the first-team offense to play. In games. Together.
So, when asked Tuesday what he hopes to accomplish in the second game of the 2009 preseason, Manning – who last season was named the Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player for a third time in the last six seasons – didn't discuss specifics of pass protection or run offense.
It was just playing time.
Because he said the Colts' offense needs some.
"It'd be nice," Manning said Tuesday morning between a pair of 2009 Training Camp practices at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. "We played a lot less than what we thought we were going to play Friday. They told us 12 plays. We got six."
The Colts in those six plays against Minnesota Friday allowed Manning to be sacked three times. Running back Joseph Addai had an impressive 14-yard run, with Manning completing a third-down converting pass to rookie wide receiver Austin Collie.
After a 63-yard punt by rookie Pat McAfee, the first-team offense left the game.
"In my mind, we were looking at a situation where we were going to go one series – if we had a series with a three-and-out, we'd go another series," Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell. "We were hoping to string a long drive together.
"That didn't occur, so we moved on to the next group."
Manning said the need for more extensive time stems from the first unit's relative inexperience with one another. While Manning is entering his 12th season, and while there are veterans such as wide receiver Reggie Wayne (ninth season), right tackle Ryan Diem (ninth), center Jeff Saturday (11th) and tight end Dallas Clark (seventh), there are also inexperienced players such as Collie, wide receiver Pierre Garcon (second) and rookie running back Donald Brown.
Sixth-year veteran guard Ryan Lilja missed last season with a knee injury, and fourth-year veteran Charlie Johnson is working as the starting left tackle in training camp for the first time.
"I think one thing that's imant and I think our coaches realized after some of the veterans made the point, 'This is a new starting unit of guys in there,'' Manning said. "(Wide receiver) Anthony Gonzalez needs to make a block downfield for Donald Brown. Ryan Lilja needs to high-five Pierre Garcon down the field. I think they realize we need to be in there playing together, so when we get to that (season-opening) Jacksonville game (on September 13), we don't get in the huddle and say, 'Hey, I've never seen you in here before.' . . .
"I've thrown one career pass in a game to Pierre Garcon. That's why I was kind of disappointed we kind of pulled the hook the other night. I kind of hope to be in there and play and throw some passes to Austin Collie, so hopefully, we can get that done these next two games."
Said tight end Dallas Clark, "I totally agree. Every year's a new year and every year is new players. We have guys across the board who haven't played together. We have to get Austin in there in the mix, and just kind of see where we're going to go for different groups.
"The only time you can do that is when you're in game action, game tempo."
Caldwell said the plan is for the starters to play more extensively Thursday.
"We go through a bit of a progression in that sense," Caldwell said. "We get them to the point where they obviously have a real good sense of the game. We usually increase the number of reps week to week and this week, we certainly will increase the number of reps we have for our first units."
Manning said while the starters have worked together through much of the offseason, there is a difference between games and practice.
"I think it's important," Manning said. "I know we're going to play the majority against Detroit (in the third preseason game) and probably very little against Cincinnati, so I think this game is important to get a little flow in there. You don't have to score every single play, but at least get in there.
"Obviously, you'd like to score, but we'd like to maintain some drives and get some different situations – get some calls, get some checks, just kind of gel a little bit as a unit. It's not the same old starters.
"It's important we get some of that timing, rhythm and cohesiveness these next couple of games."