Colts to Start Same Offensive Line for Second Consecutive Game
INDIANAPOLIS – As Tony Dungy sees it, if it's working, let it keep doing so.
Dungy, in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said that's the approach being taken this week along the offensive line, where he said the Colts likely will start the same five players Sunday afternoon as in this past Sunday's victory over Houston.
The last time that happened?
The first two weeks of the season, before the return of three-time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday.
"Our group functioned pretty well and that's the group that has been practicing together," Dungy said Wednesday as the Colts (2-2) prepared to play the Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.
"Now, as we get more practice time, we'll see. We'll get the best five players out there that we can get. Sometimes, it's just a combination of who we have where that's better for us.
"Right now, that group played pretty well."
Third-year veteran Charlie Johnson likely will start at left tackle, Dungy said, with rookies Jamey Richard and Mike Pollak making second consecutive starts at left and right guard, respectively, and two longtime starters – right tackle Ryan Diem and center Jeff Saturday – also starting.
Of the group, only Diem has started all four games at the same position this season.
Saturday, a Pro Bowl selection the past three seasons, missed the first two games of the season with a knee injury, games in which Richard – a seventh-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft from the University at Buffalo – started at center. Pollak, a second-round selection from Arizona State, missed the first three games of the season with a knee injury and made his first NFL start Sunday.
Johnson, a third-year veteran, started the first two games of the season at left guard before moving to left tackle to replace second-year veteran Tony Ugoh, who sustained a groin injury in Week 2 against Minnesota.
"Charlie did fine and did well," Dungy said. "Tony is progressing and I think he probably is going to be very close to if not practicing at full speed this week. We'll see how things go, but Charlie did well and Jamey did well, so we'll see."
Also on Wednesday, Dungy said cornerback Kelvin Hayden – a starter in the Colts' last 20 regular-season games – will not play on Sunday. He sustained a knee injury Sunday.
"Kelvin is definitely going to be out," Dungy said.
Cornerback Marlin Jackson, who also has started the last 20 regular-season games, sustained an ankle injury against Houston, the same game in which wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez sustained a concussion and defensive end Dwight Freeney sustained a strained hamstring.
The status of Jackson, Gonzalez and Freeney for Sunday is not yet known, Dungy said.
The Colts on Wednesday released their first injury reof the week, with Hayden, Gonzalez, Freeney, Jackson, wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), defensive end Robert Mathis (not injury-related/rested), safety Bob Sanders (knee) and linebacker Clint Session (calf) all listed as not participating in practice.
"We'll see how it goes as the week progresses," Dungy said.
Dungy said Jackson and Gonzalez believe they will play.
With Hayden out, Dungy said third-year veteran Tim Jennings likely will move from nickel back to corner, with second-year veteran Dante Hughes moving to the nickel.
"That's probably the way it's going to be," Dungy said. "Tim will end up playing in Kelvin's spot, then Dante Hughes would be the nickel."
The Colts this week re-signed cornerback Keiwan Ratliff and signed second-year cornerback Nick Graham. Ratliff, a second-round selection by Cincinnati in the 2004 NFL Draft, also played with Tampa Bay before spending time with the Colts last season and early this season. Graham played for Philadelphia last season before being released by the Eagles shortly before this season.
To make room for Graham and Ratliff, the Colts released offensive lineman Corey Hilliard and running back Justin Forsett, the latter of whom had handled kickoff and punt return duties the past three games.
Dungy said rookie wide receiver Pierre Garcon likely will return kickoffs with Ratliff handling punt returns.
"This is a perfect opportunity for me," Ratliff said. "I get to come back somewhere where I'm very comfortable. I know the defense. I know the calls. I know the guys. The coaches are comfortable with me and I'm comfortable with the coaches. I don't really have to learn everything in two or three days before the game. I actually know the stuff.
"Now, it's just getting prepared to go out and do the job."