Juggling Lineup Has Been Norm for Colts Offensive Line This Season
INDIANAPOLIS – Uncertainty aside, Charlie Johnson said his approach to the next day or so will be fairly simple.
He will try to get away. He will try to relax.
And come Wednesday, he'll find out what the rest of his week holds.
Johnson, a third-year veteran who started at guard for the Colts Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, moved to left tackle when starter Tony Ugoh left with a groin injury. He said he'll find out where he will play next week when he is told by the Colts' coaching staff.
"I have no idea," Johnson with a smile Monday, a day after the Colts rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit for an 18-15 victory over the Vikings in Minneapolis, Minn.
"We'll come in on Wednesday and find out. We'll have our meeting. We'll get our word on who's up and who's down and who might be up and we'll go from there."
Such has been the case for the Colts' offensive line this season, a season in which the group has sustained a series of injuries that continued Sunday.
"Every week, you have to be ready to go, no matter what," rookie offensive lineman Steve Justice said Monday, a day after he played extensively at guard in place of Johnson after Johnson moved to tackle.
Before the season, the Colts' projected starting line was Ryan Diem at right tackle, Mike Pollak or Johnson at right guard, Jeff Saturday at center, Ryan Lilja at left guard and Ugoh at left tackle.
Pollak has been out with a knee injury the first two games of the season, as has Saturday. Lilja is on the Physically Unable to Perform List, and Ugoh missed the second half of Sunday's game.
With Ugoh out, the Colts' offensive line was Diem, Justice at guard, rookie Jamey Richard at center, veteran Dan Federkeil at guard and Johnson at left tackle. Aside from Diem, the group has 12 regular-season NFL starts.
"I thought they did well, with the circumstances, the noise, the situation in the game and having to sit in there and pass protect with how those guys (the Vikings) were teeing off," Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said Monday. "The young interior guys did well and Charlie Johnson did well after his first rush. The first play Tony was out, (Vikings All-Pro defensive end Jared) Allen came off the corner and came off hard and well, but after that, Charlie blocked him pretty well."
Dungy on Monday said Saturday could practice this week, and that he could return to the lineup as early as Sunday, when the Colts play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If Saturday cannot play, Dungy said he expects the line Sunday to be "probably the way we finished the game (Diem, Federkeil, Richard, Justice and Johnson). Right now, I'd have to assume (that) since that was the guys that finished.
"If Jeff was able to get back, which we think he can, that does give us some options," Dungy said.
CLARK MAY PRACTICE: Tight end Dallas Clark, who missed Sunday's game after sustaining a knee injury in the season opener, could return to practice this week, Dungy said.
"We'll know a little but more (Monday night)," Dungy said. "I think Jeff and Dallas do have a chance to practice this week and that will certainly help us."
Dungy said as of Monday there was no update either on safety Bob Sanders (ankle) or Ugoh, each of whom left Sunday's game and did not return.
NOT SO BAD: Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez called it the dumbest thing he ever has done.
Dungy said he didn't quite agree.
With 3:31 remaining in the third quarter on Sunday and the Colts trailing, 15-0, Indianapolis faced 3rd-and-6 at its 24. Manning threw deep to Gonzalez, who was tackled near the Vikings 15.
Just before his knee touched the ground, he pitched the ball to wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who caught the ball, broke a tackle and advanced to the Vikings 1 for a 75-yard gain.
Not only did Gonzalez say the play was dumb, quarterback Peyton Manning said, "I'm not quite sure what he was doing. I'm not sure he really knew, either. He probably regrets it. I don't think we really want to see much of that again."
But Dungy on Monday said, "It wasn't drawn up, but there are times when it just happens and is there. That was a play that we made and you have to give him credit – he and Reggie both – for an alert play. It's not something we've practiced and you certainly don't usually make them at the end of 50-yard plays, but it was a big one for us."
WORKING ON THE RUN: The Colts, after rushing for 53 yards against Chicago in the season opener, rushed for 25 yards on 19 carries on Sunday. Manning said afterward, "It's hard to call it a running game right now.
"We're a pretty one-dimensional team," Manning said.
Dungy said while the Colts obviously need to run more effectively, he said when the team's overall effectiveness improves, the run production likely will, too.
"I'm not really that concerned with the running game," Dungy said. "I'm concerned that we just have to be sharp. If we know what we're doing and execute well, we're going to be fine. We've had games where people try to take the running game away. We always feel like we can throw the ball in those situations.
"Whether it's run or throw, we've got to execute and do what we can do. When we get that done, the running game will be there. That will come along as our execution in every phase of it gets better."
EFFECTIVE FORMATION: With tight ends Jacob Tamme and Clark out with injuries, the Colts played effectively Sunday from a three-wide receiver formation that featured Marvin Harrison and Gonzalez on the outside and Wayne in the slot.
Gonzalez caught a career-high nine passes for a career-high 137 yards, and Wayne – a two-time Pro Bowl selection – caught five passes for 93 yards, including three critical passes in the fourth quarter. Harrison caught one pass for 16 yards.
"It was our best way to go based on the injuries we had and how they were playing and how the game developed," Dungy said. "We'll continue to look at that, but all of those guys can play anywhere. The three-wide group really helped us Sunday.
"We had some young tight ends and we got behind. We pretty much had to throw to catch up, so those are our best pass receivers."