Colts Offensive Line Wants to See Improvement in Week 2 of Preseason
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Ryan Lilja said the goals are obvious.
Lilja, the Colts' sixth-year veteran offensive guard, said the way the Colts' offensive line played last week in the 2009 preseason opener made many of the objectives for Thursday night's game clear. And he said the objectives have nothing to do with whether or not the game counts in the standings.
Yes, Lilja said, the line played just six plays. And he said maybe the results would have been better with a few more. Still, Lilja said he and the rest of the Colts' offensive line have made no excuses this past week and will make none in the coming days.
The Colts need to move effectively. They need to protect the quarterback.
Basically, Lilja said, they need to play like they know how to play.
"I'm going to give you all the generic answers," Lilja said, as the Colts (0-1 in the 2009 preseason) prepared to play the Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) in a preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Thursday at 8 p.m.
"It'd be nice to move the ball. It'd be nice to be able to run the ball well and to protect the quarterback. Those are the things we do, and it would be nice to get in the end zone.
"It'd be nice to move the ball and protect the quarterback."
Lilja and the rest of the first-team offensive line said they did few of those things this past week.
In a 13-3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2009 preseason opener last Friday, the Colts played their starters just six plays, but in those six plays, the members of the Colts' offensive line said this week they turned in a performance they considered unacceptable.
"Obviously, we weren't happy with our performance in the first game," right tackle Ryan Diem said. "We're excited to get back in the mix and step it up a notch. Hopefully, we'll be getting a little better this week."
The Colts during their first drive gained a first down and sprung running back Joseph Addai for a 14-yard run, but they also allowed three sacks in the six plays.
"We had some setbacks, pass-wise, in the Minnesota game," guard Mike Pollak said this week. "We had some key run plays, and that's from some of the work we've been putting into this camp."
It was the sack statistic that bothered the Colts' line this week.
"We did some good things, but we also let Peyton get hit," Pollak said. "We have to take it on ourselves that we can't let that happen."
Said three-time pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, "We can't be like that. You don't want to go out there and have those types of days. We have a lot of players who were playing different positions, and we have to try to get used to everything."
How different was the line? Consider:
At the end of last season, the line was Diem at right tackle, Pollak at right guard, Saturday, left guard Charlie Johnson and left tackle Tony Ugoh. This year, Johnson has moved to left tackle to replace Ugoh, and because of injuries, the line Friday was Corey Hilliard at right tackle, Pollak at right guard, Saturday at center, Lilja – who missed last season with a knee injury – at left guard and Ugoh at left tackle.
Diem was out with a back injury and Johnson missed because he had just that week returned from an offseason pectoral injury.
"It shouldn't take any more time than normal," Lilja said. "There's no excuse for how we came out and just left a taste in everybody's mouth. Any time you get 18 (quarterback Peyton Manning) hit, we don't like it. You know how it is when you get guys coming in – it doesn't really matter who it is. If it's the last minute and somebody gets hurt . . . we work on that. We expect to not miss a beat."
The Colts last season finished 31st in the NFL in rushing during a season in which the line was without Lilja for 16 games, and during which only Diem started 16 games at one position. But the members of the Colts' line throughout last season said injuries and absence are no excuses, and they said the same is true now.
"We played six plays, so no one's panicking," Lilja said. "We've just got to get better. That game last week proved we need to protect the quarterback a little bit better. We had some things that we didn't do well. Hopefully, we correct them. It's still obviously relatively early in preseason and that's exactly what preseason is for – to correct the mistakes and do it Week One in the preseason so we don't do it Week One in the regular season."
Said Pollak, "We have to learn from it and move on. You can't really dwell on the past, because you're not going to be better that way. We're looking forward to getting better as a unit and not worrying about what happened last game."