Young Offensive Line Continuing to Develop Early in Season, Saturday Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Saturday's not thrilled. Not yet.
Saturday, the Colts' three-time Pro Bowl center, said this week he has seen signs that the team's offensive line has begun to solidify following an early part of the season that featured injuries, a slew of resulting lineup changes and new faces.
The young players on the line are improving, Saturday said.
And cohesion is nearing.
But there remains work to do, Saturday said, and he said for now, that's his primary focus.
"I think we're making progress," Saturday said Thursday as the Colts (3-2), the five-time defending AFC South champions, prepared to play the defending NFC North champion Green Bay Packers (3-3) at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday at 4:15 p.m.
"I don't know how satisfied I would say I am at this point, but I would say we're making progress. Obviously, having two rookies playing the guards, you're going to go through growing pains. It's communication. It's learning what guys are going to do."
The Colts, after starting eight players in three different lineups in the first four games, for the past two weeks have started the same lineup: right tackle Ryan Diem, rookie right guard Mike Pollak, Saturday, rookie left guard Jamey Richard and left tackle Charlie Johnson.
"They're learning every week," Dungy said. "Every week is a new experience as you're playing different styles of defenses – 3-4, 4-3, different types of players – quick, mobile, active guys like ours; bigger guys like we're going to see this week.
"Everything is a learning experience for those new guys, but they're doing well. They soak in information. They listen and they're doing quite well."
Dungy said Saturday's Week 3 return from a preseason knee injury "has helped us."
"He can do lot of the communicating where they just have to listen and take in information," Dungy said. "They're not having to make the calls. That certainly does help."
Dungy said Johnson will remain the starter Sunday at left tackle, where he has started the last three games since second-year veteran Tony Ugoh sustained a Week 2 groin injury.
"Tony has worked both places, and he's actually doing fine," Dungy said of Ugoh. "Physically, I think he's fine right now. We're playing well. Again, it (the line of Diem, Pollak, Saturday, Richard and Johnson) is what probably is our best unit right now.
"If we have anything else go on injury-wise, we'll look at what makes us the best group."
Saturday said an area of concern for the line is the running game. The Colts are currently 32nd in the NFL in rushing at 69.4 yards per game.
The Colts rushed for 76 yards on 19 carries against Baltimore this past week, and have surpassed 100 yards rushing once in five games this season.
"We need to run the ball better," Saturday said. "We have standards that we've set here that everybody has to meet regardless of whether you're a 10-year vet or a rookie. I kind of push all that stuff to the side and say, 'You have to play to a certain standard. Those guys are doing their best to get there. . . .
"I think we've done well the last couple of games of keeping our run game established. I'm not saying we have to go rush for 200 yards a game or 40 rushes, but when we do rush, you have to have a good average, keep the guy at four yards a carry. That's a goal we have."
Saturday spoke about the offensive line a day after defensive tackle John McCargo did not pass a Colts physical, a result that nullified a Tuesday pre-trading deadline trade with the Buffalo Bills.
"I don't know (the details)," Dungy said. "I'm not in that business. I got the message from (Colts President) Bill (Polian) that he didn't pass his physical, that there were some issues, and that we needed to proceed with the guys we had."
Dungy said he doesn't expect the Colts to sign a player at the position immediately.
He said instead the roster spot left vacant by McCargo could be filled by activating linebacker Tyjuan Hagler, a starter last season who spent the first six weeks on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
The Colts released defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey on Tuesday.
"It's something we'll look at at the end of the week," Dungy said. "We're probably leaning a little more (toward re-signing Hagler). We're going to have to clear a spot for Tyjuan anyway. That's probably what our thought is right now, but nothing's out of the realm of possibility."
Hagler returned to practice Wednesday.
"He did well and practiced fine," Dungy said. "He didn't seem to be sore Thursday, so that's a good sign."
Also on Thursday, the Colts released their second injury reof the week, with cornerback Kelvin Hayden (knee), safety Bob Sanders (knee), running back Joseph Addai (hamstring), tight end Gijon Robinson (ankle), wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), linebacker Gary Brackett (rested) and cornerback Tim Jennings (rested) listed as not practicing.
Dungy said Wednesday he expects Dominic Rhodes to start in place of Addai, and Dungy on Thursday said for a second time in as many days that he doesn't believe Addai's injury will keep him out long.
"Nothing leads me to believe it's going to be real long-term at this time, but you never know," Dungy said.
Said Addai, "The biggest thing is trying to back healthy and that's what I'm doing right now. It's too early to say (if he will play Sunday), so I really can't say right now.
"The biggest thing is trying to get it back to where it was."