INDIANAPOLIS – After listening to players and coaches inside the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Friday, FOX broadcaster Daryl "Moose" Johnston likes what the home team is saying.
Johnston, a two-time Pro Bowl fullback in 10 seasons with the Cowboys, will be the color announcer during Sunday's Colts/Lions contest on FOX.
Sunday's 4:25 p.m. kickoff on FOX will include play-by-play man Kenny Albert and Laura Okmin on the sideline.
On Friday, the FOX crew was at the Colts Complex for their production meetings with players and coaches.
What does Johnston think of the call he has on Sunday?
On his preseason impressions of the Colts:
"Efficient with their starting offense. Obviously they had the red-zone issues. One of the interesting things that we've taken out of (Friday's) meetings we've had is that the outside perception the Colts may have to face the first three, four weeks of the season, while the injured guys get healed up, is not effecting the team inside the facility at all. That's a great thing. It's one thing to say the 'Next Man Up' mentality but it's another thing to kind of believe it. But I really feel like everybody here believes in it. They even went back to scenarios last year when Andrew Luck was out of the lineup and winning that last game of the season with an opportunity to get into the playoffs still available, with a couple of quarterback who were here less than a week. They can actually go back to a scenario or a situation where they had success doing that. I'm kind of walking out with a much different perspective than when I walked in. I love the message that Coach Pagano is saying from the top down. We heard things repeated by a number of guys that we met with (Friday) so that message is being heard and believed. The plan that they have is good. No. 1, and this is one of the things I really like about Coach Pagano, he keeps things really simple. He's got little terms that guys can remember. And the big thing is, 'The enemy is not our opponent. The enemy is here within our building. We can't beat ourselves. We have to care of our things first, self-inflicted negatives (SINS).' it's all great stuff. It's easy to remember and guys can remember that. You can talk about it all you want but if it's not sinking in and guys aren't buying in then it's not going to show itself on game day. I'm walking out like, 'Wow. Yeah, they have a lot of injuries, but they've been through it before and had success in scenarios like this.' These guys have bought into it."
On if he saw a different Andrew Luck this preseason:
"Yes. Getting the ball out a little quicker. Utilize the skillset that you have outside, quick, separating guys, early on across the field. I think you're going to see the tight end group become more involved. I think Rob Chudzinski has done a good job as he's putting his spin on this offense on doing things that are kind of falling into place with the approach that they would like Andrew to take. It is hard being on the sidelines watching your teammates work. It happened to me one season and you do learn a lot and you do understand how precious your time is. And for a quarterback, as important as they are to every franchise, when you have somebody that is important to a franchise as Andrew Luck, he needs to be on that field. I don't think Eli Manning has ever gotten the respect that he deserves. Eli Manning has never missed a game and that's one of the greatest skills a quarterback can have. I think Andrew learned a little bit last year, you try to find something good to come out of a negative and maybe that's one of the things that came out. But he told us, situationally, during the course of a game, if it's the fourth quarter game on the line, you are going to play the game to win. 'If I have to get three more yards to get that first down and get us inside of the red zone, then I'm going for that. I'm going to stay shoulders down and try to make that. First quarter, maybe a little slide is good and we'll kick a field goal.' It's going to be hard. It will be. You can just tell that it's going to be hard to keep that inside.
"I think this is going to be an interesting team to watch. You get through this first month of the season, you get some guys back, get some depth back in the defensive line, you get some depth back in the secondary. These young guys have gotten reps and that's the good thing. It wasn't a flood of injuries late in the preseason. It was kind of during the course of the preseason where some younger guys or some inexperienced guys were getting some reps and getting some exposure. It's an opportunity to play with the starters. That's going to be beneficial. The other big thing is the offensive line. Where are they at? How are they going to do? I think it's becoming a more and more important group as we kind of move forward in the NFL. They were always important for a long time, but now as the edge rusher and the quarterback have demanded all the attention we have kind of forgotten about those guys up front. When you look at them individually, you can see why people are excited of what they could be. So it's just going to take time for them to get on the field together, as a starting five, and learn the little techniques and the little things that go along. But Frank Gore raved about Joe Philbin as an offensive line coach so he's very excited to have him here."
On the Lions and keys to Sunday's Week One contest:
"It's easy to take one player away (Calvin Johnson) and it's going to be interesting to see this offense and what Matthew Stafford becomes without Calvin Johnson there. When you have that security blanket it makes your job a lot easier. It will be interesting to see how the distribution is during the year. Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah is a good runner. Eric Ebron is a good tight end if he's healthy. They have a lot of people out there who can create some mismatches. How are the Colts going to match up at the linebacker level, at the secondary level with all those different options for Matthew Stafford? How vertical will Detroit get in the pass game? Will they have time in the passing game to get vertical?
"Talking to D'Qwell Jackson, he's very impressed by some of those young guys on the back end. So what I thought coming in is not what I feel coming out. I think Coach (Ted) Monachino has a plan. It starts with Coach Pagano, down to Coach Monachino and that plan and everyone buys into it. D'Qwell is excited about it. He's excited about the d-line. He really likes the young guys. And Coach Monachino is excited about the young linebackers. So there might be trepidation from the fan base, but here, when you walk into the building and you start to talk to everybody, there is a little bit of an excitement."