|ESPN.com: AFC South||[Print without images]|
Two weeks is such a small sampling that NFL statistics feature all sorts of anomalies.
A couple of them crash into each other Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts and the Jaguars can't run.
|David Stluka/Getty Images|
|Joseph Addai is averaging just 2.4 yards per carry in the first two games for the Colts.|
Indianapolis has gained 78 yards on the ground through two games, worst in the NFL. Jacksonville has rushed for only 131, which ranks it 28th.
That's not how life is supposed to work in the NFL when you are handing the ball to Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes.
Outside of slow starts in the AFC South, the rivals have another crucial commonality that's hurting their ability to run: The Colts could start four reserve offensive linemen Sunday afternoon and Jacksonville will have three starters who weren't part of the plan when it drew up its original starting lineup.
Ever remember tuning into a game where 70 percent of the offensive linemen were subs?
"I think in both situations we're doing the best we can to plug in guys and continuing to maintain expectations," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "We work at it. That's what we're doing. The guys that have been plugged in have done a nice job working hard and getting up to speed and giving us a chance."
"You see it in the stats, where you have four really, really quality backs who are averaging under three yards a carry," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "I think you could have made a ton of money if you would have said at this point in time Joseph Addai, Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor and Dominic Rhodes wouldn't be able to average three yards a carry. I think it definitely has to have something to do with that. But we have to find a way to get ours fixed and I'm sure they're the same way."
Those ugly averages: Taylor 2.9, Jones-Drew 2.5, Addai 2.4, Rhodes 1.8.
It's got a lot of Indianapolis and Jacksonville linemen and backs unhappy. It has to hurt to look to Tampa Bay and see Earnest Graham's number is 8.3, to peek at Atlanta and find Michael Turner's is 7.3. Even worse, both teams are looking up in the standings at 2-0 Tennessee.
As he dressed after the loss to Buffalo that dropped the Jaguars to 0-2, Jones-Drew spoke quietly but angrily about how the Jags needed to establish their personality, something not easily done with only 44 rush attempts.
"There is no running game if you don't run it," he said. "...We've just got to continually stay patient with the running game. Things aren't going to just break long runs right off the bat, you've got to be patient with it."
Across the room, right tackle Tony Pashos said the group wasn't pleased to be looking at a big reduction in sacks from the first game to the second, because the improvement still didn't help lead to a win.
"We're always optimistic," he said. "I think game plan-wise our coaches put us in the best situations to win and execute based on who we are. We did it in the third quarter [against Buffalo], and we've got to maintain it and sustain it throughout the game."
Indianapolis is looking forward to the return of its Pro Bowl center. Jeff Saturday, who has a huge role in the organization and operation of the offense, could be back.
With or without him, Dungy said practice and study can have a huge bearing on things week-to-week with inexperienced fill-ins working on the line.
"They're not going to all of a sudden become stronger or faster or bigger," Dungy said. "But knowing a little bit more about what's going on and who you are playing with does help in the offensive line."
|Jason Bridge/US PRESSWIRE|
|Fred Taylor has rushed for 67 yards on 23 carries in two games this season.|
While the Colts count on a largely inexperienced pool of backups that includes two rookies drafted in the sixth and seventh rounds, Jacksonville went out and added veterans coming off injuries -- Chris Naeole's knee injury cut last season short, Todd Wade is coming off an ankle injury, Charles Spencer has not played since 2006.
Taylor knows there is no use lamenting the developments on the line.
Last week he had a couple of 1-yard gains that ranked as nearly miraculous considering how he was hit in the backfield. If the current group improves and center Brad Meester makes it back in mid-October, the Jaguars believe some of those will be 4- and 5-yard carries, with a couple of 12- and 16-yarders mixed in.
"That's my job, to create, to get positive yardage, no matter how the game is played," he said.
He's not discouraged, he's hopeful. The two-game sample isn't enough to make him change his thinking. He subscribes to a theory I once heard in a high school graduation address: Be optimistic, it's just easier.
"We have some young guys in there, but they're not backing down from anyone, and it's my job as a veteran leader to reiterate it, 'Hey, we have to go, we have to go, you're all we got,'" he said. "'So let's push this opportunity you've been waiting on and seize the moment.' So things like that, just to keep them going, keep them driving, in the moment. So I'm excited. We're going to continue to push forward. Nobody's feeling sorry for us, so we can't waste energy feeling for ourselves."