AFC South: Jamey Richard

The Colts' recrafting of their offensive line group is now two deep. A day after trading for Winston Justice, the team has a deal with free agent Mike McGlynn, according to a tweet from McGlynn.

But while Justice looks to be a favorite to start at right tackle, McGlynn played sparingly for Cincinnati last season, mostly because of injury and Bobbie Williams.

Justice started the Bengals final three regular-season games and their playoff game at right guard, and was also listed as the backup to Kyle Cook at center.

Four of the Colts' top five interior linemen from the end of last season are not under contract: center Jeff Saturday, guard Mike Pollak, guard Jamey Richard and Ryan Diem, who shifted inside last year after a long tenure as the right tackle.

Ben Ijalana, who missed his rookie year with an early knee injury, could be in the guard mix going forward, particularly if Justice proves solid at tackle.

Will McGlynn be more than depth?

We’ll have to see who else Indianapolis winds up with and how they all play.
Through seven games the Colts have used four different starting offensive line combinations.

Sunday in Tennessee, we’ll see number five.

The team announced Joe Reitz, who has started every game at left guard, is out for an unspecified amount of time after arthroscopic knee surgery.

Indianapolis has signed two familiar players to restock the line: guard Jamey Richard and tackle Michael Toudouze. The team has also placed quarterback Kerry Collins and fullback Chris Gronkowski on IR.

That means the Colts’ offense belongs to Curtis Painter as long as he can stay healthy, with Dan Orlovsky as the backup. Of course there remains the possibility that Peyton Manning re-emerges late in the season.

Reitz is likely to be replaced by Seth Olsen, who filled in after Reitz was hurt during the blowout in New Orleans on Sunday night.

The health of two other starters is also in question. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo has missed the last three games and right guard/tackle Ryan Diem has missed four of the last five.

Both are dealing with ankle injuries.

It's likely the end for Collins, who had retired from the NFL before the Colts lured him back just before the season, concerned about Painter's readiness with Manning out.

Collins suffered a concussion Sept. 25 against Pittsburgh and hadn't played since.

Indianapolis Colts cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
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Check here for a complete list of the Indianapolis Colts' roster moves.

Surprise moves: Tommie Harris seemed to play well enough to stick, but the former first-round defensive tackle apparently wanted to be treated like the team’s top defensive linemen and the team didn’t like the attitude. Defensive end John Chick had solid games but couldn’t get past Jerry Hughes. Undrafted rookie tight end Mike McNeill made it, as did four others who were not April selections: running backs Darren Evans and Chad Spann, linebacker Adrian Moten and safety Joe Lefeged.

No-brainers: Veteran additions on defense made good impressions in the preseason and are sticking around -- ends Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton and linebacker Ernie Sims. Anthony Gonzalez may be injury prone, but none of the other options at receiver is a better player.

What’s next: They’ve got only four defensive tackles in Fili Moala, Antonio Johnson, Eric Foster and Drake Nevis. It could be a spot where they look to add or upgrade on Foster. Offensive linemen Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard will have to prove they deserved to stick ahead of Kyle DeVan.

With Kerry Collins on the roster and poised to take over as the primary backup to Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter fared much better working with the Colts’ offense.

In a 24-21 loss to Green Bay at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday night, the Packers utilized one defensive element Manning typically helps Indianapolis avoid: the blitz.
Manning is masterful at making teams pay when they subtract from coverage to add to the rush. But Green Bay rolled out a steady stream of blitzes, many of which featured cornerback Charles Woodson, with no fear of such repercussions from Painter.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Painter
AP Photo/Michael ConroyWithout Peyton Manning, the Packers blitzed again and again on Curtis Painter.
Indy’s offensive line is still being sorted out, and the group didn’t do particularly well or get particularly good help in minimizing the pressure. Painter didn’t get hit so much as he had to hurry, and he was hardly at his best in such circumstances.

Desmond Bishop got flagged for roughing on one blitz, and Painter threw a ball away when Woodson looped between left tackle Anthony Castonzo and left guard Joe Reitz untouched. Another time, the quarterback made a nice throw to Reggie Wayne, who had a favorable matchup as Woodson came untouched.

No. 2 running back Donald Brown actually did reasonably well in blitz pickups, I thought, managing to keep himself between rushers and the quarterback on a couple of occasions. Still that rusher frequently contributed to a closing pocket.

The right side of the starting line, guard Ryan Diem and tackle Jeffrey Linkenbach, struggled with Clay Matthews, whose speed was more than they could handle.

Not every team is equipped to blitz the way the Packers are. But if it’s Collins instead of Manning on Sept. 11 in Houston, odds are the Texans will blitz more often and with less fear. And the Colts and Collins will have to be prepared to handle it.

Some other thoughts on what was nearly a rare Colts preseason win:

  • While Painter was better, it took a blown coverage that left Wayne wide open for a 57-yard touchdown to get him going. His second touchdown pass, to Chris Brooks, was very nice. Earlier Painter suffered because of a drop by Wayne and another by Pierre Garcon.
  • Ernie Sims was active in a lot of first-half action, his first since he signed with the Colts. Tommie Harris played for the second time, and made some plays with a sack and a tipped pass.
  • Jermichael Finley's touchdown catch on Pat Angerer was great. Angerer was tight but not turned. There aren’t many linebackers who could make a play against that.
  • According to CBS, Robert Mathis injured his hamstring in the first quarter hamstring and did not return. His counterpart at end, Dwight Freeney, made things very difficult on Green Bay tackle Chad Clifton, bulling over him a few times before using the patented spin move.
  • Diem, who false started too much last season at right guard, got called for one. An injury forced him from the game for a time, but he returned to action. Mike Pollak stepped in briefly. Jeff Saturday was the lone offensive lineman who didn’t play into the third quarter, as Pollak replaced him. Then the second-team offensive line was, left to right, Michael Toudouze, Kyle DeVan, Jamey Richard, Mike Tepper and Ben Ijalana. Richard was flagged for holding but it was declined.
  • I expect good things out of rookie running back Delone Carter, mostly because I very much like the idea of Carter. This team needs a short-yardage goal-line back. He was hardly working against front line defenders, I understand. But he not only got a tough yard -- converting a third-and-1 when there was nothing there -- but he had a couple of nice longer runs. A lost fumble was overturned by challenge, and a wide run with a spin move suggested he can be more than just a between-the-tackles pounder. He did look lost in one pass-protection situation.
  • Defensive back Chip Vaughn was waved off the field by Jim Caldwell after back-to-back penalties. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty worth 15 yards and a taunting penalty worth 11 yards, the Colts gave up a touchdown and a two-point conversion, lost an onside kick and saw Green Bay move to a game-winning field goal. Vaughn will not have a good weekend. And the Colts just about refuse to win in the preseason.

Colts offer updates on injuries

July, 29, 2011
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The Colts just sent out a pre-camp injury report.

They says Peyton Manning's injury "continues to progress, but there is no timetable for his return to unrestricted activity.”

The one item of note I see here is that while most of the key players get updates that say they have “been cleared for full participation,” Austin Collie’s note on concussion recover is worded differently: He’s “been cleared to return for football activities.”

Their updates:

David Caldwell, DB
  • Injury: Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve before the start of the regular season)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Dallas Clark, TE
  • Injury: Wrist (Was placed on injured reserve on October 25, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation and will wear a splint during practices
Austin Collie, WR
  • Injury: Concussion (Was placed on injured reserve on December 22, 2010)
  • Update: All concussion symptoms have cleared and has been cleared to return for football activities
Kavell Conner, LB
  • Injury: Foot
  • Update: Has been cleared for limited participation
Brody Eldridge, TE
  • Injury: Knee
  • Update: Practice status is to be determined
Cody Glenn, LB
  • Injury: Neck (Was placed on injured reserve on November 30, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for limited participation
Anthony Gonzalez, WR
  • Injury: Knee (Was placed on injured reserve on November 6, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Kelvin Hayden, DB
  • Injury: Neck (Was placed on injured reserve on January 8, 2011)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Brandon King, DB
  • Injury: Hamstring (Was placed on injured reserve on October 19, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation

Peyton Manning, QB
  • Injury: Neck (Had surgery in the offseason)
  • Update: Injury continues to progress, but there is no timetable for his return to unrestricted activity
Devin Moore, RB
  • Injury: Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve on October 5, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Jerraud Powers, DB
  • Injury: Foot (Was placed on injured reserve on December 7, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Jamey Richard, OG
  • Injury: Hip
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Kevin Thomas, DB
  • Injury: Knee (Was placed on injured reserve on August 28, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Chip Vaughn, DB
  • Injury: Ankle and Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve on November 23, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
In general, we expect too much from late-round picks. (And from overall draft batting averages.)

In a recent conversation with former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist, he pointed to an article he once read in Ourlads by Joe Landers. Apologies, I couldn’t find the link.

“Using some common sense and a little investigative research, you'll find that it's rare, at least according to Landers’ study, to find a cornerback or running back or wide receiver that's really going to help you in the last three rounds,” Sundquist said. “And yet you'll find teams constantly take a reach on one of these positions.

“Evidence shows you're more likely to find a defensive tackle, offensive lineman, safety or tight end in the later rounds. Why? Most conventional wisdom says don't draft a safety or tight end high due to escalating rookie salaries and the going market at the position. As for defensive tackles or offensive linemen, it’s probably because of the greater numbers at the position. Both circumstances force down talented players at those positions.”

I went back and combed over the AFC South drafts since 2002, to see how many picks they spent on each side of the ledger Sundquist sets forth and how often the Colts, Jaguars, Texans and Titans did well with a fifth-, sixth- or seventh-round pick at those spots. This is, of course, highly unscientific. Metrics guys can probably shred it. But I thought it worth fiddling with.

Notables are players who played significantly, even if it’s been with another team, or recent picks who appear on track to contribute.

Houston Texans

WRs, RBs. CBs: 9

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 14

Most: Six safeties, four receivers, corners and defensive tackle

Notables: Colts

WRs, RBs. CBs: 7

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 13

Most: 13 offensive linemen

Notables: Jaguars

WRs, RBs. CBs: 12

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 9

Most: Five receivers, four offensive linemen

Notables: Titans

WRs, RBs. CBs: 14

DTs, OL, S, TEs: 16

Most: Seven offensive linemen, six wide receivers

Notables:
Of the notables from the division drafted since 2002, 73 percent (19) have been from the positions Sundquist says teams should concentrate on late while 27 percent (seven) play positions he believes should generally be avoided.

I'd be fine with the Titans not wasting yet another late pick on a receiver and with the Texans using late-rounders on something other than corners and receivers for sure. But it's not like Houston's spending late picks on safeties or the Colts use of such selections on offensive linemen have paid huge dividends either.

I'd love to read your thoughts.
Virtually every prognosticator is giving the Indianapolis Colts a first-round offensive tackle, and Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo, Colorado’s Nate Solder and Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod could all be nice fits.

Much has been made of vice chairman Bill Polian’s comment during the 2010 season about how Rodger Saffold, a tackle the Colts passed on who went on to play quite well for St. Louis, could have helped for Indianapolis.

But Polian said that comment got misshapen as it was repeated.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Johnson
Stew Milne/US PresswireColts tackle Charlie Johnson played hurt for most of the 2010 season.
“What I said was, if I’d know we were going to suffer all the injuries we had on the offensive line, we might have looked at things differently in terms of the draft,” he said. “Because when you are drafting as low as we were, there isn’t a lot of difference between the players. I said, ‘You know, you could make the argument that we should have taken Rodger Saffold instead of the player that we took.’

“That’s what I said. It’s been construed very differently. What I meant was, if foresight were 20-20, we probably would have taken an offensive tackle. But it isn’t and that’s the point. This is an inexact business.”

(I thought the use of “the player” as opposed to “Jerry Hughes” was both Parcellian and a little odd.)

The Colts certainly had banged up people playing on the line all year, but by my count there look to have been just five starts missed to injury through the regular season and playoff loss. The injuries were far more severe elsewhere in terms of lost games.

Indianapolis has spent 12 picks on offensive linemen since realignment in 2002. Only one, guard Jake Scott from 2004’s fifth-round, qualified as an outright hit. He moved to Tennessee as a free agent in 2008 and helped pave the road for Chris Johnson's 2,000-yard season in 2009 before dropping off last season.

The franchise hasn’t used a first-round pick on a lineman since 1997, when Tarik Glenn was the choice. That was the year before Polian joined the franchise.

Only two of the Colts’ dozen offensive line picks since 2002 have been higher than fourth-round selections. They traded up to take Tony Ugoh in the second round in 2007 and he wound up busting. They took Mike Pollak in 2008 and he was an OK starter at right guard in 2010 based on the team’s concerns at other spots.

The presumption is offensive line is viewed as an issue in-house and that to maximize the chances for the Peyton Manning-led Colts to claim another Super Bowl, they need to offer him better protection and be able to block better for a tough yard from a running back.

But going in that direction would mean at least a minor philosophy change for Polian when it comes to draft emphasis at the position.

I don’t know if we should jump there considering Polian’s assessment of the Colts’ line play in 2010. The team started seven different offensive linemen with left tackle Charlie Johnson playing banged up all season and Kyle DeVan pushing Jamey Richard out of the left guard slot.

“Now I thought our offensive line, given all that happened with injuries, did very well," Polian said. "As it turns out, Jeff Linkenbach came in as a collegiate free agent and ended the season as a starter and did quite well. So those things work themselves out.”

Linkenbach started one game at left tackle, three games at right guard and the playoff loss to the Jets at right tackle.

Here we can connect Mel Kiper’s recent piece ranking the “vulnerability scale” of the NFL’s 12 best teams. Kiper ranks the Colts at moderately to extremely vulnerable for a big fall.
“Seemingly every win after September was a close battle and Manning was the difference. Injuries killed the Colts in 2010, but even with Manning upright, they couldn't run the ball, they were barely hanging on defensively and even now there are a number of personnel needs. The offensive line and defensive interior need help, and the team didn't get hurt in a spot I thought could have hurt it most in an injury situation -- the pass rush, if either Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis was out. Indianapolis could easily prove me wrong, as Manning alone seems like spackle enough for a whole roster. But this team felt like it was on the edge all of 2010.”
Peyton Manning AP Photo/Joe Howell Peyton Manning passed for 319 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Titans.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Peyton Manning wouldn’t say he was relieved. He wouldn’t even say he had anything to be relieved about.

But a 300-yard passing game with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 30-28 win over the Titans, following a three-week swing with 11 picks, wiped away the I’m-in-pain grimace and allowed for something else entirely.

After the Colts got their record to 7-6 and earned a long rest before a crucial matchup with Jacksonville on Dec. 19, Manning might as well have been at Zanies -- the comedy club a few miles from LP Field -- with some of the lines he delivered on the NFL Network and in the interview room.

“Somebody asked, ‘Are you in a slump?’” he said. “And I said, 'Well, I guess maybe I was, but I’ve been on about an eight-and-a-half year hitting streak going into that.'"

With a well-rounded effort in which the Colts took a big lead and held off Tennessee, they got into a lot of manageable third downs, ran the ball 32 times despite some ineffective carries, took the ball away twice while not turning it over and found enough big plays at pivotal moments to regain their balance.

[+] EnlargeIndianapolis' Pierre Garcon
Jim Brown/US PRESSWIREPierre Garcon caught both of Peyton Manning's touchdown throws against the Titans.
It ended a three-game losing streak and started a string of four games that Manning said feel like high school in that each one amounts to a playoff game. Win out, and the Colts will win the division and get in the playoffs, just as they have for eight years running.

On this night, when an inexperienced player like Blair White cut in front of a sure touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne and created an incompletion, it didn’t choke the offense.

And Manning was able to joke about a short week that was jammed with “What’s wrong with Peyton?” pieces on every website and sports show in North America.

Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz asked Manning if he was amused by all the theories.

“I really don’t want to offend you, Bob, but I don’t read your column, I really don’t,” Manning said, filling the room with laughs. “Sometimes I think people like delivering bad news. Because I don’t read it, but people tell me, they come up and say, ‘Did you see what he wrote?’ And I went, ‘Actually, I didn’t. But thank you for letting me know…’

“I really feel I’ve stayed really even-keeled throughout this whole time. I don’t really think it’s been a humbling experience because I felt like I was pretty humble going in. I don’t get too high, I don’t get too low, and I think it is kind of a test of faith and working through adversity.

“People always say, ‘Hang in there.’ And I went, ‘I never was out there, wherever there is. I’ve always been in there, I’ll always be in there.’ Wherever that is, I never have left.”

The Titans knew they’d be hard-pressed to see Manning have a fourth bad game in a row. They used the same plan they have for most of Jeff Fisher’s time at the helm. They tried to force Manning and the offense to drive the ball, hoping elongated drives increased the possibilities of mistakes, and did all they could to get punter Pat McAfee and field goal kicker Adam Vinatieri involved.

The league’s top red-zone defense allowed the league’s top red-zone offense inside the 20-yard line five times. Tennessee gave up touchdowns the first three times, then made things more difficult and forced a couple field goals.

“[Manning] doesn’t make mistakes unless you pressure him and get him off his spot,” Titans safety Chris Hope said. “That’s what caused those interceptions in those previous games, and also he was playing against teams he doesn’t really play against a lot. He knows us well. He’s played us a thousand times.”

Kerry Collins overcame a poor first half and rallied the Titans, with three scoring passes after intermission. But he knew the odds were long that Manning was going to offer up any prime field position or points as he had so frequently in the past three weeks.

“You knew the guy was going to come out and play well, he’s Peyton Manning, you know?” Collins said. “He had that fire tonight that he was going to play well and he did.”

Like Manning, Dwight Freeney said he’s not paid attention to reviews of what the Colts have been doing, leaving his TV off while the results were bad.

“Obviously, you don’t see a lot of interceptions most of the time,” Freeney said. “I think because of how good he is and how consistent he is on a regular basis, it’s a shock to everybody when you see the turnovers. But he’s human like everyone else. We knew he would turn it around and do a great job just like he always has.”

In leading the Colts back to the win column, Manning helped them maintain control of their fate. He could laugh and the Colts could relax as they made their way out of Music City and started to think about Jacksonville.

They could roll their eyes at the idea that following injuries to Charlie Johnson and Jamey Richard, their next option on the offensive line was going to be tight end Brody Eldridge at guard.

“We stopped the bleeding for one game,” Freeney said.

And, he said, for about five minutes, all felt right with the world.

video
The Rodger Saffold element of this has already gotten a lot of play, but I waited for the Colts' transcript of Bill Polian’s Monday night radio show to jump in on this.

Polian talked pretty extensively about the issues on the offensive line, and pretty much offered what fans would want from him on some of the issues -- a “my bad” on a poor second-round pick and on the failure to sufficiently address the personnel.

Here are the key pieces of what he said about the line:
“We find that what we're lacking on the offensive line is power and punch. If you said to me that was going to happen, I would have probably said we should have done more in the draft. Despite what was a less-than-stellar performance in the Super Bowl, I thought we would bounce back and be pretty good in terms of the punch department. But we have not been.

“…Inside, the middle three has been disappointing to say the least in terms of getting people off the ball. It makes it tougher to run, then you're in a situation where you have some issues because you have to pass the ball on a rather continual basis. That puts more pressure on the tackles, so if I could have predicted that, probably we should have done a little more with the offensive line, but we didn't, so we're in the situation we're in right now. My hope is that we will play in these next four games basically the way we've played in the last three, which essentially is to outlast the opposition. We've had difficulty at times in the ballgames – and that's particularly true in the running game – but we have gotten better as the game has gone on and the opposition has gotten weaker. That's a characteristic of heart and toughness and mental toughness, and we have all of that…

“With respect to drafting offensive linemen, first of all the responsibility is mine. When we miss on a guy like Tony Ugoh, that's my mistake. And we did miss on him. There's no question about it. He never came on after the knee injury the way we thought he would. That's our mistake, my mistake – no question about it. Mike Pollak and Jamey Richard, I think, are pretty good players. They may be a little miscast as guards. They're probably both centers in the end, when all is said and done. Last year, we had a choice. We could have drafted Rodger Saffold. He was the last offensive lineman that deserved to be picked in the first round. And there was Jerry Hughes. We thought that Roger was going to be a right tackle. Who knows whether he will or won't. We liked the fact that Jerry had special rush ability, so we elected to go on the defensive side of the ball. In hindsight, you can question whether we should have drafted Roger, but that's the way it is. Hindsight is 20-20. It's an area we do need to address. I'm sure we will. That doesn't preclude free agency, either, as we go forward. We'll see what transpires in that area. We certainly do need, particularly at tackle, to address that.”

That may be the biggest element of this, there at the end. I linked earlier today to a Bob Kravitz video in which he suggested Polian has to do what the Broncos did for John Elway late in his career. Build up the run game and the defense and damn the team’s traditional blueprint.

Polian’s said some of this before, but saying the plan going forward “doesn’t preclude free agency” is significant. The Colts may be drafting higher than usual, but it still offers no guarantee about the availability of an offensive lineman that fits.

So he’s on the record saying he will look beyond that.

The biggest name heading toward free agency is New England guard Logan Mankins, and while I am not sure how he’d fit with Indianapolis it’s automatically intriguing because such a signing would also serve to weaken a rival.

Others with significant experience who are not signed for 2011 according to Pro Football Weekly include Baltimore tackles Jared Gaither and Marshal Yanda, Kansas City tackle Ryan O’Callaghan, Atlanta guard Justin Blaylock, New Orleans tackle Jermon Bushrod, Arizona guards Alan Faneca and Deuce Lutui and St. Louis guard Adam Goldberg.

Trouble is, the draft’s ensured before a lockout, but free agency would be pushed back if there is no labor agreement. Potentially, Polian won’t be able to shop the market and then draft but will have to do vice versa.

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

December, 1, 2010
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

Odds of Titans getting a third-down stop: The Texans converted half of their 18 third downs, which led to nearly 40 minutes of possession against Tennessee on Sunday. In their last five games, the Titans have allowed conversions 55 percent of the time, an enormous number. Jeff Fisher’s teams are usually able to respond to a point of emphasis. The Titans are failing at that here in a big way.

The Jaguars’ ability to handle blitzes in big situations: Playing with two backup tackles in a tough road game against a quality front, the Jaguars fared pretty well. But as I documented here, in their last chance to beat the Giants they fell apart and got burned badly by a pass rush that included one or two defensive backs.

The Colts' offensive line shuffling: There is a long list of elements to what’s been wrong with the Colts’ offense in recent weeks. But there was no time for anything deep to develop for Peyton Manning who appears to be getting rid of the ball in record time and no matter who’s taking the carries they can’t run effectively. Kyle DeVan displaced Jamey Richard a while back and Jeff Linkenbach’s been ahead of Mike Pollak at right guard for three weeks. Those changes don’t seem to have improved things up front in the run or pass game.

RISING

[+] EnlargeJason Allen
AP Photo/David DrapkinCB Jason Allen lined up across from Randy Moss, and the wideout caught just three passes last Sunday.
Jason Allen, Texans cornerback: We won’t pretend that he was a magic solution for the secondary. But the Titans hardly went after the recent waiver claim, who played ahead of Kareem Jackson and lined up across from an underutilized and ineffective Randy Moss. That Allen played a lot in a shutout can give the secondary a feeling that things have changed.

The Jaguars' offense on third down: The Jaguars were 10 for 16 on third down against the Giants, a remarkable feat that could and probably should mean you win a game. They’ll look to build on that Sunday in Nashville against a defense that’s struggling terribly to get off the field on third down. (See the falling entry on the Titans’ above.)

The Titans' intention to get the ball to Moss: Why bring him in if you have no intention to use him at what he does best? Sure he’s going to draw double-teams. But if Minnesota and New England looked away from him based on the coverage, he wouldn’t have the best reception-per-touchdown number (6.2) in league history among players with at least 500 catches. If you throw a deep pick on third-and-long, it’s the same as a punt.
The Colts could have some big players back in the mix for Sunday’s home game against the Dallas Cowboys. Mike Chappell reports that Colts president Bill Polian said on his radio show that linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session, as well as running back Mike Hart, could be back.

Others, including Joseph Addai and Bob Sanders, are likely further off.

But as Chappell points out, while Hart and Addai could provide a boost to the run game, none of the injury returnees is going to help the offensive line, which has been insufficient as a run-blocking group and increasingly leaky in pass protection. (Sacks remain low, but pressure is up.)

“I think oftentimes, you guys are driven by what you see on TV," said coach Jim Caldwell at a news conference Monday. "They can highlight a certain couple of areas, and you think that was the way the entire game went. I think they can sort of prejudice your opinion a little bit.

"What we do is we take a look at it. We think we have the right people in there, but we are always trying to jostle it around, trying to make adjustments, trying to make certain that not only do we have the right people, but also are we doing the right things with the folks that we have in there? That’s up for critique, and we challenge ourselves in those areas and we try to find a way to improve. That’s the important thing.”

Polian identified the offensive line as a position of concern after last season, really singling out the effort in the Super Bowl. They were comments several players bristled at. (Greg Easterbrook hit on some of this here in his weekly Tuesday Morning Quarterback column.)

Longtime line coach Howard Mudd was known for molding players who were not high draft picks or top free agents into effective contributors. He retired and passed the torch to Pete Metzelaars, a transition that seemed smooth.

But in a move that was a stunner then and is baffling now, Polian let right guard Ryan Lilja go. Lilja has received good reviews for his play in Kansas City, while the Colts have played two ineffective right guards.

Mike Pollak was benched in favor of undrafted rookie tackle Jeff Linkenbach three games ago.

Left guard’s hardly been solid either, with Jamey Richard getting displaced by Kyle DeVan.

There should be more options.

After Lilja was released, the Colts brought in a couple low-level free agents in Andy Alleman and Adam Terry. Neither stuck. Fourth-round rookie Jacques McClendon has been inactive or worked on special teams.

Polian and the Colts identified a problem, but they really didn’t do anything to fix it, unless we count the Tony Ugoh resolution and release as addition by subtraction.

In the past five drafts, the Colts have taken eight offensive linemen, five in the fifth round or later.

Charlie Johnson is a scrappy left tackle who’s been better than many expected but still might be ideal as a third, swing tackle. Ugoh, Michael Toudouze and Steve Justice are gone. Pollak has been benched. McClendon is a reserve as are seventh-rounders Jaimie Thomas and Richard.

However this season plays out, the offensive line must be the primary concern in the offseason.

It’s time to hit on value picks -- plural. Quality guys and the team’s draft slots may not line up. The Colts may need to maneuver to change that.

It’s critical to Peyton Manning’s chances for another Super Bowl in his remaining years.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Philip Wheeler’s healthy but not in the starting lineup, replaced by the active and effective rookie Pat Angerer at strongside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts tonight against Houston.

Two injured Colts are also out of the starting lineup: Joseph Addai (shoulder/neck) will be replaced as the starting running back by Mike Hart and right cornerback Jerraud Powers (foot) will be replaced by Justin Tryon. Nickelback Jacob Lacey is also out.

Kyle DeVan will start instead of Jamey Richard at left guard for the second straight game.

The Colts also let running back Andre Brown go, adding cornerback Cornelius Brown, who is active.

The Texans have no surprises among their inactives. Antoine Caldwell starts at right guard for Mike Brisiel.

The complete inactive lists.

Colts: Receiver Austin Collie, safety Bob Sanders, Powers, Lacey, linebacker Kavell Conner, guard Jacques McClendon, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson.

Texans: Quarterback Matt Leinart, receiver Dorin Dickerson, cornerback Carl Paymah, linebacker Daryl Sharpton, guard Kasey Studdard, defensive end Jesse Nading, tight end Garrett Graham, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- No surprises in inactives for the Colts or Jaguars except maybe left guard for the Colts.

Jamey Richard, questionable with a shoulder injury, is out, with Kyle DeVan taking his place.

For Jacksonville, Gerald Alexander will take the place of the injured Sean Considine at free safety.

Here are the complete lists:

Colts
Jaguars

Bill Polian on the state of his Colts

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
2:50
PM ET
Bill Polian Brian Spurlock/US PresswireColts President Bill Polian is pleased with how his team has responded to its rash of injuries.
Like all good personnel men, Bill Polian does well projecting and predicting. But ultimately, he wants to see and judge not with forecasting but off of production.

And so he often says during the offseason and preseason, “Check with me three weeks in.”

I do my best to take him up on that, and spent some time on the phone with the Indianapolis Colts team president this week for that check-in.

Here, then, are the highlights of a wide-ranging discussion about the state of the 2-1 Colts.

Paul Kuharsky: You always say check in three weeks, so here I am. What’s your general feel about this team? Are you in as good a shape as you expected or do you have more concerns than you anticipated?

Bill Polian: I don’t really know, because all of the injuries have derailed us a little bit. So I am not really sure what we have at this point until we get everybody back healthy, or at least as many as we can. It’s been a struggle thus far.

PK: It seems like that injury string just goes and goes. Is it a cyclical thing, is it a bad-luck thing?

BP: I think it’s just a luck thing. You would hope it changes.

PK: Peyton Manning’s numbers are obviously fantastic. Is there anything subtle he’s done to get better?

BP: No, I don’t think so. I think he’s done a great job working the new receivers in and getting comfortable with them and letting them get comfortable with him. I think by and large it’s been business as usual.

PK: When Austin Collie has a game like he did in Denver, are you ever surprised when a guy maxes out the way he did, or it s a business-as-usual, we-expect-it kind of thing?

BP: When you put up gaudy numbers, that’s an every-once-in-a-while thing. But we expect a good performance from him. He’s a guy we’ve learned to be able to count on.

PK: How’s [rookie tight end] Brody Eldridge been and what kind of effect has he had on your offense?

BP: He’s been great. And he really had an effect in the running game and will get better day by day in the passing game, he’s got ability in that area and he will continue to develop it … Brody’s been really in there in a lot of run situations. But we trusted [undrafted rookie left tackle Jeff Linkenbach] to do the job and he did. For Brody, pass protection comes a little more slowly, he was more developed as a run blocker for obvious reasons [at Oklahoma], but he does both pretty well. Linkenbach was on his own a good portion of the time and he did a good job.

PK: When you get a nice game out of someone like Linkenbach, does that say to you we can continue to find guys on the offensive line who can be successful for us without a big pick or a big move? Or is that a position you’ll be constantly evaluating and where you’ll maybe be looking to get that big-time guy?

BP: Well, I don’t know that Link isn’t the big-time guy. I think we’ll find that out over time. And obviously we’re hoping to get Charlie [Johnson] back. You’re always looking for the best players you can get, the question is are they available when you choose and what else is available? We’d like to have big-time players at every position. Unfortunately when you’re drafting as low as we have, you don’t get a shot as some of the marquee guys but Link proves, just like Jamey Richard and Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem, that you can find guys down low that are very productive players.

PK: I know you’ve been dinged up there, but do you feel like the offensive line is giving you better play or will give you better play than you got last year when you said it was a concern?

BP: I don’t think there is any question that it will be better. And I think you could argue that they’ve played about as well as they could have given all the injuries and the unsettlement there. But I don’t think that there is any question that it will be better over time.

PK: What will make it so?

BP: We’ve got Jamey playing left guard and that’s a new position for him. Mike Pollak’s done a nice job at right guard. Jamey had to play center in the preseason because Jeff Saturday was hurt the whole preseason. Link stepped in for Charlie, we’re hopeful that Charlie will be back here shortly, so that gives us some pretty good depth there and a lot of good young players there. So I think they’ll get better over time.

PK: Has Philip Wheeler been as good as you’d hoped coming into the season? How’s your depth at linebacker given the injuries to Clint Session and Kavell Conner?

BP: Philip’s played well. The depth has turned out to be fine, unfortunately. Cody Glenn played well stepping in without much practice when Kavell Conner went down. Kavell played really well. So we’re happy with the depth we have. Pat Angerer played really well when Gary [Brackett] was out during the preseason. The depth is great, thank God. But hopefully we’ll get Clint back very soon and Kavell will be back in eight weeks. Hopefully we can span the gaps until then.

PK: Is Pat Angerer strictly an inside guy?

BP: We’ll see down the road, right now he’s inside, let him get comfortable there. And he is doing very well there. If we had an absolute emergency I guess he could go outside, but right now we’d rather have him inside.

PK: How do you evaluate your secondary depth?

BP: The depth isn’t what we’d like to have there at safety, but hopefully we’ll continue to be OK. That’s probably the area where we have the least depth and that’s simply because of injury. You could never have imagined that both Jamie Silva and Bob [Sanders] would go down for extended periods in the same year, that’s just bad luck but it happens to every team. You can’t change it. At corner, I’ve always believed you can never have enough, but the five guys we have are pretty good. And I think they’ll be OK.

PK: You guys did so well so much of the time last year at stopping the big plays, did you come out of Denver with concerns about that?

BP: It’s early yet and we’re still getting used to playing with one another and playing against people who do a little bit different things than we’ve seen before. Points and turnovers are what count for defense and the other stuff we can get corrected.

PK: How’s Fili Moala been?

BP: He’s been starting, he’s made a lot of progress. But every player does, the biggest jump a player takes is between his first and second year. Fili is no exception. And defensive line takes a longer time to develop than almost any other player, and Fili is no exception there. That said, he’s taken a big step and he’s developed and he’s playing fine. We’re very, very happy with the way he’s playing.

PK: Can you compare and contrast him to Antonio Johnson?

BP: Different styles. Fili is longer and he’s got more range than Mookie [Johnson]. He’s not quite as wide or stout and has to play with a little more quickness than Mookie does. But they both get the job done, but they are different styles of players with different body types.

PK: Some punts this year haven’t yielded you much in field position. Has your thinking on that changed at all? Might playing four downs in some spots to gain a scoring chance be more valuable?

BP: First of all, I don’t look at it from a statistical standpoint. To me, it’s always a game-by-game decision. Who’s the return man, what is the other team doing, what is the status of your defense, what’s the status of your offense? It’s a situation-by-situation decision. We’ve been unlucky in certain situations where if the ball had bounced properly for us or correctly for us we would have had kills on the 1-yard line. That said, we haven’t been as clean as we should have on the technique there and that will improve as we go on into the season. As far as decision making, that’s up to coach on a situation-by-situation basis and I don’t believe in any of the statistical formulas that I’ve seen.

PK: We’ve talked about [Jaguars GM] Gene Smith and how you like the way he’s building in Jacksonville. Are you surprised by their struggles the last couple weeks, and while I know you’re hoping they don’t bounce out of it this week, do you think they are still on track?

BP: Obviously we’re hoping that, but they are perfectly capable of doing it. I do like the way they are building, I think they are going about it in the right way. It takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight and I think they will be heard from before too long and I hope it’s not this weekend.

PK: When a quarterback struggles like David Garrard has the last two weeks, how much is confidence the biggest thing in play?

BP: The whole thing is a continuum; it’s not one individual player or even one individual platoon. Sometimes it can just be a bad break here, a penalty there and you get in those kinds of streaks and things can tend to mushroom on you. One thing I know about [Jaguars head coach] Jack Del Rio is he has a way of getting his team focused, he’s a tough guy, his team reflects that. They’ll play through it. There is a long, long way to go and I think they’re a much improved football team and they will show that before too long. I just hope it doesn’t come this weekend.

PK: Obligatory contract question. Have you had any significant talks with Tom Condon about Peyton Manning?

BP: Yeah, we continue to talk and there is nothing else to report other than that.

Video: Previewing Giants-Colts

September, 17, 2010
9/17/10
11:30
AM ET

As I get ready for a trip to Indianapolis, a thought on the Colts' passing offense and protection issues.

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