AFC South: Jeff Saturday

Holmes has inside track at center

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Khaled Holmes didn't give you an appetizer sampling size of what he could do during his rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts.

For a player who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 319 pounds, what Holmes gave the Colts was more like a snack-size treat.

Holmes played a total of 12 snaps last season.

[+] EnlargeKhaled Holmes
Michael Hickey/Getty ImagesKhaled Holmes played just 12 snaps last season but is primed to be the Colts' starting center at the start of the regular season.
But here Colts coach Chuck Pagano sat during the breakfast media session and general manager Ryan Grigson leaned back in his chair in the lounge area of the Ritz Carlton hotel Tuesday afternoon talking confidently about the player they selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.

So confident that you have to believe that Holmes -- the same Holmes who played 12 snaps last season -- has the inside track to be the Colts' starting center when the regular season begins. Holmes was handpicked by Grigson and the last thing the general manager wants is for his draft pick not to pan out.

"He's big, he's athletic and he's very, very bright," Pagano said. "He has great [football instincts]. From a mental standpoint, it's all there."

The Colts cut ties with center Samson Satele earlier this month after he played poorly last season. Of the top-tier free-agent centers, Cleveland's Alex Mack is the only one the Colts had their eyes on.

Could Mack have immediately fixed the interior part of the Colts' offensive line? Of course, but they shied away from heavily pursuing him because the financial commitment would have been too much.

The Colts signed former Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa to compete with Holmes for the starting position.

"We looked at every center, we looked at all the guards," Grigson said. "We didn't like anybody. It's based off our facts, which is the tape."

So that leaves Holmes and Costa as the two leading candidates to start and possibly give the Colts the same center combination they had with Jeff Saturday and Peyton Manning for eight years.

"It was unfortunate what happened to Khaled but he's a talented guy and the expectations are high for him," Pagano said. "To bring in a guy like Costa in the mix, who's to say there's not a guy? Time is going to tell. We feel like he might be sitting right there. We have to stay healthy and get them on the field and play at that level. Time will tell on that. I think we have two capable guys that can play at a high level."

Costa has the resume to be a starter even if he did lose his starting spot to rookie Travis Frederick last season with the Cowboys. Costa started every game for Dallas in 2011, but injuries limited him during the 2012 season and he played in only three games last season.

You're probably wondering how Holmes could go from barely breaking a sweat in a game last season to looking like the player with the best shot to be hiking the ball to Andrew Luck next season.

Holmes was behind in the learning process after missing a significant amount of training camp last year with an ankle injury.

"This league, unfortunately, when a guy gets hurt in training camp he gets shelved," Grigson said. "There was a lot of optimism about him in minicamp, his level of intelligence. He's unique, he's 318 pounds. He's got guard versatility even though I think he's a center, but he's got good arm length. At center, you have to have that ... The guy knows how to play football."

Satele's problems at center last season were well documented, but the Colts didn't want to just throw Holmes on the field because it wouldn't have been fair to do that to him since he missed a significant part of training camp.

"You have a trust level," Grigson said. "And even if you have a player you think doesn't have as high of ceiling as the guy that's sitting on bench, you have a guy who has been through some wars. Experience plays a major factor and it makes everyone comfortable when you have someone who has been there done that than throwing a guy to the wolves when you're in the middle of a run.

"That's a tough thing to do. When you're losing or if you've lost five games in a row and you're not going to the playoffs, then you can make those decisions."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Khaled Holmes and Phil Costa.

Those two names might cause you to look at their Wikipedia page to find out their background.

Here’s the condensed version of who Holmes and Costa are: They are centers for the Indianapolis Colts and will be the two competing for the right to hike the ball to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck next season.

[+] EnlargePhil Costa
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe Colts signed center Phil Costa to a one-year, $1.2 million contract. He'll compete with Khaled Holmes for the starting job this fall.
That essentially was the message general manager Ryan Grigson passed along during a conference call with reporters late Friday morning.

“We feel pretty good where we’re at,” he said. “You always like to be able to plug in a Pro Bowler there or someone that’s a five-year starter, have that luxury, but I’ll say this to make this point: You guys had great success here with (Jeff) Saturday who was a (college free agent) that I think was stocking shelves when they brought him in.

“About center in general, I personally have been fortunate enough to be to three Super Bowls with two teams, and on all three of those teams the centers were (college free agents). That’s a position where you can find a quality guy and you don’t need always to have that high-profile player at that spot."

Samson Satele was the Colts’ starting center the past two seasons, but he was released this month after performing poorly last season.

The Colts had interest in Cleveland center Alex Mack, but being able to land him was a longshot from the start because the Browns used their transition tag on him, meaning they could match any offer made to Mack.

Indianapolis signed Costa, who spent his first four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, to a one-year, $1.2 million contract last week. He started every game in 2011 for the Cowboys. His 2012 season was cut short because of ankle and back problems. Costa, an undrafted free agent, dressed for 12 games in 2013 but only played in three of those games, losing his starting job to Travis Frederick, the team’s first-round pick last season.

Holmes, the Colts’ fourth-round pick in 2013, still remains a 6-3, 319-pound mystery. He played a total of 12 snaps last season. That number is alarming when you consider the problems the Colts had on the interior part of the offensive line last season.

“We signed Phil Costa, he’s a tough young center that has started games,” Grigson said. “We drafted Khaled Holmes to be that center of the future. He never got a chance in camp really because of the ankle, so he’s still a little bit of an unknown at the professional level. But it’s going to be a good competition.”

So for now, learn as much as you can about Holmes and Costa, because they are currently the two players with the best shot of being the Colts’ starting center next season.
SAN DIEGO -- Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea is in his eighth season in the NFL. He’s watched as teammates have departed during that time.

Marvin Harrison. Bob Sanders. Dwight Freeney. Jeff Saturday. Peyton Manning.

That’s why Bethea isn’t buying into the hype surrounding Manning’s return to Indianapolis with the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

“We see players come and go all the time,” Bethea told “We have to go out there and just play ball. I don’t think it’s going to be weird. The media is going to make a big hoopla about him coming back to Indy.”

Manning spent 14 seasons with the Colts, leading them to two Super Bowl appearances before the team released him in 2012.

The Colts have to quickly regroup from Monday’s loss to San Diego because all eyes will be on Lucas Oil Stadium when Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos visit in what should be one of the most watched games of the season.

Manning appears to be on his way to picking up his fifth MVP trophy. He’s passed for 2,179 yards, 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions while completing 74.2 percent of his attempts this season.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Bethea said. “He’s been playing that way his whole career. You’d be a fool to say you’re surprised. We’re really going to have to be on top of things next week. He’s a mastermind of what he does.”

Former center Jeff Saturday didn't get to play with quarterback Andrew Luck like his former teammate Reggie Wayne.

That's why if Wayne says there are similarities between Luck and Peyton Manning, he must be telling the truth, Saturday said.

"I can tell you this, Reggie Wayne does not make those comments lightly. To get a compliment out of Weezy is next to a miracle," Saturday said this morning on ESPN. "So for him to be saying that about Andrew Luck is very impressive."

Wayne talked about Luck and Manning during an interview with NBCSN'S Pro Football Talk on Tuesday.

“The way [Luck] approaches practice, I hate to do this, but it’s somewhat like a Peyton Manning,” Wayne told Pro Football Talk. “Even though I hate to compare the two, he takes practice just like it’s a game."

Saturday echoed the same thing.

"I know the way Peyton approached practice, it was a high-tempo, lets get there, lets get this done, lets move," he said. "That's what I keep hearing out of Colts camp."

Saturday was Manning's teammate in Indianapolis for nine seasons. Saturday played in Green Bay last season before retiring and becoming an ESPN analyst.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Second-year outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus is No. 25 on’s list of players poised to make a leap in 2013, from Dan Hanzus.

Expectations of the Texans, from Stephanie Stradley of the Houston Chronicle blogs.

Indianapolis Colts

A look at centers who are candidates for the Indianapolis Colts' all-time team, from Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. Not much debate here before Jeff Saturday is the guy.

A look at some players likely on the bubble for the Colts during training camp, from Kyle Rodriguez.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Shad Khan’s purchase of Fulham of the English Premiere League could be completed in time for the club’s season opener Aug. 17 at Sunderland, says Ryan O’Halloran.

What Khan's purchase of Fulham could mean for Jacksonville and the Jaguars, from Cole Pepper.

Tennessee Titans

Bernard Pollard is emphasizing togetherness for the Titans, off the field as well as on it, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

How did the Titans run in the red zone in 2012? Well Chris Johnson’s success rate was just 44 percent, writes Tom Gower of Total Titans.
NFL analysis needs more voices that come from the inside, and as a center with 14 years of NFL experience I think Jeff Saturday will bring an excellent, different perspective.

He’s set to soon join ESPN, per Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

In covering the NFL, I used to think it’d be easy to see who would be good as a media member and who wouldn’t be based on how they were on the other end of questions.

I’ve come to realize that’s far from the case, and that being able to deliver good answers does not necessarily correlate with being able to offer good analysis.

With Saturday, however, I feel very confident we’re going to see a guy who is quickly good in his next line of work.

Interested offensive linemen can be among the most thoughtful players in the game. Saturday’s experience as a player went well beyond snapping and blocking and taking questions, win or lose. He was also a key piece of the NFL Players Association in brokering a new collective bargaining agreement in the summer of 2011.

I’m not supposed to venture into media criticism. But I think some of the worst analysts we see on TV are the guys who were big stars and have big personalities and some of the best are guys who had to scrap and claw to make it in football.

Saturday scraped and clawed. He started with the ball in his hands but quickly gave it up at the start of every play and eagerly did dirty work.

I look forward to learning more from him about the game.
Some Colts fans have been in touch, confused about the awarding of compensatory draft picks. The Colts were awarded one pick, the final pick of the draft (No. 254).

But in the league's formula that figures out who gets what in terms of the extra draft selections, Indianapolis didn't actually "earn" a pick. Compensatory picks add the equivalent of one round worth of selections to the draft. When there aren't enough awarded by the formula, the league adds picks for the near misses until it gets to 32.

One thing many people forget is that many of the biggest losses for the Colts were released. Only players who reach free agency with expiring contracts count here. So Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett and Curtis Painter were all let go and didn't factor in at all.

According to the NFL, these are the players who did factor into the equation for compensatory draft picks for Indianapolis.

Players lost: Jamaal Anderson (Cincinnati), Pierre Garcon (Washington), Dan Orlovsky (Tampa Bay), Jeff Saturday (Green Bay), Jacob Tamme (Denver), Philip Wheeler (Oakland).

Players signed: Guard Mike McGlynn, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, defensive end Cory Redding, center Samson Satele, quarterback Drew Stanton and safety Tom Zbikowski.

Stanton counted despite the fact that the Colts traded for him, because he was signed by the Jets as a free agent in 2012 before that deal. A player with such circumstances is part of the formula.

Garcon was the lone giant contract on either side of that ledger, and apparently the Colts did enough to offset that signing with what they brought in.

Here's the league's language explaining the process.
Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. The 32 compensatory choices announced today will supplement the 222 choices in the seven rounds of the 2013 NFL draft (April 25-27), which will kick off in prime time for the fourth consecutive year.

The first round will be held on Thursday, April 25 and begin at 8 p.m. ET. The second and third rounds are set for Friday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by rounds 4-7 on Saturday, April 27 at Noon ET.

This year, the compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.

Two clubs this year (Indianapolis and the New York Giants) will each receive a compensatory pick even though they did not suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents last year. Under the formula, the compensatory free agents lost by these clubs were ranked higher than the ones they signed (by a specified point differential based upon salary and performance).
When I started to think of my broad reflection of Jeff Saturday I circled to this piece.

"I've played 10 years man, it's only ended good once," Saturday said, referring to Super Bowl XLI at the end of the 2006 season. "It's awful. What are you going to say? How do you make that finish good? You come out with full expectations to beat this team and play bad. That sums it up."

That quote about the Colts’ staggering loss at San Diego was quintessential Saturday to me: candid, no-nonsense, real, revealing.

[+] EnlargeJeff Saturday and Jim Irsay
AP Photo/AJ MastJim Irsay signed Jeff Saturday to a one-day contract so that Saturday could retire a Colt.
History will always link Saturday to Peyton Manning, and there isn’t a center in football who wouldn’t be pleased to be tied to a quarterback of that quality. ("I rode his coattails for a long time,” Saturday said, per a transcript provided by the Colts.)

History too will remember his role in the CBA solution in 2011, and the picture of him hugging Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Saturday came out of contentious negotiations looking fantastic, something that's not easily done.

The classy Saturday was sure to hit on trainers and equipment men right along with family, fans, ownership and teammates as he offered thanks Thursday at an official retirement news conference at Colts headquarters.

He talked about all the guys he played with, listing 14 specifically, from Manning to Justin Snow.
"Those men had a tremendous impact on my life. This is why we play the game, right? The players, the camaraderie we have in the locker room is unlike anything else on this planet. How much fun I’ve had in that locker room, how much fun I’ve had on plane trips on the way back from wins, on events you have to do in the community, you name it. All the things that we get to do together as a group, it made this job a family for me. I loved playing with each and every one of those guys and all the players that I had the opportunity to play with. I’ve played with a number of men who truly made a marked difference on my life. I encourage people to be a part of this game for that reason. I've played other team sports, I’ve been involved in a lot of other things, but football is the ultimate team sport. These men became my family and made this thing a true sport. We made it happen and we watched the city turn into a football city and I watched all these men mature and have families. We began to do life together and that’s unparalleled and that’s something I will never forget and I always will remember."

He'll function as some sort of ambassador for the Colts as he figures out life in retirement. It will be fun to see how that role evolves and to see him around the team.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Reviewing the play of the outside linebackers in 2012 with Nick Scurfield of the Houston Texans web site.

The Texans defense needs reloading, says Patrick D. Starr of State of the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

Jeff Saturday’s biggest regret is that the Colts didn’t pursue the perfect season in 2009, writes Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.

A trip to visit the troops was life-altering for Clyde Christensen, says Mike Chappell of the Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Running through the Jaguars roster and considering where the biggest reconstruction is needed, with Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

How points per attempt weighs in on the Blaine Gabbert versus Chad Henne, from Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Tennessee Titans

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean expects the Titans will be able to keep Rob Bironas, and that they will chase Andy Levitre.

An apologetic letter from Vince Young to Jeff Fisher was like a lot of stuff from Young, too little too late, says Wyatt.
Reading the coverage around the AFC South…

Houston Texans

J.J. Watt will visit U.S. military bases as part of a USO tour this offseason, says Nick Scurfield of the team’s website.

The Texans didn’t use their franchise tag, says Scurfield.

Arian Foster says he’s done with Twitter, the Houston Chronicle points out.

To which I say: I’ll believe it when I see it over the long-term. But he’s a disciplined guy, so if there is a reason he wants off he can stay off.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts extended defensive tackle Fili Moala, retaining a guy who can continue to help a reshaped front once he gets healthy. The team’s website has the press release.

Jeff Saturday will retire as a Colt on Thursday, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

The Colts added a “Thanks for the memories” stripe to the Dwight Freeney banner hanging on Lucas Oil Stadium, says Chappell.

To which I say: Know it's not the first time they've done such a thing, but still classy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

A former Jaguars coach said Blaine Gabbert had a habit of passing the buck, a habit that earned him the nickname Blame Gabbert, says Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports.

To which I say: Wow, actual criticism of Gabbert from someone who's worked with him. The franchise has done incredible work shielding him from such things in his first two seasons.

Best player available doesn’t fit the reality of most draft rooms in the NFL, says John Oehser of

Tennessee Titans

Sidetracked by the Peyton Manning chase a year ago, the Titans didn’t want to expend energy fighting with Jared Cook over the level of his franchise tag. That’s one reason the Titans bagged the tag, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

You could say the Titans got their money’s worth out of their defense in 2012, because they didn’t spend much, says Wyatt.

Contract details for George Wilson, from Wyatt.

Saturday's Twitter mailbag

March, 2, 2013

RTC: Texans not negotiating, yet

February, 19, 2013
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

The Texans are not yet negotiating with any of their free-agents to be, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

Considering the occasions when Arian Foster split out wide leaving the Texans with an empty backfield, with Rivers McCown of Battle Red Blog.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are going to have somewhere between $43 and $46 million in cap room in an offseason that’s a big change for Ryan Grigson in his second year, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Jeff Saturday is expected to sign a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Colts, says Chappell.

To which I say: If it’s important to him and the team it’s fine, of course. I don’t understand why it’s necessary. Who’s ever going to think of Saturday as a Packer?

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville is not expected to use its franchise tag, though Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union makes a case for tagging cornerback Derek Cox.

To which I say: I like him a lot, but I can’t see paying Cox more than $10 million when his health is such a consistent question.

The Jaguars' new special teams coach, Bill Mallory, comes from a coaching family, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

Receiver Damian Williams and cornerback Alterraun Verner earned raises by hitting contractual incentives, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Reviewing the status of centers and defensive tackles in 2012 with Tom Gower of Total Titans.

RTC: Texans ticket prices going up

January, 28, 2013
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Texans ticket prices are going up an average of nearly 10 percent, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

To which I say: At least ticket buyers will get more for their money. Reliant Stadium will have upgraded, massive video boards.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck led all passers at the Pro Bowl, where Peyton Manning took one last snap from Jeff Saturday, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

TMZ didn’t know the Jaguars had slammed the door on Tim Tebow, so they asked Marcedes Lewis about him, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

Gregg Williams' last defense in New Orleans wasn’t much different than the Titans’ in 2012, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

RTC: Freeney on track to come back

October, 4, 2012
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Matt Schaub knows the Texans offense, has a feel for his line and his receivers and is off to the best start of his career, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Gary Kubiak needs to slow his roll with Arian Foster’s workload, says Lance Zierlein of the Houston Chronicle blogs.

To which I say: It’s still a relatively small sample size. When there's a game in which the Texans are forced to pass a lot and do a good job working in Ben Tate, Foster’s pace will be back in a more reasonable range.

Indianapolis Colts

We’ll find out what the Colts are made of after seeing how they deal with the heartache connected to Chuck Pagano’s illness, says Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.

To which I say: Yes, we will learn a lot about these guys. But responding well to a tough situation won’t close a talent gap in a lot of games.

Packers center Jeff Saturday is looking forward to being back in Indianapolis, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. Saturday said he’ll have to figure out where the visitor’s locker room is.

For the first time since he suffered a high ankle sprain early in the opener against Chicago, Dwight Freeney went through a full practice, says Phil Richards of the Star.

To which I say: Bruce Arians said the Colts need their five-star players to play big, and Freeney is certainly one of those guys. He’ll have to affect Aaron Rodgers for the Colts to have a chance to pull an upset of the Packers.

Jacksonville Jaguars

With Laurent Robinson not expected to play, Mike Thomas could find himself in a position to do more, again, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

To which I say: I didn’t see anything in camp and I haven’t heard anything since that says Thomas is a guy you want to be relying on again. But he’s another default to insufficient depth on this roster.

It doesn’t sound like Derek Cox is expecting to be shifted to play exclusively on Chicago’s Brandon Marshall Sunday against the Bears, says Gene Frenette of the T-U.

To which I say: If a team’s got a singular receiver, the Jaguars need to adjust their scheme to get their singular cornerback on him.

Tennessee Titans

Back in the lineup because of Jake Locker’s shoulder injury, Matt Hasselbeck said he will be looking to emphasize a crisp tempo, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

To which I say: That tempo will need to include getting the ball out fast in the face of Jared Allen’s rush.

It looks as if middle linebacker Colin McCarthy will return from three weeks missed with a high ankle sprain, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

To which I say: McCarthy can add a real jolt to the Titans defense, which suffered for lack of a quality backup middle linebacker.


RTC: Kareem Jackson's better

October, 3, 2012
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

“(Rex) Ryan has known (Wade) Phillips since he was a senior at Southwestern Oklahoma. His father, Buddy Ryan, was Philadelphia’s head coach in 1986, and Phillips was his defensive coordinator. Ryan knows what he’s up against, but so does Phillips.” John McClain of the Houston Chronicle takes a first look at Texans-Jets.

Taking shots at Kareem Jackson has become a sport in Houston, writes Jerome Solomon of the Chronicle. Now the cornerback might be hoping the ball comes his way so he can make a play.

Writes Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report: “There aren't any easy answers for why Houston has labored more than usual running the football. It's true the offensive line has been retooled, but many of the problems have come running to the left where Duane Brown still resides.”

Jackson’s improvement is a reason for optimism, says Battle Red Blog.

Indianapolis Colts

Among the primary storylines of the Packers-Colts game on Sunday, Jeff Saturday returns to Indianapolis, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star.

The brotherhood of NFL coaches is rallying around Chuck Pagano, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

On Bruce Arians and “testitude,” from Brad Wells of Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The first month of the season has been rocky for the Jaguars, with injuries, inconsistency and collective steps back, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. But there are no indications any major changes are afoot.

To which I say: The talent isn’t panning out.

A look at playing time against Cincinnati and what it meant, from O’Halloran.

Woes up front continue to set the Jaguars back, says Gene Frenette of the Times-Union.

“Despite a 1-3 record, the Jaguars managed to not look capable, effective or even hopeful in two full games (Texans and Bengals) while managing only spurts of effectiveness in their other two games (Vikings and Colts),” says Brandon Clark of Big Cat Country

Tennessee Titans

A look at several ugly projected numbers the Titans need to change course on to have any more success, from Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. After four games they’ve been outscored 41-13 in the first quarter alone.

To which I say: The first-quarter struggles are a giant issue that speak to game-planning, and if the Titans can't fare better at the start they'll fare poorly against lesser teams, too.

Kendall Wright is struggling, and Dunlevy has some pictures to illustrate it.

The snap report from the Texans game, via Tom Gower of Total Titans.