NFL Nation: Eric Foster
Thanks to Mac’s Football Blog, where you can find complete team-by-team lists that include exclusive right and restricted free agents.
QB Kerry Collins – He may not have filed paperwork, but he’s retired.
QB Dan Orlovsky – Showed enough to be on a roster in the league as a third quarterback in a crowded situation or a backup somewhere with a sure-fire starter.
WR Pierre Garcon – He’s inconsistent, but this team needs a speed receiver for Andrew Luck and it’s better to keep the one they’ve been developing than going searching.
WR Anthony Gonzalez – Was completely in the doghouse at the end and could not get on the field. Probably needs to sign for a season, in Indy or elsewhere, and prove he can be healthy and contribute.
WR Reggie Wayne – Has said he’d stay and be honored to be part of a rebuild, but they’d have to be fair. Other teams will court him and somebody will pay him better than the Colts would if they pursued him, I suspect.
TE Jacob Tamme – Was quite a good receiving option for Peyton Manning in 2010, but how much of that was Manning? I think Tamme is a valuable piece they should want back and can certainly afford.
OT Ryan Diem – Did well to serve as a veteran example for a young line and was flexible, playing some guard. But his time is going to be up.
OG Mike Pollak – Has played a lot and not gotten a lot better. They got new tackles last year; it’s time for a new guard or two.
OC Jeff Saturday – If Manning is gone, it would make sense to turn the page with Saturday, too. Reportedly the Colts and at least one other team would like him in their front offices.
DE Robert Mathis – Will be a commodity, for sure. Never mind his age. He can help you rush the passer for the next three years. Colts should want to keep him, but will they pay what he costs?
LB Philip Wheeler – If the Colts are getting bigger on defense, they’ll probably move on here. He’s consistently failed to get in or stay in the lineup for extended stretches in a defense for which he’s better suited.
"We (are) going to have to start bringing in some next men," Saturday said.
Monday night in a loss at Tampa Bay, defensive tackle Eric Foster dislocated his right ankle. Tuesday he had season-ending surgery. Starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo left the stadium with a boot on his left foot and walking with the aid of crutches and his replacement, Ben Ijalana, had to be helped off the field in the fourth quarter after damaging his left knee, Chappell says.
According to the report, Ijalana could be out for the season with ACL damage.
The team is expected to elevate one of the defensive tackles from its practice squad, Ricardo Matthews or Ollie Ogbu.
The Colts were already thin on the offensive line before Monday night’s game, with Ryan Diem out and Joe Reitz hurting. They signed offensive tackle Mike Tepper from the practice squad Monday afternoon. He wound up playing right tackle after Castonzo and Ijalana went down.
We’ll learn more about the offensive linemen today.
But things are certainly a mess on the injury front. Again.
They defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 24-17, at Raymond James Stadium, put together their first three-game winning streak since Raheem Morris took over as coach in 2009, sold out a home game for the first time in a long time, and also kept pace with the New Orleans Saints (3-1) atop the NFC South.
Let’s pause with the positives right there, because the way things transpired Monday night left lots of room to wonder if the Bucs really are ready for prime time and if they really can hang with the Saints for the long haul. Let’s turn it over to rookie defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who capsulized his fourth NFL game accurately.
“Things were very ugly,’’ said Clayborn, who was credited with a sack, two quarterback hurries and a tackle for a loss. “We battled through it. It was sloppy. But it’s about whoever comes out with a win and we did.’’
With time, the ugliness Clayborn talked about might fade. If the Bucs keep winning, this one will look a lot better in the standings come playoff time.
“We’ve got a goal,’’ said second-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who finished with a team-high six tackles, one sack, three tackles for losses and two quarterback hurries. “We want to win our division.’’
That’s a great goal, but the Bucs aren’t going to win against the Saints -- and maybe not even against the Atlanta Falcons or the Carolina Panthers -- if they continue to play the way they did most of the night against the Colts. Let the record show that Indianapolis was not quarterbacked by Peyton Manning. Or even Kerry Collins.
They started Curtis Painter at quarterback. They were forced to play third-stringer Mike Tepper, signed off the practice squad a few days ago, at left tackle in the second half after injuries took their toll. The Colts also lost defensive tackle Eric Foster to an ankle injury that looked even more gruesome than most of the ugliness on the field.
Despite all that, the Colts (0-4) outplayed the Bucs much of the night. The Colts jumped out to a 10-0 lead and led 17-10 midway through the third quarter when Painter hit Pierre Garcon with a 59-yard touchdown pass. Tampa Bay’s tackling ability looked like that of a youth-league team on that play.
The Buccaneers were penalized 14 times for 106 yards. For the longest time the highlight of their offense seemed to be a short dump play to running back/fullback Earnest Graham. They ran that play a number of times and amassed 27 yards on three completions, although there were several passes to Graham that were called back because of penalties.
Speaking of penalties, there was a strange one in the final seconds of the first half. With the Colts leading 10-7, the Bucs tried to get a quick field goal as the clock ran down. Kicker Connor Barth actually got on the field and put the ball through the uprights.
But the field goal didn’t count because the Bucs were penalized for having 12 men on the field as they tried to get the offense off the field and the field-goal unit on it. That call led to a rather strange halftime scene. Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik, normally a pretty calm guy, came into the press box to talk to replay officials.
Without ever truly losing his temper or fully raising his voice, Dominik questioned the call. He argued that receiver Dezmon Briscoe was jumping off the field before the ball was snapped.
“It was as clear as day,’’ Dominik said loud enough to be overheard by a large portion of the media contingent. He also suggested the Colts had 12 men on the field as well. He later came back at the start of the third quarter and had a quieter and more diplomatic conversation with the officials.
But all the murkiness didn’t really clear up until running back LeGarrette Blount broke free on a 35-yard run for a touchdown up the middle with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left in the game. That’s when Tampa Bay scored the final points and took the lead for the first time.
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesDespite sharing a lead with the Saints in the NFC South, it's unclear whether Tampa Bay is for real.
That’s been the story of Tampa Bay’s three victories and even their opening loss to Detroit. The Bucs start slowly, but they hang around and, more often than not, they’ve found a way to win it at the end.
That formula works against struggling teams like the Colts. But here’s the thing to keep in mind: Although the nation got to see the Bucs on Monday night, we still really don’t know what they’re all about.
We’re going to find out very soon. The Bucs travel to San Francisco on Sunday to play a 49ers team that’s started better than a lot of people expected. They then get to fly back across the country for a home game with the Saints, who are every bit as good as people expected. After that, the Bucs fly out of the country to take on the Chicago Bears in a “home game’’ in London on Oct. 23.
After that, they get a bye week before facing the Saints again -- in New Orleans.
Between now and then, we’ll find out what we didn’t find out Monday night. We’ll discover if the Bucs are any good.
This is the NFL’s youngest team and there have been some positive signs. McCoy, Clayborn and a very young defensive line continue to show promise. Second-year receiver Preston Parker is becoming a playmaker. Blount can wear down a defense and Freeman usually seems to have a steady hand when it matters most.
“A win is a win,’’ center Jeff Faine said. “As long as we keep stacking them up, we’re headed in a positive direction.’’
Faine’s absolutely right. But the wins aren’t going to be so easy to stack up in the coming weeks unless the Bucs take lots more steps in a positive direction. The wins aren’t going to come unless the Bucs do a lot of cleaning up quickly.
What it means: The Colts are 0-4 for the first time since 1998, and while things have gotten a bit better they are still flailing. They rank with the Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings as the NFL’s remaining winless teams.
What I didn’t like: A gruesome leg injury suffered by defensive tackle Eric Foster that left teammates ashen-faced and fearful. Clearly in great pain, he pounded his chest and the roof of the cart as he was taken from the field with his leg in a blow-up brace. The Colts also lost starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo and his backup, fellow rookie Ben Ijalana, to injuries. That meant Mike Tepper, signed off the practice squad earlier in the day, was with the starting offense at the conclusion of the game.
What I liked: The inconsistent Pierre Garcon made two giant plays for Curtis Painter, for 87- and 59-yard touchdowns. While he lost a fumble and absorbed four sacks, his 13-for-30, 281-yard effort with the two scores and no picks was a good enough effort to win.
Not assertive enough: With 8:27 left in the third quarter of a 10-10 game, Painter threw an incomplete pass on a third-and-less-than-a-yard from near midfield. Then the Colts punted. The Colts have to run there, and if they don't then they have to run on fourth down. For years we’ve talked about how they need to be able to run for a yard. Even with a dinged up offensive line, Delone Carter can’t get a yard?
Ugly numbers: The Colts allowed 466 net yards, left their defense on the field for 39 minutes and let Tampa Bay get away with 14 penalties worth 106 yards.
Still wondering: After watching Terrence Johnson, Jacob Lacey and Chris Rucker work as cornerbacks, I was still left wondering why the Colts decided to release Justin Tryon last week.
What’s next: The Colts host Kansas City, which just got its first win Sunday. The Chiefs could provide Indianapolis’ best chance to win yet.
Peyton Manning and Kerry Collins are both on the inactive list. Also inactive for the Colts are receiver Anthony Gonzalez, defensive back Kevin Thomas, linebacker Ernie Sims, guard Ryan Diem and defensive tackle Fili Moala.
The Colts said Eric Foster will start in Moala’s place. Mike Pollack will start at right guard in Diem’s place.
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.
What it means: The Colts are at 6-6, in second place in the AFC South, a game plus a tie-breaker behind 7-5 Jacksonville.
What I didn’t like: Four picks by Peyton Manning, two were returned for touchdowns, two turned into field goals. With Dallas scoring 20 points off turnovers, the thinned out Colts simply couldn’t overcome things without a takeaway of their own. Tashard Choice had 100 yards rushing for a career day. The Cowboys had a 217-40 advantage in rushing yards and had eight third down conversions in 15 chances.
What I liked: An awful lot of fight to pull even after trailing 17-0 at the start and by 13 entering the fourth quarter. A ridiculous, 14-catch, 200-yards, one-touchdown day from Reggie Wayne. Two rushing touchdowns from Javarris James. A blocked punt and a resulting touchdown from Taj Smith.
Major gaffe: A leverage penalty against Eric Foster on a late Dallas field-goal attempt in regulation gave the Cowboys a first down and allowed them to ultimately score a go-ahead touchdown and 2-point conversion. The Colts offense bailed Foster out with a giant touchdown drive to force overtime. But they could have been in position to win it.
What’s next: The Colts have a quick turnaround and a Thursday night game in Nashville against the Titans in an AFC South matchup.
In the case of Manning and the Colts, it’s fittingly symbolic.
Some teams may match Indianapolis’ business-like approach. I don’t know that anyone surpasses it.
Serious has produced a lot of success in the Manning era. Preparation and semi-stoic personalities are staple elements of the team’s culture.
Colts president Bill Polian is a serious guy. Head coach Jim Caldwell is a serious guy. Manning is a serious guy. Their humor tends to be understated or deadpanned. Manning’s known for telegenic sarcasm, not whoopee cushions and hand buzzers.
A good organization takes on the personality of people in those positions, and most of the Colts follow the lead of the team’s power trinity.
I’m not around the team daily, but I’ve spent a good bit of time with the Colts since 2008. Big personalities are a big part of the NFL. But even the Colts’ bubbliest guys -- Gary Brackett, Jeff Saturday, Pat McAfee -- often strive to be reserved. (I bet McAfee shows a lot less personality than he used to when he returns from a one-game suspension for an alcohol-related arrest.)
Players in Indianapolis sometimes try to be uninteresting and bland. It’s safer. It takes less time. It can’t become a distraction.
Given all that serious and calm, I sometimes wonder where having fun ranks in the team’s pyramid of success. It’s something I’ve pondered since training camp and something I think can be looked at, like chemistry, as a chicken-and-egg question.
Do you need success to have fun? Do you need to have fun to have success?
Caldwell gave me a nice chunk of time on the subject during training camp.
“I think success breeds fun,” said Caldwell, whose team meets the Houston Texans in an AFC South showdown on Monday night (ESPN, 8:30 ET). “Guys have to believe in what you’re doing, they have to be able to in execute it, and that’s hard work. It’s discipline, it’s fortitude, it’s toughness. All of those things -- there is no easy way to get that done.
“I really do believe the fun comes after. And you can enjoy it. These guys enjoy it and have passion for what we do. Passion, enthusiasm -- those are high on the list. That’s different than fun. And I think fun comes after winning. That’s my take on it.”
Weekly preparations can be monotonous. There are moments in an NFL day and times in an NFL week that laughter can help pass time better than anything. I am sure the Colts, like other teams, have plenty of those times.
But you won’t come across stories of the Colts dressing up rookies in Halloween costumes for a flight or of a position group deciding to all grow mustaches or mullets. You won’t find two of their top players doing a reality show on Versus or a star with a weekly fantasy football radio show.
Stuff like that just isn’t part of the way the Colts operate, and their fun comes in different, less visible, ways.
“I think when you think of the Colts, you think of the mellow-type guys who take everything business-like and serious,” second-year cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “But we’ve got a lot of jokes going on on this team. We’ve got a lot of different personalities. You see Dan Muir and Eric Foster and them in pregame warm-ups trying to see who can dance the best. You’ve got Peyton in the funny commercials and all that. They bring that type of excitement to the team.
“We have fun, we cut up and play around. But when it’s time for football, that’s what it is: It’s football.”
And while Caldwell might go into great detail about work and discipline, fortitude and toughness, he does talk fun too.
“When Coach Caldwell has a meeting, it’s ‘We’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that, we’ve got to do this.’ But he always ends with ‘let’s have fun and win,’ ” Powers said. “People take it to heart … I think we have fun, just in our own way. You might not see a guy going out of the ordinary, trying to get attention. But we have fun out there.”
And laughs and smiles and jokes are hardly the only measure of whether football players are having fun.
Seeing a smart plan work is fun. Executing with a precision that frustrates an opponent is fun. Carrying a coaching tip into a game and seeing it work against an opponent is fun. (Cashing large paychecks must be fun, too.)
Clyde Christensen, a Tony Dungy disciple who is now Caldwell’s offensive coordinator, said he looks at the whole job and setting as fun.
“I just give them the same bullet points that I have with my life, you know?" Christensen said. "What a great privilege to make your living in football. I’m going to enjoy it, I’m going to enjoy every day, I’m going to enjoy practice, I’m going to enjoy the guys.
“Now I have found ... winning is really fun. But I’m going to enjoy it either way. I love doing it, I love coaching, I love teaching, I love being around these guys, I like the relationships; I enjoy all that’s part of it. It is an awful lot of fun to win a football game. It’s an awful good feeling to head into that locker room with the guys you did that with.”
Things differ from guy to guy. Christensen cited injured tight end Dallas Clark as a fun-all-the-time type. Caldwell knows he comes across differently, and freely admits he doesn’t relax much until his work is done. There might be a few weeks during the offseason when he really asks if he’s finished.
Everything else qualifies as prep time.
“Our guys enjoy playing. Just watch our guys when they take the field -- there is a lot of enthusiasm, they have a great time,” he said. “But I also believe this: the fun is in winning. In our preparation to do so, we have a good time.”
- Joseph Addai showed great burst and was slippery on his 17-yard touchdown run.
- Jacob Tamme found a nice space between three defenders and Peyton Manning put a perfect pass there for a 21-yard score.
- Bob Sanders was back on the field for the first time since Nov. 1, 2009.
- Curtis Painter fared far better than he did in the preseason opener, completing 5 of 6 passes for 97 yards, a touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
- Devin Moore had a nice night as a return man, with two punt returns for 51 yards and four kickoff returns for 129 yards.
- Dwight Freeney and Antoine Bethea were among the players who slipped off of C.J. Spiller during the rookie’s 31-yard touchdown run.
- The Colts stutter-started with early penalties against Ramon Humber and Tony Ugoh and a Manning tipped-ball interception that was returned for a touchdown.
- Just one sack, from Eric Foster.
- Three lost fumbles, including one from Ray Fisher who’s trying to win a return job.
- Not that they care, but ... this was Indy's 21st loss in its last 25 preseason games.
AFC East wizard Tim Graham was there to look at things from a Buffalo perspective. Here are his notes and his column on Spiller.
Item No. 1 on virtually every team's list of needs after the 2008 season was defensive tackle. A new head coach with a new defensive coordinator would still want quick interior linemen, but a little more beef would help the team better tamp down the run.
Thus, the Colts selected Fili Moala out of USC in the second round of the 2009 draft. They grabbed Terrance Taylor from Michigan in the fourth round. They recruited Adrian Grady from Louisville as an undrafted free agent. They ultimately brought back veteran Ed Johnson, who had been waived early in the 2008 season.
Things were going to appear a whole lot different between veteran defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
Months later, here stand the Colts, a game away from their second Super Bowl in four seasons. The three defensive tackles who will key the run-stopping efforts Sunday against the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game are... the same three guys they intended to replace with upgrades.
New York has a Pro Bowl center in Nick Mangold and a Pro Bowl left guard in Alan Faneca, two key pieces of an offensive line that blocks for the NFL’s top rushing team. The Colts will counter with starting defensive tackles Antonio Johnson, Daniel Muir and Eric Foster as the primary changeup.
Of all the "upgrades," only second-rounder Moala stuck -- and he's inactive when the guys ahead of him are healthy.
The three holdovers are used to beating long odds. Antonio Johnson was signed off the Tennessee Titans' practice squad in early November 2008 and played eight games with the Colts that season. Muir was a waiver claim from the Green Bay Packers in late August 2008. Foster was an undrafted free agent from Rutgers signed in 2008.
And so it’s no-names versus big-names in the trenches when the Jets have the ball at Lucas Oil Stadium, and it could be the matchup most telling in who wins the AFC title and advances to the Super Bowl.
The Rams' best offensive tackle might be Adam Goldberg, at least for now.
That was my thinking after watching every snap of the Rams' 42-6 home defeat to the Colts in Week 7.
|Scott Rovak/US Presswire|
|Dwight Freeney was a regular presence in the Rams’ backfield on Sunday.|
It's a credit to Goldberg and also a poor reflection on the state of the position in St. Louis. Rookie first-round draft choice Jason Smith will of course improve once he makes what appears to be a challenging adjustment to the NFL from a spread offense in college. The other tackle, 2005 first-round choice Alex Barron, does not appear to be enhancing his value significantly while playing left tackle in a contract year.
Smith and Barron were generally not competitive in their matchups with Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, in my view. Freeney is a great player, and most tackles have a hard time against him. Players such as Freeney lead teams to use first-round draft choices on offensive tackles. The Rams have done that, but they are not enjoying the payoff at this time.
Smith played both tackle positions against the Colts. I counted six snaps at left tackle and 22 snaps at right tackle. Freeney beat Smith for a sack on Smith's fifth snap at left tackle. Smith missed Colts defensive tackle Eric Foster on Smith's second snap at right tackle. The Rams threw an interception on the play. Defensive end Robert Mathis decked Smith on one play and beat him on another.
If you are the Rams, you're sifting through these defeats for clues pointing to a brighter future. Those clues have sometimes been tougher to find than one might have expected given how many high draft choices the Rams have used in recent seasons.
With veteran defensive end James Hall out, 2008 No. 2 overall choice Chris Long started at right defensive end. Long played all but one snap by my count, all on the right side. He made a few good plays and hit Peyton Manning a couple of times. Other times, the Colts blocked him effectively with only a tight end, usually Dallas Clark.
Hall and Leonard Little (when reasonably healthy) probably remain the best defensive ends on the team.
The Rams have other young players who have performed well. One of them, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, is facing two serious knee surgeries. Another, James Laurinaitis, looks like a long-term starter at middle linebacker. Safety Craig Dahl has made a positive impact at times. Receiver Donnie Avery flashes ability occasionally, though injuries are consistently a concern.
Overall, though, the Rams need to see more. I hope to take a closer look at them during their bye week.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky
The Colts did Ed Johnson a big disservice the way they handled his release.
|Don McPeak/US Presswire|
|Ed Johnson (92) had 11 tackles and no sacks through four games.|
Johnson was cut last season for violating a zero-tolerance policy in place for him regarding off-the-field issues. He was brought back this season with those same strict guidelines.
Considering the fanfare that greeted his return, that he was a starter since he was reinstated from his Week 1 suspension and that there had been no public questioning of his play, the team had to know a release without explanation was going to prompt suspicions he’d done something wrong off the field.
Coach Jim Caldwell admitted as much when he began to address it Wednesday.
“I know some might wonder whether or not it was a character issue,” he said.
If you knew, coach, why wouldn’t you seek to clarify that it was not as soon as possible? Isn’t that what you would have liked for someone to do for you if you were in a similar circumstance?
The team could have simply put out a statement Tuesday or have word passed down from on high that it was a production issue, not a behavioral one.
Here’s Caldwell’s entire explanation about how the move was tied to the addition of kicker Matt Stover.
“We released Ed Johnson. I know some might wonder whether or not it was a character issue. It was not. We had to take a real good look at our roster and see where we may be able to make an adjustment here or there to get another guy on it. (With) Ed (it) was more production than anything else.
On if rookie defensive tackle Fili Moala will now be in the rotation:
“Yes. Antonio Johnson is still there and Dan Muir along with Fili will rotate along with Eric Foster. We will still have a four-man rotation. I believe he [Moala] will do just like we expect him to do. There are a lot of young guys who come in and step up and are able to do the job, and we expect the same from him. He has shown, the last couple of weeks in particular, he has really come along. He has made some strides. We are going to have an opportunity to get him out there and see what he can do.”
On the reason for the Ed Johnson release:
“It was production or lack thereof.”
On when Adam Vinatieri’s knee injury came about:
“Last week is when the issue arose where it required a MRI and from that, we made a decision on what to do and how to go about it. He wanted to fight through it and continue to go, but we felt this was the best course of action.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Titans’ secondary has been shaky and he’s not alone. But heading into his third year, he should be communicating better and not making gigantic mistakes.
2. Jaguars defense: Zero sacks and only one hit on Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, who set a record with his completion percentage from a nearly spotless 24-of-26, 243-yard day with two touchdowns and a 131.2 passer rating.
If the Jaguars can’t generate any pressure, Matt Schaub will be the next signal-caller to pick them apart.
3. Colts interior defensive line: They were exhausted for how many snaps they had to play. But the Indianapolis tackles need to be more productive collapsing the pocket and stuffing the run when the ends draw attention as they did in Miami.
Ed Johnson, Antonio Johnson, Eric Foster, Raheem Brock and Daniel Muir need to do more. The bulkier Johnson and Johnson are supposed to have more impact against the run.
Clark was spectacular in Miami as the Dolphins concentrated on limiting Reggie Wayne. With seven catches for 183 yards he produced the fourth biggest game for a tight end since 1970. His ability to run after the catch was fantastic.
He was a nightmare for the Titans’ secondary all day, and showed why the offense must flow thorough him. Schaub threw in his direction twice as much as anyone else, finding him 10 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns.
He did so much so fast that the quick production almost hurt the Titans’ chances to establish an offensive rhythm. If he keeps it up, they’ll happily adjust.