Behind Enemy Lines, Part II

Matthew Postins and Ed Thompson continue their pregame breakdown of the Buccaneers-Colts matchup, discussing the Colts' injury situation, how to get pressure on Peyton Manning, rookie OT Tony Ugoh, Tony Dungy's future in Indy and more!

Matthew Postin:  The Colts took a real hit in the injury department against Denver. Linebacker Rob Morris, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, tight end Ben Utecht, safety Bob Sanders and running back Joseph Addai could all be out on Sunday. This question actually has two parts. First, what is each player's status. Second, of those five, which is the one player the Colts can't do without on Sunday?

Ed Thompson:  Morris had surgery this week for a torn tendon in his knee and is out for the season. Harrison has a knee strain and is day-to-day, but probably won't practice until the end of the week -- if at all. Joseph Addai bruised his shoulder, and while I would expect backup Kenton Keith to see increased playing time, I'd be surprised if Addai misses a full game, especially since the Colts have a bye week after the Bucs game. Sanders has a bruised chest and left the game early. They will likely be very cautious with him for two reasons -- he's instrumental to the long-term success of the defense and the Colts have a very capable safety who can step in.  Third-year player Matt Giordano is a big hitter in his own right, a smart player and very fast. For people who don't know Giordano, he's the guy who closed the gap on and nearly tackled Devin Hester on the opening kickoff return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Utecht appears to be the least likely of the group to play. Since the Colts have a very solid tight end in Bryan Fletcher -- who finished the game for Utecht last week -- it would be surprising to see Utecht out there on Sunday when the bye week would certainly let him clear the cobwebs out. 

Out of that list of players, I'd say Addai would big the biggest hit. The Colts have plenty of good receivers, and running back Kenton Keith had an impressive showing last week subbing for Addai. But we haven't seen how Keith would perform over a full four quarters of play yet. And if he got nicked, the Colts would have inexperienced fullback Luke Lawton and rookie Clifton Dawson coming off the bench. Dawson, who the Colts initially planned to put on their practice squad, just re-joined the team about a week ago after being spending the last few weeks on the Bengals roster.

MP:  Is there any way to get pressure on Peyton Manning? It would seem that this guy gets all the time in the world to throw the football. Is there any way the Bucs can get to him on Sunday?

ET:  It's not easy. The only times that I've seen teams have much success is when they have the ability to disguise their blitzes well enough that Manning doesn't call the proper audible to offset it. Even then, he's so quick mentally that he'll find an outlet or simply throw it away. With the Colts defense playing well, he doesn't hesitate to throw it away if he can avoid a sack. That said, the Colts' offensive line has the benefit of having their entire unit -- other than rookie Tony Ugoh -- working together since the second half of the 2004 season, so their chemistry and communication out there is evident. And they are coached by one of the best offensive line coaches in the business, Howard Mudd.

MP: Two big changes in the offseason were the elevation of rookie Tony Ugoh to the starting lineup for Tarik Glenn and the need to replace former Buc Anthony McFarland at under tackle, who is out for the season with an injury. How has Ugoh performed and who has stepped into McFarland's shoes?

Tony Ugoh and Marvin Harrison
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

ET:  Ugoh's been impressive for a rookie. I just did some game tape analysis for our site this week that focused on the Colts' running game. His primary foe in the Denver game last week was someone Bucs fans are very familiar with -- Simeon Rice.  And other than on a handful of plays, he was holding his own out there. Even when Rice got a decent push, he was held off long enough that he couldn't make a play. He only had one tackle and no sacks on the day against Ugoh. 

As for McFarland's replacement, defensive tackle Ed Johnson has been the surprise talent out of this year's rookies. The former Penn State player wasn't drafted. And get this -- he wasn't even signed by any team immediately following the NFL Draft during the intial flurry of signings. The Colts added him a to the roster on May 18th, almost three weeks after the draft. Johnson had a couple of incidents in college that were characterized primarily as mischievous and immature by our Penn State team expert on the network, but it cost Johnson a one-semester suspension by the school. And then shortly before his bowl game his senior year, he broke one of those "unspecified" team rules and was suspended, so he missed his last appearance as a Nittany Lion. That obviously sent up some red flags amongst teams around the league. From what I've heard, the Colts -- who have some good personal ties in their organization to Penn State -- called up Joe Paterno and asked about Johnson and received a good report on him -- so they took a chance. In hindsight, it was a huge move because he's not only helped the running game with his size, he has pretty good quickness hitting his gap assignment on passing plays. And at the time he was picked up, the Colts had no idea they were going to lose McFarland for the season.

MP:  What is different about this team after last year's Super Bowl? It appears, on the surface, that they've been able to recover from the inevitable defections that a Super Bowl championship appears to bring?

ET: Their biggest defections were on defense at the cornerback positions (Nick Harper and Jason David) and at the weakside linebacker spot (Cato June). But the Colts have become masterful at projecting who they'll be unable to hold onto a couple of years in advance. So as you watch their draft moves, you're usually seeing them filling needs that they know they'll have a year or two out. Two years ago they used their top two picks on Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, who stepped right in for Harper and David with some experience and a full understanding of how to be successful in this scheme. And they're actually more physical corners than the veterans they replaced, so they're actually an upgrade. A little over a year ago, many Colts fans were surprised or outraged when the Colts used their third-round pick on a linebacker out of San Diego State. Fans wondered why they grabbed a linebacker and asked "Freddy who?" Seventeen months later, Freddy Keiaho is Cato June's replacement and is showing the same speed, intelligence and emotional fire that June brought to the position. Keiaho dislocated his elbow in the season opener but kept playing. He missed Week 2 but has returned the past two weeks wearing a special brace that limits him a bit, but he still managed to register a team-leading 12 tackles last week.

MP:  How much longer will Tony Dungy coach? There was talk that Dungy might retire after the Super Bow title, but he came back for another season. Is there a sense in Indy that he's at the end of his career? Dungy once told people he wanted to retire from coaching at age 50 to concentrate on off-the-field endeavors.

ET:  I really didn't believe that he would retire after the Super Bowl. This team has become like family to him, and to walk away from them right after they had achieved a goal they had worked on together for years would have been like saying, "Okay, I got what I wanted, so it's time to go." And that's not like Tony Dungy at all. I think he'll even be hard-pressed to walk away if the Colts are able to repeat. My sense is he knows that what's going on in Indy right now between the ownership, scouting department, coaching staff and the players is something you rarely get to see and experience in the NFL. I think -- even though he's got an amazing check on his ego -- that he realizes he's an essential ingredient to that magic in Indy right now, and removing himself from the equation could short-circuit a wonderful and perhaps historic run for everyone else involved. I think he would see that as selfish. At least I hope so, because it would be really great to see just how far this organization can go over the next few years if they can keep the key people intact.

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