The Colts will take an 11-2 record and have clinched their sixth straight trip to the playoffs heading into Sunday's road game at Oakland. But Indianapolis has played without the services several starters for most of the season (defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland, linebacker Rob Morris, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, defensive end Dwight Freeney).
McFarland (knee), Morris (knee) and Freeney (foot) are done for the year. Harrison (knee), meanwhile, is expected back at some point over the team's final three regular season games.
Other key players — running back Joseph Addai, linebacker Freddy Keiaho, defensive tackle Raheem Brock, offensive tackle Ryan Diem, offensive tackle Tony Ugoh, tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez — have also missed game time early this season which means that Indianapolis has gotten a lot of production from its bench in 2007.
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Veteran role players such as linebackers Rocky Boiman and Tyjuan Hagler, offensive tackles Charlie Johnson and Michael Toudouze, tight ends Ben Utecht and Bryan Fletcher and defensive end Josh Thomas have been aided by rookies like defensive tackles Ed Johnson, Keyunta Dawson and Quinn Pitcock in helping to fill the gaps.
One of the most interesting developments has been the progress of Gonzalez, the Colts' first-round draft pick last spring. Slated to be Indianapolis' slot receiver this season, he missed some playing time recovering from a dislocated thumb after being moved to an outside receiving spot in taking over for Harrison.
The former Ohio State standout hadn't played outside receiver since high school. But he has continued to become more acclimated to his new and expanded role in the Colts' passing offense.
"We went through a stage there when we had Marvin out, Dallas was out for a little bit. We were moving people around and guys were playing at different spots. But we've been able to settle down. Anthony (Gonzalez) has gotten comfortable in his role outside and we're running the ball well. I think guys understand what they have to do," said Colts coach Tony Dungy.
"We are looking forward to getting Marvin back and being able to slide Anthony back inside and really get to our full complement. But I can't say enough about what guys have done who have stepped in. Charlie Johnson, Michael Toudouze, (running back) Kenton Keith, Bryan Fletcher. It just seems like everybody who has gone in has contributed."