Ugoh Ready To Step Up

Third-year offensive tackle Tony Ugoh has heard the talk from people outside of the Indianapolis Colts organization, questioning his toughness and his ability to play through injuries. But heading into the 2009 season, Ugoh is prepared to show everybody that the team did not make a mistake in making him a second-round draft pick in 2007.

"I'm expecting a pretty big jump," Ugoh said recently. "The only thing I can do is just keep working every day, like I've been doing, trying to get better."

A former standout at the University of Arkansas, Ugoh has started 23 games over the last two seasons. But, admittedly, his overall play has been up-and-down during that time. Not terrible, mind you. Just inconsistent.

The Colts are counting on more consistent performances from Ugoh this fall
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

After undergoing surgery on his right knee at the end of the 2008 season, he expects his overall performance to improve. So do his coaches and teammates.

"He's a very talented guy," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said. "He's big and physical. He has outstanding athleticism. He was a bit inconsistent last year from time to time. I think that's part of maturing in this league.

"I think you'll see that he's going to progress and come along and certainly play at a more consistently high level."

Quarterback Peyton Manning appreciates what Ugoh has been through during his first two years in the league. And he's got the offensive lineman's back, just like Ugoh has Manning's as a valuable back side pass blocker.

"Tony got thrown into the fire early as a rookie," Manning said. "He got drafted to learn for a year and the next thing you know he's playing right away. And besides quarterback, I think left tackle might be the second-toughest job to play as a rookie, just getting used to the speed, and it never does a lot for your confidence having to block (four-time Pro Bowl defensive end) Dwight Freeney every day in practice. That can be tough on a man's psyche.

"Tony is a great athlete. He's strong. He has good feet. He's worked hard in this offseason. Hopefully, we can keep him healthy. Obviously, he's important playing that left tackle spot, and we'll need him to have a big year this year. From what I've seen in this offseason his work ethic has hopefully taken him in the right direction."

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