Running Game a Work in Progress

Heading into training camp, the Indianapolis Colts had one major goal — improve an anemic running game.

To that end, the Colts attempted to get bigger and more physical at the point of attack. Indianapolis released veteran offensive guard Ryan Lilja, a smaller but very effective performer, while adding offensive tackle Adam Terry (Baltimore) and offensive guard Andy Alleman (Kansas City).

Those plans took a big hit when Alleman suffered a back injury and was subsequently released. Two key starters, center Jeff Saturday (knee) and left offensive tackle Charlie Johnson (foot), were also hurt early and have missed valuable practice time.

Rookie Jacques McClendon, an offensive guard drafted in the fourth round, missed about a week of work with a sore knee. Also, offensive guard Tony Ugoh had slid inside from tackle and was pushing for a starting job. But he was moved back to tackle when Johnson was hurt.

The Colts have played most of the preseason with a makeshift starting offensive line that has featured center/offensive guard Jamey Richard along with offensive guards Mike Pollak, Kyle DeVan, Jaimie Thomas and McClendon.

Offensive line hasn't been the only area that has been hit by the injury bug. Wide receivers Anthony Gonzalez, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie have seen limited work as have tight end Dallas Clark, weak side linebacker Clint Session, middle linebacker Gary Brackett along with cornerbacks Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey.

Despite all the injuries, Colts coach Jim Caldwell likes the way that his team has progressed over the past few weeks.

"It has been good up to this point. I don't think there has been anything out of the ordinary. Every year you are faced with real challenges (such as injuries). Sometimes it hits one position more than others, but that is not unusual. I think that is your typical training camp," Caldwell said.

"As a matter of fact, I think those things serve to give you a little sense of what's going to happen during the season. What you have to do is embrace those challenges and difficulties and move forward. Like I have said time and time again, we have to find ways to emerge out of those situations stronger. I think that is the key."

Quarterback Peyton Manning isn't as much concerned by the Colts' preseason struggles as he is making sure that the team is ready for the Sept. 12 season opener at Houston.

"I would probably say that it's been a good training camp. We've gotten good work done. We have had a number of injuries that have put new guys in there, which I think in the long run we can make into a positive because some guys -- whether it's Jamey Richard at center or a defensive guy or Jacob Tamme getting more repetitions at tight end — that are going to have to play for us down the road in critical situations, I think it's been positive to get those guys so much work," Manning said.

"We are still in training camp mode. We are still working on things, still installing things. We need to use every day of these practices to get ready for (the Texans). We are still deciding what injured guys will be available. We are still tinkering with those things. I do think after these (next) two weeks, we will be ready."


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