The Main Storyline: Injuries

The main storyline of the Jaguars-Colts tilt this Sunday doesn't seem to be about the matchups on the field, but more so who won't be suiting up.

Jacksonville will be without three of their five starters on the offensive line, as Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams are done for the season, and Brad Meester is still recovering from a torn biceps. Wide receiver Jerry Porter will be questionable for the Jags, as will linebacker Justin Durant, who injured his groin in Sunday's game against Buffalo.

For Indianapolis, they will be going into battle without the reigning defensive player of the year, Bob Sanders, and will potentially be without center Jeff Saturday, left tackle Tony Ugoh, and possibly tight end Dallas Clark.

With both team's offensive lines banged up, the rushing totals have been down considerably. Jacksonville is 28th in the league in rushing, and Indianapolis is dead last.

"You see it in the stats, where you have four really, really quality backs who are averaging under three yards a carry," said Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy. "I think you could have made a ton of money if you would have said at this point in time Joseph Addai, Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor and Dominic Rhodes wouldn't be able to average three yards a carry. I think it definitely has to have something to do with that, but we have to find a way to get ours fixed and I'm sure they're the same way."

There are some signs of hope for Jacksonville's running game as a legion of backups including Milford Brown played well against a very tough Buffalo defensive line last Sunday.

"I'm encouraged because these guys have heart, character," said Jaguars all-time leading rusher Fred Taylor. "Last week we bring in Milford Brown and he goes in there after three days of install in practice, he plays his heart out. I'm sure he feels like he can do some things better, but that comes from preparation. I'm enthused. I'm excited that we're going to go up there and work. We have some young guys in there, but they're not backing down from anyone, and it's my job as a veteran leader to reiterate it, ‘Hey, we have to go, we have to go. You're all we got. So let's push this opportunity you've been waiting on and seize the moment.' So things like that, just to keep them going, keep them driving in the moment. So I'm excited. We're going to continue to push forward. Nobody's feeling sorry for us, so we can't waste energy feeling for ourselves."

The Jaguars are further hoping that their running game will be fixed due to the injury to Bob Sanders, a dynamic player who has transformed the Indianapolis defense from the first day of his arrival. Still, Jacksonville hasn't changed their preparation at all.

"Not really," said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio when asked if their preparation has changed. "We all know each other. Obviously, he's a very good football player. If I know Tony and I know the Colts, just like us, they're going to continue to do the things they believe in and expect the guys that step into that role to play well. So we'll prepare accordingly."

Fred Taylor echoed his head coach's sentiments—

"It's the same preparation from our end. A guy like Bob, I had an opportunity to really kind of holler at him a little bit. We met down at the Super Bowl, and it was cool. We had some appearances and we ran into each other quite a few times. I saw him with a sling on, and he was trying to get his shoulder right. You bust your butt the entire offseason in rehab and try to come back from one major injury, and then something like this comes out of nowhere. And myself, more than anybody else, I had to deal with so many different injuries early in my career that kept me sidelined. From that perspective, I can understand what he's going through. Right now, he's probably a little frustrated that he's a leader, and the team didn't have that fast start like they've always had with that first slip-up against Chicago. So he wants to be out there, no doubt in my mind he wants to be out there. And I would love for him to be out there. He's a great player. If you're going to play against a team full of scrubs, that's not fair, so I'd rather have Bob out there. They're going to give us their best shot, regardless."

Trying to fill the big shoes of Sanders will be safety Melvin Bullitt, who is in his second season from Texas A & M.

"It's probably going to be Melvin Bullitt," Dungy said. "Melvin played the fourth quarter of the (Minnesota) game and did a good job in there. We actually played a little bit better, with the team effort, I don't know that Melvin played better than Bob did, but we stopped (Vikings RB-Adrian) Peterson a little bit better in that fourth quarter."

Thus far Dungy has liked what he's seen from Bullitt, and in confident in his abilities.

"Melvin's a tough guy, Dungy said. "He has athleticism and he's smart. He's learning his game and he'll do a good job."

The game on Sunday will not be decided by the big names that are missing, but by the fill-ins that will be suiting up. The Jaguars are hoping that they have better depth than the Colts on Sunday.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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