By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts hope to find their running game Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars visit Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indianapolis struggled to get its run game untracked last season as injuries along the offensive line, as well as a sore-kneed Joseph Addai, slowed the Colts to a virtual crawl. The team was ranked 31st in the NFL and last in the AFC in rushing a year ago, averaging a paltry 79.6 yards per game.
But things are looking better as the Colts prepare for the season opener with Jacksonville. Addai had knee surgery in the offseason and looks to have the burst that he exhibited as a rookie.
The addition of 2009 first-round draft pick Donald Brown is expected to help. Brown saw limited work during the preseason, but displayed some big-play skills that Indianapolis has been lacking out of the offensive backfield.
As for the offensive line, Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday is back and is healthy. He was sidelined with knee and leg injuries a year ago. The same goes for veteran offensive guard Ryan Lilja, who missed all of last season after undergoing multiple knee surgeries. That combination alone should provide a big boost to Indianapolis’ inside running game.
Addai and Brown are expected to split most of the duty, with Chad Simpson also available. But there has not been any set plan for the amount of work either of the Colts’ top two running backs will get this season.
“We haven’t really sat down to really talk about that in any detail as of yet. We’ll do that [this] morning. We’ll sit down and just kind of visit a little bit about it. But we haven’t come up with a definite number of carries, plays for each individual as of yet,” Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell said Thursday.
Statistically speaking, the Colts still may have a ways to go before getting back to the level that they showed during Indianapolis’ road to Super Bowl XLI. The team averaged just 67 yards on the ground during the preseason.
“We feel really good about what we’ve been able to accomplish [in the preseason],” Caldwell said. “Our preparation’s been good. But the proof is in the pudding. Like anything else, we have to get out there and perform. And we have a team [Jacksonville] that’s going to put us to the test. They have a good strong [defensive] front and a very, very capable linebacking corps. They defend the run very well.
“We have a great corps of guys [on the offensive line]. Just a tremendous group. We certainly feel that has had a lot to do [with the past success of the Indianapolis running game] because of the fact that they’ve been around. They understand our [offensive] system very, very well.”
• Petrowski on Colts injured reserve list — Former Indiana State and Terre Haute North tight end Jamie Petrowski has been placed on Indianapolis’ injured reserve list.
Petrowski, who signed with the Colts midway through the 2008 season, injured his left foot in the Colts’ final preseason game. There has not been any announcement from either the team or from the player’s representative on the extent of the injury.
Also on the injured reserve list are cornerback Nick Graham (foot), wide receiver Roy Hall (knee), defensive end Rudolph Hardie (knee), and safety Travis Key (hamstring).
• Powers to start? — It looks as if rookie cornerback Jerraud Powers may be in the Colts’ defensive starting lineup Sunday against Jacksonville.
Powers, Indianapolis’ third-round draft pick last spring, would fill Marlin Jackson’s spot at right cornerback. Jackson, who had knee surgery last season and has experienced soreness in his knee during training camp, will see playing time both at right cornerback and as the nickel back.
“We do think that is going to be the case. We will have [Jackson] play a bit more nickel than the basic corner position. He’ll do a little bit of both. He is progressing nicely,” Caldwell said.
As for Powers, the Indianapolis coach is confident that the former Auburn defensive back will be ready for the job.
“We think if he [Powers] is called upon to start, that he’ll do very well. The skill level is there. He’s a mature individual for his age in regards to football. He’s all business. He has the making of someone that if things feel right, he’d come in and have an impact,” he said.
Should Powers end up in the starting lineup, he would be the first rookie cornerback to start the opening game for the Colts since Ashley Ambrose in 1992.
• Injury list — Safety Jamie Silva (abdomen) and tight end Tom Santi (ankle) have already been ruled out of the Jaguars game. Silva and Santi did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
Safety Bob Sanders (knee), who was held out of Wednesday’s workout, is not expected to play against Jacksonville. Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (hamstring) has practiced all week and should be able to start Sunday.
Cornerback Tim Jennings (rest) and rookie defensive tackle Fili Moala (knee) did not practice Thursday. They both, however, are expected to be available on Sunday.
• Tickets available — Jacksonville has returned over 300 tickets for Sunday’s game with the Colts.
Tickets, while they last, are available at the Lucas Oil Stadium ticket office, Ticketmaster Ticket Centers, charge-by-phone at (800) 745-3000 or at www.ticketmaster.com.