By Tom James
INDIANAPOLIS — The state of the Indianapolis Colts running game continues to be a subject of consternation for fans of the team.
While Indianapolis has shown flashes of success through the first eight weeks of the season, the ground attack still not at the level that it was during the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI charge in 2006. The team has 611 yards rushing and is averaging 3.7 yards per rush this year.
On the flip side, the running game is still a bit better at this point in the season than it was a year ago when injuries played havoc along the offensive line. Indianapolis played without offensive guard Ryan Lilja for the entire year while Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday was in and out of the lineup.
This year, however, Lilja and Saturday have not missed a game. Both are healthy. But inconsistency has bogged down the Colts ground game this year. First-year head coach Jim Caldwell says that the running attack continues to be a work in progress.
“We just have to continue to work it. We can’t get to the point where we stop trying to become effective in that area. I think there were some times when you look at the [San Francisco 49ers] game when we needed to run the ball and we took 5:35 off the clock. We ate it right up at the end of the ball game,” Caldwell explained recently.
“A lot of that had to do with Joseph [Addai] obviously finding some room. He made some nice runs. It’s not like all is lost. We just might not have the numbers that we’d like to see at this point, but we are working on it.”
Indianapolis has been a pass-first offense for much of the early stages of the season. And with Peyton Manning at quarterback, throwing the football is not a bad thing. But the Colts are continuing to strive to find better balance overall.
“I’m concerned because we certainly always want to be more productive. I think when you look at us and the games and situations, we’ve been pretty efficient in our run game. We might not have had the 10 and 12-yard gains as many as we’d like. There have been some games that we have been fine in that area. Within our offensive scheme, often times it’s dictated by what they [opponents] do. We simply take what they give us. If they give us looks that require us to throw, we throw it. If they give us looks that require us to run the ball, we run it,” he said.
“A lot of time it’s skewed by our system as well. Often times, we probably aren’t overly concerned as those who are strictly looking at statistics, but yet it’s something that we do believe we need to improve upon. At one point in time this year we were looking at self scout in terms of our red zone numbers. We had 36 passes and 34 runs in the red zone. It just depends on where we are on the field and what the situation may dictate. In some areas we are really balanced and other areas we are not. Some of that is dictated by our system. That’s an area we look to keep trying to improve upon.”
• Jackson reportedly tears ACL — According to an Associated Press report, a person with knowledge of the injury says Indianapolis Colts cornerback Marlin Jackson will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Colts had not announced the injury. It occurred during Thursday’s practice.
The injury was first reported by ESPN and the Indianapolis Star.
Jackson made 23 consecutive starts at cornerback before tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee during a no-contact practice in October 2008.
He had missed the past three games with a strained ACL in his right knee. Jackson’s newest injury came a day after the Colts placed linebacker Tyjuan Hagler on injured reserve with a ruptured biceps.
The team declined to comment on Jackson’s injury.
• Injury list — Sitting out Thursday’s practice were cornerback Kelvin Hayden (knee), wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (knee), wide receiver Reggie Wayne (rest), defensive end Robert Mathis (rest), safety Bob Sanders (elbow), safety Jamie Silva (hip), and placekicker Adam Vinatieri (knee).
Defensive end Dwight Freeney (rest) returned for the workout after missing Wednesday’s practice. Rookie running back Donald Brown (shoulder) has practiced for the last two days but no decision has been made as of yet whether he will play against Houston.
While there were internet reports that Gonzalez may have to undergo surgery on his knee and that Sanders could miss the Texans game, Caldwell did not want to speculate Thursday on the topic of injuries.
“I couldn’t tell you anything [about Gonzalez] at this point. I couldn’t tell you anything definitive. Things change sometimes rapidly around here. I’d rather wait until I know definitively and we can talk about it rather than hypotheticals,” the Colts coach said.
“[Sanders’ injury] was something he hurt during the course of the game. It did not keep him out of the [San Francisco] game. I’m not certain at what point of the game it happened. It didn’t flare up until a little while later. He is getting it evaluated at this point. [Brown] did well [Wednesday] and we’ll see how it goes.”