INDIANAPOLIS – Right tackle Winston Justice knows the criticism the Indianapolis Colts' offensive line took after the third preseason game.
He tries not to put too much stock into the comments, unless they come from the coaches.
“People overanalyze everything,” Justice said. “There are some things we have to get better at (but) it's more basic than people think.”
The critics looked at the Colts' pass protection against the Washington Redskins (four sacks allowed) and rushing offense (53 yards total) and labeled the outing a step back, at best.
“Especially with the Internet and Twitter, people think they're coaches,” Justice said. “You have people who don't know anything about football trying to analyze how to play football. That being said, we still have to get better.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano, evoking a refrain used by football coaches at all levels, said things are never as bad (or good) as they appear on the surface. However, he also said the areas of offensive line concern (pass protection and run blocking) needs to improve this week.
The Colts play the Cincinnati Bengals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium in their final preseason game. The game will be televised locally on WFFT, Ch. 55.
Pagano hasn't said how long the first-team offense will play, but he does expect it to start the game.
When the regular season hits on Sept. 9 in Chicago, protecting rookie quarterback Andrew Luck is as important as anything in the playbook.
“Anytime he's on the ground, it's too much, for any quarterback,” Pagano said. “So our goal is to keep him upright every snap, every time we drop back, and keep him clean.
“We know that's hard to do in the NFL,” Pagano continued. “Taking the hits that he took, and coming out of there with giving up four sacks – again, our offensive line coaches and the offensive line will tell you it's unacceptable. They know they can play better and have played better and will play better.”
The run game had shown signs of life in the previous week against Pittsburgh, but it was stifled completely at Washington. Starting running back Donald Brown and backup Vick Ballard had identical numbers, each with seven carries for eight yards.
You can't measure everything by yards per carry, but if it's 1.1, that's not going to cut it.
“We knew that they were going to send a bunch of blitzes at us and they did,” Pagano said. “There were some things, obviously, that after we looked at the tape, from a communication standpoint …fundamentals and technique stuff, that we can clean up. It has nothing to do with want and effort and certain things like that. But again, it just comes down to communication and fundamentals and technique.”
The Colts must trim their roster to 53 players on Friday. Of course, that roster could change over the weekend as they consider players who have been released by other teams.
Whether the Colts pick up another offensive lineman remains to be seen, but it's an area that is far from set in stone beyond left tackle Anthony Castonzo, center Samson Satele and possibly Justice. Joe Reitz has been a solid contributor, but Pagano said Tuesday, Reitz is banged up. Mike McGlynn is another strong player, but also fighting injury.
“We're not where we want to be,” Justice said. “We have a long way to go, but that's where the hard work comes in. That's where we're at.”