|Dungy gives passing marks to rebuilt defense in preseason opener|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 11 August 2007 10:38|
While the defense yielded nearly 300 yards - mostly to Dallas' backups - and the Cowboys scored 23 points, the rebuilt defense still exceeded Dungy's expectations.
``I thought we played very fast and very physical,'' Dungy said Saturday when the Colts returned to training camp two days after the 23-10 loss.
``We got a holding penalty on T.O. (Terrell Owens), and I'm not sure they (the referees) are used to seeing him get jammed up like that, so they called holding.''
Indy will defend its Super Bowl title with five new defensive starters.
Clearly, the biggest question is on the defensive line, where the Colts must replace three tackles.
The Colts were prepared for two of the three: Montae Reagor was released in a salary cup move, and former Pro Bowl tackle Corey Simon had his contract terminated Aug. 4 after missing all of last season with an illness.
The surprise came Thursday when defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, a Super Bowl starter was placed on injured reserve after patella tendon surgery. That means the Colts have lost their biggest and most experienced run-stuffer for the entire season - not good for a defense that finished 2006 ranked last in the NFL against the run.
But the improvised defense at Dallas actually performed better.
Indy managed to cut its league-high 5.3 yards per carry to a much more respectable 3.4 and limited the Cowboys' top running backs, Marion Barber III and Julius Jones, to 18 carries for 70 yards, a 3.9 average even without two other starters, defensive end Robert Mathis and former Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders.
The good news, aside from no significant injuries, was that Dungy may have found McFarland's replacement. Undrafted rookie Ed Johnson finished with six tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble one week after a similarly impressive performance in an intrasquad scrimmage.
on of team rules.
Dungy said the Colts thought long and hard about even signing Johnson.
``We had a talk with him and I thought he was going in the right direction,'' Dungy said. ``He has to understand the environment he's coming into and what we expect from him.''
Now, the gamble appears to be paying dividends.
Johnson insists he's changed as a person, while impressing coaches enough to earn the starting job Saturday alongside incumbent tackle Raheem Brock.
``He did a pretty good job,'' Dungy said. ``I'd say about 80 percent of the time, he made some things happen. The rest of the time, he kind of got tired and reverted to some old techniques. But I thought the defensive line played well as a whole, and we rushed the passer well.''
Still, the Colts were unable to break out of their preseason blues.
Indy is 1-9 in preseason games since 2005, a record that does not sit well with the Colts' coach.
Judging from past experience, however, it might not matter. Indy went 13-0 in 2005 before losing in the divisional round of the playoffs, then became the first team in league history with back-to-back 9-0 starts last year en route to giving Indy its first Super Bowl title.
``I hadn't really noticed that until I saw it in the paper, and it's not something by design,'' Dungy said. ``We stress winning, and, fortunately, it has not carried over into the regular season for us.''