August 7, 2007
2007 Colts Camp
D-line questions loom
With McFarland out after knee injury, Colts must deal with uncertainty at tackle
By Mike Chappell
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- One question stood out as the Indianapolis Colts considered a lengthy future without defensive tackle Anthony "Booger'' McFarland:
Coach Tony Dungy confirmed Monday that McFarland damaged the patella tendon in one of his knees during a practice Friday and likely faces surgery.
"It's something where he's not going to be back in the next three, four weeks,'' Dungy said. "It's a long-term injury.''
That leaves the Colts with a huge hole to fill in the middle of their defensive line, and that only partly refers to McFarland's 300-pound frame. In eight seasons, he has appeared in 109 regular-season games, 95 as a starter. He started 15 games for the Colts last season, including the playoffs, after arriving in a trade with Tampa Bay.
With McFarland out, the Colts will move forward with Raheem Brock at one starting defensive tackle spot, and . . . well, someone else at the other.
The list of replacement candidates is long, but short on pedigree. Darrell Reid and Dan Klecko have appeared in a combined 62 games but share only four starts. Four of the other five prospects are rookies, including third-round draft pick Quinn Pitcock and seventh-rounder Keyunta Dawson, who has been moved inside after spending most of the offseason at end.
Size, too, could be an issue. In a position where 300 pounds-plus is the norm, the biggest of the in-house candidates is Pitcock at 299.
It's hardly a cozy predicament for an already undersized line that contributed to the Colts being the worst in the NFL against the run last season. The Colts' whole defensive philosophy is based on forcing teams to pass and then getting after the quarterback with speedy defensive ends. But if opponents just keep running . . .
"We've got some other guys that have to pick up the slack,'' Dungy said simply.
Previously, the Colts have addressed concerns at defensive tackle by looking elsewhere. Before the 2005 season, they signed free agent Corey Simon to a five-year, $30 million contract, an association that ended Saturday when Simon's contract was terminated. McFarland was added last October.
Dungy insisted "we won't leave any stone unturned" in monitoring the NFL's waiver wire and available free agents.
Two names that likely will surface are Oakland's Warren Sapp and former Chicago Bears standout Tank Johnson.
Sapp, 34, was a Pro Bowler for Dungy at Tampa Bay, and it's been speculated he'll be released if the Raiders go on a youth kick.
Johnson, 25, started in the Bears' Super Bowl loss to the Colts, and is available after being released in June. But there are significant character issues. He will miss the first eight games of the regular season after being suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
Bill Heck, Johnson's agent, said Monday afternoon he had not been contacted by the Colts.
Dungy stressed that "for the most part, guys who are here are the guys we're counting on.''
Though a rookie, Pitcock might be the leading candidate. He started 34 of 49 games at Ohio State, totaling 133 tackles, 14 sacks and 271/2 tackles for loss. He practiced for the first time Monday after missing last week's work while recovering from a hamstring injury.
Pitcock called McFarland's situation "unfortunate" but added he's eager to fill the void.
"From the beginning I wanted to get in and play as much as I could," he said. "I was going to step up no matter what.''
Meanwhile, veteran players were looking ahead.
"Booger's a great player and a great leader on and off the field,'' linebacker Rob Morris said. "But (injuries) are part of the game."
Added Brock: "We're just going to move forward right now.''
Tackling a problem
With starter Anthony McFarland likely out at least several weeks with an injured knee, here's a look at the other defensive tackles on the Colts' roster. (Raheem Brock is the other returning starter.)
Player Ht. Wt. Year Games Starts
Raheem Brock 6-4 274 6 77 70
Darrell Reid 6-2 288 3 23 1
Dan Klecko 5-11 275 5 39 3
Quinn Pitcock 6-2 299 R 0 0
Keyunta Dawson 6-3 254 R 0 0
Ed Johnson 6-2 296 R 0 0
Ramel Meekins 5-11 284 R 0 0
Tom Johnson 6-2 286 1 0 0
source: http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/a ... 247/SPORTS