This is what Colts offensive line coach Howard Mudd looks like when he's smiling:
But believe it or not, ole Howard is a happy camper these days. Why? Because his boss, Bill Polian, finally drafted him some o-linemen instead of tossing him scraps from the undrafted free agent pile. Mudd recently chatted with Colts.com writer John Oehser about his current crop of linemen, and the old coach seemed positively chipper:
The Colts selected three offensive linemen – guard Mike Pollak (second round), center Steve Justice (sixth) and guard Jamey Richard (seventh) – in the 2008 NFL Draft, the most offensive linemen the team has drafted in one offseason since Mudd’s 1998 arrival.
The selection of Pollak also marked the earliest the Colts had selected a lineman during his tenure.
"I like them," Mudd said of the trio. "They’re about what we thought they were when we drafted them. I don’t know that they’re real happy with where they are right now. They’d like to be able to do everything a lot better, but if that was the case, we’d have had to draft them a lot sooner than we did.
"But I’m very encouraged. They are exactly what we thought they’d be."
Not sure if Howard meant to quote former Cardinals coach Dennis Green with that last sentence, but who cares. If Howard likes the men he is coaching going into camp, it bodes very well for the Colts offense. Last season, the Colts o-line was nearly decimated by injuries. At one point, with both Tony Ugoh and Charlie Johnson hurt, the Colts had to start Jake Scott, an OG, at left tackle.
I'm amazed Peyton wasn't killed.
This year, with a new crop of youngsters, and promising reserve tackle Dan Federkeil returning from injury, the Colts are much deeper at offensive line. Now, I've made my thoughts on the open starting OG position very clear: Mike Pollak must win the starting job or he was a wasted second round pick for 2008. I'm sure he will develop into a fine player, but if you are an OG taken in the second round, you better be able to produce right now. Fortunately, Mike also sees this, and is working his butt off to become a starter:
Pollak said his challenge during OTAs has been as much mental as physical, something he said he expected.
"Right now, you’re trying to get down techniques and assignments," Pollak said. "When the pads come on, the game speeds up again. That’s the biggest key, so
when it’s time to put the pads on you know what you’re doing, so you can fly around 100 percent.
"I knew coming in that (Colts quarterback) Peyton Manning’s offense was going to be a complicated one. That goes to show you why they’re one of the best teams in the league every year. It’s kind of what I expected, but it is a lot of work, too, studying every day."
Said Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, "Mike is doing fine. He’s doing what you should do at this point. He’s grasping everything. He’s with Howard and (assistant offensive line coach) Pete (Metzelaars). He’s asking questions, doing all the right things. He’s doing just fine. He’s right on schedule.
Though Pollak is working hard, he might have been one of the recent rookies to express a certain frustration with their progress during OTAs. This is not necessarily a bad thing:
As for the rookies being generally dissatisfied with their progress, Mudd said there likely is a lot of good to be taken from that.
"If they were pleased with where they were, we probably don’t want them," he said. "You can’t have a player being satisfied with where they are."
Gotta love Howard Mudd. Even though he looks like Captain Caveman and is about as warm and fuzzy as a Howitzer, but he's still probably the best offensive line coach in football. Yes, I know guys like Alex Gibbs get lots of publicity, but all Mudd does is take first round picks (Tarik Glenn) and undrafted nobodys (Jeff Saturday) and turn them into potential Hall of Famers.
And if he's happy with his linemen, the Colts offense is going to be scary good this year because it seems Howard Mudd is never "happy" with anything.
Well, ok. I guess he's happy when he's near Peyton.
Photo via media3.washingtonpost.com