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Sending some love to Charlie Johnson

Yep, I'm the schmuck who wrote this back in August:

NFL head coaches are supposed to coach, and since we all know that Tony Ugoh is better than Charlie Johnson, it is Jim Caldwell and Howard Mudd's job to coach Tony Ugoh, not play games with his head. Aggravating the situation even more is that Johnson hasn't even earned the right to start. He hasn't out-played Ugoh. He hasn't out-performed him in camp. If Caldwell thinks Johnson has, then Caldwell is a complete idiot.

It's a stupid, stupid move that undermines the credibility of Caldwell.

Statements like that are why Jim Caldwell is paid millions of dollars to coach, and I am paid fractions of pennies to write about his coaching.

The move to bench 2007 second round pick Tony Ugoh for 2006 6th round pick Charlie Johnson was not a popular move among fans. Whenever "C.J." had to step in and play left tackle in the past, the result was usually a QB pressure or sack. Fan collectively remember images of Rosevelt Colvin blasting through C.J. on the way to a Manning sack in the fourth quarter of the 2007 regular season match-up with the New England Patriots.

However, through the first four games of the 2009 season, Charlie Johnson is showing that people like me are idiots while people like Jim Caldwell have balls of solid rock. In four games, the Colts rank #1 in passing offense (1,321 yards, 9.8 yards a completion, 9 TDs), #4 in scoring offense (26 ppg), and #3 in touchdowns scored. They are also #1 in yards per game (414).

And to go with all this magnificent offensive production, they have surrendered only 2 sacks.

Part of the reason for allowing only two sacks is Peyton Manning. His pocket presence and timing is among the best ever to play. He gets rid of the ball quickly and makes smart decisions when he does so. But the other half of the equation is the much improved play of the offensive line, and in particular Charlie Johnson.

The most stressful position on the Indianapolis Colts has got to be left tackle. Defenses work very hard to isolate their best pass rushers in one-on-one situations so they can attack Manning and force turnovers. What the Colts have done to counter this is provide stable blocking assignments for their players and use the running backs to provide help, when needed. In addition, the individual effort given by all linemen has been top notch.

This expected level of effort is likely why Tony Ugoh has fallen so far on the depth chart. In Ugoh's case, it's a perceived lack thereof. This past Sunday, Ugoh was a healthy scratch from the game. The Colts dressed Daniel Federkeil over Ugoh.


Back to C.J., when I have watched him in one-on-one battles, he has shown drive, toughness, and good technique. He's also protected the backside of his QB very well, not allowing Manning to take clean hits. Charlie has also proven to be a solid run blocker. It's no secret that runs left seem to work more effectively than runs to the right.

The verdict still is not in for Ugoh, but this much is certain: Charlie Johnson is better than him right now, and it was a good coaching decision to bench Ugoh back in August.

Interestingly, C.J. hurt his knee against the Seahawks, and we all anxiously await any news on his condition. Little did I expect that, in early October, I'd be hoping that C.J. is OK so he can start at left tacle next week against the Tennessee Titans.