Manning: Big Weekend For The AFC South

QB Peyton Manning (AP Photo/John Amis)

Peyton Manning talked to the media this week as the Colts prepared to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC South battle. See what Manning had to say about the Jags, the development of the offensive line, the struggles the Colts have had on offense, how his knee is feeling and more inside!

On this week's game vs. Jacksonville:

"It is a big game. It's a big weekend for the AFC South all around. Houston and Tennessee play and we play Jacksonville. Like Coach (Tony) Dungy does every year, he puts extra emphasis on these division games. You try to compete every week against the other teams in your division. It's usually the first teams you're checking after your own game to see what Jacksonville did or Tennessee or Houston did.

"Jacksonville is an excellent team. I really don't pay attention to their record, especially if you watch the two games. They were one play here or there from winning the game. Buffalo makes a great third down throw and catch, and a couple of turnovers hurt them against the Titans, but the defense is still solid."

On if he expects to get Jacksonville's best shot since they are 0-2:

"Yes, but you would really expect that no matter what. Most of the time we've played them, it seems like it's been later in the year and both teams have had really good records. It's very early in the season and you go by what you see on film. What I see defensively is that same physical mentality, a lot of guys swarming to the ball and good players on the defense."

On Jacksonville's aggressiveness as a defense:

"You try to execute your job and take care of the stuff that you can control, but they are aggressive. Like I said, they're physical, they're fast and they have two excellent cover corners, which allow them to do some things with their scheme. They have solid linebackers. (Mike) Peterson's back. He didn't play part of last year because he was hurt, so I know they are glad to have him back in there. It's a tough group."

On the struggles in the running game:

"The simple answer is we need to execute better. We don't have a very complicated running game. We just have a few amount of runs that we do, so the ones that we do we just have to do a better job with them. When you do watch the film, what you're seeing is just one mistake here or there that's really affecting the play. So, we have to find a way to get everybody doing their job and on the same page at the same time so we can get some better runs."

On if his knee injury is the reason the team is running sweeps instead of the stretch play:

"It's really the same play. That probably would be the reason that I haven't been doing it. Somebody asked me that the other day. It's the same blocking. (Offensive Coordinator) Tom Moore said (Wednesday) that he has been coaching for a long time and he's yet to find any plays that you can run where you don't have to block anybody. That was a pretty short and sweet statement right there. Whether you toss it or hand it off or throw it, whatever you have to do, everybody still has to block the right people."

On if there is a noticeable change in the young OL after the win at Minnesota:

"I hope to see some growth and development this week from these guys. Obviously, it can add some confidence for these guys that have played, guys like Jamey Richard, who started both games, and Steve Justice, who had his first playing time and could play an extensive role this week. I've always thought experience is your best teacher, but I think the key is that every practice, every walk-through, all those things really count when you have a young unit. Sometimes if you have a veteran unit, you say, ‘Hey, these things are somewhat routine,' which is not true because the veteran guys are still working hard. But with this young group we have, every little detail is important and we need to use that time to make these guys better."

On his reaction to Team President Bill Polian saying the Minnesota game was his most courageous performance in the NFL:

"I really don't have much of one, I guess. It was a good win. We've had a lot of good games throughout the time that we've been here. In the middle of the season, it's really hard to get too reflective, especially when you have Jacksonville coming here. But, like Coach Dungy said, we did hang in there because our defense was holding them to field goals and it gave us a chance in the fourth quarter. If our defense wouldn't have been holding them, we probably wouldn't have had a chance to come back. That's why it is a team game. It was one game and we need to get better from that game because with a team like Jacksonville, it'd be tough to win if we don't play a little bit better."

On new Jacksonville Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams:

"Every defensive coordinator is going to bring his own style, and you still aren't sure if you've seen everything that they have in their package. Even with the pre-season and the first two teams that they played, Tennessee and Buffalo, they might have had packages for those two teams and may have something different for us. You're always prepared for somewhat of the unknown, to adjust as the game goes on on the field or on the sideline. He's an excellent defensive coordinator. He has a great history where he's been. He's an aggressive defensive coordinator, and that really fits their style. Like I've always said about coordinators, it's about the players that they have and they have good players, so it's a good match."

On how he has prepared to face Jacksonville:

"You kind of go by what you've seen on film, but you sort of prepare for some of the things he's done in the past and things that they may not have shown yet. The similarities that you see are that they're physical and aggressive."

On how good he feels about his timing with the receivers:

"Obviously, you feel good about it with Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). But, we're moving Reggie around a little bit, as you've seen. He's been outside and he's playing a pretty good amount in the slot. (Anthony) Gonzalez has been playing that left receiver. Obviously, you still can't get enough reps with him at that left wideout because you think about how many times I've thrown an out route to Reggie on the left, I have a long way to go with Gonzalez to catch that up. That's why our practice reps are important. Then, these tight ends, with Dallas's injury, we've had a number of new guys there. There are practice reps and then there are game reps, so every single play and repetition is important. It's something that you're always working on. It'll be a work in progress as the season goes on. You can learn something new, different coverages, different blitzes, two-minute situations, but those guys are working hard and that's how you get better is by going through it."

On if anything Gonzalez did, besides the lateral, at Minnesota surprised him:

"He made some big catches. He did a good job of sensing that Minnesota was doing a good job with the pass rush and altering his routes to depths that helped with the timing. Sometimes you have a 15-yard route and they're blitzing and you have bump-and-run coverage, maybe I don't have time to get 15 yards. You can cut it off at 13 or 12. I think he does have that good feel for the game and what's going on. He said on the lateral, ‘I felt like we had to score and I felt like going down at the nine, with us struggling to run the ball, I didn't want to get down there and have to settle for a field goal.' I don't want to boost his ego, but I think he is somewhat of a gamer. He showed that last year, and you like having a guy like that. I think he'll continue to get better. He still needs to work on some things that (WR Coach) Clyde Christensen is constantly coaching him about, but he played a good game for us against Minnesota."

On how his knee feels after the Minnesota game:

"It's still something that I'm dealing with, but I'll just get treatment during the week and get ready to go this week."

On if you have to put the pass rush out of your mind as a QB:

"Yes. The big play that got us going the other day, we had a 2nd-and-10 and had a missed block and a batted ball, a 2nd-and-10 with a very short amount of time to throw. Then, it's 3rd-and-10 and (Vikings DE-Jared) Allen rushes up field, (OT) Charlie (Johnson) does a good job of pushing him out, I step up into a nice, huge pocket with plenty of time and hit Gonzalez on the deep ball. Every play is different. I've never said, ‘Boy, there's just no time out there to throw.' On this particular play, maybe there wasn't much time, but on the next play, I've always been taught and try to do it. You expect protection. You expect to be able to make your reads and then you adjust when somebody has a miss here or there or if somebody gets off, you have to get rid of it quicker or adjust. That's the way you have to play. These guys are fighting hard and competing hard. It's a challenge for our veterans dealing with new players and a challenge for our young guys. It's something that we're just going to have to deal with as these guys come along."

On if he feels like teams are lining up to make him throw:

"Not really. We just don't really run the ball versus bad looks. We try to run the ball when it's a good look and the numbers match up. I haven't necessarily sensed that. We've thrown it a lot these past couple of games, but what we want to do is get back to a good balance."

On if this is the most challenging start he's had to a season:

"It's hard to go back and remember every single year. It does seem like we've had a few more injuries this early in the season than we've had in year's past. Last year, it seems like we had the most injuries, but that was halfway or three-quarters through the season. To start the season without your starting center that you've been with for 10 years is something that you don't want to have to go through. Dallas got hurt pretty early against Chicago, and we lost Tony (Ugoh), our left tackle (at Minnesota). We just deal with it and adjust. You still have to find a way to go out there and try to get a win."

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