INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano expects more out of the Indianapolis Colts’ dreadful offense.
So Indy’s coach is changing it up.
Quarterback Stephen Morris is expected to reclaim the No. 2 job behind Scott Tolzien on Saturday at Pittsburgh. Rookie running back Marlon Mack should get more chances on third down and in two-minute drills. And Pagano may tinker again with the banged up offensive line.
The only thing off-limits, it seems, would be a cameo appearance from three-time Pro Bowler Andrew Luck, who remains on the physically- unable-to-perform list. He’s ready to do whatever it takes to give his team a jump-start.
“This is a man’s game and it’s tough and there are no pity parties,” Pagano said after Monday’s light workout. “Everybody understands where we’re at and what we have to do moving forward.”
Solutions won’t come easily.
Without Luck, Indy has scored 29 points in eight quarters and the offense has produced only one more touchdown (two) than the defense. Both offensive TDs came in the final minute of the games, and the starters still haven’t had a scoring drive.
Even worse: After going 4 of 18 on third-down chances in the preseason opener against Detroit, the Colts were an even more dismal 1 of 12 at Dallas.
It’s enough to get Pagano to make more pointed critiques about his players.
Pagano took offense with last weekend’s offensive showing, calling it “pitiful” and explaining that the Colts need “more grown men” on the roster. On Monday, he called on quarterback Scott Tolzien to show improvement. While the blunt words were toned down, the message remained the same.
“The young guys have got to grow up in a hurry and mature,” he said. “A lot of people are counting on them.”
The injuries have hurt, too.
Starting center Ryan Kelly joined Luck on the injury report for the first two preseason games and neither has a firm return date.
Luck has not yet practiced with his teammates as he recovers from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder. Kelly was scheduled to undergo surgery for an injured foot and could miss up to two months.
Without those two, it’s been bleak.
Tolzien is 12 of 19 for 94 yards, undrafted rookie Phillip Walker is 14 of 28 for 119 yards in backup duty and Morris has led the Colts on their only touchdown drives, going 24 of 35 for 205 yards with one TD pass.
For Morris, it was good enough to finally earn a promotion after what he called a bad start to training camp — even if Indy doesn’t have a win.
“I think it made me a better person, it made me stronger,” Morris said when asked about the demotion. “This isn’t just a physical game. You have to be mentally strong. I just tell the guys, ‘Have fun, we’re playing football.'”
While the Colts seem content to go with what they have at quarterback, they’re still trying to sort out the quandary at center.
Kelly started all 16 games as a rookie last season and didn’t allow a sack, bringing some desperately needed stability to a position that had been a revolving door for Luck’s first four seasons. His projected backup, Brian Schwenke, also is on PUP.
Though starting guards Jack Mewhort and Joe Haeg did snap the ball a little during camp, Indy went primarily with undrafted rookie Deyshawn Bond and guard Adam Redmond, who spent most of last season on Indy’s practice squad, at Dallas.
They may follow a similar script against Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense.
But so far, there haven’t been a lot of encouraging signs — and that’s something the Colts know must change.
“We really haven’t game planned anything yet,” running back Frank Gore said. “But when you’re on the field, you’ve got to get first downs.”
NOTES: Mewhort (knee) was among a group of players who didn’t practice Monday. Pagano said he rested. Other players who sat out included safety Malik Hooker (shoulder) and cornerback Quincy Wilson (knee). Pagano said he expected Hooker to return to the field on a limited schedule Tuesday. Receiver Donte Moncrief (shoulder) wore a red jersey Monday as he works his way back up to full speed.