The benching of Tony Ugoh for Charlie Johnson is a ploy. And it is going to be okay. But first let me say that I won't apologize for our reaction earlier today. To Colts fans who have been paying attention there truly is nothing more frightening than the possibility of Charlie Johnson starting at Left Tackle for 16 games. Peyton Manning: now with extra grass stains! I think our reaction (and the similar response from StampedeBlue) was appropriate. But we can relax. It is a ploy.
Can I prove it is a coaching ploy aimed at improving both players involved? No. For all we know Mudd and Caldwell got together and said, "For a guy from New Orleans and Tennessee, Peyton has way too many teeth. Let's fix that by starting Johnson at Left Tackle this season."
But after the initial emotional reaction of WTMFIGO... this move had an explanation. This decision was made many months ago. It was likely made in the early weeks of the Caldwell regime, and possibly earlier than that. Ugoh was not the line's biggest problem in 2008, but he has significant room for improvement in both run and pass blocking. The problem is there is no one on the roster who can push him for a job so Johnson will have to do. Some guys, including Ugoh apparently, need to be pushed. Remember that he inherited the LT job in 2007 without much of a fight.
I think Caldwell sees this competition, phony or not, as a necessary step for the line to make the badly needed jump. Call it politics, call it mind games... I don't love it, but hopefully this ends with Ugoh playing the best ball of his young career. Remember that Ugoh and Johnson were likely told of this scenario many months ago. Chances are Ugoh has spent the whole offseason with a chip on his shoulder. Did he take the rebuke to heart? We're about to find out.
On a side note: DZ observantly isolated out this odd comment from Chris Mortensen the other day. Which leaves me wondering what Mort knew about this situation and how he knew it. Until today we certainly haven't noticed anything that would indicate the Indy coaches (or anyone else) believed in CJ's ability to challenge Ugoh for the LT spot.
This was the biggest moment of the Colts camp. And, ultimately, I'm just glad something finally happened worth talking about. 2009 is almost here.