Indianapolis Colts 2011 Outlook

I wanted to get this posted before the season began, but I failed. Too bad.

By now every fan knows about the injury to Peyton Manning's neck. While there is much speculation surrounding the injury, nothing is concrete. He could be out a few weeks or he could be out the season or he could even retire. All are possibilities. But the real question is does this team's success live and die with #18?

This comes down to the Bill Polian and to a lesser extent his son Chris Polian. Bill has always been known as a great architect of teams. He is the mastermind behind the success of this franchise. Remember, the Colts could have picked Ryan Leaf and Ricky Williams instead of Peyton Manning and Edgerrian James just like the experts wanted them too. Personally I am glad they didn't.

Throughout most of his tenure Mr. Bill has put together strong pieces to make this team better. This has usually been accomplished via the draft. The early round picks have been meaningful contributors and star players. He has always been strong at finding talented players in the lower rounds and in free agency to fit the system.

Lately, Bill's top selections haven't panned out as well. While I do think it's foolish to cut a 1st round player until after three years, unless there are solid reasons, but some of the choices have left me in doubt. It's a fine line to decide when it's time to give up on a player, regardless of salary. It cant be argued that his judging of top talent has been off recent years. I hope the draft class of this season pans out, this time ran by Chris Polian.

The Colts have always been strapped for cash. They rarely delve into free agency unless for undrafted rookies. So I was happy to see them sign a few veterans this season. The moves should help this team but I still think they could have done more to help.

Honestly, I have little confidence in Jim Caldwell. He seems lost in many game situations. I had hoped he'd get better with some time under his belt. No such luck as of yet. After Tony Dungy retired, I would have rather seen a number of different coaches come in but due to continuity the franchise promoter Caldwell. While I have respect for a team that shows loyalty to a coaches and players, the GM must know when to cut ties.

The rest of the coaching staff must step up as well. Tom Moore and Howard Mudd are gone. Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen will be forced this year to call plays. I'm not very optimistic.

If the neck injury to Peyton is going to take longer to heal, I wish they would just shut him down for the season and put him on IR. If he stays healthy the man should have 3-5 good seasons left him. Dont be in a rush to come back. Even if he comes back at the midway point, it will take the rest of the season to get back in the swing of things to be effect. If you remember the year he missed all of preseason, it took him about 4 games to get timing down. So I ask what's the point trying make a speedy recovery?

So that leaves us with Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter. While Curtis has more experience with the offense playbook and the surrounding players, he has shown me zero in his limited starts in the preseason or "meaningless" regular season games. Enter Kerry Collins. He can still throw the ball but has zero experience in this offense or with the players. Timing will be an issue for a few weeks. The offense will resemble nothing of what it looks like under Manning. Still, he gives this team a better chance of winning each week.

Jospeh Addai is a rare thing. A veteran RB which the franchise resigned. He's solid and does every thing well, not great, and he must stay healthy. He was resigned because Donald Brown has done next to nothing to show he's ready to be the man. In all fairness I've always read it takes players 2-4 years to really grasp the concept of this offense. Donald, you are notice. Then there's rookie Delone Carter and there is a lot to like about this kid. He fights for yardage. Maybe this team will finally be able to convert some short yard third downs.

I am not worried about this position at all. It is deep. Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon (if he make the easy catch), and Austin Collie (if he stays healthy) will get their share of catches. So will Anthony Gonzalez and Blair White if they can keep off the injury report.

If I had one of the best QB's in NFL history, I would want to invest in a solid offensive line. While the great Howard Mudd was able to turn to street free agents into all pro caliber players, OL Coach Pete Metzelars hasn't quite been as lucky.

The drafting Anthony Castanzo and Benjamin Iijalana (should he take over the starting RT job) helps in the now and long term, but both are rookies and will experience rookie pains. Jeff Saturday is the mainstay but isn't getting any younger and see no current replacement on the roster which is a problem. Currently Jeff Linkenbach at RT and Joe Rietz at RG frightens me. Both are fine at backups but not starters. It would have been nice to see them sign a veteran. I dont understand why the team did not resign Charlie Johnson. I had him as the second highest priority resigning after Manning. He would look anywhere good starting line. Ryan Diem and Jamey Richardson should have been cut. Kevan Devan should have been retained as he was a solid backup.

This should be somewhat of a strong point for the team this year. Antonion Johnson was a good resigning as he one of the only large DT on the roster. Third round pick Drake Nieves should be a good fit and looked great in preseason.

There's no issue with the pass rushing skills of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. The additions of Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Drayton gives the team some larger, run stopping DE's. Too bad they cut John Chick because he played his ass off in the preseason, but as stated before it too early to cut Jerry Hughes (even though he's done nothing to this point).

The Colts have always favored small, fast LB's and this year is more than the same. The starters of Gary Brackett, Kavell Conner, and Pat Angerer should be alright. The signing of veteran Ernie Sims helps and he could see significant playing time as well. Behind those guys there isn't much proven depth. For this defense to truly be good, this group must play above their adequate level, especially against the run.

Again, the starters should be decent. Melvin Bullitt has seen plenty of action playing for the oft injured Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea is one of the best safeties fans have never heard of. I like Jerrod Powers at CB as he can play the run and pass. The other two other main CB's are Jacob Lacey and Justin Tryon both have positives but need to play very well this season. Not much proven depth here either.

Adam Vinatieri just keeps on kicking. While not able to get the distance he used to, the man is still a solid kicker. At punter is Pat McAfee and he's got a good leg that will get plenty of workout this year.

The return men are unproven, as always. This team seems to constantly over look the benefit of having a good return man.

So Peyton Manning is missing significant time this season, but it's not the end of the season. This team is not one of the worst without Manning and they are not in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. There division is not all that tough. The Colts should be a middle of the row team this season. It just may take a couple of weeks for this team to hit its stride.

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