“What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”
― Christopher Hitchens
Everyone likes to watch the Colts suffer. After years of stomping out the AFC South, the Colts are showing the inherent weakness of putting an almost inhuman load on the franchise quarterback. Save for an aging Freeney and Mathis, the Colts have become a hopeless one sided team that can’t even rip off a few wins in a 16 game season.
Next year, a few things are readily apparent. Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter will be gone, Reggie Wayne is probably going to get traded for a draft pick or a younger, bigger target for what many can only assume is going to be Andrew Luck. Here is where the confusion begins. What if the Colts don’t drop Manning and trade the first pick for 2 first rounders and 2 second rounders? They can easily get two receivers and two defensive backs, but do they want to build a team or create a show? The NBA knows a lot about shows and the season hasn’t even started yet. The Thunder are a team. The Knicks are a show.
Before getting into the intangible insanity that is the Colts franchise, let’s squash a few glaring weaknesses with logic and sympathy for the devil. The offensive line, where the Colts drafted both a first and second round pick, can only do so much after being used to having a guy behind center do all the hard work for them. Changing protections etc. Two rookie lineman without Peyton Manning spells disaster for anyone not in the shotgun. Two rookie defensive backs (5th and 6th round respectively) aren’t enough to ail a defense completely out of their element.
If Peyton does come back, look for 4 down lineman and a linebacker blitz early and often. As of right now, the Colts have Drake Nevis (3rd round pick out of LSU) out on IR, a 1st round pick in Jamaal Anderson, a 1st round pick in Tyler Brayton, and a 1st round pick in Jerry Hughes all between Freeney and Mathis. This unit should be equal to the Giants in terms of pure pass rush, but when you have no linebackers of any value, and an almost laughable secondary, things backfire easily. Lineman don’t cause turnovers.
There are others. Dallas Clark could be gone. Joseph Addai could be gone. It could be a complete overhaul, take no prisoners, house clearing sort of stuff. That hideous factory of a stadium will glow red with anger. Luck could very well be steering a ship lost at sea. Coordinators fired. Assistants gone. There is nothing to show that this team even cares, so why not clear house and get some people on the cheap if Manning is going to be gone anyway?
The line on the draft as of now is that the Colts are going to take Luck, an offensive lineman, and most likely another cornerback. Will it help? Sure. But there’s going to be trouble getting free agents if they aren’t sure of the plan. Veterans will ride with Peyton, young players will want to jump on board with Luck. The Colts can go stay in the present or bet on the future, but they can’t do both.
The Rams are an ugly franchise. Sure the uniforms aren’t Colonel Mustard yellow anymore, but nothing looks sadder than Sam Bradford chucking a few straight into the ground while hobbling around like a 70 year old one legged sailor. Their 4th round receiver is out on IR, McDaniels is running the same sort of fruitless, clever pass happy offense that got him booted out of Denver, and he very well could become a head coach next year. Sensing a theme yet? Bad teams don’t have a defined method of winning. Patriots pass. Ravens run. Texans run and play action. The Rams should run. Problem is they have a weak offensive line, and almost all mock drafts have them picking Matt Kalil out of USC as the 2nd overall draft pick. Their secondary is paper thin and a guy like Jayron Hosley could at least give them a dual threat corner/kick returner that could help the struggling offense. The defensive line is too reliant on Chris Long and they need a big free agent linebacker pickup or grab someone high in the 3rd round.
Cadillac Willians is a stop gap solution so they could use a running back to lighten the load of Steven Jackson. With that said, here comes the trump card. If the Rams want to create a show, they will grab Justin Blackmon and make a top 10 receiving core with one draft pick. 29 year old Mark Clayton is a first round pick. Pettis and Salas are 3rd and 4th round rookies respectively. Brandon Lloyd at 30 is the veteran, and Blackmon would be the intermediate threat in his rookie year. It would be the welcome return of the spread no huddle, and at least they would put up more than 11.8 points a game. Again, show or team.
Overall, the Rams are a good draft away from being a contender in the NFC West, which could easily become the 49ers for the next five years if the Rams don’t take some risks in the draft.
In a past article, I wrote about the syndrome of bringing in a veteran quarterback and holding off the need to get a future franchise quarterback. For every year you rely on that, two years will be washed down the tank. 2 years of Favre? 4 years of irrelevancy. The Vikings are currently in the midst of irrelevancy. Depending on the final shakeout, the Vikings and Rams could exchange second and third picks. They need offensive line help, as Steve Hutchinson is 34 and his best years are behind him. They could also use Blackmon to help out Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins in 3 receiver sets.
What the Vikings should really do is trade that pick and get some help at linebacker, cornerback and running back. Will they? If they want Adrian Peterson to be happy they will. Is Ponder the future? Will Joe Webb sub in at the wildcat on a regular basis? Let’s say they are. The Vikings have a few options. Take Blackmon, Brandon Thompson at defensive tackle, and grab an offensive lineman in the third round. The more conservative approach would be to get Matt Kalil in the first round, find the best defensive lineman available in the second round, and grab a guy like Nick Toon in the third round.
Some would say most efforts are futile in a division with the Lions, Bears and Packers. As we saw this year however, all teams can lose or gain three games from the last year.
The Buccaneers are not good. They aren’t even competent half the time. They have no one even worth mentioning at receiver, their defensive line should be the best in the league (McCoy and McCargo are both on IR), and their defensive backs should keep games close. They don’t. I want to give hope to Buccaneers fans and give them a few points worth mentioning next time someone rips their team, but they probably won’t help. Freeman is not the next great quarterback. Neither is anyone else from that draft class, but Freeman played at Kansas State, not Kansas City.
Unfortunately most mock drafts have them taking linebackers or defensive backs in the first two rounds. Look for a 4th or 5th round receiver and hopefully a free agent pickup next year from teams like the Giants or the Eagles. They need to get their defensive line sorted out in next year’s training camp as the ages of their lineman are 28, 23, 21, 23, and 30 respectively. The Bucs are the shining example of why rookies don’t start on defense.
From here on out it gets weird across the board. Nobody knows about the Jets, Giants, Eagles, Bears, Texans, Raiders, Chargers, etc. etc. Everyone is falling apart at the seams as the Patriots and Packers seem to be the head of their respective conferences. Teams are hurt, coaches have been fired, and the lame beginning of the bowl season gives me a thousand reasons to hate the BCS and lobby for a college playoff. Good luck San Francisco.