Justin Fritze will be breaking down where every team in the NFL currently stands for us here at TOJ, going from worst to first…starting out today with the Indianpolis Colts.
Peyton Manning is not coming back to the Colts. Counterargument? Peyton Manning is coming back to the Colts. No? Without the GM tandem of the Polians, without the strength and conditioning coach that was his best lifeline to the franchise this season, without the offensive coordinator who built the Manning system, and without the head coach who did a half decent job of keeping the Colts in the playoffs under his tenure.
It’s ok Colt fans. Things get worse from here. Kerry Collins? Yeah sorry he’s gone too. I know a few people went out, got drunk, and purchased a Collins jersey somewhere around week 1, or if they are true riders of the ‘shoe, bought it as soon as he signed with the Colts for a cool $4 million. The Dutch Boy Painter? If the Colts don’t get rid of him, then Grigson and his purported “close door analysis of the roster” must have gone horribly awry, because that dude is probably hovering somewhere around bottom 5 quarterbacks that had actual playing time in the 2011 NFL season.
With a passer rating of 60.6, expect Painter to end up on the Jets to give Sanchez a challenge, or try and steal the thunder from Kevin Kolb out in Arizona. Most likely, he sneaks around the IFL throwing touchdown tosses to TO while one of them has a serious reassessment of where life led them. Even Dan Orlovsky isn’t safe, which could lead to a very strange testing of free agent quarterback waters. Possible scenarios: Vince Young backing up Andrew Luck, Jason Campbell backing up Andrew Luck, or even Donovan Mcnabb backing up Andrew Luck.
All in all, it’s not going to be pretty for anyone who has a serious issue with “the Luck” starting out of the gate. According to certain statistics, Joseph Addai did not have a good year. Well I’m not a sports scientist, but I have a brief theory on that. No Peyton Manning, no deep threat, no passing game, no reason to put less than 8 in the box. That means that Joseph Addai was essentially running into a wall of defensive lineman, linebackers, and probably the occasional safety. You can literally hear Addai telling himself how much he hates his life without Peyton, as he utters things like “come back 18″, “Peyton!”, and “how long lord!” right before hitting the hole.
He eventually grew silent altogether when running from the I formation, demanding to his running backs coach that Jacob Tamme should be getting the worst of it at fullback, because fullbacks deserve pain. Which leads us to Donald Brown, who has the sweetest picture onWikipedia that screams “that’s right, I’m PEYTON MANNING’s new running back!”.
I wish I could talk to him now, because in his brief tenure with the Colts he will have had brief time to suckle at the Manning teat, while continuing his career with what could possibly be the greatest quarterback of his generation. Delone Carter? 4th round pick out of Syracuse? Nobody Cares, you will only be used barring serious injury to Addai or Brown.
Ah the receiving core! I’m quite certain Reggie Wayne had about three nervous breakdowns mid game this year, one of which was during the realization that Kerry Collins was throwing him the ball, one when he realized he might have to live with Curtis Painter as his starter, and one when it finally set in that out of 3 quarterbacks, Dan Orlovsky was the best of the bunch. There’s no coming to terms with that, and Wayne’s statement that he wants to stay in Indy was quickly redacted once he realized his head coach and his offensive coordinator, meaning Peyton Manning, would not be coming back.
He will fit in somewhere desperate, like the Browns or the Redskins, and if Peyton does something truly strange like go to Arizona or Seattle, he’ll follow. You see, Reggie Wayne needs a good quarterback to live. He has 5 pro bowls, and 3 all pro seasons, and not one of them was for someone other than Peyton Manning. But again, I come to the defense of Colts fans, as I remind you that you have Anthony Gonzalez, 1st rounder out of Ohio State to help right the ship! Too soon? OK, take Pierre Garcon and stop calling me “Tim from Indy”.
Dallas Clark is in a strange position. He once won tight end of the year. Seeing as how Luck will eventually create his own system akin to Peyton, a tight end is very friendly to Luck, but with great new quarterback usually follows great rookie tight end. Coby Fleener, with the haircut of a 12 year old goth core fan (look at his Stanford bio pic), is already being predicted as a second round pick for the Colts, which will no doubt end Clark’s career as a Colt. You know, because he just happened to play at STANFORD. If Irsay is salting the earth, a good bit is going to Peyton’s core guys. I can see the Tamme/Fleener duo working, but then again I can also see Dallas Clark opening up a rodeo bar and making $345,000 off of Peyton memorabilia if he decides to retire.
Offensive line? NO PROBLEM. Dump sad sack Saturday and let Andrew Luck take snaps from either Peter Konz or Mike Brewster. That’s about the same in terms of blue collar name/average dude persona. Let Anthony Castonzo find out if he really deserved a 1st round pick, and if they don’t draft any offensive line help, there’s probably a few people they could grab in the off season, seeing as how the Patriots and Ravens assembled a ridiculous depth of offensive lineman from rejects and castoffs of other teams. Note to Ben Ijalana, earn that 2nd round draft pick! Don’t pull a Ducasse and ruin it for all the small schools.
Chuck Pagano is going to coach the Colts. That’s right, defensive “guru Chuck Pagano is going to coach the Colts. Wonder if Tony Dungy had a hand in that one.
With that in mind, a brief look at the defense. I originally thought that Robert Mathis was going to be a goner, but if Pagano is going to be there, why not keep your best two defensive ends and try and build it up through some 3rd, 4th and 5th round draft picks? Jerry Hughes has one last shot to make it, especially if he’s going to be playing under a coach that spent 75% of his coaching career on the defensive side of the ball. If they use a 3-4, Hughes could be an asset in the sub package, or nickel/dime situations, while retaining a role as a starter if he switches to OLB full time. 3 legitimate speed rushers could wreak havoc if they get as exotic as the Ravens did this past year.
As far as linebackers go, Ernie Sims and Pat the Jackhammer Angerer seem to be the only ones safe. There’s going to be plenty of late round linebackers, and if they swing it right they could even trade down from their second round pick to grab one in the 3rd round. With this much changeover as far as defensive coordinators throughout the league, linebackers will be cut and signed at a pace even the hardcore insiders won’t be able to comprehend. Just keep Zach Brown in mind on draft day. It could be the first power move of Pagano’s tenure.
Seeing as how Chuck Pagano specialized in defensive backs, Antoine Bethea is likely to take over the mantle as free wheeler like Ed Reed did in Baltimore. Letting Bethea roam is probably the best option, as he is the only one who seems to have the “leader” status in the defensive backfield. What Colt fans can look forward to is the continuous saga of Bob Sanders finally being over, and getting Melvin Bullitt back as the other half to the safety tandem. One more solid corner and this defense can be in the op half in the AFC in no time at all.
With two defensive backs drafted in last years draft in the 5th and 6th, look for the Colts to throw a few 1-5-5 packages out there, or even some packages with 6 defensive backs in third down situations. This is Pagano’s team now. There will be no more debate as to if Pagano made the Ravens defense good or if the pieces made the job easy. The Colts failed on all fronts last year, and now we’ll see if the new Colts defense can compete.