New York Jets: What Moves Are On The Horizon?

After two days of free agency, TOJ looks at what the New York Jets likely have up their sleeve

It continues to be a quiet start for the New York Jets in free agency and with the action surrounding them, a few things have become clear. Overall, this is going to be a more restrained approach than in recent years but that doesn’t mean a big splash won’t be on the way in the coming month.

At wide receiver, it is clear the Jets never had any interest in spending big time money opposite Santonio Holmes. It makes sense when you look at the coordinator they hired and how much guaranteed money they are giving Holmes this year and next year. We suspected this would be case as the Jets are now bargain hunting to fill out their wide receiver depth chart. I anticipate them signing Chaz Schilens. He is comfortable with Sanjay Lal as his receiver coach and the Jets will give him a legitimate chance to start. Personally, I don’t think this is enough support at wide receiver for Mark Sanchez and the team should still consider checking out Braylon Edwards in May to make sure his knee is healthy. Jerricho Cotchery won’t come here unless the team is going to give him a legitimate chance to be the starter, which I’m not sure they will.

If the Jets are going to spend big money in free agency, it will be at the safety position. Look for them to make a strong push to get either Reggie Nelson or LaRon Landry in the coming few days. After hopefully signing one of them, I would expect them to bring back Jim Leonhard on a veteran’s minimum within a few months and then still add a safety in one of the early rounds of the draft.

We haven’t heard of the Jets looking to spend anywhere else in free agency outside of backup quarterback, where they will probably sign Drew Stanton. A move that will rightfully be questioned by many. David Garrard or Josh Johnson would provide a more legitimate threat to Sanchez in the number two spot than Stanton.

So what about tackle, linebacker, and running back? For whatever reason the Jets appear to be passing on many of the quality free agent right tackles. I don’t know if that is because they have a gentleman’s agreement with Vernon Carey to join the team in a few weeks or because they are really hard headed enough to think Wayne Hunter or Vladimir Ducasse could start next year. At linebacker, unless they make a push toward Jameel McClain, they appear to be standing pat and we haven’t heard anything about a Ronnie Brown signing being imminent yet at running back.

What you do need to remember is that the draft is a little over a month away and the Jets are going to have 10-12 picks. Don’t be surprised to see a very active few days from Mike Tannenbaum in terms of sliding up and down the board, along with looking to fill holes by trading picks for veteran players. This could very well be a situation where fans are in an uproar until draft weekend comes, and then it becomes much clearer what the Jets were looking to do this off-season. They have enough picks and assets to patch up linebacker, tackle, and running back in that weekend.

Don’t forget Mike Tannenbaum’s history when it comes to trades.

New York Jets Free Agent Activity Picking Up

The activity around the New York Jets in free agency is starting to pick up

The news around the New York Jets in free agency is starting to pick up a little bit. Let’s go over what we have learned so far today about the direction the team could be heading in –

1. Folk Back – The team has re-signed kicker Nick Folk, who has been inconsistent in his two years with the team. They are expected to bring in competition for him in training camp. There is also chatter they could draft a kicker in the later rounds, as special teams coach Mike Westhoff said this is the best class of kickers and punters he has seen in years.

2. Cotchery Back? Schilens Close? – The Jets have expressed interest in bringing wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery back. However, they will be competing with the Steelers for his services who also want him back after his one year stint with the team. Chaz Schilens is expected to visit the team tonight and apparently the team is high enough on him that they see him as a potential #2 receiver opposite Santonio Holmes.

Personally, I’d take Cotchery over Schilens as a number two receiver any day of the week. Look at Schilens’ career and try to argue otherwise. Obviously, at this stage of his career Cotchery is better fitted as a number three or a part time player but it appears the Jets are looking to go cheap at wide receiver in free agency and if they do, take Cotchery over Schilens.

3. Quiet At Linebacker/Offensive Line – The San Diego Chargers signed OLB Jarret Johnson, a player the Jets were rumored to be interested in. The Jets never made any formal inquiries about bringing Johnson in for a visit. It appears they will let Bryan Thomas mentor whatever outside linebacker they add early in the draft. They have to add one early in the draft, right?

We still haven’t heard a thing about the Jets inquiring about any offensive lineman. Are they confident about getting Vernon Carey to join his former coach, Tony Sparano? Or are they really considering going into the year with Wayne Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse competing at right tackle as Mario Williams takes a physical in Buffalo?

New York Jets: Day One Free Agency Review

TOJ reviews the first day of free agency for the New York Jets

The New York Jets were cautious in the opening hours of free agency, not diving in with the normal frenzy we have seen the past couple of years. This is leading to some anxiety among fans, especially with the activity of other AFC East teams. However, I would encourage everybody to take a breath and wait to see where the chips falls, we aren’t even 24 hours into free agency yet. Let’s review what we are hearing about at each of the position of need for the Jets –

Quarterback – It certainly sounds like Chad Henne isn’t going to end up with the Jets. He has already visited with Jacksonville and has another visit lined up with Seattle, both teams who can offer him more money and a better shot at playing time than the Jets could. The fallback plan appears to be Drew Stanton of the Detroit Lions, who has 4 career starts and 187 career passes. He is expected to visit in the coming days. While Stanton is an upgrade over Mark Brunell’s corpse, I’m not sure he puts any type of real pressure on Mark Sanchez.

Running Back – Nothing of note, I would expect in a few days we will hear about Ronnie Brown taking a visit.

Wide Receiver – The Jets have “kicked the tires” on Laurent Robinson, the top free agent receiver left on the market now that Robert Meachem is in San Diego, Vincent Jackson is in Tampa Bay, Reggie Wayne went back to the Colts, and Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan went to Washington. Jacksonville and Dallas are recruiting Robinson as well and he is expected to have a hefty price tag. Former Oakland Raiders WR Chaz Schilens is expected to come in for a visit. He played for new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal. While Schilens could be a low cost, high reward player, he isn’t a sufficient answer opposite Santonio Holmes. Mario Manningham does remain on the market by the way.

Tight End – Nothing reported yet.

Offensive Line – Outside of the Jets signing an undrafted center from USC, Kris O’Dowd, we haven’t heard anything which is a little scary with Buffalo potentially closing in on Mario Williams. Highly sought after right tackle Eric Winston has already visited Miami and has other visits lined up with Kansas City and St. Louis.

Defensive Line – Nothing reported yet.

Linebacker – Outside of resigning Bryan Thomas, the team hasn’t done anything here yet. It is expected they will recruit Jarret Johnson and Jameel McClain but we haven’t heard about visits yet.

Safety – The Jets have reported interest in Reggie Nelson, LaRon Landry, and Brandon Merriweather. Nelson is the best option out of the three but he will cost the Jets. Signing Merriweather would be an exceptionally foolish move. He is a complete thug both on (check his fine history) and off the field (check his police history), who was awful in Chicago last year.

Around The League

  • I love how Tampa Bay is building around their young quarterback by giving him a big time receiver in Vincent Jackson and a big time lineman in Carl Nicks. What other team do we know that should give their young quarterback a receiver and offensive lineman? Hmmm
  • It is good to hear that Mario Williams is leaving Buffalo to meet other teams. The media was reporting this as a done deal last night but the longer it string along, the lower the odds he ends up in the AFC East. Buffalo already struck out on Robert Meachem.
  • As of now, I am guessing Peyton Manning ends up in Denver and Matt Flynn ends up in Miami.

New York Jets Resign Bryan Thomas, Other Updates

The New York Jets have resigned OLB Bryan Thomas and other free agency updates

The New York Jets have resigned outside linebacker Bryan Thomas to a one year deal. This is a smart, low risk move by the team and will help their solidify their depth at the linebacker position. Thomas is coming off a season ending torn Achilles and is expected to be ready when training camp starts. He is a good fit in Rex Ryan’s defense and is solid against the run.

The signing of Thomas could be the first in a series of moves that facilitates a trade of outside linebacker Calvin Pace. If the Jets can also bring in free agent Jarret Johnson and spend their first round pick on a player like Melvin Ingram, Andre Branch, or Courtney Upshaw the Jets could be looking to move Pace and his hefty contract.

In other news, the Jets are planning a visit with former Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton. We speculated here earlier that the Jets could have interest in Stanton as a low cost backup to Mark Sanchez. The Jets have also expressed their interest in free agent safeties Brandon Merriweather, LaRon Landry and Reggie Nelson according to The Daily News. At wide receiver, outside of reaching out to Laurent Robinson the Jets are also interested in former Oakland receiver Chaz Schilens, who was coached by their new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal.

What is frustrating to hear is that the Miami Dolphins have a visit scheduled with Eric Winston tonight and the Jets haven’t had any movement towards expressing interest in him or any other tackles on the market, yet.

Other news around the league – Josh Morgan signing with the Washington Redskins, joining Pierre Garcon. CB Brandon Carr visiting with the Cowboys. TE Martellus Bennett visiting with the Giants and Chad Henne planning to visit Seattle after meeting with Jacksonville.

NFL Free Agency Madness: Early Updates

NFL free agency has started fast and furious, particularly in the AFC East

As expected, NFL free agency is roaring out the gate, particularly in the AFC East where the New York Jets primary competitors are either making major moves or are on the cusp of making them. Mike Tannenbaum has been quiet so far. Let’s round up the early chatter. Make sure you are following Turn On The Jets on Twitter and Facebook.

– Miami and Chicago made the biggest splash right out of the gate with the Dolphins trading Brandon Marshall for two third round picks to the Bears, reuniting Marshall with Jay Cutler. Jets fans should be concerned that this move was a prerequisite to signing Peyton Manning who reportedly wanted no part of playing with Marshall. However, there is also the chance the Dolphins new coaching staff wanted a more reliable number one receiver, regardless of their QB. The move cleared over 5 million in cap space for the Dolphins.

– The Buffalo Bills are hosting visits with Mario Williams and Robert Meachem tonight. They are expected to make a monster offer to Williams, if he accepts, it should be a large kick in the rear end to the Jets to add a tackle immediately. Meachem is a speedy receiver who would provide a needed downfield threat for the Buffalo offense, while limiting the Jets options in free agency.

– New England is expected to pursue and eventually land Brandon Lloyd.

– The Jets have already inquired about Chad Henne but he is currently visiting Jacksonville, where he is expected to receive more money than the Jets are willing to offer. Early reports are making it sound like the Jets want Henne but the feeling isn’t mutual.

– In other free agency battles with Jacksonville, the Jets have expressed interest in Laurent Robinson but he is also meeting with the Jaguars. You would hope the Jets and Mark Sanchez’s reputation hasn’t fallen far enough that a receiver would pick Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars over them.

– Two linebacker options off the market: Tavares Gooden to San Francisco and Curtis Lofton to Tampa Bay. Gooden was a former Raven who could have fit in the Jets defense well.

– Pierre Garcon has signed with the Redskins.

– Jason Campbell is expected to sign with the Chicago Bears.

– The Jets will be competing with the Indianapolis Colts for outside linebacker Jarret Johnson.

Stay with us people…@TurnOnTheJets

New York Jets: Last Second Free Agency Considerations

TOJ with some last second considerations for the New York Jets on the first day of free agency

The NFL free agency floodgates open at 4 PM today. Here are a few last minute thoughts related to the New York Jets before anything can become official later this afternoon –

1. Jamaal Westerman, Matthew Mulligan, and Marquice Cole weren’t tendered, leaving them unrestricted free agents. Mulligan is a goner, which is a good thing unless you are in favor of penalty yardage. Rex Ryan is a big Cole fan and he is a very good special teams player, so I would expect the Jets to make a strong push to resign him. Westerman could probably go either way, I am sure Greg Schiano will want to bring his former college player in for a visit to Tampa Bay. How hard the Jets work to bring him back, will likely depend on their luck bringing in other linebackers in free agency.

2. Bryan Thomas gave an interview yesterday to Jenny Vrentas of The Star Ledger about his desire to return to the team. It makes sense for the Jets to monitor his progress rehabbing from his injury last year and then consider bringing back on a veteran’s minimum deal. Thomas is a good fit in Rex Ryan’s defense and is stout against the run. If Thomas comes back healthy, they could sign Jarret Johnson and spend a first round pick on a player like Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram or Andre Branch, it gives them leverage to move Calvin Pace in a trade.

3. If the Jets are looking improve wide receiver through free agency, they’d be wise to make a strong push to sign former San Francisco 49ers receiver Josh Morgan, who likely won’t be brought back now that the team has signed Randy Moss. Morgan will likely come much cheaper than Laurent Robinson or Robert Meachem, but could have way more upside.

4. I still remain hopeful the Jets will seek out Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson, particularly if they can’t sign Jameel McClain. It is hard to feel comfortable cutting Bart Scott until you sign a viable replacement. It certainly didin’t look like Josh Mauga was ready to be a full time starter last year.

5. It will be interesting to see who the Jets get after first later today. I can’t see any fathomable reason for them not to redirect any previous plans and shift their primary focus to Eric Winston but you easily them focusing on players with a history with their coaching staff out of the gate like Chad Henne, Ronnie Brown, Vernon Carey, Jarret Johnson, and Jameel McClain.

New York Jets: Who Could Be On The Trading Block?

What New York Jets could be on the trading block in the coming weeks?

We have documented Mike Tannenbaum’s propensity for getting involved in trade market here at TOJ last week, so with that in mind which current players on the Jets roster could be on the trading block?

Please Take Him

Wayne Hunter, Right Tackle – We have already discussed the futility of trading Hunter but apparently a NFC team actually engaged the Jets in discussion for him. I can’t see them finding a willing trade partner, even for a conditional seventh round draft pick. Most likely Hunter will be brought back as a highly paid backup.

Bart Scott, Inside Linebacker – Similar to Hunter, there isn’t going to be much of a market for Scott. Maybe…maybe if a team suffered an injury at linebacker, they’d give up a late round conditional pick for him. However, are the Jets going to hold on to him that long? I can’t see him lasting with the team much longer when he clearly wants more playing time and the Jets aren’t going to give it to him.

Reasonable Market

Calvin Pace, Outside Linebacker – Pace has a contract that exceeds his actual production but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an effective player, particularly as a run stopper in a 3-4 defense. The Jets would love to dump his hefty contract but whomever they trade him to, would likely want to renegotiate with him first. He is a player they could get some decent value for and might be somebody they need to part with in their quest to fill their long list of needs. They could carry on at outside linebacker by signing Jarret Johnson, bringing back Bryan Thomas on a veteran’s minimum deal and then picking a player like Melvin Ingram in round one.

Mike DeVito, Defensive End – The Jets could save 3 million this year by parting ways with DeVito, a valuable run stopper in the 3-4 defense. Yes, he is a good player and a strong fit in Rex Ryan’s defense but he had issues staying healthy last year as a full time player and the Jets have decent depth behind him with Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and the potential of Kenrick Ellis sliding over for reps as he continues to grow. DeVito would be highly coveted by any team who runs a 3-4 and needs help at defensive end.

High Value

Dustin Keller, Tight End – A player who has been good, not great for the Jets and might never get the chance to be great in Tony Sparano’s offensive system. Keller’s skill set, which includes plenty of receiving but not alot of blocking could thrive in the right offense. Would the Jets part with Mark Sanchez’s best friend and a player he has good chemistry with on the field? Probably not but if the right offer comes along that helps them improve safety, offensive tackle, linebacker…they just might.

Antonio Cromartie, Cornerback – In order to improve other parts of their defense, the Jets could look to pick away at one of their strengths at cornerback. Kyle Wilson took positive steps last year and if the right offer came along for Cromartie, wouldn’t you have to consider moving him and giving your previous first round draft pick a chance to start?

New York Jets: Safety Remains Major Concern

The New York Jets enter the off-season with major issues at the safety position

The New York Jets have had inconsistent play at the safety position since Rex Ryan took over as head coach. The problem is magnified because they play in the same division as the New England Patriots, who have the best tight end in the league, Rob Gronkowski, and another top ten tight end in the league in Aaron Hernandez. It isn’t just New England who attacks the middle of the field on the Jets, any team with an athletic tight end smartly stays away from the outside of the field, where the Jets have Darrelle Revis, Antontio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson and instead attacks their safeties.

Currently the Jets have Eric Smith under contract and nobody else. (Sorry Tracy Wilson and Gerald Alexander, until you play a down for the team, I can’t count you). The free agent market is thin, as it is currently headlined by LaRon Landry, Dwight Lowery, and Reggie Nelson. Jim Leonhard and Brodney Pool were with the team last year but both are free agents now as well.

In the draft, Mark Barron is considered the top safety by a good margin. His recent double sports hernia has prevented him from working out thus far, keeping his positioning on most draft boards in somewhat of a flux. He will be available at #16 but might slide far enough where the Jets could consider trading up their second round pick to snag him in the back end of the first round, or just trading back in the first round to take him. Harrison Smith, Markelle Martin, Antonio Allen, and Brandon Taylor could all be 2nd or 3rd round options for the Jets at safety if they don’t end up with Barron.

So, how will the Jets proceed? Brodney Pool most likely isn’t coming back. He can’t stay healthy and hasn’t distinguished himself in the past two years with his play. It would likely be wise to bring Leonhard back on the veteran’s minimum, considering how well he knows the defense. Eric Smith is coming back and if used in the proper role, can be an effective player. Don’t forget how well Smith was playing in 2009 when he was used as a situational player and on special teams. He simply lacks the skill set to be a full time starter.

What that equates to, is that you need two more safeties in a bad way. Smith should be the #3 safety, used in certain packages and as an emergency starter. Leonhard should be the place holder for the rookie the Jets add in one of the first rounds of the draft, helping ease his transition and gradually sliding into a part time/depth player only role. A free agent needs to be brought in who can start immediately or the Jets need to swing a trade for one.

LaRon Landry is a big name that will get people excited. The problem is that he will command a big price tag that comes with durability concerns and questionable coverage skills. In reality, Lowery could be the best option out there. He spent last off-season preparing to be a full time safety and then the Jets traded him to Jacksonville where he took advantage of that off-season by putting together his best year in the NFL. Mike Tannenbaum would have to swallow his pride but bringing Lowery back makes plenty of sense.

New York Jets: Free Agency Primer 3.0

What will free agency look like for the New York Jets after restructuring Mark Sanchez’s contract?

We are now only two days away from NFL free agency starting up and the picture has changed substantially for the New York Jets with the restructuring of Mark Sanchez’s contract, which freed up 6.4 million of cap space this year and dropped them out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. What kind of changes will this roster have in the coming weeks?

Offensive Line – We knew not to take Mike Tannenbaum at his word when he said Wayne Hunter would be back as the starting right tackle. There are already reports about the Jets trying to trade him, which we all know isn’t going to happen unless a team’s GM gets dropped on their head. Vernon Carey has long been speculated as a veteran replacement for Hunter but with the extra freed up cap space could the Jets look to take a run at Demetrius Bell or Jared Gaither? I wouldn’t rule it out or rule them out looking to swing a trade for a team with a surplus at tackle.

Wide Receiver – If they Jets are going cheap, Braylon Edwards will always be there as an option around May after they take the time to exam his leg and make sure he is healthy. If they are going to spend a little money, Laurent Robinson remains an intriguing option that will hit the market, as is Early Doucet. If the Jets don’t sign a wide receiver in free agency, they will need to address it early in the draft as there is a lack of talent and size opposite of Santonio Holmes.

Running Back – We know the Jets need some veteran insurance at this position and the only name we have heard mentioned is Ronnie Brown. He does make sense considering his history with Tony Sparano and the role the Jets are looking to fill. The team isn’t look for somebody to do much more than provide insurance as a third down back and maybe give them 10-12 plays a game. Joe McKnight is going to be given a larger role and they have to give Bilal Powell some type of a look after spending a fourth round pick on him last year.

Tight End – The Jets will likely sign another tight end to compliment Dustin Keller, with Anthony Fasano being a favorite if he becomes a free agent. If not, they could look at Maretellus Bennett, John Carlson, or Jacob Tamme.

Quarterback – Chad Henne or Jason Campbell might not want to come here considering Sanchez’s security the next two years. The Jets could look to the next tier of backups like David Garrard, Josh Johnson or Drew Stanton…or they could always trade for Tim Tebow after Denver signs Peyton Manning…just kidding.

Defensive Line – Expect Sione Pouha to be locked up in the next day or two.

Linebacker – The Mario Williams rumors have picked back up since Sanchez’s contract was signed but from everything we have heard that isn’t going to happen. They will likely make a push for Jarret Johnson and Jameel McClain, while hopefully also considering Erin Henderson. I wouldn’t expect them to sign more than one linebacker, instead looking to boost the position through the draft.

Secondary – The safety market has been picked apart by the franchise tag, leaving LaRon Landry, Dwight Lowery, and Reggie Nelson as the top players out there. Landry is going to cost too much for a player who can’t cover and can’t stay healthy. Would Tannenbaum swallow his pride and bring Lowery back? He might have to strongly consider it. The Jets could also consider trying to swing a trade here or aggressively going after Mark Barron in the draft.

The End Of The Peyton Manning Colts

Justin sorts through the wreckage Peyton Manning is leaving behind in Indy

They started angry. Disrespected. No one believed they had a chance to compete without Peyton Manning. 4-12, 2-14, etc. Many a radio and television personality go against the stream of public opinion, even advocate it while simultaneously agreeing with about 90% of their colleagues. Some would call this hypocrisy. Sometimes though, you just can’t fight it, and as the 2011 season got underway things started to look…strange.

The Colts have bad blood with the Texans for as long as the Texans have existed. As soon as the Texans got any sort of momentum, the Colts have proceeded to stomp out their playoff dreams. This did not sit well with the Texans, so hearing that Peyton Manning would be out for a good portion of the season was the old “Christmas came twice” idea, literally.
Looking back, even Peyton Manning would have had trouble with the new look 3-4 Texans defense. A brief list of defensive stars: JJ Watt, Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing, Demeco Ryans, Mario Williams, Jonathan Joseph. Not what a team who lost their coach/qb/coordinator/predictor of the future is ready to handle.

So how does Jim Caldwell counter this relentless pass rush? He puts in Dallas Clark, the only “tight end who is not a tight end and is really a slot receiver” to block Mario Williams. Wait, doesn’t Mario Williams play defensive line? No. Wade Philips saw to it that he assembled the wildest 3-4 defensive end/linebacking core in the AFC, and Mario Williams is the new centerpiece.

So Kerry Collins gets hurt, before which he is illustrating rather blatantly that he has to huddle every single play because he is looking more and more like a guy who should have stuck to recording music on his farm and not decided to attempt a savior role in the most complex NFL offense in the history of the game. But that’s OK, because Curtis Painter has been around and can attempt a paper tiger version of the offense. Hell even Reggie Wayne backed Painter because he’s had enough time to watch Peyton orchestrate like my main man MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas). As the announcers pointed out during the Browns game, Painter got a lot of mental reps watching Peyton Manning, but watching Picasso paint and painting like Picasso are two different things.

Here we stand at week 2, where Colt McCoy and his band of mediocre skill players, his mediocre offensive line (save for Joe Thomas), and his mediocre defense decided to put on a clinic on how to completely demoralize a team that was a field goal away from the AFC championship game and was what could be considered the second or third best team in the last ten years.

In his second year in the NFL, with his second head coach, in his second offensive system in two years, McCoy was privy to a revelation. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are old. So old that they only play 50% of snaps. Despite this, they are ferocious when they are on the field, so McCoy took his time, and when he didn’t want to get pancaked and knew Freeney and Mathis were coming, he handed off to Peyton Hillis, the greatest “throwback to 1950’s football” running back this game has ever seen.

This formula worked for a few reasons. The Colts defense is small, the secondary is awful, and the Colts were slowly realizing that life without Peyton was awful on all fronts. Even the people in the concessions handed out popcorn with the look of someone who just came back from the killing fields. When Adam Vinateri starts missing field goals, you might as well curl up into a ball to start protecting vital organs.

So it’s week 5, Joseph Addai has been replaced (due to injury) by the tandem of Delone Carter and Donald Brown, who are completely opposite types of running backs and both of whom should be kept, with Delone Carter getting the starting nod because of his “bowling ball full of steroids” frame and flashes of Darren Sproles lateral agility.

THE ROAD TO PERDITION

The Chiefs were without Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry for this game, which should help both sides of the football for the Colts. Trouble is, the Colts suck. I’ve been waiting to say it, but it must now be said. Reggie Wayne can’t be Reggie Wayne, Jacob Tamme hasn’t had anyone even attempt to find him, Pierre Garcon is up and down, and Painter is starting to have serious doubts about the possibility of even converting a 3rd and 7.

How long lord? 11 weeks to go. To review, the Colts put up a decent fight in both prime time games, got rolled on by the Chiefs, Browns, and Texans, and are now heading into a game against the Bengals.

The Bengals are starting to turn into a serious contender at this point in the season. The running game and the new offense coupled with a very aggressive and well coached defense would have put the Bengals into a bye week if they didn’t play in the same division as the Steelers and the Ravens. None of this is good for the Colts, who proceeded to keep the game close until about 5 minutes to go, when a missed field goal, an interception, and a fumble all sealed the fate for the rest of the year.

So the Colts didn’t win that game. And so they limped into the Superdome, for another shot at Sunday Night Football.

LIFELINE

Although Aaron Rodgers and his band of receivers put up points and numbers at will, the fact that Drew Brees throws to sequoias at receiver and tight end, has a rookie running back who won the Heisman, and the most complete running back in football is something straight out of Madden. The Colts had no chance. Everything was scripted to perfection. Colts play zone? Find the soft spot. Colts blitz up the middle? Check it down to the hot route.

What started to look life an offense that could have mustered a competitive game started to fall apart. Painter missed throws, threw interceptions, and everything began to look disengaged on all fronts. This was essentially the beginning of the end.

They go to Tennessee, where the blandest team in the NFL decided to play out of their mind for the first quarter on special teams and block a punt in the end zone for a touchdown. That was pretty much the most exciting part of the game for Colts fans, as Donald Brown got ripped by Caldwell, Pierre Garcon looks like he doesn’t care anymore, and Dallas Clark decided to start catching passes.

So how can the strange get weird? A nice sideline throw by Painter getting tipped by the corner back, and the Cover 2 safety catching the tip for an interception. Again, general ugliness. I started sewing myself a Luck jersey at this point, and would variously look up to find the score slipping away. Donald Brown had a touchdown, but Donald Brown’s touchdowns are like noticing a ruby necklace on a leper.

DREAM THEATER

In review, the Colts are 0-8. Peyton Manning is explaining to Curtis Painter how the goal of the defense is to sack him, and that he should attempt to throw the ball down the field towards the end zone, upon which he will be awarded 6 points. The winner…most points.

The “Suck for Luck” campaign begins somewhere around here, and the true clowns in the audience are starting to show up in Luck jerseys. So here it is, Atlanta, namely Roddy White and Julio Jones, who are proceeding to put on a show of complete dominance against the Colts defensive backs. DB’s are being shuffled in at breakneck speed, and Curtis Painter is throwing interceptions number 15, 16, 17, etc.

Matt Ryan is too good to not take advantage of the now scripted Freeney/Mathis substitutions, and is gashing the Colts up the middle with Michael Turner and Jaquizz Rodgers while Pat Angerer attempts a halfhearted tackle against the much larger Tony Gonzalez. Things are beginning to get sad.

There would be a chance for redemption the next week, as the Jaguars, helmed by another long haired blond excuse for a quarterback is somehow making Curtis Painter look poised and in control of his offense. Think about this, if the Jaguars didn’t have Maurice Jones Drew, they would be the ones getting Andrew Luck, and it wouldn’t even be close. They would score somewhere around 160 points on the season and their owner would have personally paid for a trip to expedite Blaine Gabbert as soon as possible.

As a side note, many experts had Gabbert over Newton in last years draft. Experts.

So what prevented a Colts victory? The JETS. Well, the fact that the Jets undervalued Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery to the point that they let them walk and single-handedly rescue the Jaguars from both the Colts and the Ravens. But the Jets didn’t need them. Eric Smith did in fact have a…um….”competent” season for a starter. No, no he did not. He was awful.

Despite only allowing one touchdown through 3 quarters, the MJD factor reared it’s head, pitting a small man in Drew against an even smaller man, Angerer, and the Pro Bowler won. Easily. It might have been the most deflating loss of the season, simply for the fact that they could, and should have beaten the worst rookie QB in the league, and that’s being nice.

The matchup was the Patriots, and looking at the matchups, it wouldn’t even be close. Any chance Indy had on defense was thrown out because Pat Angerer was out, Mathis and Freeney are so one dimensional all it took was a few step ups into the pocket from Tom Brady to pick apart the zone (zone with an undersized defense against Tom Brady? Really?).

The Indy offensive line at this point was Jeff Saturday and a bunch of Wayne Hunter impersonators, so the Patriots simply laid back in off coverage with a 5 man defensive front and waited for Dan Orlovsky (who looked more Manning than Painter) to try and air it out deep.

The highlight of the game was Pierre Garcon’s chuck of anger after a receiving touchdown at a sign with a bulls-eye intended for Rob Gronkowski. I watched it and mumbled to myself “screw your contract, this place is a lake of tears”.
After starting 0-12, things start to get comical.

The Colts had beaten the Ravens the last 10 times they played each other, so they were going to use this opportunity to promptly destroy any hope of even going on a 4 game winning streak, which was the largest streak possible at this point in the season.

It is common knowledge that any action, according to the laws of science, has an equal and opposite reaction, so if the play of the Patriots offense could be seen as “action”, the Baltimore defense is “reaction”. It demoralizes teams in the exact same way, keeping your offense off the field, getting blitzed on 3rd and long, and a complete lack of rhythm and timing.
Like the Saints blowout, this was one of the games you only pay attention to for moments at a time, because even I was starting to feel bad for guys like Mathis and Freeney, knowing that Ray Rice was going to negate every spin move by cutting back through the middle and gashing the middle linebacker for 8 yards at a time. It was completely relentless for the Ravens defense, as they pressed the receivers at the line, clogged the line of scrimmage and occasionally sent a corner blitz to keep Orlovsky on his toes. 0-13.

TURNING POINT

0-16? The blandest, most middle of the road team in the NFL! The Titans! I suppose after 0-13, you take what you can get.

So how did it happen? Orlovsky channeled his inner Peyton off the play action, and wings one to Wayne in the corner. The CORNER of the endzone, where hope was born. But QB’s are ok, Jacob Lacey, man of iron and steel, decided to put the team on his back and snag a pass right out of the hands of a Titans receiver and run that the whole way to the endzone. 1st of the season. Game 14. Too late? Not In Indy! Not long after that the floodgates opened. Angerer strip for a turnover. Donald Brown running like a wild man, and then ANGERER! Interception in the Tampa 2.

It feels like the Colts have been waiting the entire season to play like this. At home! “Give the people a show”, Caldwell mumbles to himself as a single tear of a thousand hours labor falls with the grace of a dove down his quiet cheek. Peyton is overjoyed.

OK, OK. Not to get too overjoyed, it’s going to be the dream killing Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium. And what happens first play? Brian Cushing decides to hit Orlovsky hard enough that he is, to put it nicely, “parted from the ball”. 10-3 Texans. Reggie Wayne is getting pissed, as multiple passes tip off Wayne’s fingers, old man time is standing on the sideline, waiting, smiling at Wayne. But if 6 is ⅓ of 18, then Orlovsky will hit 1 of 3 passes to Wayne. But 12, Jacoby Jones gets an insane tip pass. Ah damn this logic!

This is the Orlovsky hour, and he never cared about rivalries, or the fact that his team has 1 victory in 14 games. And it’s Reggie Wayne with 13 seconds left for the win. And that’s all I care about. Two feel good wins at home for the Colts in a season of complete disaster. It was fate that they won at home, because it would have been laughed off as a joke if they didn’t do it at their own place. I, a Jet fan, actually felt good for the Colts.

They lost the last game of the season. Andrew Luck will have some work to do next year.

EPILOGUE

As I’m writing this, literally at 6:32 PM March 6, 2012, the fact that Peyton Manning is getting cut is becoming abundantly clear as Chris Mortensen preps the montage of Manning clips, and then delivers the notice that Peyton Manning will be released by the Colts. I always had a relatively emotionless relationship as someone watching Manning (which wasn’t all that often), appreciating the myriad of achievements but never really appreciating just how well versed he was in a system he created for himself after years of being mentored by the irreplaceable Tom Moore (to whom Dallas Clark owes his career).

Manning will not be duplicated. He might not have always executed up to his potential, but he certainly could have, and he almost always knew how to work over a defense with audibles at the line of scrimmage, “check with me” calls, and a slew of incomprehensible code words that may have just been psych out material. We will never know, but we will see if there’s one last go round for what Rex Ryan called “the hardest working quarterback he’s ever seen”.