Yes that’s right, there really is only one thing you can truly rely on in the NFL and, for the purpose of this article, that’s the Colts. Built on a backbone of Peyton Manning’s passing and Dwight Freeney’s pass rush, Indianapolis have somehow managed to be successful with a roster lacking in talent at a number of key areas.
In essence, they make do. And that’s one of the reasons why they haven’t won more Super Bowls than the one they have in the Manning Era, because that formula will only get you so far.
So we’re going to suggest some changes. Changes we expect to be largely ignored, but at least I’ll get to say ‘I told you so’ at the end of the year. Here’s our top three team needs for the Indianapolis Colts.
Excuse me if you’ve heard this before, but the Colts could use an upgrade in the defensive tackle department. Right now there isn’t a guy on the Colts roster you’d be comfortable with starting, and no guys coming through that are likely to do anything to change that. The best you can really say, is that perhaps – in limited roles – Antonio Johnson can contribute or that Ricardo Matthews didn’t look too bad.
But the starters? Both Fili Moala and Daniel Muir set the bar extremely low for defensive tackle play in 2010, managing to both be moved around in the run game and offer very little as pass rushers. Take the playoff defeat to the Jets for example. The Colts lost that game because, at the start of the second half, the Jets line just decided to dominate Indianapolis’ defensive interior. It’s been a problem for a long time, and it really is one that needs an immediate remedy. Having our lowest ranked defensive tackle (Muir) and pairing him with a guy ranked 61st (Moala) just isn’t good enough.
Here’s another case of us repeating ourselves. The Colts are getting woeful play from their offensive tackles. Charlie Johnson just doesn’t have it in him to stop a guy like Mario Williams once a year, let alone twice, while Ryan Diem went from a guy you could rely on, to a guy you could rely on to get beat.
We’re not sure what it is about playing for the Colts, but it’s almost as if their tackles realize they have Peyton Manning calling the shots so they can count on him to do all the work. Well it’s not that easy, and while Manning may be one of the best under pressure, his completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and QB rating all take a pounding when he faces pressure. You wouldn’t protect your crown jewels with a faulty security system, so why offer your star asset such substandard protection?
Why this is a secondary need is that as good as Manning is when given time, he still makes things work regardless of who is playing left tackle. He got by with Tony Ugoh, and got to another Super Bowl with Charlie Johnson, so – like a lot of the great quarterbacks – he doesn’t need an elite set of tackles (or even average ones.) Manning will keep on putting up points so long as the ball makes it to his hands.
The Colts could stand to get better at a lot of positions, but outside linebacker is one to keep an eye on. Last year, Clint Session (when he played) struggled in run defense after a good 2009, while the rest of the players who contributed were very much a mixed bag.
The secret superstar of 2009 (in limited action) Tyjuan Hagler earned himself a nickel defense role with some good work in coverage, while showing why he should be kept off the field in base looks with suspect work in run defense. Rookie Pat Angerer had issues getting off blocks, and while Kavell Conner impressed as a two down linebacker, his work dropping back left a lot to be desired. The need to get better is there, but with two of those guys rookies you’d hope to improve, and with a healthy Clint Session playing like he did in 2009, there’s reason to give what you have a chance.