DE/DT Jamaal Anderson, DT Tommie Harris, OLB Ernie Sims.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Anthony Castonzo, G/OT Ben Ijalana, DT Drake Nevis, RB Delone Carter.
RB Mike Hart, OT Charlie Johnson, DT Daniel Muir, OLB Clint Session, CB Kelvin Hayden, SS Bob Sanders.
2011 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
If there's some concern with Peyton Manning, it should be his neck injury; not the fact that he threw more interceptions last year (17) than he has since his 23 picks in 2001.
Manning endured neck surgery this offseason, and because of the lockout, he wasn't able to receive the treatment he's accustomed to. He's currently on the active/PUP list, and while it's almost a certainty that he'll play in Week 1, there's a question of how much this injury is going to affect his play. Manning had knee surgery back in 2008, and he struggled as a result for the first half of the year. Something similar could occur this season.
As for Manning's actual skill, there's no need for concern. Sure, his touchdown-interception ratio and YPA were lower than usual, but it could be argued that Manning actually had one of his best seasons because of everything that happened to his team. Manning's offensive line was dreadful. Joseph Addai got hurt and there was no running game. And more importantly, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark missed a significant amount of action, forcing Manning to work with practice-squad players like Blair White. Anyone who re-watches Manning's four-interception performance against Dallas will see that White was responsible for two of Manning's picks because he ran wrong routes.
All indications are that Collie, Clark and Addai are healthy now. Collie had two concussions last year - it seemed like he suffered more than that, but those were just relapses - but he's been medically cleared to play. Clark is fine coming off wrist surgery. They'll join Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon in a talented, but possibly flawed receiving corps. A third concussion would be a huge concern for Collie; Wayne turns 33 in November; while Garcon tied for the league lead in drops (13) with Brandon Marshall, Steve Johnson and Wes Welker.
Of the three injured players last year, Addai has the least chance of staying healthy, since he's battled numerous maladies the past few seasons. The Colts selected Delone Carter in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but he won't be much of a factor this year because of the shortened offseason. It'll be up to Addai, Donald Brown and possibly Dominic Rhodes to carry the load. Rhodes is currently off the roster, but he could be signed if Brown continues to struggle with pass protection in the preseason. The bottom line is that Indianapolis once again won't have much of a ground attack.
The Colts spent their first two picks in the 2011 NFL Draft on offensive linemen, but the front line still figures to struggle. Rookies Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana are slated to start at left tackle and left guard, respectively. While they are both much more talented than the men they're replacing, the inexperience will hurt against the better pass-rushing defenses. While this is common for rookie linemen, the brief offseason only magnifies it.
The two lone bright spots up front are at center (Jeff Saturday) and right guard (Mike Pollak). The Colts were able to keep right tackle Ryan Diem at a reduced salary, but while Diem brings experience to the table, that's not necessarily a good thing. Diem was easily one of the worst starting offensive linemen in the NFL last year. At 32, his play probably won't improve. Ijalana could play here instead of left guard.
2011 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
Indianapolis' defensive philosophy is to sacrifice run defense to benefit the pass rush, and thus enhance pass defense. Thanks to the no-contact rule, the NFL is more of a quarterback-driven league than ever, so the Colts' strategy should work if implemented correctly. However, that was not the case last year, as Indianapolis mustered only 30 sacks.
Rookie defensive end Jerry Hughes was a huge disappointment in 2010. He contributed nothing, prompting general manager Bill Polian to lament to the media about passing up on current Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold in favor of Hughes. The TCU pass-rusher needs to step up his game, as Indianapolis managed only nine sacks outside of Robert Mathis' 11 and Dwight Freeney's 10. Freeney and Mathis turned 31 and 30 respectively this offseason, so that could be an issue.
The Colts had no interior pass rush, so they spent a third-round pick on defensive tackle Drake Nevis. As mentioned earlier though, most rookies won't contribute much this year because of the shortened offseason, so Indianapolis will probably have to roll with Fili Moala and Eric Foster as starters again. A wild card is free-agent signing Tommie Harris, who has struggled in recent years because of numerous knee injuries. However, Harris' three sacks with Chicago would have been the fourth-most on the Colts' roster last season, so he should be able to bring something to the table, even if he doesn't revitalize his career.
Indianapolis is still soft at defensive tackle, so the team needs inside linebacker Gary Brackett to stay healthy for a change. Brackett misses action every year; he was out for four games in 2010. At 31, it's unlikely that he'll be in the lineup the entire season.
Brackett's successor is Pat Angerer, a second-year strongside linebacker. Angerer, chosen in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft, struggled a bit last year, but should be better this season. Meanwhile, the weak link in Indianapolis' linebacking corps is Ernie Sims, who was dreadful with the Eagles this past year. Replacing Clint Session, who signed with the Jaguars, Sims is a good fit for this defense, but Colts fans shouldn't expect anything.
The secondary had a chance to be great last year, but two frequently injured players predictably couldn't stay healthy. Both Bob Sanders and Kelvin Hayden are gone, leaving Melvin Bullitt and Jacob Lacey as starters in their wake. Bullitt was also hurt in 2010; he missed 12 games because of a shoulder injury, but should be good to go come Sept. 11. Lacey, meanwhile, was anemic in coverage, surrendering a 75.9 completion percentage. Jerraud Powers, playing opposite of Lacey, is a better player, but is coming off forearm surgery.
Indianapolis does have a talented, proven, healthy player in its back seven. That would be free safety Antoine Bethea, who lived up to the 4-year, $27 million contract he signed last offseason.
2011 Indianapolis Colts Schedule and Intangibles:
The Colts have something going for them that few teams can enjoy this year - continuity. Indianapolis' coaching staff and roster have pretty much remained intact, which is a huge boost in a shortened offseason.
Adam Vinatieri received a well-deserved 3-year contract this offseason after nailing 26-of-28 attempts. It helps though that none of his field goal tries were from 50-plus. He's actually just 2-of-9 from that distance since 2003.
Punter Pat McAfee had a pretty bad 2010 campaign, both on and off the field. McAfee maintained a 42.0 average with 21-of-65 kicks inside the 20. He was also arrested for public intoxication in October.
The Colts once again struggled on special teams, as they were outgained by their opponents by 3.8 yards on punt returns and 6.2 yards on kickoffs. Making matters worse, the Colts surrendered two special-teams scores to the opposition.
Indianapolis has a pretty taxing non-divisional schedule. The team will have tough battles against Pittsburgh (home), Tampa Bay (road), New Orleans (road), Atlanta (home), New England (road) and Baltimore (road).
2011 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2011 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: The fate of the 2011 Indianapolis Colts rests on Peyton Manning's shoulders. Or rather, his neck. If Manning can play close to 100 percent, Indianapolis should capture yet another AFC South title. If, however, Manning struggles like he did in 2008, a team like the Texans could snatch the divisional crown away from them.
There's no way of knowing Manning's true status until he's actually on the field, but the fact that he figures to miss most, if not all of the preseason while remaining on the active/PUP list is somewhat troubling.
The Colts had one primary goal entering the 2011 NFL Draft. That, of course, was to bolster the offensive line to improve Peyton Manning's pass protection. I'd say they did a good job.
Anthony Castonzo, arguably the top left tackle in this class, was a steal at No. 22. He could have easily gone in the teens. In fact, he may have been New England's choice if his agent weren't Tom Condon. Meanwhile, Ben Ijalana could have been drafted at the end of Round 1 without anyone calling it a reach. Getting him in the middle of Round 2 was a great move.
Overall 2011 NFL Draft Grade given on 5/1/11: A+
2011 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
22. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
This is a perfect pick for the Colts. They need to protect Peyton Manning's blind side, and Anthony Castonzo was projected to be drafted somewhere in the teens. Bill Polian strikes gold again. (Pick Grade: A)
49. Ben Ijalana, G/OT, Villanova
Another awesome selection. The Colts really needed to improve Peyton Manning's protection, and Bill Polian is making sure his quarterback actually has some time in the pocket for a change. Ben Ijalana could have gone at the bottom of the first round. (Pick Grade: A)
87. Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
I don't think anyone is surprised that the Colts are upgrading the defensive tackle position. Drake Nevis was considered a Round 3-4 prospect by most, so he definitely fits the range. Nevis is probably the last of the Day 2 defensive tackle prospects, so I can't blame Bill Polian for pulling the trigger. (Pick Grade: B)
119. Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse
Joseph Addai is a possible free agent and Donald Brown has been a disappointment, so you can understand this pick. This is the right range for Delone Carter. Decent pick. (Pick Grade: B)
188. Chris L. Rucker, CB/S, Michigan State
The Colts were expected to draft a defensive back on Day 3, so this pick makes sense. Chris L. Rucker was projected to go in Round 6. (Pick Grade: B)
The 2010 campaign marked the first time the Colts haven't won at least 12 games in a season since 2001. Considering all the injuries they incurred, that's understandable. If Indianapolis can stay healthy next year, the team will once again become a Super Bowl contender.
Lions sign DE Keyunta Dawson
Colts sign DT Tommie Harris
Colts sign OLB Ernie Sims
Colts sign DE/DT Jamaal Anderson
Colts sign QB Dan Orlovsky
Vikings sign OT Charlie Johnson
Rams sign DT Daniel Muir
Colts re-sign G Kyle DeVan
Colts re-sign DT Antonio Johnson
Colts re-sign DT Eric Foster
Colts re-sign QB Peyton Manning
Colts re-sign RB Joseph Addai
Colts cut CB Kelvin Hayden
Jaguars sign OLB Clint Session
Colts re-sign K Adam Vinatieri
Colts re-sign SS Melvin Bullitt
Colts sign RB Darren Evans
Colts sign S Joe Lefeged
Colts tender DT Eric Foster
Chargers sign SS Bob Sanders
Colts sign DT DeMario Pressley
Colts cut SS Bob Sanders
Colts franchise QB Peyton Manning
Left Tackle: Charlie Johnson, a free agent, was one of the worst left tackles in the NFL this past season. Bill Polian has to be kicking himself for passing on local product Rodger Saffold. Luckily, there will be several viable left tackle prospects to choose from with the 22nd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, including Derek Sherrod, Tyron Smith and Anthony Castonzo. Drafted Anthony Castonzo
Right Tackle: The right tackle position also needs to be upgraded, as Ryan Diem really struggled this year.
Defensive Tackle: The Colts really have nothing next to Fili Moala, as Daniel Muir could be the worst starting defensive tackle in the NFL. Someone like Jurrell Casey is a second-round option. Drafted Drake Nevis; signed Tommie Harris, Jamaal Anderson and DeMario Pressley
Right Guard: The rotation of Mike Pollak and Jeff Linkenbach proved to be ineffective in 2010. Indianapolis will look at Rodney Hudson in Round 2. Drafted Ben Ijalana
Wide Receiver: Reggie Wayne turns 33 in the middle of the 2011 season. Anthony Gonzalez can't stay healthy. Austin Collie is a couple of concussions away from calling it quits. The Colts need a receiver, and they'll probably target this position in Rounds 3-5.
Strong Safety: Indianapolis will need a capable strong safety when Bob Sanders gets injured next season. Re-signed Melvin Bullitt; drafted Chris L. Rucker; signed Joe Lefeged
Running Back: The Colts will have problems at running back next year if they don't re-sign Joseph Addai. Re-signed Joseph Addai; drafted Delone Carter; signed Darren Evans
Quarterback: Peyton Manning is 35. He's entering the final stage of his career, so the Colts should think about spending a mid-round pick on a possible successor. Signed Nate Davis and Dan Orlovsky
Punter: Pat McAfee is not getting the job done.
2011 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Jamaal Anderson, DE/DT, Falcons. Age: 25. Signed with Colts (1 year)
Jamaal Anderson can't get to the quarterback, but is an excellent run defender. I'm ranking him relatively high because I think he could be a really good 5-technique in the 3-4.
Tommie Harris, DT, Bears. Age: 28. Signed with Colts (1 year)
Tommie Harris is a shell of what he used to be. He's battled through way too many injuries. There's a chance he'll be able to bounce back and become a solid player once again, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Ernie Sims, OLB, Eagles. Age: 26. -- Signed with Colts
Darren Evans, RB, Virginia Tech. Age: N/A. -- Signed with Colts
Joe Lefeged, SS, Rutgers. Age: 23. -- Signed with Colts
DeMario Pressley, DT, Texans. Age: 25. -- Signed with Colts
Dan Orlovsky, QB, Texans. Age: 28. -- Signed with Colts
Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:
Salary Cap: No cap.
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts. Age: 35. Re-signed with Colts (5 years, $90 million)
Statistically, Peyton Manning had a poor year by his standards, throwing 17 interceptions to 33 touchdowns and generating just a 6.9 YPA. However, considering that he was working with no-names like Blair White and Jacob Tamme all year, Manning had an exceptional season. It's highly doubtful that Bill Polian will allow him to hit the open market.
Adam Vinatieri, K, Colts. Age: 38. Re-signed with Colts (3 years)
Adam Vinatieri can still nail clutch kicks, as he showed against the Jets this January. Vinatieri hit 26-of-28 field goals in 2010, including 9-of-10 from 40-49.
Kelvin Hayden, CB, Colts. Age: 28.
Kelvin Hayden is a talented cornerback and would be ranked higher than this if he weren't so injury-prone; Hayden has missed 18 games the past three seasons.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts. Age: 28. Re-signed with Colts
Joseph Addai isn't the most talented runner in the NFL, but he's great on third downs as both a pass-protector and a receiver out of the backfield.
Bob Sanders, SS, Colts. Age: 30. Signed with Chargers (1 year)
Despite being 30 years old and coming off multiple injuries, Bob Sanders is a 4-star talent. The problem is that he has 1-star durability. I just averaged the two together to get 2.5 stars. Sanders is a huge risk, but he's worth taking a chance on at the right price.
Clint Session, OLB, Colts. Age: 26. Signed with Jaguars (5 years, $30 million)
The Colts missed Clint Session last year; he played in only five games because of an elbow injury.
Kyle DeVan (ERFA), G, Colts. Age: 26. Re-signed with Colts
Kyle DeVan did a very good job in pass protection down the stretch, surrendering only one sack all year. However, he was heavily penalized.
Melvin Bullitt, SS, Colts. Age: 26. Re-signed with Colts (multi-year)
The Colts lost Melvin Bullitt to a season-ending shoulder injury in early October. He's a marginal strong safety.
Mike Hart (RFA), RB, Colts. Age: 25.
Mike Hart ran impressively when given the opportunity this past season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. I'd like to see him get more touches next year (assuming he can stay healthy).
Mike Pollak, G, Colts. Age: 26.
A marginal guard who struggles in the run-blocking department.
Antonio Johnson, DT, Colts. Age: 26. Re-signed with Colts
Antonio Johnson has some upside as a 310-pound defensive tackle with pass-rushing ability. He played well at times this past season after a horrible 2009 campaign.
Daniel Muir, DT, Colts. Age: 27. -- Signed with Rams (1 year, $1.85 million)
Charlie Johnson, OT, Colts. Age: 27. -- Signed with Vikings
Eric Foster, DT, Colts. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Colts
Tyjuan Hagler, OLB, Colts. Age: 29.
Aaron Francisco, S, Colts. Age: 28.
Keyunta Dawson, DE, Colts. Age: 25. -- Signed with Lions
Jamie Silva (RFA), S, Colts. Age: 26.
Al Afalava (ERFA), S, Colts. Age: 24.
Divisional Rival History: Houston Texans: The Texans have existed now for nine years. In those nine seasons, they've only beaten the Colts twice out of 18 times. Jacksonville Jaguars: Most of these games are close; 15 of the past 18 meetings have been decided by eight points or fewer. The Jaguars won one of the black-sheep contests, 44-17 on Dec. 10, 2006. David Garrard got hurt in the other. The third was a three-point game until a very late Indianapolis touchdown. Tennessee Titans: The Colts own the Titans again, having won the past five matchups.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2011 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)
Out of sheer boredom and the upcoming NBA draft has gotten me itching to make a new mock draft. Of course the NFL draft is a whole lot less predictable than the NBA draft, but also provides more success stories than the NBA draft. Again, I used schedules to determine each team's records and if you get upset with me just remember it's June and a whole lot can change by next April.