On the Way Back Down

We continue our examination of the Footballoutsiders 2009 Almanac today with a look at two of the most important Colts.

There’s never been any debate that Peyton Manning is the most important player in blue and white.  Last year, we caught our first glimpse of his football mortality as he dealt with a knee injury to open camp.  It has always felt like #18 was going to play forever, but in our more rational moments we know he won’t.

We also know that at some point, we’ll see his skills erode.  Many QBs experience career rejuvenation in their 30s, mainly because they finally understand the position.  At the QB position, smart is better than skilled.  Manning has been both for almost his whole career.  At some point, we’ll start to see those skills drop off.  History tells us that QBs start to diminish around age 32.

Peyton just turned 33.

So, is there any evidence his play has dropped off.  Well, there is the curious case of the lack of deep completions last year.  The Almanac points out that:

he completed the fewest 20-plus-yard passes of his career

There are many reasons for this.  Harrison wasn’t himself; the line couldn’t protect him, he had no training camp to get a rhythm.  Those may be the causes.  On the other hand, it certainly did seem like Peyton was under-throwing the deep ball all year.  Was it the knee?  Who knows.  But an honest observer (and we are homers, but never dishonest) would have to say that something looked off.

Perhaps 2008 was a sign of things to come for 18.  As he ages, the deep ball may not be there as it was when he was 28.  Still, he more than proved that he has the chops to be an effective QB in the mid/short range passing game.  FO’s projections for Manning in 2009?  Right on target with the last three years.


66.2%, 4054 yards, 31 TD, 10 INT, 7.7 YPA, 40.9% DVOA, 101.1 Rating

I think all of us would be happy with that.  The Outsiders are projecting another vintage Manning year. 

Whew.

The other critical offensive cog for the Colts is Reggie Wayne.  The FO target age for wideout decline is 30.

Reggie Wayne just turned 31.

Take a look at his three year trends in YPC and DVOA from 2006 to 2008:

YPC: 15.2, 14.5, 14.0
DVOA: 30.9%, 23.1%, 19.2%

As the Outsiders put it:

Wayne was considered Marvin Harrison’s understudy for so long that even as Wayne became the better player, people always assumed he was young. In fact, Wayne turns 31 this season and probably is on the downside of his career.

So what do they for see for 87? 

92 Catches, 1153 yards, 10 TDs, 12.5 YPC, DVOA 16.0%

That would be another Pro-Bowl type year for Wayne, but a decline in his YPC and DVOA would illustrate the cracks in his game starting to show.

 Marvin Harrison played at an elite level until he was 34.   Wayne has three years to separate himself from the pack and become a Hall of Fame caliber WR.  If he can extend his prime past where players normally fall off (like Marvin did), he’ll have a strong case for Canton. If his career follows a more conventional curve, however, he’ll simply go down in history as one of the great Colts ever, and the second best wideout in Indianapolis history.

So the verdict is split.  They see 18 holding steady and improving on 2008, and 87 slipping almost imperceptibly.  Either way, both projections bode well for 2009, if not beyond.

Links:
Bruce breaks his wrist, and a look at the first half.  Note the sidebar.  It says:

Biggest bad surprise: Willy Taveras. No one expected him to be
Rickey Henderson. But no one expected him to be Corey Patterson without
the power. The Reds have to hope he comes around, or make him the
fourth outfielder.

Oh, no one expected him to be Corey Patterson 2?  I DID!  Here’s my exact quote from December 27th:

They had three possible OF options (Hariston Jr, Baldelli, and Taveras)
and they invariably sign the most useless of the three.  Awesome.
Taveras is a glorified pinch runner who could barely post a .300 OB% in
Coors freaking Field.   I know the other two were massive injury risks,
but I’d rather have a guy who might be good when healthy than a guy I
know will play every day and suck.  Why not just resign Corey
Patterson?  Ugh.

I don’t accept “we didn’t know he’d be this bad!” as a line of reasoning.  He’s horrible.  He was horrible last year.  I knew he’d be this bad. Anyone with eyes knew he’d be this bad.
By the way, Baldelli has been a solid bench player for the Red Sox.  Sigh.

Great article on the NFL and Wall Street.  Thanks FO

Johnny O covers Peyton and the AP at the Manning Passing Academy


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