2010 State of the Colts Franchise: Offense

With organized team activities complete and nearly a month remaining before the start of training camp, I thought it might be useful to take a look at the “State of the Franchise,” position-by-position, on both sides of the ball.  Fans can then figure out what “needs”, if any, the Colts still have as a team and speculate about potential free agent signings, which will be possible on July 22nd (when the final eight rule exclusion expires), before training and preseason arrives.

Quarterback:

AP Photo

Peyton Manning – Tennessee
6’5″, 230 lbs.
Laser-Rocket Arm
Team Leader
Greatest QB Ever?
13th Season
1st Round Selection – 1998

Curtis Painter – Purdue
6’4″, 230 lbs.
Second Season
6th Round Selection – 2009

Tim Hiller – Western Michigan
6’4″, 229 lbs.
Rookie Season
Undrafted – 2010

Drew Willy – Buffalo
6’3″, 217 lbs.
First Season
Undrafted – 2009

Tom Brandstater – Fresno State
6’5″, 223 lbs.
Second Season
Waivers Denver – 2010
Originally 6th Round Selection – 2009

Analysis:

Coming into the 2010 season the Colts have their biggest weapon in training camp, even healthier than he started the 2009 season as he had successful off-season surgery to relieve a pinched nerve in his neck.  He will enter training camp with arguably the deepest and most talented group of weapons at his disposal in his 13-year NFL career.

Barring injuries to Manning or his weapons, all indications suggest that the 2010 Colts offense could be as deadly and productive as the 2004 version.

Curtis Painter enters his second NFL season and should show signs of development in workouts this summer.  After all, he has had a full season of work underneath Peyton Manning and with long-time backup Jim Sorgi.  He also has put some regular season experience under his belt against first-team competition.  Bill Polian has already made it clear that Painter is the sure-fire backup heading into training camp, which gives him at least the security of knowing that he has to worry less about earning his spot on the team and more about not screwing things up so badly as to lost his spot on the team.

Behind Painter there is a three-way competition for a potential third quarterback spot on the Colts regular-season roster.   While Drew Willy has been with the team longer than Tom Brandstater and Tim Hiller, the hype around Hiller made him the odds-on favorite to win a third roster spot or practice squad position.  The Brandstater signing, on June 7th, added another option to an already crowded group.  What is most intriguing about Brandstater is that he is a rare waiver pick-up and comes from a team (the Broncos) which has Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, and first round draft pick Tim Tebow on its roster.  It is reasonable to believe, then, that he was not released due to a lack of talent or potential but because there was no chance he would be able to compete for a spot on the roster with proven quarterbacks, or prime-time potential players like Quinn and Tebow.

Although the Colts no longer boast the intellectual depth at quarterback as they did with Jim Sorgi (now with Eli Manning and the Giants), there is little question that more raw physical quarterbacking talent will participate in summer practices than did a year ago.

Running Back

John David Mercer | US Presswire Photo

Joseph Addai – LSU
5’11″, 214 lbs.
2007 Pro Bowl Selection
Fifth Season
1st Round Selection – 2006

Donald Brown – Connecticut
5’10″, 210 lbs.
2008 NCAA Rushing Yards Leader
Second Season
1st Round Selection – 2009

Mike Hart – Michigan
5’9″, 206 lbs.
All-Time Leader Rushing Yards at Michigan
Third Season
6th Round Selection – 2008

Devin Moore – Wyoming
5’10″, 191 lbs.
First Season
Free Agent – 2010
Originally Undrafted Free Agent – Seattle

Javarris James – Miami
6’0″, 215 lbs.
Edgerrin James’ Cousin
Rookie Season
Undrafted Free Agent – 2010

Analysis:

Last year was one of the worst years in Colts history running the ball.  It is a discouraging sign that 2008 and 2009 together were lackluster, and that although the Colts hoped signing Donald Brown in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft would provide the ground game with a boost, it failed to accomplish its goal.

Brown was slower to acclimate himself into the Colts offensive system than hoped and missed five games with various injuries and ailments, including a chest injury.  Mike Hart finished the season as the Colts third running option but missed the first seven weeks of the season as he tried to fully recover from his the knee-injury he sustained in 2008.  The good news on both backs is that they benefited from a great deal of regular and post-season experience, shoudl both be very comfortable with the Colts offense compared to last season, and neither has nagging injuries heading into training camp.  Early indications from the coaching staff suggest that Brown is progressing nicely, and it makes sense that he will see an increased role in the offense in the coming season.

Added to the competition for spots running back spots on the roster are Devin Moore and Javarris James.  Moore is a speedy back with potential as a returner.  James is a larger back who could try to push Hart as a short-yardage specialist.  Moore was more productive college running back but James did play on a roster with third running backs accumulating 90 or more carries.

The only loss in the Colts backfield is Chad Simpson, who spent much of his time as the team’s kick returner and was replaced by Hart in the final half of the 2009 season in the offense.  It stands to reason that the Colts backfield is better now than it was a season ago, as it is healthy and more experienced.  Last season there was a real question-mark about who might fill the third running back spot on the roster, this season it will be Mike Hart, or the Colts will have found a player that will make the unit even stronger than it was at the conclusion of the 2009 season.

Wide Receiver

Michael Controy | AP Photo

Reggie Wayne – Miami
6’0″, 198 lbs.
4-Time Pro Bowl Selection
10th Season
1st Round Selection – 2001

Anthony Gonzalez – Ohio State
6’0″, 193 lbs.
Fourth Season
1st Round Selection – 2007

Pierre Garcon – Mount Union
6’0″, 210 lbs.
2nd All-Time in Receiving TDs in NCAA Div. III History
Third Season
6th Round Selection – 2008

Austin Collie – BYU
6’1″, 200 lbs.
1st in NCAA in Receiving Yards 2008
Second Season
4th Round Selection – 2009

Samuel Giguere – Sherbrooke (Canada)
5’11″, 215 lbs.
First Season
Undrafted – 2008

Taj Smith – Syracuse
6’0″, 192 lbs.
First Season
Undrafted – 2008 (signed off of waivers from Green Bay)

John Matthews – San Diego
6’0″, 200lbs.
2008 1st in FCS:  Receptions, Receiving Yards and TD Receptions
First Season
Undrafted – 2009

Blair White – Michigan State
6’2″, 205 lbs.
Rookie Season
Undrafted – 2010

Dudley Guice – Northwestern State
6’3″, 209 lbs.
First Season
Undrafted – 2009
Originally with Tennessee – Canadian Football League

Jordan Sisco – Regina (Canada)
6’0″, 212 lbs.
Rookie Season
Undrafted – 2010

Analysis:

The Indianapolis Colts will enter the new season with arguably the most loaded corps of wide receivers in its history, and possibly in the NFL.  Consider that 2009 was supposed to be Anthony Gonzalez’s breakout year, taking over for Marvin Harrison on Peyton Manning’s right-side.  A freak knee-injury on the first offensive play of the Colts young season ended his year, and could have spelled catastrophe for a hopeful Colts offense.

The development and performance of second-year wide receiver Pierre Garçon and rookie Austin Collie was incredible.  Garçon was getting his first real time on the field for Indianapolis as a wide receiver, and would become one of the hottest names in football as the season continued.  Collie went on to have the most productive offensive season of any rookie wide receiver in 2009.  Now, the Colts will enter training camp with four legitimate starting-caliber wide receivers, flexibility for potential four-wide sets, and incredible insurance should one of the front-line receivers need to miss any significant time.

This does not tell nearly the whole story, however, as the Colts also sport a cast of highly talented project receivers who could be very surprising.  Sam Giguere, who came to the Colts after playing Canadian football in college, earned himself a chance as a returner at the end of the 2009 regular season, and has received praise from Colts coaches as a developing talent.  It was even suggested early this summer that a Colts insider thought Giguere could develop into the “next Wes Welker.”  Blair White has also received a great deal of praise from fans who are confident in his development, and General Manger Chris Polian singled him out on the Dan Dakich radio program following the Colts rookie mini-camp.

A season ago, Taj Smith was the hottest wide receiver to not make the final roster.  Many who watched the team throughout training camp in Terre Haute were impressed and thought he could push his way onto the squad.  Dudley Guice is a highly popular pick-up for the Colts, is tall and fast, and received praise from Draft Guys TV leading up to the 2009 NFL Draft.  How he will impact the competition for depth at wide receiver is hard to figure, but he has unique measurables for a Colts receiver and will get his opportunity.

After Jordan Sisco only received an invitation to participate in the Colts rookie mini-camp initially, he received a contract from the team following his performance there and will now have a chance to compete in training camp as well.  John Matthews is coming into his second summer with the Colts.

The Colts are four deep in starting-caliber talent at wide receiver.  They have four or five high profile young players also pining for their opportunity.  They also have a couple of players who have been highly productive in college and are still worth keeping around to see for development.  An exciting year for the Colts at wide receiver, and better even than it was at the same time a season ago.

Tight End:

Associated Press Photo

Dallas Clark – Iowa
6’3″, 252 lbs.
One of Two Tight Ends in NFL History with 100 Receptions in a Single Season (2009)
Eighth Season
1st Round Selection – 2003

Gijon Robinson – Missouri Western State
6’1″, 255 lbs.
Third Season
Undrafted – 2007

Jacob Tamme – Kentucky
6’3″, 236 lbs.
Third Season
4th Round Selection – 2008

Tom Santi – Virginia
6’3″, 250 lbs.
Third Season
6th Round Selection – 2008

Brody Eldridge – Oklahoma
6’5″, 265 lbs.
Rookie Season
5th Round Selection – 2010

Colin Cloherty – Brown
6’2″, 245 lbs.
First Season
UDFA – 2009

Justin Snow – Baylor
6’3″, 240 lbs.
11th Season
Undrafted – 2000

Analysis:

The Tight End position is another area on the team that has a great deal of talent.  Consider that Dallas Clark is coming off of the most productive season as a tight end in Colts history (breaking his 2008 record), became the second tight end in NFL history to finish a season with 100 or more receptions, and is in the prime of his career.  Gijon Robinson has lined up across from Clark for two seasons but he may be replaced by fifth round draft pick Brody Eldridge, who was known as arguably the best blocking tight end in the 2010 NFL Draft, and who has proven far more capable as a receiver early this summer than many expected.  If he prevails in the competition with Robinson, one could argue that the Colts have improved at tight end.

The next intriguing part of the Colts tight end unit is that Tom Santi and Jacob Tamme are now entering their third seasons with the team.  Tamme has developed into one of the best special teams players on the team, and is the backup long snapper to Justin Snow.  When he was drafted he was expected to play a similar game to Dallas Clark, as a quicker tight end with the hands and speed to create match-up problems.  While he has not yet had an opportunity to become a regular part of the offense, with Dallas Clark playing the best football of his career, this could be the season he shows fans just how strong he is backing up Clark during training camp and the preseason.

The player who has shown a bit more in a receiving role is Tom Santi, who caught his first touchdown pass in 2008 in Houston to lead one of the Colts most storied comebacks.  Last season he tore up the Ravens in Baltimore, catching six passes for 80 yards.  His perfect day was ruined when he made a mistake by stretching out at the goal line, attempting to score, losing the football and allowing the Ravens to stay in the game.  The big knock on Santi is that he has major issues staying healthy and this is a make-or-break summer for him in that regard.  Still, if he can stay healthy he has shown exciting play-making ability catching the football.

It is rather likely that Colin Cloherty will be odd man out in this competition.  Justin Snow will likely make the team automatically for his special teams ability both on coverage units and as the long snapper.  At the end of the day, it is rather likely that this group of tight ends will be more talented and deeper than the one in 2009.

Offensive Tackle:

Michael Conroy | AP Photo

Ryan Diem – Northern Illinois
6’6″, 320 lbs.
Starting RT
10th Season
4th Round Selection – 2001

Charlie Johnson – Oklahoma State
6’4″, 305 lbs.
Starting LT
Fifth Season
6th Round Selection – 2006

Tony Ugoh – Arkansas
6’5″, 301 lbs.
T/G
Fourth Season
2nd Round Selection – 2007

Adam Terry – Syracuse
6’8″, 335 lbs.
RT
Sixth Season
Free Agent – 2010
Originally 2nd Round – 2005 (Baltimore)

Gerald Cadogan – Penn State
6’5″, 314 lbs.
OT
First Season
Free Agent – 2010
Originally Undrafted – 2009 (Carolina)

Andrew Tyshovnytsky – Fordham
6’4″, 317 lbs.
OT
Rookie Season
Undrafted – 2010

Jeff Linkenbach – Cincinnati
6’4″, 311 lbs.
OT
Rookie Season
Undrafted – 2010

Analysis:

The Offensive Tackle position went through a transition in 2010, Charlie Johnson took over for former second round pick Tony Ugoh as the starting left tackle.  Some thought Ugoh could retake the position before the end of the regular season but that did not happen, Johnson played better football than most foresaw and Ugoh is not getting a look at guard.

Heading into the 2010 NFL Draft, many thought the Colts might select a left tackle in the first round, and some were furious that there were left tackles left on the board who they had personally rated as first round prospects.  Still, the team did add Adam Terry, formerly with the Baltimore Ravens, who lost his position as the starting right tackle in Baltimore after he suffered a season-ending knee injury and rookie first round pick Michael Oher took over.  Considering that Charlie Johnson is entering his second season as a starter at ANY position on the offensive line, that Ugoh is still capable playing left tackle should he need to do so, and that Terry has joined the team and has veteran experience behind stalwart right tackle Ryan Diem, it would seem that on the face, the Colts have already become a deeper, more talented, and more experienced unit at tackle.

Still, the real question-mark that is on fans minds heading into the new season is whether Johnson can repeat his solid 2009 performance, and how much longer Ryan Diem will hold down his position.  After a terrible rushing season, some think real change needs to be made and if Johnson and Diem are back on the outside, it is hard to figure just how much change can be expected on the ground.

It is possible that one of the young tackle prospects could make the team, although they may be officially listed at guard, as many Colts offensive tackles have been before them.  Andrew Tyshovnytsky impressed many with incredible workout number for a man his size, posting a 4.91 40-yard dash and benching 225 pounds 33 times.  While those numbers are encouraging, little else in known about Tyshovnytsky.  Gerald Cadogan was ranked relatively high as an offensive tackle prospect in 2009 and bounced around a bit last season.  He will be joined by Jeff Linkenbach to compete for a possible spot on the roster.  Chances are, of the bottom three tackles, only one has a chance of making the regular season roster and one might be retained on the team’s practice squad.

While no great improvement may have been made at offensive tackle, it can be argued that day one of training camp there is more depth at the position and experience than the team had at the same time last year.

Offensive Guard:


Kyle DeVan – Oregon State
6’2″, 308 lbs.
G/C
Second Season
UDFA – 2008

Tony Ugoh – Arkansas
6’5″, 301 lbs.
T/G
Fourth Season
2nd Round Selection – 2007

Mike Pollak – Arizona State
6’3″, 301 lbs.
Starting RG
Third Season
2nd Round Selection – 2008

Jamey Richard – Buffalo
6’5″, 295 lbs.
G/C
Third Season
7th Round Selection – 2008

Jamie Thomas – Maryland
6’4″, 330 lbs.
G/T
First Season
7th Round Selection – 2009

Andy Alleman – Akron
6’4″, 310 lbs.
G
Fourth Season
Free Agent – 2010
Originally Third Round Draft Pick – 2007 (New Orleans)

Jacques McClendon – Tennessee
6’3″, 324 lbs.
G
Rookie Season
4th Round Selection – 2010

Greg Peat – Oregon State
6’3″, 299 lbs.
G
Rookie Season
Undrafted – 2010

Analysis:

2009 was a year of surprises for the Colts at guard.  First, former second round selection Mike Pollak lost his starting job at right guard to Kyle DeVan, who was previously playing for the Boise Burn.  Second, long-time starting left guard Ryan Lilja, after recovering from a season-ending injury in 2008 and playing in all 19 games for the Colts last year, was cut following the season.  Lilja and former Colts guard Jake Scott were probably the most trusted guard combination the team has had in some time and now both pieces of that combo are gone.

The Colts did use a relatively high draft pick to select Jacques McClendon in the fourth round this year, and he has a chance to compete for immediate playing time and serve as Lilja’s replacement.  The team is also taking a look at former second round draft pick Tony Ugoh inside for the first time in his professional career.  Either option would be increases in size for the team on their offensive interior and should give the offense a bit of a different look.  The team has made it a point to place emphasis on running the ball better in 2010, and these guys could be who the team thinks could help bring that change about.

Right guard may not be completely tied down by DeVan as Pollak certainly has every reason to push hard to earn his position back, but Pollak was a center in college and has never looked all that comfortable playing guard.  Of course, the Colts did bring in Andy Alleman as a free agent to potentially compete with DeVan, and Jaime Thomas and Jamey Richard are still on with the team as well.  However the competition for the guard spots turns out there one thing seems very certain, the Colts interior will be bigger offensively this year than it was in 2009.

It seems reasonable to believe that the Colts will be able to find a suitable group of guards out of the many options that will enter training camp with the team.  It is unlikely, though, that the Colts will field a group of guard that is experienced as the one they entered the season with a year ago.  Calling this an improved group would be premature but it will definitely be a different looking one.

Center:

Brent Smith | Reuters Photo

Jeff Saturday – North Carolina
6’2″, 295 lbs.
3-Time Pro Bowl Selection
Starting Center
12th Season
UDFA – 1998 (signed as a free agent in 1999)

Mike Pollak – Arizona State
6’3″, 301 lbs.
Starting RG
Third Season
2nd Round Selection – 2008

Jamey Richard – Buffalo
6’5″, 295 lbs.
G/C
Third Season
7th Round Selection – 2008

Kyle DeVan – Oregon State
6’2″, 308 lbs.
G/C
Second Season
UDFA – 2008

Analysis:

There is really no change for the Colts at center.  Jeff Saturday will continue to be the started and his replacement will continue to either be developed or located in the interim.  One thing that does stand out, however, is that there is a small army of players on the offensive line with experience at center.  Who will come out of this group to serve as Saturday’s replacement if he should miss time is hard to figure right now, as even rookie Jacques McClendon has practiced there.  Polian and company are certainly on the prowl to find that player though, and they have a lot of options to consider already with the team.

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