The first game of the season is in the books and while the results were disappointing, they appear to be fixable… for the most part. Though it may sound cliche and worn out, people must remember, this is the first of 16 games and several of the mistakes we witnessed (at least on the defensive side of the ball) are correctable.
1.) I think the defense will be fine. The way the Texans ran the ball on the Colts yesterday reminded me of last year’s game against the Dolphins. In that game, many of the same issues that plagued the Colts defense on Sunday, were prevalent. The defensive tackles were getting pushed back, the edges were not sealed, the linebackers were not in their assigned gaps, and the players were missing tackles. All of these issues are mostly mental lapses and technical errors. We have seen the Colts bounce back from this before and given that most of these players have a chip on their shoulders when they hear “the Colts can’t stop the run”, bouncing back should not be too much of a concern.
2.) I think the Colts deviated away from the run far too early. Despite Addai averaging 4.4 yards a carry, the Colts completely abandoned the run halfway through the second quarter. The decision did not really make a lot of sense given that the Colts were only down by three points to end the half. By sticking to the run, the Colts could have accomplished three things: give the defense a chance to rest, open up play-action passes, and slow down Houston’s pass rush. Unfortunately, the Colts did none of this, forcing an injured and battered offensive line to get abused by Houston’s defensive line, resulting in Manning spending much of the day on his back.
3.) I think that either Jim Caldwell feels Vinatieri needs a little more time to get ready or he made some serious coaching errors. On three drives, the Colts offense was inside the Houston 30 and on all three Jim Caldwell decided to eschew the field goal try for punts. Based on the preseason games we have witnessed and what people have reported during training camp, Vinatieri has more than enough leg to make field goals beyond 50 yards. If this was a strategic move for field positioning, it was a dumb one. The Colts needed all the points they could get to stay in this one. If not, perhaps it means Vinatieri still needs some extra work in the accuracy department.
4.) I think Bob Sanders tenure in Indianapolis is done. With yet another severe injury (torn bicep), it appears that not only is Bob Sanders season over, but his career in Indy as well. The amount of games Sanders has missed since signing his extension, combined with the $5 million Sanders is expected to receive next year is too much for the Colts to afford. As talented as Bob Sanders is, the risk of carrying him on the roster is higher than the reward of hoping he will stay healthy.
5.) I think we may see a changing of the guards sometime this season. Watching yesterdays game, it was clear that both of the Colts guards played awful (well actually, the whole line did). Watching some of the plays again, the one player who stood out was Jamey Richard… and not in a good way. Throughout the day, Richard kept getting harassed by Amobi Okoye and on most plays, all the pressure was coming from the left side. Though Pollak and Diem’s side did not fair well either, most of the success running the ball came was to the right side, and they were responsible for fewer breakdowns in pass protection. Like last year, don’t be surprised to see the Colts make a change at either left guard or right guard, opting to go with rookie Jacques McClendon or reverting back to Kyle DeVan if these problems persist.