A Post-Preseason Look at the Indianapolis Colts

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So here stand the Indianapolis Colts.

Here they stand after a condensed offseason, an entire training camp without quarterback Peyton Manning, a 1-3 preseason and a cut to the 53-man roster.

So here they stand … and where, exactly is “here” that they stand?

I have to be honest with you, not even I am quite sure one week in advance of the team’s regular-season opener against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.

With the Colts, the conversation always starts and ends with Manning, who was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list early last week and has been practicing on a very limited basis. The team certainly hopes he is ready to go against Houston next week, but I see it as one of the most complicated situations in recent NFL memory. In just about any case, Manning unquestionably would give the Colts the best chance to win. But what if he’s not reasonably close to 100 percent on opening day?

It’s dicey. The team just signed the four-time league MVP to a five-year, $90 million contract. While Indy certainly would like Manning to be out there, it certainly knows it can’t put its prized investment at substantial risk. Manning also might not be up to game speed by Sept. 11 and could be largely out of timing with his receivers as was the case the last time he missed all of training camp in 2008. All factors considered, the Colts have to be ready for Plan B.

That’s where the backup situation comes in. Kerry Collins looked rusty in his Colts debut in Thursday’s preseason finale at Cincinnati. He did, however, display the arm strength he’s shown throughout his long NFL career and only was working with reserve offensive players. On the other hand, Collins appeared to be a statue in the pocket. That’s risky business behind a shaky offensive line. Can Collins deliver if called upon against the Texans?

Curtis Painter seemed to make a statement that he could in the third preseason game. His two-touchdown effort in just over a half of play against the Packers (he outscored the Aaron Rodgers-led Green Bay offense) was his response to both his ever-loud contingent of critics and the signing of Collins earlier that week. He is on the final roster, so that performance probably bought him some more time. How much time that is, I can’t say.

Speaking of the final roster, cuts to the 53-man opening-day roster were finalized Saturday. A few notable players to fail to make the team include free-agent acquisition Tommie Harris, who actually looked good during the preseason. However, the Colts must not have felt they could rely on him to stay healthy or contribute heavily, so they opted for the former of the low-risk, high-reward formula signing. Indy also might have cut Harris to express its confidence in third-round draft pick Drake Nevis, who has impressed many in his first preseason. Former starting guard Kyle DeVan also was released. The former af2 player was a nice story when he supplanted former second-round pick Mike Pollak for a starting guard spot in 2009, but since then he’s displayed inconsistency that has become all too common for a Colts offensive lineman. I believe he’ll land on his feet somewhere.

Interestingly enough, former first-round picks Anthony Gonzalez, Donald Brown and Jerry Hughes were said to be on the hot seat to a degree, but each ended up on the final roster. I’d expect they might not be so lucky this time next year unless they show something in 2011.

Dan Orlovsky, who really was just an extra arm for training camp with Manning out, had a nice finale in leading the Colts on a clutch drive for their only preseason win. Thanks for the fun there, Dan.

To sum it all up, I think there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about this team as long as Manning is completely healthy, behind center and playing at a high level. The defense added some nice pieces, and the offensive line will come along as the draft picks and players at new spots get up to speed. Collins might be OK for a game or two if he has to start, but that’s it.

I’ll have more in-depth analyses on the Colts entering their season opener this week. Stay tuned.

 

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