Indianapolis Colts Enter Great Unknown Against Houston Texans

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Reality has set in for the Indianapolis Colts and their fans.

Peyton Manning will not be behind center after starting a total of 227 consecutive games for the franchise.

Sixteen-year veteran Kerry Collins will take the snaps for the Colts for the foreseeable future, starting with today’s season-opening bout against the Houston Texans in Reliant Stadium.

The Great Unknown.

All these years, the analysts and experts have been stating the Colts are a three- or four-win team without Manning. I can understand why they believe that given the team’s problems along the offensive line and its issues in rush offense and defense. But the fact remains that no objective evidence or precedent with this core of players exists to support the analyst’s claim.

That changes starting today.

The Colts surely won’t be able to do a lot of the things they could do with Manning, the stretch running play perhaps especially in jeopardy. But the team could evolve to accommodate Collins, who won’t react as quickly after the snap as Manning.

Here are a few things in particular that Indy will need to do to remain competitive today and going forward without its four-time MVP.

  • Run the ball. It’s something the Colts haven’t done particularly well WITH Manning. The team has ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in rush offense the last three seasons. As I said, the Colts’ signature “stretch play” could be in trouble without Manning running the show, and thus Joseph Addai might become more valuable as a blocker and pass-catcher. However, rookie back Delone Carter, who jumped former first-round pick Donald Brown to No. 2 on the depth chart, is a different back than the Colts have had in recent years. He’s a powerful runner who probably can make some extra yards where the offensive line might not be able to provide any. Carter probably didn’t expect this to be the case, but without Manning in the fold, he probably will become one of the big pieces to the Colts’ success going forward.
  • Stop the run. The other side of the coin. The Colts actually have been stouter against the run than most people admit. They haven’t been great, but inconsistent is a more appropriate term than bad. A lot of it has to do with the personnel. The Colts specialize in pass defense, but a lot of times the unit susceptible to the run. That could change with the development of draft picks Fili Moala and Drake Nevis. The former enters his second full season as a starter, while the latter has impressed in the preseason with his burst off the line and figures to be a key ingredient in the line’s pass rush. In addition, new ends Tyler Brayton and Jamaal Anderson should provide strength against the run on the edges on first and second downs, keeping pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis fresh. Linebackers Gary Brackett, Pat Angerer, Kavell Conner and Ernie Sims have to like the idea of more time to make plays.
  • Get behind Collins. Receiver Reggie Wayne had strong words on Collins when the Colts first signed him. He said the offense “ain’t vanilla” and expressed his support for incumbent backup quarterback Curtis Painter. Well, bottom line is that Collins is this team’s starting quarterback sans Manning. The rest of the offensive players need to get used to that and adapt to his strengths. The Colts insist Collins is doing his part in picking up the offense in such a short amount of time. The players should return the favor. Anthony Castonzo and the offensive line need to hold their ground longer thean they felt was necessary under Manning, who masked many of their shortcomings by releasing the ball quickly. Receivers need to be patient on routes. It’s all a work in progress

And it will be interesting to watch.

 

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