And so a tough midseason run of the schedule continues with the Indianapolis Colts. If you look at the AFC South, where do you think it ranks top to bottom compared to every other division? If Jacksonville can bounce back this year, it's definitely in the running for one of the better divisions. Hard to match what the NFC South and East did this past year.
Anyways, on to the Colts. The Indianapolis Colts are represented at SB Nation by BigBlueShoe over at Stampede Blue.
While many consider the New England Patriots the gold standard of the NFL at this point, the Colts managed quite an impressive run under Tony Dungy. Under Dungy, the Colts were 85-27 with no fewer than 10 wins in any season and a Super Bowl title in 2006. The 2008 season saw the Colts offense continue to fire away, finishing 6th in the NFL. It's certainly interesting to note that they were 2nd in passing and 27th in rushing. The struggles of Joseph Addai hurt the running game, but the passing game kept on ticking. On defense, the team finished 10th overall, a bit of a fall from their #2 ranking in 2007.
The Colts looked quite impressive for the second half of last season winning their last nine regular season games including wins over New England, Pittsburgh and Tennessee. They then managed to stumble big time with a first round playoff loss to the 8-8 Chargers. If I was a member of the Colts I'd definitely enter 2009 with a sense of purpose.
As the stats above point out (and traditional counting stats show the same), the Colts rushing attack was pretty putrid in 2008. So, the Colts went out and drafted running back Donald Brown in the first round of the draft. Teaming Brown with Joseph Addai could make for one heck of a running back duo. I'm not a Colts fan, but I think that duo could be really fun to watch. Colts fans are also pumped about the additions of Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor as part of the defensive front 4. It looks like Moala will move into the starting lineup and Taylor will at least get some decent playing time. Free agency was actually quite quiet for the Colts, which isn't shocking since they are definitely in solid.
In terms of players, the Colts had a few notable losses, although none is particularly awful. Keiwan Ratliff had settled in as the Colts nickelback and Dominic Rhodes contributed, but in the end was particularly special like his first stint with the Colts. And of course they cut loose Marvin Harrison. Makes for good ink but Father Time has been approaching Harrison for some time (even with some ok 2008 numbers).
As for the big addition/subtraction for the Colts....
2009 Questions & Answers
From a national perspective, I'd imagine the change in head coach is the big news item. Exit Tony Dungy to save Michael Vick; enter Jim Caldwell, entering his eighth season in the Colts organization. Caldwell started as the quarterbacks coach and eventually was promoted to assistant head coach in 2005. Stampede Blue had two particularly interesting columns (one and two). There is plenty of debate about the values of an NFL head coach, so it will be interesting to see what kind of effect this change has on the 2009 Indianapolis Colts.
Among the actual players, it will be interesting to see if the addition of Donald Brown does in fact bring the rushing attack back to respectability. The Colts averaged 79.6 yards per game last season, good (or bad) for 31st in the NFL. Although the rankings will obviously be different in 2009, if they could move into the middle of the pack in rushing, that would constitute a tremendous improvement for an already potent offense.
Finally, on the defensive side of the ball, the team took a bit of a step back, although it wasn't exactly a monster step. However, the addition of two 300+ lb defensive tackles could certainly help boost that rushing defense. Something like that could mean big things for the defense.
vs. San Francisco
In what should come as no surprise, neither ProfessorBigelow nor I predicted a 49ers win over the Colts in our early schedule discussion. While the 49ers offense might be able to score on their defense, one has to wonder if it would be sufficient to keep up with the offensive attack Indy will be bringing to the table. While I don't foresee a 49ers win, I'd like to open this up more to what would need to happen for the 49ers to spring what would be a monster upset? And hell freezing over does not count as an answer.
Looking at the Colts, a potential rushing resurgence, combined with the existing passing attack spells trouble. Even if Manny Lawson has shown pass rushing prowess, I'd imagine he'll spend this game draped over Dallas Clark. Nate Clements will get one of the biggest tests of the season in Reggie Wayne. And there's always Anthony Gonzalez to cause some trouble. If the team can generate a serious pass rush and disrupt Peyton Manning, would that be enough? The 49ers rushing defense would have to really step up and take Addai/Brown out of the equation. In the end, we might just have to settle for a moral victory.