The Indianapolis Colts will have a rookie quarterback, an aging WR who’s only caught passes from Peyton Manning, no running game, a new center and a piecemeal set of defenders. But other than that, they're a powerhouse.
By the seventh Sunday, it should be apparent whether Andrew Luck can play in the NFL. We won’t know if he's the second coming of Johnny Unitas, but we'll know if he can face a professional pass rush and deliver a ball. (Besides, you-know-who was the second coming of Johnny U.)
Luck’s talent, intellect, work ethic and character are well established at this point in his young life. But, like Eli Manning, Andrew isn’t going to be shattering any charisma records. He is not, and will never be, Cam Newton or Ray Lewis.
It remains to be seen whether Luck, like Eli, can transcend his milquetoast personality through QB brilliance. It’s possible. But it certainly won’t be with the younger Manning’s rocket launcher. Which makes Luck's savvy and accuracy even more important.
Did I mention that Mr. Luck will not have Jeff Saturday or Ryan Diem protecting him as he is introduced to NFL defenders? Yeah.
Even if Luck does make Hoosier dreams come true and fills Peyton Manning’s shoes for "The Horseshoe," it will not happen in 2012. Cam Newton’s dazzling rookie fireworks came down to a 6-10 record.
When the Browns show up at Lucas Oil Stadium, Luck will have played six games (the Colts’ bye is Week 4). Hmmm. Advantage Browns’ excellent secondary.
As for the Browns offensive scouting outlook—Indy has had a decent run defense exactly once since they drafted Peyton Manning. That was the year that safety Bob Sanders was healthy at the right time and the Colts went on to win it all.
Ah, but Jim Irsay hired defensively minded head coach Chuck Pagano to remedy all things D. As the former Ravens defensive coordinator, Pagano (in theory) has the knowledge to accomplish this.
Baltimore boasted 92.6 yards per game by opposing runners in 2011. Trent Richardson take note.
What Pagano doesn’t have are Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata. Pagano did succeed in bringing Cory Redding with him to the Corn Belt. This will be one of many 2012 tests for the new right side of the Browns O-line.
Pagano could be the new Tony Dungy of defensive coaching geniuses, but it will still be with a new group of players in a new system. Even if Brandon Weeden hasn’t become Andy Dalton by Week 7, Trent Richardson should be up to speed.
Luck’s “run support” isn’t quite so promising, with no disrespect to Mewelde Moore. There will be more pressure on Luck to carry the team. See Browns fans smiling as they circle this one as a win.