by Justin of The Sportmeisters
2009 will be a historic one, as the Colts say goodbye to the tutelage of Tony Dungy and hello to the new regime under Jim Caldwell. The Indianapolis Colts are a franchise that is used to winning on the arm of Peyton Manning and under the quiet, yet powerful direction of Tony Dungy.
In any other circumstance, I would be weary of a team that lost such a figure as Dungy, but in the Colts’ case, Caldwell will not be a major change in the coaching staff because of the fact that he has been an assistant head coach for the franchise since 2005.
Another reason why the coaching change will not affect the Colts as much as some might think is because of a well known field general by the name of Peyton Manning.
After a rough start Manning led the Colts on a nine game winning streak at the end of the 2008 regular season. The Colts QB had another productive season ranking sixth in the league in passing, third in the league in completion percentage, and fifth in the league in touchdowns.
Coach Caldwell will have the pressure of continuing the regular season success of a Colts franchise that has won at least twelve games in every season since 2003. With so many wins in the regular season, it will be up to Caldwell to make the Colts play better in colder conditions during the playoffs.
Now let’s take a look at the top three areas of concern for the Colts that need to be addressed before the first kick off of the 2009 season.
Indianapolis Colts Draft Picks
Round 1: pick 27
Round 2: pick 29
Round 3: pick 28
Round 4: pick 27
Round 4: pick 36
Round 5: pick 29
Round 6: pick 28
Round 7: pick 27
Team Need One: RB
It would seem that a team that has dominated the regular season for so many consecutive seasons, such as the Colts, would not have much to improve on in 2009. It is no secret that the Colts had virtually no running game in 2008.
The RB tandem of Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai combined for a grand total of 1082 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. (Rhodes: 538 yds and six TDs; Addai: 544 yds and five TDs) To make matters worse, the Colts’ offense ranked 31st in the league, averaging 79.6 rushing yards per game.
Now I know that the Colts’ offensive game plan is to let Manning be Manning with the seemingly endless audibles at the line of scrimmage. For Indianapolis to have more success in the playoffs, they will need to establish a running game that will make defenses crowd the box and make the passing game even more effective than it has been in recent years.
An improved rushing game will increase the Colts’ offensive points per game, because play action passing plays will be respected by the secondaries of opposing defenses. The back field must give the three time MVP winner (Manning) some assistance in moving the ball down the field.
Team Need Two: DT
The Indianapolis Colts will need to be stingier on defense against the run if another Super Bowl appearance is going to occur in 2009. The Colts defense ranked 11th in the league and had an average of 310.9 total yards per game gained against them in 2008.
The pass defense was considerably better, ranking sixth in the league. (188.1 ypg) Another positive for the Colts’ defense is that they only allowed 18.6 point per game, landing them at a league ranking of seven. Where the defense failed to show up a lot of times was on running plays.
The Colts allowed an average of 122.9 rushing yards per game which was the 24th best in the league. Teams that make it to Super Bowls consistently are generally those that can limit the amount of yards other teams have from rushing the ball. By drafting a DT the Colts will begin solidifying an already talented defense.
Although DT Daniel Muir has been re-signed, it will be to the Colts benefit to draft a stud on the inside because Muir has only played in nine NFL games in his career. A DT will also help LBs Gary Brackett and Clint Session have more than roughly 90 tackles a piece. (Brackett 99 tckls; Session 94 tckls)
Team Need Three: WR
The Colts are always looking to add to their already explosive offense and give Manning talented weapons to throw to. Although the Colts were productive last season, it is imperative that they draft a WR that can help Reggie Wayne.
While Anthony Gonzalez is a talented and speedy receiver, he only had 57 receptions for 664 yards and four touchdowns in the 2008 season. I assume that Gonzalez’s numbers will get better in 2009, but he played the slot receiver on most occasions. It is very different running routes on OLBs and safeties than it is running them on CBs.
It will take some time for Gonzalez to adjust to being on the outside, but with a QB like Manning it shouldn’t take long at all to find himself. The Colts also need a WR to replace half of one of the NFL’s best QB-WR tandems in the history of the NFL.
Marvin Harrison has 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns for his career, which is top five in the NFL. Harrison also was elected to eight Pro Bowls and holds all of the Colts’ major single season WR records. The reason this need is not a top priority is because Harrison had a quiet year last year in 2008 with only 60 receptions for 636 yards.
The Indianapolis Colts are not a team that is concerned with improving its regular season performance in terms of wins and losses.
The Colts need to improve on a running game that has been mediocre for quite some time now, a rushing defense that needs to stiffen up in the middle, and to find another play maker on the outside to catch passes from future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning.
With all of these pieces in place, it will be up to Coach Jim Caldwell to get his guys ready to play in January. The Colts will win another 10 games at least in 2009, but how deep they can go in the playoffs remains to be seen. Without a running game, the Colts will be running home again early from the playoffs in 2009.