NFL Predictions For 2010: Indianapolis Colts Breakout Players
The Colts are perennial playoff contenders.
Peyton Manning and the boys have won at least 12 games for an NFL record seven straight seasons.
But, Peyton Manning can't do it on his own. Each year new guys step up to the challenge of making this team great.
Here's a list of a few guys that could "breakout" this season and help propel the Colts into Super Bowl XLV.
10. Tony Ugoh T/G
If Tony Ugoh were drafted 10 spots earlier, he'd definitely be labeled a bust.
When they drafted him in 2007 the plan was for him to sit a year behind LT Tarik Glenn and then take over the starting duties.
The problem was that Glenn retired his rookie season so Ugoh was thrust into the lineup.
The development of Tony Ugoh was a constant bone of contention between offensive line coach, Howard Mudd, and Bill Polian.
But now Howard Mudd is retired, and if new O-line coach, Pete Metzelaars, can get Ugoh motivated, the Colts might actually have a true left tackle to protect Peyton Manning's blind side.
9. Anthony Gonzalez WR
It's safe to assume that Anthony Gonzalez has lost his job as the starting receiver opposite Reggie Wayne.
But a couple of years ago, Colts fans weren't even considering him for that role because he was sensational in the slot.
This year he's going to have to battle second year man Austin Collie for that role. But if he wins—he could have a breakout season as Peyton Manning's main target on third down.
8. Mike Pollak G/C
Mike Pollak hit the sophomore slump last year.
But in 2008, playing along side fellow rookie Jamey Richard, he was outstanding. On an offensive line made up primarily of backups (including left tackle Charlie Johnson), the Colts still only allowed 14 sacks.
Peyton Manning's quick release is a big factor, but the guys on the line deserve some credit.
If Pollak can mange to gel with Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, Peyton Manning won't feel any interior pressure in 2010.
7. Kelvin Hayden CB
Kelvin Hayden hasn't played a full season in two years. He missed six games due to injury in 2008 and was inactive for half of 2009.
But in 2007 (his first season as a full-time starter), he was part of a unit that only allowed 172.8 yards through the air (second in the NFL).
If he can get back to his 2007 form, opposing quarterbacks are going to have fits. And the Colts will hold onto a lot of big leads.
6. Philip Wheeler LB
The Colts line-backing core is gradually becoming one of the better units in the league.
Weak side linebacker Clint Session really excelled under new defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer's, blitz packages.
And middle linebacker, Gary Brackett, was rewarded for his tenaciousness this off season with a new contract worth an estimated $33 million over the next five years.
Now it's Wheeler's turn to step up. He's the most prototypical linebacker on the team and has huge upside. Playing with guys like Brackett and Session will only help him get better.
5. Donald Brown RB
The Colts drafted Donald Brown to take some of the burden off of (injury prone) running back Joseph Addai.
But he didn't spend much time on the field—mostly due to his inability to pass block.
With a year of the system under his belt, Brown should be ready to become a big part of Colts offense.
Look for him to take a bigger share of the carries this season—and find the end zone more than three times ( his rookie stats: 78 carries, 281 yards, three touchdowns).
4. Jerraud Powers CB
Jerraud Powers was thrust into a starting role his rookie season, and he was anything but a disappointment.
He had 71 tackles, nine passes defended, one interception, and a forced fumble. Those are pretty good numbers for a rookie.
Defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer, said that Powers played like a veteran last year.
After a year in the pros, and going up against guys like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss, Powers should be set to make a big jump in maturity in 2010.
3. Fili Moala DT
Fili Moala didn't develop nearly as quickly as the Colts had hoped.
They traded up in the second round of the 2009 draft to shore up a porous run defense, that kept a lot of opposing teams in games.
After a year of learning the system, Moala should be able to take his spot in the defensive tackle rotation.
If he plays up to his potential, he could win the starting job along side Antonio Johnson.
2. Bob Sanders SS
Colts fans have been waiting years for Bob Sanders to return to his 2007 form, and this could be the year.
There are rumors that Sanders' career is over, but at this point that's all they are.
When healthy, Bob Sanders is easily one of the top safeties in the league.
And with the Colts' beefed up defensive line, he won't have to take the physical beatings he took during the Tony Dungy era.
1. Pierre Garcon WR
Pierre Garcon has star written all over him.
Last year after Gonzalez went down he took the starting job and never looked back.
This year he'll probably be even better. Coach Caldwell even said, "We really believe that he's just scratching the surface."
Garcon has too much big play ability not to make a huge impact in 2010.