The Colts will kickoff their preseason against the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday and despite being the defending AFC Champions, they have some issues to tend to.
Injuries, injuries, injuries.
Anthony Gonzalez is coming off an injury, Bob Sanders as per usual is dealing with his own, and the secondary was plagued last season with a variety of bumps and bruises.Will offensive line changes result in positive or negative results? Who will back-up Peyton Manning?
All of these and more will be covered in the top five things to keep a lookout for come Sunday.
I know what you're thinking; who cares about the back-up quarterback when a guy like Peyton is your starter? Well, I have two words for you: Tom Brady.
If Peyton ever goes down (knock on wood) one of these three gentlemen will have to manage this offense until he returns. The culprits here are: Curtis Painter (second year), Tom Brandstater (second year) and Tim Hiller (first year).
Painter was Manning's back-up in 2009 but struggled when he played in garbage time. I don't know about you but a 28.6 completion percentage and two interceptions, does not impress me in the least. Tom Brandstater is a Fresno State product who did not play in 2009 with the Denver Broncos. A strong armed and relatively athletic quarterback, Brandstater likely has the most raw talent out of the three candidates and the guy I believe will back-up Manning in 2010.
Former Western Michigan quarterback TIm Hiller is on the outside looking in but believe me when I tell you that this guy has the talent to become if nothing else a reliable back-up in this league. I watched him for his entire career at Western from my perch at Central Michigan and the guy is deadly accurate and can make most NFL throws. The question with Tim Hiller isn't if he will make an NFL roster this season, it is just a matter of which one?
When Edge was in Indy, the team had a multifaceted attack that struck fear into the hearts of every defensive coordinator. You had to deal with the aerial arsenal that was Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and crew but even if you somehow managed to stop them (rarely happened) you had to deal with the Colts' rushing attack.
Those days are behind the Colts; last season the Colts had the league's worst rushing attack, averaging little over 80 yards a contest. If the Colts plan on improving the running game and creating that balance, they will need more consistency from Joseph Addai, Donald Brown and their offensive line.
Contrary to popular belief Addai can still perform in this league but he needs to either change his running style or gain some of that burst he had prior to knee surgery. Hopefully he has fully recovered from said surgery and can bring to the table what he did during the Colts' 2006 Super Bowl run.
The offensive line has undergone some minor changes, after Jeff Saturday's injury Jamey Richard may take over for the time being. Tony Ugoh who struggled at left tackle and was moved to guard is likely moving back to left tackle after starter Charlie Johnson went down with a left foot injury.
This move should scare Colts fans because protecting Peyton's blindside is Ugoh's duty as of now and the last thing the Colts need is Peyton laid up because Ugoh couldn't block Aaron Kampman.
Bob Sanders, when healthy, is the most explosive and electric safety in the National Football League. The key words there being, when healthy.
Sanders is known as much for his injury history as he is for his big play approach to the game of football. He only has one speed, he is is reckless and because of that, he gets hurt, a lot. Sanders has played a total of 27 out of 64 total games since 2006 and just 8 games over the last two. Sanders like anyone else is only valuable when he is on the field.
Look to see if he gets any preseason action (doubtful) and if he does, don't expect a more conservative approach. Sanders recently told Paul Kuharsky of ESPN that he believes there is no safe way to play football.
“I don’t think you can put yourself in less danger on the field,” Sanders told Kuharsky. “We’re football players so we’re going to be physical. It’s a physical game. I make tackles.
"You just never know what’s going to happen. You just have to play your best, hope for the best, I pray and put it in God’s hands and just try to do my job.”
Anthony Gonzalez made it through a quarter of football in 2009 before suffering ligament damage to his right knee that sent him to the IR. Gonzalez was expected to take over for Marvin Harrison after he was not re-signed by the Colts.
This season he has been told he will get a legitimate shot at competing with Pierre Garcon for the spot he was handed last season. I doubt he will beat out Garcon but I could see him taking over the majority of the playing time in the slot.
Austin Collie had a breakout season last year, as did Garcon but Collie does not have the type of talent Gonzalez does when healthy. If all the reports ring true, Gonzalez is pretty much on par to be where he was this time last year. Gonzalez could find himself catching more passes then he did in 2008 if last year is any indication of where Peyton Manning likes to go.
Collie spent most of his time in the slot running crossing routes over the middle, doing the dirty work, and Manning found him 60 times, seven times in the end zone. Gonzalez had similar numbers in 2008 when he had to compete for catches with the likes of Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark.
Now in the second year without Harrison, Gonzalez should see an increase the number of passes thrown his way.
The Colts' secondary was quite injury prone last year and just when Bill Polian thought he was in the clear, their third round pick out of USC, corner Kevin Thomas, went down. Thomas suffered a knee injury that likely means he is out for the season.
The trio of Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey should get the job done this season but watch out for potential injuries, something that Polian attempted to shore up with the addition of veteran Deshea Townsend, after Thomas went down.
The depth in secondary isn't as impressive as the defensive end or safety spots, so watch to see if anybody other than the previous four mentioned, make some noise against the 49ers.