Browns vs. Colts Week 2 : What Does Loss Mean for Colts?
What did the Cleveland Browns' victory over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday prove?
It showed that the Week 1 loss to the Houston Texans wasn't an anomaly; the Colts are still a work in progress.
So let's take a look at what the loss means for the team, and exactly what can be done to remedy the team's woes.
If the Colts don't keep improving, the team could struggle to simply win a few games this season.
Run, Then Run Some More
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While the Colts have a group of prolific wide receivers, the team needs to make the running game the focal point of its offense.
There is nothing wrong with using all the team's weapons, but with a group of young linemen and Kerry Collins leading the passing attack, speeding the game up and keeping the ball on the ground gives the Colts the best chance to win games.
In Week 1 against the Houston Texans, the Colts fell behind early and were forced to throw. On Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, the game was much closer throughout.
The Colts did run the ball, gaining 110 yards on 25 carries between Joseph Addai and Delone Carter, but a chunk of yardage was gained towards the end of the game, when underneath routes and run yardage are given up easily to run down the clock (also known as garbage time).
Lacking the firepower at quarterback to keep up with high-scoring offenses, the Colts will need to do everything possible to shorten the game.
The game plan needs to start with the run early and go to it often, and there needs to be a heavy mix of screens. Screens can be just as effective as running plays at speeding the game up.
The offense should utilize screens to running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, to keep defenses—especially the defensive line—guessing.
Just because the offense should focus on running the ball doesn't mean the team can't get creative either.
Use two-tight end sets and fake a screen to Dallas Clark while Kerry Collins hits Jacob Tamme or Brody Eldridge on the other side. Or simply put the plethora of wide receivers in the backfield to create mismatches.
Understandably, none of this will work if the quarterback—in this case, Collins—can't stretch the field enough to give players some open space.
Is Kerry Collins the Right Guy?
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Was it a mistake to sign Kerry Collins to a two-year contract? The Colts must have seen how Collins performed in Tennessee last season.
He didn't play terribly, but Collins didn't play well either. He led the Tennessee Titans to a 2-5 record as a starter, and he completed 57.6 percent of his passes in the 10 games he played last season.
Collins couldn't do enough in the passing game to keep the defense honest, as teams stacked the box against Chris Johnson and basically let Collins have what he wanted.
So after just two games, should fans already diagnose Collins as the problem?
No one expected Collins to master the Colts offense already, but now that it looks like he will be the quarterback for the majority of the season, the team might have been better off going in a different direction.
If the Colts are going to lose, it should be with a younger guy who can take over for Peyton Manning when he is done with the game. What player would be a good fit to learn on the job or play under Manning when he returns?
Curtis Painter probably isn't the answer the front office or fans are looking for. Maybe the Colts could make a move for Brady Quinn or Jimmy Clausen. Both have already played football in Indiana and have a fan base there, and both are bright and hard-working.
If the Colts don't even have an outside shot at the playoffs after a few more games, it would be best to bring in someone else, or even let Painter have a shot. If the team doesn't look elsewhere, expect an early draft pick to be spent on a backup quarterback in the upcoming draft.
The Weeks Ahead
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Next week the Colts face a tough opponent—last year's AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Colts' edge rushers will have to get into Ben Roethlisberger's face and get him flustered early if the team wants to have a prayer at victory.
The Buccaneers will be heavily favored in Tampa, but then the Colts get a home game against a struggling Kansas City Chiefs team that just lost Jamaal Charles for the whole season with an ACL tear.
Realistically, the Chiefs game will probably be the Colts first win. In Week 6, the Colts play an inexperienced Cincinnati Bengals, which could very well be another victory.
Unless the Colts improve drastically, they won't win any shockers. I see the Colts as a seven-win team at best, and that is if they win every game in which the point spread is close or they are favored (Chiefs, Bengals, Jaguars twice, Titans twice and Panthers).
The team's outlook is not very promising. Nothing against Kerry Collins, but his presence will do nothing but frustrate fans. Of course, losing will just increase the anticipation of a Peyton Manning return, but the team should find a viable second option and the quarterback of the future immediately.
Manning still has a long future with the Colts. His game doesn't depend upon his physical strength, but a long-term or career-ending injury can occur at any time. And even if Manning stays healthy and productive for many more seasons, could a young quarterback have a better mentor?