Indianapolis Colts' Most Overrated, Underrated and Appropriately-Rated Players
Before this season, we’d never seen any player on this entire offense perform in a meaningful game without Manning there, as a matter of fact.
Now five games in, and we’ve already seen them play with two completely different substitute QBs (one a confused old veteran that probably should’ve just stayed retired; the other, a vulnerable, young, glorified-intern that probably should’ve been given the job to begin with), with a lead, from behind and against competition both good and bad.
The results have not been pretty for the most part, but they have been in many cases surprising.
Here are a few of the still-early (and still-ongoing) reactions to the new look, Manning-less Colts.
Overrated: Kerry Collins, QB
It’s not like anybody expected great things out of Kerry Collins this year anyway, going from his Lazy Boy straight to the starting lineup in only about two weeks’ time, after all, but nobody expected this, either. Collins has been absolutely dreadful this season
At best, he’s kept a couple of secondaries honest by proving he’ll chuck it down the field without thinking twice about it at any given time. At worst, he’s looked like a bum off the street who didn’t even get a chance to shave before having a helmet strapped to his head and being ushered right onto the field.
He better be overrated, because if the Colts knew this was what they’d be getting when they signed Collins to a two-year, $14 million dollar deal back in August, their problems probably extend way beyond that of single injured star player.
What We Thought He Was: A capable fill-in with proven value
What We Think He is Now: The worst Colts investment since Bob Sanders was run out of town last winter
Overrated: Joseph Addai, RB
Joseph Addai was never considered a consistent playmaker (no matter how promising his career began), but after blowing a golden opportunity to shine in Manning’s absence this season, it’s starting to look like Indy should’ve went in another direction when they re-signed the six-year veteran for another three years back in July.
He’s already injured again (he missed more than half of last season with a shoulder problem too) despite splitting time and carries his entire career. He’s been ineffective as a receiver, and while he’s been praised for his blocking abilities, there have to better options out there if all you need is someone to stand there while your quarterback makes play after play all by himself.
What We Thought He Was: A versatile runner and sufficient blocker
What We Think He is Now: A sufficient blocker who’d probably have better luck on Dancing With the Stars at this point
Overrated: Jacob Lacey, CB
Lacey worked his way up as an undrafted free agent in 2009 to becoming a full-time starter last season, and even though he never earned much confidence in the minds of Colts fans along the way, he never looked like the kind of guy you could just pick on any time you wanted a completion, either.
Lacey has been the best player Colts opponents have had this entire season, and after idly watching Dwayne Bowe burn him for seven catches, 128 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday, his future with the team is now definitely in question.
Colts fan never expected much out of Lacey this season.
So far, he’s given them less than that.
What We Thought He Was: A mediocre young DB who might lose his starting position
What We Think He is Now: A consistent liability who might lose his roster spot
Overrated: Reggie Wayne, WR
Wayne still has innate talent few NFL players can match, but his dominating ways have almost stopped entirely without Manning in the lineup.
His only touchdown of the season took place after the first game against Houston was already out of reach. He’s averaged less than 60 yards a game since that first outing, and while Wayne is without question still a remarkable player, his streaks of five consecutive Pro Bowl selections and two consecutive All-Pro selections will all but surely end this season.
It’s not Wayne’s fault, and, again, it’s not to say he isn’t still an outstanding receiver anyway, but this season, we seem to be finding Wayne is just not the caliber of player his resume would have us believe.
Wayne’s a great player and, playing with Peyton, he’s among the greatest out there today.
Playing without him, from what we’ve seen so far, he’s just not the same guy.
What We Thought He Was: A top-five receiver who could excel with any team
What We Think He is Now: A top-five receiver who needs a polished quarterback to excel
Underrated: Curtis Painter, QB
Curtis Painter’s entire career was written off the moment he came in to replace Peyton Manning back in 2009 and failed to outplay the top-rated pass defense in the league at the time, the New York Jets, helping to secure the 14-0 Colts their first loss of the year in the process.
To be fair, Painter was awful during that game (44 yards, no touchdowns, one interception and two sacks), he was never very impressive at any point thereafter either and until Kerry Collins rode into town and showed everyone how to really suck at being a quarterback earlier this season, Painter never deserved to be considered anything but a No. 2 option at best.
Things have changed.
Painter won’t be hired as a starter any time soon, but because he’s so familiar with the system and personnel, he’s the closest thing to Peyton Manning this team is going to find (and by now, we all know how much this offense needs a Peyton Manning to operate, after all), and, much to everyone’s surprise, he gives them the best chance to win right now.
Painter can spread the field, he can make smart throws and the chemistry he has with his receivers is already apparent, even after just two starts.
He’s no Peyton Manning, but he does a good impression, and for at least this one season, he’s earned the opportunity to show it off.
Here’s to you, Painter Manning.
(Just make sure not to win your way out of that No. 1 pick now, ok?)
What We Thought He Was: A ditzy nobody whose pocket presence could never translate to NFL success
What We Think He is Now: A solid backup quarterback who can compete in this league if he has the right tools
Underrated: Pierre Garcon, WR
Garcon has taken a lot of flack ever since dropping a pass in Super Bowl XLIV that Tony Dungy would later call the game’s turning point, and after his butter-fingers routine then continued through last season, there was plenty of concern about his unreliable hands heading into this year too.
After two straight two-touchdown, 100-yard performances with Curtis Painter as his quarterback, however, Colts fans are now feeling a little more forgiving with respect to the 25-year-old speedster, even if he does occasionally drop an easy ball or two, and even if he does only snag a handful of passes each game.
The change is in how explosive a player we now recognize Garcon to be. We always knew he had some juice, but no one figured he’d be going all DeSean Jackson this season with only a backup quarterback throwing him the ball.
The 159 yards he racked up against Tampa Bay came on just two plays (one an 87-yard touchdown). After all, the five catches he made last week went for 25 years each on average, and even though we’ve only seen them play together for about 150 total minutes so far, Painter to Garcon is starting to look just as dangerous as Manning to Garcon ever did.
Garcon still has issues, but he’s now proven to everyone he has enough breakaway skills to totally compensate for them.
What We Thought He Was: A talented receiver handicapped by poor technique
What We Think He is Now: A talented receiver capable of going the distance any time he touches the ball
Underrated: Pat Angerer, LB
During his rookie season last year, Angerer was an unknown second-round draft pick that seemed adequate when asked to contribute, but never really solidified his status as a leader moving forward.
Consider it solidified.
Through five weeks of the 2011 season, Angerer has 65 tackles, 16 more than any player in the league, and even though that number is inevitably inflated by the mere fact Indy’s defense has been on the field longer than any other team this season, it still represents one of very few bright spots this defense has had.
Angerer knows his role and plays it well. He’s still young. He’s still getting better. And unless he develops so fast the team can’t afford him anymore (as is usually the case with Colts linebackers), he’ll probably remain an asset for many years to come.
What We Thought He Was: A decent backup with a cool-sounding name
What We Think He is Now: A decent starter with a promising future
Appropriately-Rated: Peyton Manning, QB
Manning’s legacy has not only survived his lost time this season; it’s actually thrived, and if we hadn’t already spent the last six years singing this guy’s praises every chance we had, there’s a good chance we’d be calling him underrated right now instead, and rightfully so.
Manning is everything to this team. Through the first five games of this season, virtually everyone on this offense has been healthy but him, and the same group that would normally be undefeated this time of year (they’ve started 5-0 five of the last eight seasons) is instead 0-5 right now and wondering if it’s ever going to notch a win this year. What a coincidence.
It’s hard to imagine a single player meaning more to his team than Manning has to the Colts, and perhaps never before has a single player’s absence been as clearly pronounced or publicly displayed as Peyton’s has during this dreadful season.
Four MVP Awards (so far), more than any other player in the history of the league?
This definitely looks like one we got right.
What We Thought He Was: One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time
What We Think He is Now: Still among the very best and now clearly capable of carrying an entire team all by himself
Appropriately Rated: Dwight Freeney, DE/Robert Mathis, DE
These two freaks of nature are inseparable in their analysis at this point, and they’ve been collectively considered the most dangerous defensive end tandem in the league for several years now.
So far this season, that assessment still looks correct, as both have been menacing opposing quarterbacks the same way they always have (they’ve combined for eight sacks and three forced fumbles through five games), and even though the defense as a whole has been unable to stop virtually anyone, Freeney and Mathis, pass rush specialists, have at least been doing their part, for whatever it’s worth.
Freeney and Mathis have the chemistry of a WWE tag team. Every time they force a fumble, it’s like watching some elaborate, choreographed combo move play out. If there were ropes around the perimeter of a football field, these guys would be jumping off of them and probably boosting each other towards unsuspecting quarterbacks even faster as a result.
Nothing’s going to change that, whether Peyton Manning happens to be playing at the time or not.
What We Thought They Were: The best pass-rushing duo in the NFL today
What We Think They Are Now: Just as good, just as exciting, and just as one-dimensional as we remember
Appropriately-Rated: Anthony Gonzalez, WR
Anthony Gonzalez has officially seized the title of “Guy the Colts Keep Paying to Do Absolutely Nothing” now that Bob Sanders is no longer with the team, and no matter how much potential they guy may have, potential doesn’t mean much when it’s sitting on your bench.
Gonzalez does have talent, and if your memory is conditioned well enough to recall the times he actually used it, you might remember he was a pretty good receiver in this scheme at one point.
With every passing week those memories seem even more distant, however, and this season has done nothing whatsoever to remind us just what they consist of.
What We Thought He Was: A formerly useful receiver who becomes less relevant every year
What We Think He is Now: Just another injury-prone Colt you’d be surprised to hear is even practicing
Appropriately-Rated: Austin Collie, WR
Austin Collie has a real “underdog” vibe that resonates with fans, but despite all the support he’s received, the guy has actually been disrespected to some extent by most of the analysis surrounding his success.
During his rookie and sophomore seasons (’09 and ’10), Collie put up decent numbers and became one of Peyton Manning’s most frequent targets. But nearly all the praise went to Manning, for making this undersized fourth-round pick look like a star receiver overnight, that is, and almost none went to Collie, for being elusive enough to make all those connections possible in the first place.
This season, we’re quickly seeing the Manning factor everyone was so quick to point out in Collie’s production was actually very accurate, and Collie has so far been exposed in a clear, undeniable way (just 12 catches all season for only 119 yards).
The first “Get Well Soon” card Peyton received this fall had better have been from Collie, because in recent years, no single player has benefitted from Manning’s magic more than him.
This season, no single player is missing him more.
What We Thought He Was: Peyton’s special little guy
What We Think He is Now: Lost, sad and lonely