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2010 Team Report: Indianapolis Colts

Quarterbacks

Starter: Peyton Manning
Backup(s): Curtis Painter

Starting QB: Future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning, will begin his 13th season in the league when the AFC Champion Colts take the field in September. Manning (34) is creeping up in age; however, it has yet to affect his numbers as a stalwart at the quarterback position. He is one of four QBs with 50,000+ career yards passing (Favre, Marino and Elway are the others), and he holds the record for most 4,000+ yard passing seasons with 10. The next closest is Brett Favre and Dan Marino who have only six each. Not only does Manning possess a phenomenal ability and understanding of the game, but he also thrives on adapting to what each defense gives him. As a result, his supporting cast is very much involved in the offense with several players sharing a piece of the offensive pie.

Backup QB: Luckily for the Colts, the backup QB position has not been an area of concern for the past 12+ seasons. That was until last year when the Colts decided to rest Peyton Manning for the playoffs in lieu of attempting to finish the season a perfect 16-0. Backup QB Curtis Painter, a rookie in 2009, was thrown to the wolves at season's end. As a result, he struggled to maintain much consistency on offense, and the Colts lost both games he appeared in. He'll have another year under his belt, including game experience that should help him prepare for any such event in 2010. However, the Colts are hoping Painter won't be a topic of interest at all in the 2010 season.

Running Backs

Starter: Joseph Addai
Backup(s): Donald Brown, Mike Hart, Devin Moore
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: The Colts have a very explosive offense that is capable of putting up multiple TDs per game. As a result, the running game has excelled, led by Joseph Addai, who will be entering only his fifth year in the league this season. Addai has two 1,000-yard rushing seasons with 8, 15, 7, and 13 total TDs in his four years in the league. That, combined with a prominent role as a receiver out of the backfield, where he averages almost 40 catches per season, makes him one of the league's better RBs. Addai has missed at least one game per year since his rookie season in 2006, but overall he is a quiet producer who flies under the radar, compared other similar producing RBs. Last year, first round pick Donald Brown was expected to take some of the team's rushing load. A knee injury resulted in Brown seeing the field for only 11 games, which also kept him 141 carries shy of Addai's total. Addai also had 13 total TDs to Brown's three. The Colts did not select a RB in the 2010 NFL Draft, which means Addai should continue to be the team's go-to RB once again. Brown should still get carries, but in his first year in the league, he didn't show enough promise to garner a chance at overtaking Addai as the team's primary back.

Backup RBs: The Colts were 29th in team rushing yards in 2009 and 26th in total rushes. Interestingly enough, they were ninth in rushing TDs. In other words, they primarily used the pass to move the ball down the field. Timely running plays and a superior offense yielded an above average scoring threat from the team's RBs, led by Joseph Addai. Donald Brown, a former first round selection by the Colts, will enter his second year in the league. Brown was limited with a knee injury, which forced him to miss five games last year. Brown was used sparingly, only eclipsing 10 carries or more three times. He never totaled more than 60 yards rushing in a game and only finished with three TDs. This year should be an improvement for Brown, but Addai remains the team's go-to RB, at least for now. Also in the fray for the Colts running game is Mike Hart and Devin Moore, who combined will be lucky to reach 30 total carries for the season as the team's third rushing option. The Colts third RB option last year, Chad Simpson, was waived in the offseason.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie
Backups: Anthony Gonzalez, Sam Gugiere, Blair White

Starting WRs: Reggie Wayne led the way for the Colts receiving corps last year for the third consecutive year. However, he was joined by rookie Austin Collie and second year pro Pierre Garcon. They both pulled some weight of their own by producing a total of 127 catches for over 1,441 yards with 11 TDs. Both Garcon and Collie showed that with strong work ethic, film study, and practice, even 5th- and 6th-round picks can flourish in Peyton Manning's offense in their rookie campaigns. The Colts often use a three-WR set with Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon on the outside and Austin Collie occupying the slot position. The Colts receiving corps is so deep, anyone on the field as a WR or TE is fair game in Manning's attack. It has been reported the Colts will look to employ a four-WR set at times to also cater the abilities of the returning WR Anthony Gonzalez, who missed nearly all of 2009 with a knee injury. Wayne is a lock for 130+ targets, 1,000 yards and 6-10 TDs, but the ceiling could be higher. One drawback to the Colts deep receiving group is that no one player dominates the statistics to the point of elite production on a weekly basis. Opposing defenses may scheme to take Wayne out of the game, but Manning will beat them with another option. As a result, Wayne's numbers can vary from week to week, but at the end of the year, he'll be among the Top 10 WRs in the game.

Backup WRs: The Colts don't exactly have backup WRs. Any receiver on the field is virtually considered a starter, because Peyton Manning sprays the ball all over the field exploiting areas of weakness the defense gives him. Having said that, the Colts have depth to an already deep starting unit. Anthony Gonzalez is expected to return to the field after suffering a serious knee injury that forced him to miss nearly all of 2009. Look for the Colts to utilize him in the offense by establishing a four-WR set attack that will also include a fifth receiver in Dallas Clark. The vast majority of Peyton Manning's passes will be caught by Wayne, Garcon, Collie, Gonzalez and Clark, but keep an eye on Sam Gugiere and rookie Blair White from Michigan State.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dallas Clark
Backups: Gijon Robinson, Tom Santi, Jacob Tamme

The TE position is often used in the Colts offense, accounting for 107, 109 and 120 receptions in each of the last three years respectively. Most notably the player receiving the vast majority of looks at the position has been Dallas Clark. Clark has seen an improvement in receptions and receiving yards in each of the last four years. It culminated in a dominating performance last year that saw him tie the team lead in receptions (100) and reach a career best 1,106 yards receiving, including 10 TDs. In addition to outstanding route running and excellent hands, Clark has a keen knack for finding seams and adapting his path to cater to his quarterback's needs. As a result, he is often Peyton Manning's go-to receiver in times of duress. Manning does not take a lot of sacks, which means he often targets Clark as his hot read. The two combine for a lethal connection that really started to gel after Marvin Harrison's departure. Despite the influx of talented receivers in the Colts offense, Clark figures to again be a major contributor in 2010. Clark had 100 receptions last year, but no other TE had more than nine. The full arsenal of TEs the Colts employ, features Clark as the primary receiving threat with a scattering of involvement from Tom Santi, Gijon Robinson and Jacob Tamme. Unless Clark doesn't see the field, don't expect to see a lot of production from the secondary TE options. Gijon Robinson or Tom Santi would likely see the most action in the event of a Clark injury, but don't expect big numbers out of the gate. The player who connects best with Peyton Manning would likely be the one to take over for an absent Clark. As stated earlier, the majority of receptions in the Colts offense will be divided up between five receivers, which includes Clark. Anyone else is considered a long shot for production.

Place Kicker

Adam Vinatieri : After undergoing surgery, Vinatieri missed ten games last year. Matt Stover was brought in to kick for the remainder of the season (including the playoffs) except for one test game by Vinatieri in week 16. Word is that Vinatieri is now fully recovered and ready to resume handling the placekicking again. Punter Pat McAfee will again be available to handle kickoffs. After a decade of being one the top teams in the league in kicker scoring, the Colts dropped to 23rd and 22nd the last two years.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Ray Fisher, Brandon James, Sam Giguere, Austin Collie, Donald Brown, Pierre Garcon

The previous returners, T.J. Rushing and Chad Simpson, were not re-signed this year. Two rookies will now be the primary competitors for the return specialist role. Seventh round draft pick DB Ray Fisher averaged 36.1 yards on kickoff returns and scored twice at Indiana. Undrafted RB Brandon James averaged 24.3 yards on kickoff returns and scored once at Florida. Possible backups include WR Sam Giguere (5 returns, 24.4 avg. last year), WR Pierre Garcon (22 returns, 21.6 avg. in 2008), WR Austin Collie who averaged 26.1 yards on 49 kickoff returns at BYU, and RB Donald Brown (one return for 21 yards last year).

Punt Returners: Ray Fisher, Brandon James, Blair White, Pierre Garcon

While Ray Fisher has the statistical edge over Brandon James on kickoff returns, the reverse is true on punt returns. James scored four TDs during his college career and averaged 11.7 yards. Fisher averaged 9.7 yards with no scores. The prevailing assumption is that only one of them will make the final roster and would handle both roles. Although undrafted WR Blair White had only one punt return at Michigan State, the Colts will take a look at him on returns. Pierre Garcon returned a punt for a score in the Texas vs. the Nation All-star game in 2008. The Colts have ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in fantasy returns for the last five years, including 31st in 2008 and 27th last year.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Tony Ugoh, LG Andy Alleman, C Jeff Saturday, RG Kyle DeVan, RT Ryan Diem
Key Backups: T Adam Terry, G Mike Pollak, T Charlie Johnson

The Colts offensive line often appears better than it is thanks to the presence of Peyton Manning in behind them. However the run blocking last season was terrible and nothing Manning does could mask that weakness. While the pass blocking grades better, much of that success goes to Manning's smarts and savvy on the field. At center, Jeff Saturday is still very good but is now entering his 12th season and could begin slowing down soon. Tony Ugoh is a talented left tackle but has really struggled to stay healthy and on the field and has never really made the leaps that were expected of him. His potential is still quite high. Ryan Diem has been the starter since 2001 at right tackle and is a consistent, hard working layer. He is beginning to get long in the tooth as well but still has some fight left in him. The two guard positions look very weak at this time. Andy Alleman, Kyle DeVan and Mike Pollak will fight it out for the two starting jobs with DeVan looking like the surest bet to start. None of the three are tremendous talents but DeVan has the highest upside.

Team Defense

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Dwight Freeney; DE Robert Mathis; DT Antonio Johnson; DT Daniel Muir
Backups: DE Jerry Hughes; DT Eric Foster; DT Fili Moala; DT/DE Ricardo Mathews

Starting DL: With DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, the Colts have arguably the best pass-rushing tandem in the league. Freeney, now 30 years old, has had a resurgence of sorts in the last couple seasons after totaling only nine sacks in 2006 and 2007. Last year he had 13.5 sacks, his highest total since 2004 and his second highest ever. His lack of tackles in recent years have prevented him from being a top fantasy end, but he remains valuable to the team and has a place on IDP rosters as a DE2 or DE3. Mathis continues to miss time due to injuries, although he's played at least 13 games for the last five seasons. Mathis now has 62 career sacks and an amazing 45 forced or recovered fumbles, and at 29 years old he remains in his prime and a DE1. Rasheem Brock is no longer in the picture, and the Colts now have a trio of solid DTs to help in the middle. Antonio Johnson proved to be a strong run stopping presence and at only 25 years old had 33 total tackles last year. DT Daniel Muir lost weight last year and will likely start next to Johnson. Muir led the linemen with 52 total tackles.

Backup DL: Rookie DE Jerry Hughes was the team's first round draft choice and led the nation as a junior in sacks. Hughes has excellent quickness and adds an important component off the bench in support of Mathis and Freeney. DT Eric Foster was undrafted and is undersized but has 73 total tackles in his first two years in the league. He's a tough, intelligent player who, along with starters Muir and Johnson, makes their DT unit formidable. Fili Moala had high expectations as a 2nd round pick in the 2009 draft, but struggled last year. Rookie Ricardo Mathews can play both end and tackle and adds important depth.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Gary Brackett; WLB Clint Session; SLB Philip Wheeler
Backups: LB Pat Angerer; LB Ramon Humber; LB Cody Glenn; LB Kavell Conner; Tyjuan Hagler

Starting LBs: Gary Brackett has been one of the most reliable and dependable linebackers in the league since 2005. Although he's not a spectacular physical specimen and is not extraordniary in any particular area, he's well rounded, possesses good instincts and is a team leader on and off the field. Clint Session moved over from the strong side to the weak side last year and excelled. Session had a career high 84/19 tackles and fits pefectly into the Colts' system as a quick, athletic, and instinctive player. A second year as WLB could mean even bigger things for Session. On the strong side is Philip Wheeler. Wheeler came on capably after Tyjuan Hagler was injured last year and had 62 total tackles despite only starting seven games. While it's doubtful Wheeler makes a big IDP contribution, there are certainly worse guys to fill out your roster.

Backup LBs: Rookie second round pick Pat Angerer, one of the best names for a linebacker, will play in support of Brackett and has good speed. Ramon Humber was signed as a free agent last year and needs to step up. Along with Cody Glenn and Kavell Conner, the team needs some help backing up the starters on the outside. Tyjaun Hagler has said he wants to return to the team but he's been plagued by injuries and remains an untendered restricted free agent.

Defensive Backs

Starters: S Bob Sanders; S Antoine Bethea; CB Kelvin Hayden; CB Jerraud Powers
Backups: S Melvin Bullitt; CB Jacob Lacey; S Jaime Silva; CB Kevin Thomas

Starting DBs: Few safeties in the game mean as much to their team when healthy as Bob Sanders. But health has remained a formidable concern throughout Sanders career. His hard hitting style in run support has meant he sometimes acts as an additional linebacker on the field, but it has also led to his numerous injuries. Sanders has played in more than six games only twice in his last six seasons, but he avoided offseason surgery for the first time in four years and a healthy Sanders is certainly a valuable IDP commodity. Antoine Bethea continues to step up whenever called upon, whethere it's at strong safety or free safety. Still young at only 25 years old (he turns 26 in July), Bethea has averaged 72/26 tackles the last two seasons and three interceptions. The only question about his IDP value is if he is as successful with Sanders on the field as he has been in place of him. CB Kelvin Hayden has only played in 19 games the last two seasons, but three years ago his 71/12 tackles and three interceptions made him a solid IDP CB. His return last year proved important to the team and he brings experience to a raw unit. CB Jerraud Powers, solidly built at 5'9" and about 190 pounds, is a sure tackler who played very well until he got hurt in his rookie year. In only 12 games, he had 56/8 tackles.

Backup DBs: Safety Melvin Bullitt has an essential role as the first safety off the bench. With Sanders' injury history, Bullitt knows he might have to step in at any moment and be the starter for any length of time. Bullitt has averaged 61/14 tackles the last two seasons and if you own Sanders, you might actually consider a handcuff with Bullitt. CB Jacob Lacey saw starting time last year after Powers went down and like so many teammates in an injury plagued season, stepped up and must do so again this year after the injury to rookie Kevin Thomas. Thomas, a third round pick out of USC, was looked upon to have significant time this year, but a knee injury could mean he misses the entire season.

Last modified: 2010-08-29 13:28:32