Thanks to Deshawn Zombie of 18 to 88, a new and excellent addition to MVN, for being kind enough to answer my questions about the Colts. My questions for him are in bold. I found his replies very interesting, and think you will agree with me.
1. Peyton Manning-great in the comeback against the Texans and the game against the Ravens, not so great against the Packers. Is he still recovering from his knee injury, is it general offensive malaise, or is Father Time beginning to call?
The fact that this question is being asked at all shows the laziness of
the national press. Manning’s play has been pretty solid from week
one. The problem with the Colts is the offensive line. Three
different rookies have seen considerable time, and starting Left Tackle
Tony Ugoh has been hampered with injuries. Now, Joseph Addai is out.
All this means that 1. the Colts can’t run the ball at all 2. they
can’t pass protect either. Add to that the fact that Manning and the
WRs haven’t quite been in synch due to the lack of preseason AND the
fact that Colts WR have had an alarming number of drops (6 just against
the Bears), and the sum total is an offense that suffers. People
reduce football down to: team wins-the QB is great! team loses-the QB
sucks! Manning didn’t have a good game against the Pack, but the reason
has a lot more to do with the guys playing in front of him than with
him. He’s still making all the same tight throws he used to, but the
level of play around him has been painful. It’s too complicated to
explain all that in a sound bite age, however, so talking heads go for
the easy angle: Manning’s hurt! Manning’s old! It does a disservice
to the public.
2. The Colts gave up their first round draft pick this year to move up last year and take Tony Ugoh. I thought he looked fairly promising as a rookie, but now Charlie Johnson, who was lousy last year, is starting at LT. What’s going on with Ugoh, and how will Johnson fare against Kyle Vanden Bosch?
I wish I knew what was up with Ugoh. He played very well (when
healthy) his rookie year. He did fail miserably on the goal line drive
against San Diego, getting beat twice by Sean Merriman leading to the
Colts loss. He got hurt, and then disappeared completely. The
rumor initially was that he fell out of favor with the coaching staff
because he didn’t seem to want to stay on the field. Just this week,
quotes coming from him and others indicate that he’s only just now
getting healthy and should play some on Monday.
awful terrible. He’s an adequate run blocker sometimes, but is NOT a
left tackle. Mario Williams destroyed him on the rare occasions when
Charlie actually identified the fact that he was supposed to block him
at all. The Colts protect him a lot by leaving a TE (Gijon Robinson
who missed last week’s Packers game) in to block. They also say nice
things about him to the press because he’s ‘versatile’ which is another
way of saying he can suck just as well at several spots in the line.
He’s bad. Really freaking bad, and has been killing the Colts for a
year now. Kyle Vanden Bosch should have 3 sacks on Monday.
3. Green Bay seemed to have a lot of success playing physical coverage against the Colts receivers last week. If the Titans do the same thing, how will the Colts try to free up their receivers?
You can only play the Colts physical if the following components are in
place: 1. The refs have to let you. Since no one really knows what
constitutes PI in the NFL, it’s a crap shoot. 2. It has to be windy
(30 MPH in GB) so that you don’t fear the deep ball 3. You have to
have no fear of the run game since locking up the WRs keeps DBs from
helping on the stretch plays. The Colts can try little tricks like
stacking the WRs, but ultimately if 1, 2 and 3 are all working, the
Colts will struggle on offense. It’s been that way for almost 10 years
now. Watch the tape of the NE Playoff games from 03 and 04. Refs let
contact go, windy weather, Colts couldn’t run. That’s the formula for
4. My crystal ball sees the Titans running the ball between the tackles a lot, and successfully. Do you have any reason to think I’m wrong?
Jeff Fisher is one of my favorite coaches in the NFL. He’s freaking
brilliant and plays to win. He’s waaaaaay to smart not to just run up
the middle. The Colts are very good on lateral runs. I laugh when
teams run stretches and tosses and sweeps against Indy. They fail
miserably because the Colts are too fast. If you just run up the
middle over and over, you’ll kill the Colts.
5. What’s one thing about the Colts you want Titans fans to know about that they might not?
I want Titans fans to realize how severe the injuries have been for
Indy. On defense they’ve lost 2 tackles, a starting LB, corner, and
safety. That’s 5 of the projected 11 starters missing for one reason
or another. On offense they’ve lost games by three different linemen,
TEs, and RBs. This team isn’t just nicked up, they are a walking MASH
unit. Almost of all the players are expected to return, however. The
Colts at the end of the year will be a really great team, the only
question is if they will be too far behind in the standings for it to
matter. Don’t listen to all the lazy explanations for the Colts up and
down year. The MNF guys will talk a lot of nonsense about Manning, or
Dungy leaving, or his schedule or a dozen other things that have
nothing to do with is actually going on. If the 22 starters that were
supposed to play were out there, this would be a much better club.
That’s not an excuse, you are what you are. Right now, the Colts are
very average. Later, they won’t be. What team shows up on Monday is
After receiving his initial response, I also posed the following question:
If I can, a little follow-up on Peyton. I remember stories in the Tennessee papers a couple years ago that, in practice, neither McNair nor Volek could run the stretch play as fast as Peyton could, and that’s obviously been the staple of the Colts’ offense for a years, both on running plays and for play-action. I remember Week 1, though, the Colts were using the toss-pitch for the outside run-fine for the outside run, but it allows the defenses to flow in that direction with a freedom that play-action off a stretch look wouldn’t allow. How has Peyton looked on the stretch lately-can he still run it with the same speed he used to?
The Colts ran the stretch very effectively against Jacksonville in week
three. That was a month ago. The problem is that the stretch works
left and right. On the right side, Ryan Diem has had an awful season,
and the Colts clearly miss Jake Scott, at least right now, and his
replacement, rookie Mike Pollack…was hurt and missed the first three
games. Running left, the Colts have had Ugoh out, AND Ryan Lilja, the
left guard has missed the whole season. Don’t forget that Addai is
hurt too, and missed the Packer game. In the two TE set, the Colts
have three rookies as the #2 TE alongside Clark. The problem is
that…they’ve all been hurt. All three have missed games, and
obviously practice time.
Manning’s knee shelved the stretch play…for two games. Since then,
the entire run offense has been stuck in neutral thanks to a myriad of
line injuries. Of the Colts projected starting line, here’s how many
games they’ve missed:
Ryan Diem has played every game. There’s no mystery why this offense
has looked bad. Manning’s limitations and lack of rhythm with the WRs
has hurt a little, but not nearly as much as the fact that the line is
constantly in flux. Addai’s injury merely took a bad situation and
made it that much worse. The Colts third string RB, Mike Hart, blew
his knee out as well. So now they are down to just one dependable back.
So either Dom Rhodes stays on the field for every play, or there are
just key plays where they run a practice squad back onto the field to
spell Dom. That makes it hard to get teams to take the run game
Thanks again to Deshawn for his very interesting answers.