Offseason Review: Offense

QB Peyton Manning (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Indianapolis Colts were dormant in free agency, as usual, but they did get better on the offensive side of the ball. Brad Keller takes a look at the offseason so far.

Quarterback:

Each offseason brings more questions — and some hope — that the Colts will pursue the heir apparent to Peyton Manning through the draft or free agency.

Though his eventual replacement will most likely come through the draft, Indianapolis has yet to acquire even a sufficient caddy for Manning during his tenure with the team, eventually settling on Jim Sorgi as the longterm backup.


Can Curtis Painter unseat Sorgi for the backup QB job?
AP Photo/Al Goldis

The same dance is performed every year, with challengers being brought in and Sorgi fending them off, with Colts fans continually praying that Manning's consecutive game streak remains unbroken.

In 2009, the Colts actually drafted a quarterback in Purdue's Curtis Painter.  Painter has the size — at 6-feet-3 and 222 pounds — and the arm to play the position at the NFL level, but struggled during his senior season with a weak supporting cast.

He entered the 2008 season as a possible second or third round selection in the 2009 draft, so here's hoping that he lives up to that status and is able to challenge — and possibly unseat — the incumbent Sorgi.

They also added undrafted free agent Chris Crane, who hopefully will outshine his potential, which is currently as the heir apparent to Josh Betts, the practice squad and emergency quarterback for Indianapolis.

In the wake of Manning's knee operation last offseason, the Colts signed veterans Quinn Gray and Jared Lorenzen, but retained neither player when it came down to the final cutdown to 53.

Provided everyone stays healthy, it is highly unlikely that they will bring in any veterans between now and training camp.

Running Back:

The big addition here, obviously, is first round pick Donald Brown.  In addition to the fact that he fits in well with what Indianapolis likes to do on offense and gives them options on the perimeter, he will be able to spell Joseph Addai when Addai is winded and/or injured.

Addai has yet to prove that he can handle the rigors of the 16-game season, so it was important that the Colts draft an insurance policy for him, given their struggles during the 2008 season in the running game.

Brown immediately bolsters the depth at a position that includes second year players Lance Ball, Chad Simpson, and Mike Hart.  Ball and Simpson failed to establish themselves in the shadow of Dominic Rhodes last season and Hart was lost to injured reserve.

At the moment, the run game sits on the shoulders of Brown and Addai.  Can they deliver?  They better, as it's unlikely that Indianapolis will add a veteran in free agency.  All the veterans available — Edgerrin James is still out there — would want more than the veteran minimum and that's what the Colts can afford.

Wide Receiver:

This position is definitely the elephant in the room.  Indianapolis drafted Austin Collie in the fourth round and added undrafted free agents John Matthews and Brett McDermott.

In addition to those rookies, they have Roy Hall, Pierre Garcon, and Taj Smith behind Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez.

Without a veteran presence or an established player, the Colts will struggle to find a third receiver for their rotation.  This was actually the case for a surprisingly significant portion of 2008, wherein Indianapolis deployed a number of two tight end sets. They may need to return to that in 2009, which is certainly not playing to their strengths.

Marvin Harrison is still out there, but, again, would need to reconcile the fact that he would make one tenth of his original 2009 cap number to play for the team that released him.  Ashley Lelie is another possibility, but may have worn out his welcome in the league and also does not necessarily fit what Indianapolis likes to do on offense.

Tight End:

The Colts did not address this position in the draft, preferring to bring on undrafted free agent Colin Cloherty.

With the depth that already exists at tight end — Dallas Clark had another stellar year and Gijon Robinson contributed considerably more than expected, with Tom Santi and Jacob Tamme showing flashes of their potential — Cloherty is the odd man out. 

Even if he does not make the roster, he will help to make the players around him better — specifically Tamme and Santi, whose roster spots are not set — through competition.  However, this position seems to be stable and the Colts appear to have done the right thing by adopting an, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," strategy.

If Indianapolis does deploy more two tight end sets in 2009 as expected, Santi and Tamme will have more opportunities to shine.

Offensive Line:

The 2009 offseason was a case of Indianapolis building on what they started in 2008, when they drafted Mike Pollak, Jamey Richard, and Steve Justice.  They added Jaimie Thomas in the seventh round in 2009 and undrafted free agents Brandon Barnes and Tom Pestock.

The depth chart is crowded along the offensive line, but with versatile players that can fill multiple positions such as Richard, Charlie Johnson, and Pollak, even players such as Thomas, who can play both right tackle and guard, will be hard pressed to make the team.

That kind of depth is a good problem to have and shows the forward-thinking draft strategy that Bill Polian and company have been executing for years.


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