Adam Hughes, the Indianapolis Colts’ blogger, gives us a look at the team prior to the match-up with the Packers this Friday.
The following are his replies to my questions:
Without Manning and with the addition of Kerry Collins, how is the QB battle shaping up? Who has the upper hand at backup and is the team planning to be without Peyton for at least the first game of the regular season?
"Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky have struggled in the pre-season, and Kerry Collins makes at least one of them expendable. My best guess now is that Painter moves to the practice squad and Orlovsky will be released.In terms of Manning’s availability for Game 1 against Houston, I’m not absolutely convinced that he won’t start, but Collins’ presence makes it clear that team brass is very worried. I hope that Collins is a safeguard for further Manning problems, but I won’t be surprised at all to see him start against the Texans. Collins can keep the Colts afloat for awhile, but I doubt the Colts will be great with him under center."
How is the running game shaping up and are there any surprise players emerging in the backfield?
"Joseph Addai is the main option again after signing a big extension in the off-season, but he hasn’t been used much in pre-season games. He should be ready for the opener Sept. 11.Delone Carter looks like a brute and has the potential to help, especially in third-and-short situations where the Colts have really struggled in recent seasons. He could be one of the bargains of this year’s draft, selected in the fourth round (119th overall). Local product Darren Evans, picked up as an undrafted free agent, is also turning some heads and has a shot to make the roster."
Defense has been a strength for the Colts in recent years. Will that continue again this year?
"The Colts have been flashy at a couple of positions, like DE (Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney) and S (Bob Sanders), but the defense has actually been a sore spot around Indy for most of the Peyton Manning era. Stopping the run has been a huge problem, and the Colts brought in some free agents to help in that area for this season. It looks like DT Tommie Harris may not have much left, though, as Chicago fans can attest, and we haven’t seen much of LB Ernie Sims thanks to an emergency appendectomy.Beyond the line and the run, the Colts have big questions in the secondary, and Sanders’ replacement, Melvin Bullitt, has shown a propensity for getting injured. Also, despite the general perception of the Tampa-2, the scheme really requires a nose tackle, and the Colts don’t seem to have a big, talented player to fill that role and jam up the line.In short, the defense causes a lot of heartburn in Naptown."
Who is the biggest rookie surprise coming out of Colts camp and can you tell us about the best positional battle?
"Delone Carter is near the top of the rookie list, though many expected good things from him. DT Drake Nevis has also come up big this pre-season, and he has the potential to really dampen some of the concerns along the D-line.I’ll hedge a bit on the best positional battle and say that it is occurring on the offensive line. The situation there is in constant flux, but it looks like rookie Anthony Castonzo has a hold on LT, while Ryan Diem, Ben Ijalana, Kyle DeVan, Joe Reitz and others jostle for the remaining slots."
What will be the two keys to the Colts winning their division this year and getting back to the playoffs?
"The key to everything for the Colts is Peyton Manning’s health and his ability to quickly knock the rust off after so many months without taking a snap. If he can do that within the first couple of games, I like this team’s chances of at least making the playoffs, as always.Beyond Manning, the most important issue for the Colts is probably general health. Many vital players have reached or are approaching the three-decade mark, and others are returning from injuries. If 90% of the team can stay on the field for 90% of the season, the Colts are a very good team. If not, then they could slide fast."