FanPost

2009 STATE OF THE FRANCHISE - POST-DRAFT - OFFENSE

Now that the draft is complete and mini-camp has started, I thought it might be useful to take a look at the "State of the Franchise" position-by-position on both sides of the ball.  We can then figure out what "needs", if any, we still have as a team entering the summer and speculate about potential FA or UDFA signings before TC and pre-season arrives.

Quarterback:

Peyton Manning - Tennessee
6'5", 230 lbs.
Laser-Rocket Arm
Team Leader
Greatest QB Ever?
12th Season
1st Round Selection - 1998

Jim Sorgi - Wisconsin
6'5", 195 lbs.
Clip-Board Guru
4.6 40 Yard Dash
6th Season
6th Round Selection - 2004

Curtis Painter - Purdue
6'4", 230 lbs.
Rookie Season
6th Round Selection - 2009

Analysis:

Coming into the 2009 season the Colts have their biggest weapon back in training camp.  Manning is healthy and should be able to take his normal reps and work his normal workouts in preparation for the upcoming season.  Without a doubt, Manning is in his prime and poised to make things happen this year.  He'll be without his long-time top target Marvin Harrison but with the continued development of Anthony Gonzalez and a full summer to get his timing down with his new weapons, which include:

Roy Hall, Pierre Garcon, Samuel Giguere, Austin Collie, Taj Smith, John Matthews, and Brett McDermott at WR
Gijon Robinson, Tom Santi, Jacob Tamme, Jamie Petrowski, and Colin Cloherty at TE
Mike Hart, Chad Simpson, Lance Ball and Donald Brown at RB

There is no reason to believe that Manning and the Colts offense won't be able to hit on all cylinders again, for the first time since 2006.  All indications at this point lead to the conclusion that the offense will return to its dominance and climb back into top 5 rankings for yards and points.

Jim Sorgi, token clipboard holder and Manning study-buddy, will be back on the team for his 6th year.  While little is known about Sorgi's ability to produce with the 1st team offense in a back-up role, what is clear is that his chemistry with Peyton is top-notch and Manning values his contributions preparing for opponents each week.  Last year Sorgi played in the final game against Tennessee and, while he didn't set the world on fire, he looked better than fans have seen him play leading up to that game.

Curtis Painter joins the squad this year, and in this fan's opinion, is a massive upgrade over Throw Boy and Dr. Quinn from last season's QB "competition."  Painter should be able to learn a lot from Peyton over the summer and develop on the practice squad next year.  Some believe that Polian has indicated he will be on the active roster and that we'll be carrying 3 QBs for the first time in years.  I don't see that happening, and think Painter joining the team gives the Colts a Josh Betts type of option to groom on the practice squad and who will be available should something terrible happen.  Outside of his senior season struggles and questionable performance in big games (a knock on Manning entering the NFL and throughout his career), Painter has the arm, field-vision, and intellect to be a quality back-up in the NFL.  It is unlikely that Painter is the "heir-apparent" to Manning, which will likely be found in the 1st Round of a draft in 2-3 years, but he bolsters our depth at the position.

Overall, the QB position is stronger this year than last when Peyton's health, Sorgi's experience and Painter's addition to the team are all taken into account.

Running Back

Joseph Addai - LSU
5'11", 214 lbs.
2007 Pro Bowl Selection
4th Season
1st Round Selection - 2006

Donald Brown - Connecticut
5'10", 210 lbs.
2008 NCAA Leading Rusher
Rookie Season
1st Round Selection - 2009

Mike Hart - Michigan
5'9", 206 lbs.
All-Time Leader Rushing Yards at Michigan
2nd Season
6th Round Selection - 2008

Chad Simpson - Morgan State
5'9", 216 lbs.
2nd Season
UDFA - 2008

Lance Ball - Maryland
5'9", 225 lbs.
1st Season
UDFA - 2008 (signed off of waivers from St. Louis)

Analysis:

Last year was one of the worst years in Colts history running the ball.  Joseph Addai missed time with injuries and may have never taken the field 100%.  Dominic Rhodes got his share of carries but could fair no better than Addai in overall performance.  Rhodes has been a regular facet on the Colts squad but was again let go this year and will not be returning for the 2009 season. 

With Addai's injury struggles, Hart's season-ending injury last year, and Rhodes' departure, the Colts found it prudent to sign Donald Brown in the 1st Round of this year's draft.  Brown brings the kind of speed, quickness and north-south running style the Colts have been coveting for a long time.  With Brown and Addai the Colts have a formidable two-punch backfield which should be effective in 2009 and beyond.  Mike Hart, Chad Simpson and Lance Ball may be playing for a final roster spot throughout the summer.  Hart, coming off of an injury, is the favorite to win the position but Simpson and Ball both had opportunities to get on the field last year and benefited from that experience.

However you slice it, the Colts backfield can only be better from last season's stable of backs.  Last year, at the beginning of the season, the Colts had Addai, Rhodes and Hart, a rookie, as its backs.  This year the Colts have Addai, a new 1st Round draft pick in Donald Brown, and three players entering their second season in the Colts system.  In terms of overall experience, the young backs have a lot more coming into this season, and in terms of ability, Brown is clearly an upgrade over Rhodes (and maybe even over Addai).  The backfield should be as strong or stronger this year than it has been since Edgerrin James and Dominic Rhodes shared running responsibilities in 2005.

Wide Receiver

Reggie Wayne - Miami
6'0", 198 lbs.
3-Time Pro Bowl Selection
9th Season
1st Round Selection - 2001

Anthony Gonzalez - Ohio State
6'0", 193 lbs.
3rd Season
1st Round Selection - 2007

Roy Hall - Ohio State
6'3", 240 lbs.
3rd Season
5th Round Selection - 2007

Pierre Garcon - Mount Union
6'0", 210 lbs.
2nd All-Time in Receiving TDs in NCAA Div. III History
2nd Season
6th Round Selection - 2008

Austin Collie - BYU
6'1", 200 lbs.
1st in NCAA in Receiving Yards 2008
Rookie Season
4th Round Selection - 2009

Samuel Giguere - Sherbrooke (Canada)
5'11", 215 lbs.
1st Season
UDFA - 2008

Taj Smith - Syracuse
6'0", 192 lbs.
1st Season
UDFA - 2008 (signed off of waivers from Green Bay)

John Matthews - San Diego
6'0", 200lbs.
2008 1st in FCS:  Receptions, Receiving Yards and TD Receptions
Rookie Season
UDFA - 2009

Brett McDermott - Holy Cross
6'0", 204 lbs.
2008 Avg. 26.4 Yards on Kick Returns
Rookie Season
UDFA - 2009

Analysis:

This will be the first year in Manning's career that he'll line-up, look to his right, and not find Marvin Harrison.  However, as amazing a career as Harrison has had, the injury he sustained in 2007 apparently took a big toll as he was not the same player in 2008.  Unable to reach a contract agreement with Harrison the Colts released him so he could test the free agent market.  He has not yet signed with another team. 

Still, without Harrison the Colts receiving corps looks to be stronger this year than it was last year.  Anthony Gonzalez will be coming into his 3rd Season and is ahead of the Reggie Wayne curve in production and development entering the NFL.  I predict that he'll put up his first 1,000 yard season and will bloom into the player we all hoped he would become in the coming season. 

Behind Wayne/Gonzalez is a host of young receivers hoping for their first chance at significant playing time with the first team offense, catching passes from Manning rather than Sorgi.  All indications from summer last year suggested that Roy Hall really developed during his rookie season and was poised to have a bigger impact on the offense last year.  Hall, unfortunately, was hampered again by injury and was unable to show his stuff until late in the season, where he primarily served a special teams role.  Pierre Garcon, by all accounts, has come a long way and Polian predicts that he will be the team's most improved 2nd year player this year.  Garcon did a decent job returning kicks when given the opportunity last year but could figure to take over the slot role vacated by Gonzalez who we all assume will move outside.  The Hall/Garcon competition could be interesting to watch this summer.

To bolster WR depth and potentially create even more competition for roster spots, the Colts added Austin Collie in the 4th Round of the draft.  Collie will be the 2nd tallest receiver on the squad, behind Hall, and has all the makings of a solid slot receiver and potential kick returner.  Collie already has the age and maturity to be ready to handle the NFL and the demands of the off-season and could surprise by surpassing both Garcon and Hall as Manning's primary 3rd WR option by the end of the 2009 season. 

Before that, however, Collie will have to prove himself against Samuel Giguere and Taj Smith, who are entering their second NFL summers, and 2009 UDFA hopefuls John Matthews and Brett McDermott.  Giguere was a coach favorite last year and was retained the whole year on the practice squad for continued development.  With the physique of a small LB and the speed of WR, he is intriguing and could make a move this summer to show he's worthy of a roster spot.  Taj Smith is unknown at this point to Colts fans but will enter the off-season looking to turn heads if he plans to stay with the Colts. 

John Matthews was the best receiver in all FCS football this year and may be playing for at least a practice squad spot to be developed for the future or be an emergency back-up.  While Brett McDermott has experience as a receiver, it would seem his role as a kick returner at Holy Cross is what probably spurred interest in him and he'll be fighting with a large group of potential returners in camp for the position.  McDermott is the biggest long-shot of the WR group.

Tight End:

Dallas Clark - Iowa
6'3", 252 lbs.
2008 Broke the Colts Single-Season Record for Receiving Yards by a Tight End
7th Season
1st Round Selection - 2003

Gijon Robinson - Missouri Western State
6'1", 255 lbs.
2nd Season
UDFA - 2007

Jacob Tamme - Kentucky
6'3", 236 lbs.
2nd Season
4th Round Selection - 2008

Tom Santi - Virginia
6'3", 250 lbs.
2nd Season
6th Round Selection - 2008

Jamie Petrowski - Indiana State
6'4", 262 lbs.
2nd Season
UDFA - 2006 (signed off of waivers from Tennessee)

Colin Cloherty - Brown
6'2", 245 lbs.
Rookie Season
UDFA - 2009

Analysis:

The Tight End position is one of the most exciting positions to watch entering the summer.  Of course Dallas Clark is the leader of this group and is one of Peyton Manning's most popular targets.  Clark is in the prime of his career, just had his best season statistically, and has showed no signs of going any direction but up.  With Marvin Harrison gone and younger receivers working their way into Peyton's cross-hairs, Clark could prove to be even more involved in the passing game than ever before and may well earn his first Pro Bowl berth as long-time AFC TE, and future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez has moved to the NFC.

What makes this summer exciting is the ground work that has been laid to bolster the TE position with the 2008 draft and through free agency.  Jacob Tamme and Tom Santi both struggled with injuries last year but both proved on occasion the kind of skills they bring to the field and gave a glimpse of what could be a very positive future for both players.  Gijon Robinson came onto the scene off of the practice squad and played very well for a guy from a small school who stayed only one year on the PS before moving into a starting level role at TE.  The further development of these players individually, in terms of technique and conditioning, is something to look forward to of course.  More importantly, however, this will be the first time Santi and Tamme will have a full off-season to work out with Peyton Manning.  That could prove to make all of the difference in the world for their future and their ability to contribute to the team in 2009.

The newest additions to the Colts roster include Jamie Petrowski, a big bruising TE who may bring more of a blocking aspect to his game than the other TEs on the roster, and Colin Cloherty from Brown who could be used as a FB on occasion.  Petrowski has showed a flash or two while with the Titans and is the second most experienced TE on the roster behind Clark.  Both players are long-shots to make the final roster but should be fun to watch in training camp and pre-season competition.  I know there are more than a few Colts fans who will get excited if they see Petrowski pancake some defenders in pass protection or run blocking.

Offensive Tackle:

Ryan Diem - Northern Illinois
6'6", 320 lbs.
Starting RT
9th Season
4th Round Selection - 2001

Tony Ugoh - Arkansas
6'5", 301 lbs.
Starting LT
3rd Season
2nd Round Selection - 2007

Charlie Johnson - Oklahoma State
6'4", 305 lbs.
T/G
4th Season
6th Round Selection - 2006

Daniel Federkeil - Calgary
6'6", 290 lbs.
T/G
4th Season
UDFA - 2006

Michael Toudouze - TCU
6'6", 303 lbs.
T
3rd Season
UDFA - 2007

Corey Hilliard - Oklahoma State
6'6", 300 lbs.
T
3rd Season
UDFA - 2007

Brandon Barnes - Grand Valley State
6'2", 325 lbs.
T/G
1st Season
UDFA - 2008 (acquired via free agency 2009)

Analysis:

The Offensive Tackle position received a lot of attention from fans leading up to the 2009 draft but did not receive a great deal of attention from the Colts front office.  Many thought the Colts could use an early round selection to address need for depth or a potential starter to replace Ryan Diem at RT, or even replace Ugoh at LT, moving Ugoh to RT or inside to G.  Instead, the Colts did not draft a single offensive lineman until late in the draft and he is projected as a G. 

Still, not all is lost.  Tony Ugoh will be entering his third season and has not yet completed a single season without suffering an injury.  Hopefully he will take a big step in his development this year and turn into the LT we were hoping for when we traded away our 2008 1st Round pick to get him in the 2nd Round of the 2007 draft.  Ryan Diem may have had his struggles last year but to be fair, he was playing next to a rookie RG and on an offensive line which was lambasted by injuries the entire year.  He was the only offensive lineman on the Colts to start every game last year and may look a lot better after he has had a year to develop some chemistry with Mike Pollak; and on a line that will hopefully have some semblance of continuity from week to week this year.

Charlie Johnson and Dan Federkeil were both players who spent a lot of time at G last year.  However, as much as Charlie Johnson catches flack from Colts fans who seem to think he's no Tarrik Glenn when he plays LT (DUH!), he is one of the more valuable OL on the team and can play every position on the line but C.  Dan Federkeil moved inside this year as well but has proven the ability to play on the outside and is probably a bit more popular among Colts fans looking for a change at OT, wanting Federkeil to be given a chance.  These guys bring respectable depth to the OT position.

Michael Toudouze had a shining moment in a San Diego game two seasons ago, shutting down Shawn Merriman.  Since then we've not seen anything from Toudouze but most seem eager to see if he has continued to develop and if he can repeat his performance from 2007.  Still, it is unlikely that he'll get that opportunity anytime soon.  Corey Hilliard has been a project player on the practice squad for a couple of years but has not shown the ability to play on the field in the last two pre-seasons as he has been a disappointment to most fans.

The lone OT pick-up for the Colts this year is Brandon Barnes, who the Colts acquired via free agency leading up to the draft.  Barnes is a long shot at best, or so it would seem, as he is the smallest player listed at T on the roster.  He may be competing against Hilliard/Toudouze for practice squad spots or may be moved inside before the summer is over.

Offensive Guard:

Ryan Lilja - Kansas State
6'2", 290 lbs.
Starting LG
6th Season
4th Round Selection - 2004 (signed off of waivers from Kansas City)

Mike Pollak - Arizona State
6'3", 301 lbs.
Starting RG
2nd Season
2nd Round Selection - 2008

Jamey Richard - Buffalo
6'5", 295 lbs.
G/C
2nd Season
7th Round Selection - 2008

Steve Justice - Wake Forest
6'3", 293 lbs.
G/C
2nd Season
6th Round Selection - 2008

Jamie Thomas - Maryland
6'4", 330 lbs.
G/T
Rookie Season
7th Round Selection - 2009

Cornelius Lewis - Tennessee State
6'4", 332 lbs.
G/T
Rookie Season
UDFA - 2009

Tom Pestock - Northwest Missouri State
6'7", 300 lbs.
G/T
Rookie Season
UDFA - 2009

Kyle DeVan - Oregon State
6'2", 308 lbs.
G/C
1st Season
UDFA - 2008

Charlie Johnson - Oklahoma State
6'4", 305 lbs.
G/T
4th Season
6th Round Selection - 2006

Daniel Federkeil - Calgary
6'6", 290 lbs.
G/T
4th Season
UDFA - 2006

Analysis:

The Colts have a ton of depth at OG but not a lot of experience.  Ryan Lilja's future on the team is in question due to a knee injury that failed to heal all last year and, all signs seem to indicate, may not be able to recover to a level which will allow him to return to football.  If that happens, the Colts will be forced to either keep their T/G hybrids inside as starters or will move their 2008 draft selections into permanent starting roles.

Last year Mike Pollak, the first of three centers the Colts drafted in 2008, started almost the entire year at RG.  It is very likely that the job will be his to lose over the coming summer and that he'll return again to Saturday's right-side for the 2009 season.  Of all the rookies who showed the most promise, many fans will say Jamey Richard was the most impressive, despite the fact that he was the Colts seventh round selection and last of the three centers drafted last year.  He could look to push for a starting spot at LG.  However, with the skill of Johnson and Federkeil, along with their superior experience against NFL competition, the 2nd year OLs may get another year to study behind the veterans who came before them.

The Colts used another 7th Round selection in the 2009 draft to select Jaime Thomas out of Maryland to bolster G depth.  Thomas is a road-grader and is much bigger than any of the other offensive linemen on the team.  If he can surprise like Jamey Richard did last year, we could be set on the interior of the offensive line for years to come.  Thomas is joined, however, by Tom Pestock out of Northwest Missouri State, who is a large man himself at 6'7".  His height may well make him more suited for a tackle spot, so don't be surprised if you see him workout there over the summer.  However, he comes out of the draft as a G prospect and will have to work very hard if he hopes for anything other than a chance to stay on the team's practice squad.

Two other Gs were picked up this spring.  Cornelius Lewis of Tennessee State was signed as an UDFA and Kyle DeVan was signed from free agency prior to the 2009 draft.  Picking up Lewis is an uncharacteristic move for the Colts as his character history includes getting booted from Florida State's football team.  Two things can be taken from that.  First, he was good enough to be on Florida State and they have a pretty good program.  Second, Florida State isn't known as the biggest stickler in the world on players with character issues so getting kicked off of the team at FSU must take something special.  Hopefully Lewis has matured and can push to be solid depth at G.  He may well find his way outside to T before the end of the summer as well.

Kyle DeVan was signed from the Boise Burn semi-pro football team and will be the fifth player with a lot of experience playing Center on the Colts roster.  DeVan is listed as a G at this point but will certainly get the opportunity to snap the ball some over the summer as the Colts continue to evaluate and develop the future heir to Jeff Saturday.  DeVan's coach with the Boise Burn, as well as his college coach, have nothing but positive things to say about him.  Believe it or not, I think he has a decent shot at making his way onto the roster in some capacity, or at least onto the practice squad.

The continued development of the team at this position will be fun to watch.

Center:

Jeff Saturday - North Carolina
6'2", 295 lbs.
3-Time Pro Bowl Selection
Starting Center
11th Season
UDFA - 1998 (signed as a free agent in 1999)

Jamey Richard - Buffalo
6'5", 295 lbs.
G/C
2nd Season
7th Round Selection - 2008

Steve Justice - Wake Forest
6'3", 293 lbs.
G/C
2nd Season
6th Round Selection - 2008

Kyle DeVan - Oregon State
6'2", 308 lbs.
G/C
1st Season
UDFA - 2008

Analysis:

The biggest free agent signing for the Colts in the off-season was re-signing Center Jeff Saturday.  Prior to getting injured in 2008, an injury which would have sidelined most players for a season, Saturday earned 3 Pro Bowl selections in a row from 2005-2007.  Willing his way onto the field to continue to help the team, keep Peyton upright, and increase the team's chances of turning around a slow start to the season in 2008, Saturday was a key cog in helping the piecemeal offensive line fair as well as it did.  Without him, it is scary to think how ugly it could have been for Manning and Co., Addai, or anyone else relying on the offensive line.  His return and the ability to bring him back 100% healthy this year, as opposed to playing through pain and his injury last year, puts us in a good spot entering the 2009 season.

What makes the Center position even more exciting is that Polian has drafted and started developing players to be Saturday's future replacement.  Jamey Richard looked promising in the games he filled in for Saturday last year and was selected by Peyton as the guy he wanted to take snaps from while Saturday was down.  Steve Justice spent most of the year as the 2nd string C on the roster but did get some experience in games at G as well.  Kyle DeVan was picked up as a free agent leading up to the 2009 draft and has shown a lot of promise playing semi-pro ball for Boise and during his college career.  All of this has been said without even mentioning the highest draft pick we've spent on a Center in years, which went to Mike Pollak the team's starting RG.  It isn't outside the realm of possibility that he, like Jeff Saturday when he first arrived with the Colts, could develop as a Guard and get in-game experience only to shift over to Center once Saturday chooses to retire.  With all of these options, Center is another intriguing spot to watch over the summer.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors.

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