It's a lost season. At 0-8 the negatives are piling up. Whether it's poor play calling and coaching, a secondary ranked dead last in the league, a porous run defense, a defensive unit giving up a college-like 416 yards a game, a quarterback who isn't of starting caliber and a series of poor drafts that have left the team reprehensibly thin, the Colts have been exposed.
The team record makes it easy to dwell on the negatives but we should acknowledge the positives as well.
After the jump, here are a few of the bright spots to the 2011 season.
1. 2011 draft
Delone Carter and his 259 yards, 4.0 ypc and 2 touchdowns is the headliner of what looks to be a very very promising draft class. While the jury is still out on Ijalana , Carter, Castonzo and Nevis all look to be above average starters. If Ijalana can come back and live up to what was a pretty high bar, the Colts will have nailed last year's draft. With Chris Rucker getting a lot of playing time in the secondary and looking OK (by rookie standards anyway), the Colts have the potential to have landed five above average starters with five picks. Going 5-5 would be HUGE for the Colts.
2. Draft busts starting to come through (still waiting on Hughes...)
Donald Brown is still a disappointment. That being said, when he's been given a chance he's done surprisingly well as evidenced by his lofty 5.5 ypc average. Granted, he's only run the ball 22 times, but paired with Addai and Carter, the Colts are looking like they might have one of the deepest running back trios in the league. Given how few carries he receives, something tells me that Brown doesn't practice well but can turn it on in games. That doesn't cut it in the NFL. One of the coaches needs to light a fire under Brown so he shows up on non-gamedays as well.
*Deepest does not mean best. It means solid production with little drop off from the starter to third string.
Kevin Thomas missed all of last year with a knee injury and some had begun to write him off after seeing little playing time in the first six games. Maybe it was positive practices that earned Thomas playing time or maybe it was desperation that caused Coach Caldwell to turn the second year pro, but for whatever reason, the 2010 third round draft pick has started the last two games and has looked decent (by Colts standards anyway). A healthy scratch several times earlier in the season, the Colts will benefit from having a bigger corner on the field (Thomas is 6'0 ft 190 lbs).
16 tackles and 1 pass deflection should earn number 21 more playing time.
3. Jacob Lacey is on the bench!
The emergence of Thomas means Jacob Lacey is riding the bench... finally. The play of the Jacob Lacey has been the biggest disappointment for an individual player's standpoint so far this year. His abrupt fall from grace has been stunning going from a promising future starter as a rookie, to a decent starter last year to one of the worst cover corners in football this season. A healthy scratch against the Titans, Lacey's future with the team is very much uncertain. While Lacey thankfully didn't get a chance to hurt the Colts with his presence on the field today, it would be nice to see whatever is plaguing him get sorted out for the future.
4. Running game
You wouldn't know it by the stats (in large part because the Colts have been forced to play from behind most games),
but the Colts running game looks much improved. The offensive line has been doing much better job of opening holes
and all three backs have been able to hit the hole (holes which last year never materialized) for big gains this season.
Addai looks fresh and as nimble as we've seen him in a while and Carter is the real deal. If Donald Brown could
capitalize on his increased playing time with Addai out, the Colts could have a potent ground game... If only the O-line
would ever stay healthy.
By the way, who could have predicted that all three Colts players would have at least 1 ypc higher average than Chris Johnson and that Addai and Carter would both have equal yards to Johnson on far less carries? No one.
5. Jeff Saturday and the Offensive Line
Jeff Saturday has taken a lot of heat here on Stampedeblue for his off the field remarks, but it's hard to argue with what he's done on the field. Once again Saturday is the only mainstay and forced to anchor and lead a beat up group of no-names. Even with the 0-8 start, it looks like Saturday is playing his way into a new contract. It's hard to imagine that if Peyton comes back he won't lobby management hard to make sure that gets done. Even with three or four starters out each week, the line as showed a remarkable toughness and refusal to quit on Curtis Painter
6. First halves
So far this season, the Colts have had the lead three times going into the half. Against the Steelers, Bucs and Chiefs the Colts put themselves in a position to win. Unfortunately due largely to fact that they are the worst 4th quarter team in the league, that hasn't happened yet.
7. Pierre Garcon
In what has been a miserable first half for receivers, Pierre Garcon's 503 yards and four touchdowns has been more than respectable. The only true offensive spark or weapon on the team at the moment, Garcon is playing like he is in a contract year... which he is. Still occasionally plagued by the dropsies, Garcon nevertheless looks much improved and is playing at a very high level.
8. Games haven't been close enough for Caldwell to blow a timeout
For the most part this year, the games haven't been close enough for Jim Caldwell to mismanage and screw up. His poor decision making down the stretch may have cost us a win at Pittsburgh but otherwise there have been very few opportunities to blow a key timeout. Thus Colts fans are saved the embarrassment of having to try and explain Caldwell's thought process... oh wait, never mind.
Pat Angerer still leads the league with 80 tackles and corps mate Kavell Conner is not far behind with 61. Philip Wheeler is playing better than we all expected of him and Ernie Sims has been a very solid addition. Btw, poor Ernie Sims. He can't seem to be able to play for a winner. After playing on the Lions for so many years he must have thought Indy was a sure-fire guarantee for winning at least 10 games...oops (maybe he would have been better off still in Philly).
Right now the linebacking unit is the brightest spot on the team. A young group, these guys have a chance to really turn around our defense. Angerer is playing at a Pro Bowl (even 2nd/3rd Team All Pro level) and Conner is getting better each week. This unit is something to get excited about for the future.
Curtis Painter is not a starting quarterback in the NFL. He's just not. He wildly inaccurate and makes poor decisions. However he has definitely proven that he is not the worst player in the league as we all thought he would, which is a nice boost from a morale standpoint given he has proven he still can't win a game.
(Has any quarterback played more than 16 games and never won? If you include the debacles of '09 when Peyton started but Painter really played, he is definitely on pace).
Besides Painter though, a bright spot in this miserable season is that we happened to pick the year Andrew Luck will declare for the draft to be the league's worst team. I for one hate the 'suck for Luck' talk. As a competitor there is nothing more disgraceful than throwing a game. But, if we are going to be bad anyway, it might as well be this year. In the grand scheme of things one ugly season without a proven quarterback sandwiched between two decades of winning isn't so bad.
So yes, we are 0-8, but there are still a few things to be positive about and with a little Luck maybe this nightmare will become a distant memory in the not so distant future.