Since none of you know me, I'm sure you've figured out by now that I'm new around here. I've been following the site for a few years, and finally decided that now is as good a time as any to share my first thoughts. Before that though, I'd like to thank BBS, Collin, and all other writers for that matter. I know BBS gets a lot of crap around here for his negativity (some of it deservedly so, IMO), but I really appreciate the hardwork, time, and energy that he's dedicated into this blog. It's a great source of information, rumors (had to, sorry BBS), and thoughts. But most importantly...it's all Colts. That being said...
I'll probably jump around a bit, and I'll try and keep it short, but here are my off-season thoughts for the Colts:
1. Draft an OT in round 1. This point has been debated enough around here, but drafting a LT actually addresses 2 needs. Besides drafting a stud LT, we can severely upgrade one of our guard positions or our RT position by shifting Charlie Johnson to a more natural spot on the line. Some people will argue that we made the SB just 14 months ago with a very similar OLine, but that's simply not true. Ryan Diem was solid in '09, flat our terrible in '10. While Jeff Saturday is still a decent C, he's clearly on the downside of his career. We also had a solid run blocker in Ryan Lilja, before Bill Polian decided to cut him last off-season. Clearly, our OLine has regressed in those 14 months. I'm not saying we need to magically transform into an elite rushing team, but we can't seriously depend on Peyton to throw 680 times a season. I would write about making a big FA splash to upgrade the OLine, but I'm not crazy about the options, it'd be so uncharacteristic of Polian, and I'm not sure we have the available $$ for it.
2. Trade up into the 2nd round (probably into the 8-15 range) and draft Leonard Hankerson, WR out of the U. of Miami. I know there's another fanpost on his scouting report, so I'll skip that. But I want to make one thing clear: I am not comfortable with our current stock of WR's moving forward. Are they solid? Yeah. Do we have glaring needs at WR? Nah. But looking at the big picture (depth, moving forward, injuries), I'm seriously worried. Reggie Wayne is declining. He's battled knee injuries for 2 straight seasons, and its clearly effecting his play. He no longer has the speed to run past bump & run coverage. He can still be a great WR next year, but he'll be too old & on the decline to sign him past that season, which leaves a clear #1 void. On to Pierre Garcon - I love the guy, he shows tremendous heart, hustle, & determination. He's a burner, he makes spectacular catches, and he's extremely physical. But we all know about his drops & mental lapses. If he fixes those, and it's a big if, I believe he can be a borderline #1/top #2 WR for us. I also love Austin Collie, as does pretty much everybody. But I honestly don't know if we can ever count on him again. It's a sad thing to say, but he may be one hit away from retirement. Anthony Gonzalez is solid, but he'll never be a #1 or 2. Drafting Hankerson does 2 things: One, it relieves a ton of pressure from Wayne & Collie. Assuming he develops into a decent starter this season, I wouldn't mind him being on the outside opposite Garcon...allowing Wayne to use the slot to work the middle of the field. Definitely not full-time, or even out of base packages. Most of the time, I'd like to see him battle Garcon for playing time on the outside. But doing so for 15-20 plays a game will freshen up our passing attack, better-utilize Wayne, put a true, big, deep-threat on the outside, and solve our long-term problem at WR.
3. Cut Ryan Diem. Enough said. Bring back Clint Session. He's a play-making OLB who can be a big difference maker in games. I love Brackett, I love Angerer, but they fit the mold of a solid, yet unspectacular LB - a guy who can make some stops in the run game, direct a defense, and drop back in pass protection. We need to counter that with Session - a LB who can get to the QB, make those big hits, and really intimidate the opposing team.
And finally, cut Kelvin Hayden. I know he's a solid CB - but $9 million is just too much. I personally want to see our defense run a lot more man to man coverage, something Hayden doesn't necessarily excel at. I think Jerraud Powers can be a shutdown, man to man CB, and I was extremely, extremely impressed with Tryon's cover abilities last season. I know Kevin Thomas is unproven, but it sounds like he too was brought in to be a big, physical, man to man CB. So in my opinion, losing Hayden doesn't hurt us too much. I think we'd be a little thin, but we can spend a 3rd-4th rounder on another CB to bolster the depth.
More imporantly with our secondary, I think we need a change of strategy. As I mentioned before, we don't play enough man. We play the 'soft Tampa 2', and while Coyer has been adding some different looks to it, our secondary coverage is extremely basic, and extremely forgiving. We may never give up a big play, but we probably lead the league in allowing methodical, 10-12 play drives, 5-10 yards at a time (See Brees, Drew in the SuperBowl against us). It's also extremely counterproductive, since the quick passing strikes completely negate our best assets on DEF - Dwight Freeney & Robert Mathis.
One final note: I 100% believe that Jerry Hughes was the WRONG selection in least year's draft. We didn't have a PRESSING need for a 3rd pass-rusher. We had other clear needs, particularly Offensive Line. But that does not make him a BUST. 5 years from now, he could be the next Dwight Freeney. We don't know. The term Bust refers to the career of a player - and that cannot be determined in his rookie season sitting behind 2 Pro-Bowlers. But, we still have the right to question Polian about the selection, because as I mentioned, it was the wrong direction to go in.
Anyways, sorry for rambling. I hope you guys appreciate the write-up and agree with at least a few of my thoughts. As always though, comments & criticisms are welcomed, and encouraged.
**Edit** Forgot to mention - I really think we re-sign Vinatieri. I also think we really should resign Addai. The options we have behind him are less than stellar (understatement, I know), and he is a perfect fit for our system. While he's battled some injuries, he's only 27 years old and should be fresh heading into next season. I think Addai also realizes he's worth more to the Colts than he is to just about any team he'd visit in FA, so I think we'd get him for a reasonable price. And quickly - I think we 100% resign Bullitt to replace Sanders, and obviously sign Manning to a longterm contract.