The dress rehearsal has wrapped, and both the Colts and Saints have shown off what they think is their best options to win in 2006. What do we know now after seeing their dress rehearsal?
The Colts are really good.
The Saints are really bad.
I don't say that to necessarily knock the Saints. What that franchise, and the city of New Orleans, has gone through is unprecedented. It's going to take a long time for both to rebuild. But let's be honest: the Saints sucked before Hurricane Katrina. They do have some weapons now: Brees, Bush, Deuce, Charles Grant, etc. But they are no where near the level to compete in their own division, let alone compete with a team like the Colts. And once again, a fast, aggressive defense smothers Reggie Bush, and forces him into mistakes (like that fumble in the red zone).
I wonder if SportsCenter will show the lowlights? Probably not. They'll still keep replaying that dumb 44 yard scamper against the friggin' Titans.
Reggie Bush is a stellar athlete with loads of potential. But, until he actually DOES SOMETHING MEANINGFUL, let's hold off on the highlights, shall we?
Regarding the Colts, what did we learn after watching them in full costume and make-up?
- The defense should be better than last years, and last years held opponents to 15 ppg. For the first time in God knows how long, the Colts have excellent depth in the secondary. Marlin Jackson was superb last night. He covered well and made big plays, like his hit on Reggie Bush which forced a fumble in the red zone, and yet another Saints scoring opportunity was crushed because of a turnover. The Colts defense collected 5 turnovers last night, after getting 0 in the first two pre-season games. Even without Corey Simon, Gary Bracket, and Gilbert Gardner, the Colts defense forced NO into numerous turnovers, 3-and-outs, and frustrated them all night long.
How bad did it get for the Saints' offense? Their only TD with the first unit came in the third quarter, when the first unit Saint offense scored against the second and third team Colts defense. Ouch!
- Antoine Bethea should start opening day against the Giants. I don't care that he's a rookie. I don't care if Mike Doss has been the safety since 2003. I don't care, period. Right now, Antoine Bethea is BETTER than Mike Doss. In his two pre-season games, Bethea has collected 11 tackles, recovered a Saints fumble, and snatched an INT. That is amazing! Bethea should start next to Bob Sanders in the Meadowlands.
- Special teams kick coverage was bad, bad, BAD. I have no idea why, but for some reason they cannot stay in their lanes and friggin' tackle. If the Colts are going to invest money in Adam Vinatieri to kick it deeper on kickoffs, it is a waste if the coverage units can't do their job. This better be fixed really soon or I want ST coach Russ Purnell's head on a plate.
- Tyjuan Hagler is a keeper. He's got great LBer speed, and he seems to make plays whenever he's on the field. The same goes for Kelvin Hayden. Hayden might become a star CB. Right now, he is still a little raw, but when he is on it is something to see. His INT last night was excellent. He read the QB Brees from the snap.
- The Colts have excellent depth at all key positions. WR Aaron Moorehead played well last night. I don't think he has anything to fear from Marc Boerigter getting signed. Terrence Wilkins has won the kick and punt returning jobs, as far as I'm concerned. Dan Sheldon looked ok, but I haven't seen anything from him to make me think he has more potential than TJ Rushing or is better than Wilkins.
I'll close this evaluation with a quote from Reggie Wayne that has me a little concerned:
So, is the running game a concern? Yes. I'd like to see more production, especially from Rhodes. Addai has had to run behind the second unit o-line throughout most of pre-season. Last night, he scored a short yardage TD with the second unit blocking for him against the Saints first unit. Rhodes has shown some burst and is running harder than I've ever seen him. Between these two guys, the Colts are fine. However, we will keep a closer eye on this.
All in all, the Colts are ready. They look faster and more aggressive than last season. Manning and the offense are in mid-season form, and the defense looks ready to eat someone's toddler. Sunday Night Football is just two weeks away.
God, I can hardly wait!