I've gotten a few emails asking how I think the loss of Edgerrin James will affect the Colts as a team in 2006. It's been a hot topic this past off-season, and the issue certainly will get discussed as the season goes on. The topic will intensify if (and it is a big if) the Cardinals' running game explodes while the Colts have issues moving the chains with their running backs.
In my opinion, the Colts will be affected by James' absence, but his productivity will be replaced.
Lots of lazy journalists and moron pundits like to point to the 2001 season as proof that the Colts a DEAD without Edgerrin James. In hindsight, pundits state that the Colts looked posed to compete for the division that year (they were still in the AFC East at that time), but the loss of Edgerrin James caused them to spiral out of control into the throws of a 6-10 season.
This, of course, is simply not true, and idiots (like ESPN's Jeremy Green) that use this to back up their claims simply do not know what they are talking about.
When Edgerrin James went down with a knee injury against the Kansas City Chiefs in week 7, the Colts were 2-3 going into that game, and already showing signs of breaking. James went down in the game, and rookie Dominic Rhodes came in and won the game both running the football and in with his special teams play. Dom ran a kickoff back for a TD in that contest, and the Colts barely won 35-28.
After that game, the Colts went on to beat the crap out of the Buffalo Bills, and were looking good at 4-3. Dominic Rhodes had picked up right were Edgerrin had left off, and the Colts offense was chugging right along.
After that Buffalo game, everything collapsed.
They went 2-7 the rest of the season, losing 5 straight at one point. Now, the lazy media has said the reason they lost 7 games in 9 weeks in 2001 was becasue they did not have Edgerrin James. This is garbage because during that 2-7 period, Dominic Rhodes ran the ball for 1,104 yards, 9 TDs, and averaged an amazing 4.7 yards a carry. The lazy media's response, when smacked in the face with this fact, is to say that the Colts missed James' "intangibles."
Folks, when someone responds using such a reason, that means the person is a complete moron.
The reason the Colts went 2-7 had nothing to do with losing Edge. His productivity was replaced, and in many cases surpassed. Dominic Rhodes had a spectacular rookie season, and he probably would have surpassed Edge as the starting RB in 2002 had he not gone down in pre-season with a knee injury. The reason the Colts went 2-7 in 9 weeks in 2001 was becasue their defense gave up an AVERAGE of 30 points a game.
I'll repeat that, since many in the ESPN idiot driven media can't seem to get this through their heads:
The Colts defense gave up an AVERAGE of 30 points a game to their opponents. When they lost 5 straight, they gave up 27, 34, 40, 39, and 41 points, respectively, to their opponents.
I don't care if you've got Christ Almighty running behind your line. If you're spotting 30 a game to your opponent, you SUCK hard donkey nads. It's a minor miracle that the Colts managed to eek out 6 wins that season. Their defense set records for ineptness in 2001:
- They surrendered 4.65 yards a rush, even to bad rushing teaming.
- They surrendered 2115 rushing yards! No team recently has given up that much on the ground. Oh-lay! does not even begin to describe how transparent the Colts rushing defense was. They made crappy running backs like J.R. Redman and Lamar Smith look like Jim Brown and Earl Campbell reborn.
- They allowed 30 passing TDs, and snagged only 15 INTs.
- Their average points allowed and their total points allowed almost set an NFL record. The Colts spotted 486 points to their opponents and almost 6,000 yards of offense.
Yet, in the eyes of people like Jeremy Green, the Colts lost because they didn't have Edge's intangibles. Why these guys are paid money to offer their opinions, I don't know.
In 2002, James came back, but the coach was different and the defense was overhauled. Today, NO ONE from that 2001 defense starts for the Colts defense. MLB Rob Morris is the only holdover from that 2001 defense currently on the roster, and he is a backup now. After 2001, the Colts made a deliberate and determined decision to junk their old defense and rebuild using Dungy's Cover 2. It took them 4 years to finally get it into the league's elite in 2005. And in order to keep this new elite defense intact, it meant that the Colts could not re-sign a player like Edgerrin James.
Today, the Colts are without Edge and have Dom Rhodes listed as the starting RB, like they did in 2001. However, unlike 2001, the Colts are giving up only 15 points a game as opposed to 30. This very important stat is the reason why the Colts will be just fine without Edgerrin James, no matter what idiots like Jeremy Green think, say, or do.
Now, I know what you are thinking: Didn't you say the Colts would be affected by James' departure?
Yes, I did and I do believe that. Edgerrin James could one day get inducted into the Hall of Fame. He is a great RB. In my mind, he is as good as the man he replaced: Marshall Faulk. Faulk has a ring because, unlike James, Faulk had a defense in 1999. Now, if Marshall Faulk can be replaced, so can Edgerrin James. Where he will be missed is in the locker room. Edge was a leader, and both the players and the fans responded to him. Moreso than any other player, James changed the attitude of the Colts by his presence. He relaxed people with his demeanor and awed them with his work ethic and performance on the field.
That will be difficult to replace.
However, if you've read this and other sites, players like Dom Rhodes, Reggie Wayne, and Jeff Saturday are already stepping up and taking over James' role as locker room leader. Players have been particulary impressed with Dom Rhodes and rookie Joseph Addai. Both are in amazing shape and have practiced like gangbusters.
So, while James' presence will be missed, his production will not. The Colts will move the football and score with tremendous results, and, unlike 2001, they will have a defense.