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The Colts will repeat as World Champions, Part 2: Fear this offense

Tony Ugoh has progressed with each practice and each pre-season game.
Six weeks ago, I wrote Part One of a series explaining why the Colts will repeat as World Champions, focusing specifically on the imprived defense. Now, I turn to the offense. Much has changed in six weeks. Tarik Glenn retired and Booger McFarland went down shortly afterwards with a knee injury, ending his season. Now the Colts must move on with two very important veteran leaders. The onus shifts to young players, and in typical Colts fashion these young players are stepping up and proving Bill Polian a genius once again.

Yes, I know that sounds like I'm licking the inside of Bill Polian's colon, but when your GM finds the kind of young talent Polian finds on a yearly basis, call me. No one, and I mean no one, (not Scott Pioli or Rich McKay or even the late, great Bill Walsh) finds young talent better than Bill Polian. While teams drat the Mike Williams and Ryan Leafs of this world, Polian finds the Terrence Wilkins, the Dom Rhodes, the Antoine Beatheas... the young guys who come out of nowhere to help their teams win championships. Some are drafted late in rounds (Bethea, Robert Mathis, Rick DeMulling) and others are brought in as undrafted free agents (Rhodes, Jeff Saturday, Gary Brackett). Some, like Raheem Brock, are discarded players drafted late by others teams. Brock was a 7th round pick by Philly in 2002 cut during Training Camp. He's now the Colts starting DT, and Philly has no one near his level starting at that position.

Polian just has the magic. He know where to find talent, and does the necessary homework to scout the crap out of that talent. Ok, so where was I? Oh yes! The offense, and why the Colts will repeat as World Champions:

  • It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway because any list discussing offense must include him: Peyton Manning. He's the best of his generation. There is no debate there, no argument. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either a homer for their guy, a fool, or an employee for ESPN. He makes complicated offense look effortless. He makes the extraordinary... ordinary. He commands his team in the same manner as John Unitas did back in the day, and when his career is over Peyton will be considered the best ever. Yes Manning haters, this will indeed happen. Make peace with this idea. Accept it. Deal with it. Move on. Anytime you have Peyton Manning on your team, you have a chance to win it all.
  • Receiving weapons: Imagine this offensive set-up... Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are left and right. In the slot is Dallas Clark, a TE so fast and versatile a cornerback must cover him. Or perhaps, in the slot, you see Anthony Gonzalez, the most polished rookie route runner I've seen since Marvin was a rookie in '96. Oh, and he's really, really fast too. Then, in the backfield you have Joseph Addai, a back with excellent hands and speed. Or maybe you see Addai split out wide, Clark at TE, and Gonzalez in the slot. The point here is that when the ball is snapped, someone is going to have single coverage. If you give single coverage to any one of those players I mentioned, it's a completion. It's literally that simple. And if you make a mistake and single cover Marvin or Reggie, that's 6 points for the Colts right there. Again, I still have no idea why Football Outsiders ranked the friggin' Cowboys as the team with the best receivers. The receiving options for the Colts are scary good, and if you don't have a well-coached, disciplined secondary... watch out.
  • Offensive line: Last season, no one was more critical of this group than me. They choked BIG TIME against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs in 2006. Last year though, they won me over. While I give Howard Mudd much of the blame for the '06 playoff loss (his scheme against Pittsburgh was an utter failure), his work in 2006 was utter brilliance. Teams like New England, Baltimore and Chicago all had tremendous pass rushers. None touched Peyton Manning. Now, in 2007, Mudd must work another miracle. Gone is his vet leader Tarik Glenn. In his place is the man the Colts wanted to start next season, Tony Ugoh. No rookie is going to go through more of a gauntlet than Ugoh. He has the task of protecting Manning's blindside, and all eyes will focus on him if and when he faulters. The X-Factor here is Mudd. Ugoh was handed the starting LT job. No one else has played it during pre-season during meaningful snaps when the first and second units are playing. If Ugoh is starting, it means Mudd likes the kid. It's also not like Ugoh is a chump. The Colts traded next year's first round pick to get this kid in round two of the 2007 draft. He's big, strong, quick, and unlike Glenn he isn't FAT. Ugoh also seems to have a level head, not allowing mistakes to get to him. Because of their coach and their tremendous depth, the Colts o-line is really the strength of this offense.
  • Joseph Addai: He was the best rookie RB last year in a class littered with great RBs. Yes, he was better than Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney, DeAngelo Williams, and Maurice Jones-Drew. He did everything (run, block, catch) with tremendous consistency and efficiency, all the while under the shadow of Edgerrin James. Unlike James though, Addai was tremendous in the playoffs. For this reason alone, he's an improvement over Edge. Addai will get more touches this year, which will help this offense. As great as Dom Rhodes was in the 2006 playoffs, he was simply bad during the regular season. A carry by Dom was a guaranteed 2 yard gain. A carry by Addai gave you 5 yards. The Colts will watch his carry-count as the season progresses. They want him fresh for the critical games.
  • The coaching: Much is often said of Tony Dungy's defensive genius. More teams across the country run his variation of the Cover 2 (nicknamed the Tampa 2 for Dungy's Bucs in the 1990s) than any other scheme. Why? Because the philosophy is simple and the focus is on execution... not elaborate scheming. But Dungy is an equally great offensive coach as he is a defensive coach. When he first arrived in Indy, he took one look at the team and said he wanted to improve the offense. We fans were like, "Huh?" The offense for Indy in 2002 had Manning, Harrison, Wayne, and a stable of stars. It was the defense that needed a slap in the face. Dungy disagreed. He saw an offense that sacrificed efficiency for the big play; far too many INTs, fumbles, and stupid plays. Dungy instilled a mentality that emphasized protecting the football over chucking it downfield. The results were a couple of league MVP trophies for Manning, and a Super Bowl MVP for him last season. Because of Dungy, his offensive coordinator Tom Moore, and his QB coach Jim Caldwell, the Colts offense will steam ahead just fine despite having two new starters. For all the attention coaches like Norv Turner and Mike Martz get for offense, these guys are BETTER, and should get equal attention.

There you have it. Despite four new starters on defense, two on offense, and one on special teams, this Colts roster has the potential to be better than the 2006 team. Remember, the 2006 team had four new starters on defense, two on offense, and one on special teams heading into last year's Kickoff Weekend. Many thought you couldn't get any better than the 2005 team.

Per usual, many were wrong. This squad is very, very good and even more dangerous now that teams and the media have under-estimated them. While New England and San Diego get all the attention for their additions and their stars, the Colts will lie in wait, knowing full well they are able and willing to kick the crap out of both those teams.