There was nothing wrong with the 2001 Colts' offense. Peyton completed 62.7% of his passes, threw more TDs than INTs (though 23 isn't ideal), with over 7.5 yards an attempt. Marvin Harrison made it to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year (the streak would go to 8 years, unfortunately ending last season). Edge James started of stronger than ever until after over 950 carries in 2.5 years his knee said "no more". Undrafted rookie Dominic Rhodes filled in ably topping 1100 yards on the ground and adding 224 receiving. The Marcus Pollard-Ken Dilger TE tandem combined for 1,082 yards, 9 TDs and a Pro Bowl selection. The three headed monster at WR 2 (Jerome Pathon, Reggie Wayne and Terrence Wilkins) each put up near identical lines adding up for 1,007 yards and 2 TDs. The offense scored the 2nd most points in the league with 25.8 per game.
So how does a team that scores 26 points a game go 6-10?
By giving up 30 a game.
The 2001 Colts D was awful. Dead last in the league in points allowed, 29th in pass D and 25th against the run. The 2001 Colts gave up 40+ as many times as they held their opponent under 25 (4 times). They went 8 straight games without holding the opposing team under 27 (unsurprisingly losing 7 of those games).
Chad Bratzke continued to be the top player on the D line with 8.5 sacks. The other former standout DT Ellis Johnson recorded on 3.5 sacks and 20 tackles, his days as a every down player were over. 2000 2nd round pick Marcus Washington stepped into a starting linebacker job with a bang. 8 sacks, 74 tackles and 2 fumbles forced. On the other side Mike Peterson lost half the season to injury, putting up a solid 1.5 sack, 2 INT, 47 tackle, 1 fumble forced line in 9 games. 27 year old rookie Nick Harper tied for 2nd on the team in INTs with only one less than the team's INT leader despite starting only two games (a less impressive achievement when you know that 3 INTs was the best mark of any 2001 Colt.)
So the D had taken a massive fall backwards costing the team it's season. Coach Jim Mora was fired and was replaced by a defensive specialist, Tony Dungy. Dungy had lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to 4 playoff births in 6 seasons, including each of the previous 3 years. Dungy's Bucs had finished 8th or better in points allowed in all 6 of his seasons as head coach. Dungy brought a new style of defense to Indy. The Tampa-2 that he had designed with his assistants in Tampa from the basic Cover 2 defense.
The Tampa-2 needed a front four that could generate a pass rush, but only RE Chad Bratzke, Atlanta bound DT, Ellis Johnson, and retirement bound DE Mark Thomas had more than 5 sacks in their career went Dungy arrived. So with only one pass rusher (and the one now on the wrong side of 30) in a scheme that absolutely required QB pressure, D line was a focus of the draft.
The Colts picked 11th in the first round. Before they came on the clock 3 defensive linemen were taken. Julius Peppers, Ryan Sims, and John Henderson. The Colts picked Dwight Freeney. Few questioned Freeney's ability to rush the passer, but the Colts were bashed for taking an undersized DE who "wasn't an every down player." Freeney responded by starting 8 games with 13 sacks and 9 FORCED FUMBLES. After Freeney and before the Colts 2nd pick 6 future Pro Bowlers (4 future All Pros) were drafted:
- #14 TE Jeremy Shockey -1 All Pro, 4 Pro Bowls, 4234 yards, 27 TDs, one Superbowl spent getting drunk in a luxury box while his team wins, not the biggest ass among TEs named Jeremy (Jerramy) drafted in the 2002 first round.
- #15 DT Albert Haynesworth -1 AP, 1 PB, 15.5 sacks, one Cowboys' player's face stomped on.
- # 20 WR Javon Walker -1 PB, 3947 yards, 31 TDs
- #24 S Ed Reed -3 AP 4 PB, 34 INTs, 308 tackles, 6 year starter
- #26 CB Lito Sheppard -1 AP, 2 PB, 17 INTs
- #37 C Andre Gurode- 2PB, 5 year starter, recipient of one Albert Haynesworth face stomp
With their second round pick at #42 the Colts drafted DT Larry Tripplett. Tripplet started 10 games as a rookie but wasn't a factor as a pass rusher until his fourth and final season in Indy. in the next 32 picks future Pro Bowlers at safety, runningback and center, were drafted along with a superbowl MVP and 4 players with more career sacks than Tripplet:
- #44 C LeCharles Bentley -2 PB, 4 year starter
- #52 RB Clinton Portis -1 PB, 9403 yards, 67 TDs
- #58 S Michael Lewis -1 PB, 11 INTs, 7.5 sacks, 400 tackles
- #65 WR Deion Branch- 5 year starter, SB MVP, 4171 yards, 22 TDs
The Colts would continue to draft DBs unsuccessfully with Joe Jefferson in the 3rd round. Jefferson started 5 games in a three year career, intercepting 1 pass and forcing two fumbles. There was only one Pro Bowler drafted in the rest of the 3rd round. 3 others drafted before the Colts next pick would start at least 5 of the next 6 seasons.
- #89 LB Akin Ayodele - 5 year starter, 9.5 sacks, 5 INTs, 379 tackles
- #91 RB Brian Westbrook -1 AP, 2 PB, 7992 yards, 50 TDs
- #104 DE Alex Brown -31.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 5 year starter
- #105 CB Brian Williams -6 year starter, 16 INTs, 4 sacks, 301 tackles
David Thornton was the Colts 4th round pick. Thornton would start 3 of his 4 years with the Colts recording 3 sacks, 3 INTs, forcing 4 fumbles and making 280 tackles in that time. One Pro Bowler was taken in the two rounds, 5 others would start at least 5 seasons.
- #108 QB David Garrard- 6052 yards passing, over 2:1 TD:INT, 822 rushing yards, 43 total TDs.
- #114 TE Randy McMichael- 6 year starter, 3533 yards, 21 TDs
- #141 LB Andra Davis - 5 year starter, 7 INTs, 8.5 sacks, 388 tackles
- #143 LB Scott Fujita- 6 year starter, 18 sacks, 3 iNTs, 412 tackles
- #156 DE Aaron Kampman - 2 PB, 244 tackles, 41 sacks,
- #157 DB Jermaine Phillips - 5 year starter, 8 INTs, 3 sacks, 284 tackles
The Colts back to back 6th round picks combined to play 4 games, their 3rd 6th round pick played another 4. In the 21 picks between the 6th rounders and the 16 before the Colts' 7th round pick only one player drafted would start multiple seasons.
- #187 C Justin Hartwig- 4 year starter
- #199 RB Adrian Peterson- 1741 yards, 8 TDs
- #207 RB Chester Taylor- 4965 yards, 20 TDs
- # 210 TE Bryan Fletcher- Will make the Colts roster as a free agent
The Colts final pick was DE Josh Mallard who would play in 13 games as a rookie for the Colts recording one sack. Mallard would then go 4 years before playing in another NFL game. A future Colts starter and 3 future starting NFL O Linemen would be drafted in the last 41 picks.
- #235 WR Ronald Curry- 2170 yards, 11 TDs
- #238 DE-DT Raheem Brock- 5 year starter for Colts, 21.5 sacks
- #239 G Eric Heitmann- 5 year starter
- #245 T Kevin Shaffer- 4 year starter
- #253 G Kyle Kosier- 5 year starter
1. Dwight Freeney, Freeney was exactly what the Colts D needed for a transition to the Tampa-2. Freeney was an instant impact on the D.
2. Brian Westbrook, Westbrook is the second coming of Marshall Faulk in every way except health. With Edge established and Dom holding down the fort as he recovers Westbrook can excel at a more safe level of playing time.
3. Aaron Kampman, a bookend DE for Freeney, the top defender of the 2002 draft drafted outside the first round.
4. David Thornton, The first of the great Colts LBs that the Colts struggled to replace. Most will take that as more of an indictment of Gilbert Gardner than praise of Thornton, but Thornton was a very good starter and a fit in the Colts new system.
6(1) Raheem Brock, became the end opposite Freeney and is now developing into a disruptive force as the under tackle.
6(2), 6(3), 7 Eric Heitmann, Kevin Shaffer and Kyle Kosier. Manning was sacked a career high 29 times in 2001. Ryan Diem is still at guard and Jake Scott and Ryan Lilja are still in college.