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Obviously, we aren't going to really know whether or not this draft addressed the key needs for this team heading into 2010. And, regardless of my personal feeling about selecting Pat Angerer in the second round and Kevin Thomas in the third, the Colts did address their four main needs going in: Offensive line (Jacques McClendon), corner depth (Kevin Thomas, Ray Fisher), pass rusher (Jerry Hughes), and duel return threat (Fisher, again). When you factor in free rookie agents, like left tackle Jeff Linkenbach, linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka and return threat Brandon James, this was a nice haul of young talent added to a Super Bowl-caliber team.
Also, you can never discount internal talent development. Last year this time, no one really considered Daniel Muir a viable option at defensive tackle. Now, the Colts are so happy with Muir, Antonio Johnson, Fili Moala, and Eric Foster that they did not draft or sign a defensive tackle during Draft Week. Yes, you could possibly consider Ricardo Mathews a DT, but Bill Polian called him a "power end" at his press conference on the final day of the draft suggesting Matthews will play more DE than DT.
So, again, internal development of people like Mookie and Muir has turned a once glaring hole into a position of strength.
We also saw players like Pierre Garcon develop significantly last season. Philip Wheeler, while not there yet, did show significant improvement from 2008 to 2009. We also had diamonds-in-the-rough like Jacob Lacey emerge from out of no-where.
This year, it will be interesting to see if Sam Giguere, Cody Glenn, Rudolph Hardie, and perhaps Roy Hall will develop further. All have shown they can potentially contribute to this team. The question remains, "Can they take the next step?"
And then there are players like Mitch King, Adam Terry, and Andy Alleman. What will they bring? Joe 'shake" Baker and I have been big on King since he left Iowa last year. He just seems perfect as a lineman for the Colts. The question is, in what capacity? Does he replace Raheem Brock? Can he rush the passer from the DT spot? Regarding OT Adam Terry, Polian spoke very well of Terry's ability and competitiveness during one of his draft press conferences. His issue right now is health. I have no idea what Andy Alleman is going to bring. He might just be fodder for camp. We will see.
While considering all this, as a Colts fan your eyes have to light up a bit at the thought of Bob Sanders, Anthony Gonzalez, and Adam Vinatieri all returning healthy.
The Colts made, and nearly won, Super Bowl 44 without any of these guys playing. That's pretty remarkable. For all my criticisms of the 2007 and 2008 Drafts for the Colts, the fact that this team got to a Super Bowl without their starting wide receiver, their A-List kicker, and (arguably) their most dominant player on defense speaks to how amazing Bill Polian and his staff are at generating quality depth on this team. "Next man up" is not some empty marketing phrase the team throws out there to placate fans. They mean it!
When you factor in all these variables, it's hard not to get excited. We've got a pretty friggin talented team here. They are well-coached, well-conditioned, and they know how to win. Right now, on paper, this is the best team in the AFC. Will the make a Super Bowl appearance again this year? Who knows. What I do know is, for the most part, Bill Polian and his crew are doing a good job to make sure the Colts redeem themselves for the team's tough loss in Super Bowl 44.