This post is sort of on the heels of Rick Gosselin's article predicting Colts v. Cowboys in Super Bowl 45 at Cowboys Stadium in "North Texas." The primary reason Gosselin picks the Colts to do what no team has done in sixteen years (return to a Super Bowl after losing one) is their depth:
The Colts were the NFL's best team last season with a 14-2 record. Manning was the league's best player, capturing the MVP award a record fourth time.
The Colts reached the Super Bowl despite the absence of Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders for 17 of the team's 19 games because of a torn biceps muscle. Indianapolis also played 18 games without starting wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, and starting cornerbacks Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden combined to suit up for only 16 of a possible 38 games.
We've written a lot of stories this off-season about the status of certain player, like Gonzo, Bob, Donald Brown, etc. It's interesting that, in many cases, our discussions about these players have been so heated, so charged with fan passion, you'd think that we were talking about a team that was searching for a key starter at a position of need.
Instead, the players we've been chatting about are, essentially, reserves.
This speaks to how potentially deep this Colts squad is at several key positions. While up-and-coming clubs like the Kansas City Chiefs are still searching for a go-to receiver, a running back, consistent quarterback play, a pass rush, and better interior defensive tackle play, the things we are talking about are fourth wide receiver, fourth corner, kick returner, and punt returner.
When you look up and down this roster, you see a pretty damn deep corps of talented players. But, how deep? The deepest in football? Is this Colts team better than last years? We discuss after the jump.
All off-season, we've had readers like Jamkel providing us articles collectively breaking down the Colts roster. They provide a good starting point for this discussion. For me, you can look at other teams and, potentially, find more talent at X or Y position over the Colts, but when you look at the over-all roster, the Colts seem to tower over the rest of the league in terms of real depth.
We hear this a lot, but the reason we do is because there is truth in the statement: It all starts with Peyton Manning.
He is the linchpin for the entire team. Without him, the house crumbles. Yes, players like Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Gary Brackett are important. But, everyone (including many coaches) takes their lead from Manning. This is a completely different football team without him.
With other positions, we have lots of Colts fans taking an even stronger interest in Donald Brown this year as opposed to last year (his rookie year). My thoughts are that Brown has more to prove than Joseph Addai does. Brown's rookie year was not all that stellar; too many injuries and too much inconsistent play. He has tremendous talent, but too often last year we saw him make mental mistakes. Sometimes, those mistakes produced some rather humorous audio from Peyton Manning:
But with Brown, we are still talking about a reserve player. Joseph Addai is the starter, heading into a contract year. The team also has solid veteran Mike Hart and an interesting rookie prospect in Javarris James (Edgerrin James' cousin). Right now, the position is three-deep.
far too much a ton about the wide receivers. The corps is five deep, and with players like Dudley Guice and Blair White possibly offering a bit more size to the group, it might be six-deep.
And like the receivers, the tight ends are a pretty talented group. Dallas Clark is the best tight end in football. I'll continue to shout that from the mountains tops until my lungs burst. No other tight end in football offers more big-play ability. Newly included into this group is Brody Eldridge, who seemed to really impress coaches and Peyton Manning during OTAs. Additional players like Tom Santi, Jacob Tamme, and Gijon Robinson are all quality players who have had issues staying healthy. Santi seems to offer the most well-rounded options at the positions among the three. Tamme is the better special teams player of the group, and he is also the emergency long-snapper. Regardless of who sticks around, each and every one of these guys has contributed to this team in big games in the past. Prior to getting hurt last year, Tom Santi was starting to really showcase some talent.
The offensive line has questions at the guard spots, but that's not because they don't have anyone to play the positions. The team has seven guards on the roster, not including Charlie Johnson (who once started at guard in 2008) and Tony Ugoh (who the Colts worked at guard during OTAs). Some of these guards are free agents like Andy Alleman or high draft picks like Mike Pollak. There is some pretty significant talent here. The question is who will stick around.
The Colts d-line is the fourth best in football, according to Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole. The addition of rookie defensive end Jerry Hughes make the pass rush scary good in terms of talent. Unlike years past, there is significant investment in quality defensive tackle talent via the draft with players like Fili Moala and Ricardo Mathews. This depth is in addition to quality starters like Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir.
Speaking of Moala, a light seems have turned on inside his noggin this off-season. In case you've forgotten how good he could potentially be:
The linebacker corps is so deep that Bill Polian used a second round pick on a back-up linebacker and didn't think twice about it. Pat Angerer is designated as Gary Brackett's back-up. This move was done because Polian does not want a repeat of what happened to the team when Brackett went down at the tail end of the 2008 season. Second year player Cody Glenn offers some speed and pop at weakside reserve backer. He was initially drafted by the Redskins, but was cut after camp last year. The Colts scooped him up, and I know of more than a few Redskins fans who are upset Glenn was let go. I, personally, am intrigued by the size and speed of Vuna Tuihalamaka, the collegiate free agent out of Arizona.
Depth in the secondary is a concern, but not "doomsday"-level. Jacob Lacey is a high quality back-up DB with game experience. With Bob Sanders returning to the starting line-up, we might see more of Melvin Bullitt as the dime DB. Rookie Ray Fisher offers some talent as a cover man, and the Colts seem to feel good about Terrail Lambert. Of all the areas on this team, the cornerback spot in the secondary has the least depth, and by depth I mean talent and experience. Players like Lambert, Fisher, and Brandon King offer talent, but not much gameday experience.
When you look around the league at other teams, they may have better depth at specific positions, but I don't know if I see better overall depth throughout the entire roster. Obviously, in early-July, it's hard to know who will pan out, who will get hurt, and how both will affect team performance. But, as articles like Gosselin's suggestion, if there is one team that really looks like it's ready to reach another Super Bowl, it's the Colts.
They are loaded with talent at several very key positions.