Sports Illustrated's Peter King dropped by Colts training camp the other day and posted his observations and insider news in a Postcard from camp: Colts article for SI.com. In this article, King provided two pieces of insider info that made yours truly sort of do a double take. Here's the first [emphasis mine]:
The left tackle spot would worry me if I were a Colts fan. Charlie Johnson has never been thought of as the long-term solution there, and he's out for the foreseeable future with a left foot injury. The severity of the injury isn't known, but he could miss time into the season, and there's no good candidate behind him. Could Tony Ugoh, who has had a couple of chances and failed to secure the job, be moved back from guard? It's a logical move, but it won't let Manning sleep any better at night.
If Charlie Johnson's supposed ankle injury (again, we have no real update from the Colts, forcing us to speculate on what the injury actually is) keeps him out of the first few games of the regular season, that is pretty devastating. It also seems to conflict, somewhat, with the limited information we are getting from the Colts. When asked yesterday how Charlie was, here was Jim Caldwell's utterly useless response:
He’s getting better and progressing.
With Jeff Saturday out for all of pre-season after knee surgery, and with Charlie Johnson seemingly out until (I guess) late-September, the Colts o-line really is in full panic mode. Again, I continue to ask this question: Why was Ryan Lilja cut? Don't you think the Colts could use him right now?
Peter King's next revelation is after the jump [emphasis mine]...
Defensive end Jerry Hughes from TCU was Indy's first-round pick, and seemed to be the prototype Colts end: quick, an accomplished rusher (26.5 sacks in his final 26 college games). But Polian and others have been quick to tamp down the expectation level for Hughes, noting that pass rushers have steep learning curves. The Colts don't seem to be counting on Hughes to be a big producer this year, but in early practices, they're excited about him being a long-term answer on a team with ends aged 30 (Freeney) and 29 (Mathis). What Hughes needs is a good second move, aside from the speed rush outside.
I'm not so concerned with this segment as I am with King's news about Charlie Johnson. For fans, I think we are reasonable in our expectations of Hughes. I certainly do not expect him to go out there and get 10-12 sacks and 5 forced fumbles as a rookie. However, I do expect him to help lessen the pass rushing burden on Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
Last year, Freeney accounted for 13.5 team sacks and Mathis for 9.5. The next highest Colt player on the sack list was Raheem Brock with 3.5. Brock was released back in March, and for all intents and purposes Hughes is replacing Brock, especially as a third rusher. So, in terms of expectations, I personally feel Hughes needs to do better than 3.5 sacks. He needs to provide something in the neighborhood of 5-7 sacks, and increase the number of pressures Brock provided last year.
To me, that's big production. It's HUGE production. It's production I expect.
If the Colts do not have a similar level of expectation, the obvious question then is: Why did you draft him? You're trying to win a championship right now. A first round pick who does not help you accomplish that goal right now is a wasted first round pick.
King also mentioned that the Colts are very high on John Chick. John Chick seems like a nice player, and maybe he can help the team, but my personal expectations are to see Jerry Hughes used as a third rusher on third down. If he isn't used, and someone like John Chick is, I'm going to question the sanity of Bill and Chris Polian for their selections in the 2010 NFL Draft. We've already got our second round pick (Pat Angerer) working as the third string MIKE. If our first round pick is truly a fifth string defensive end who the Colts are just going to develop this season, that's something that I (a paying fan) am going to raise a stink over.
And if the pass rush is not effective because, once again, the Colts are relying too much on Freeney and Mathis, that is simply not acceptable.
First round picks have to come in and make an immediate impact. In some cases (like Dwight Freeney his rookie year), you might slowly work them into the process before "turning them loose" in October or November. But, at some point, the first rounder must make an impact his first year. If he doesn't, he was a bad pick. Right now, the Colt cannot afford a bad pick.
Here's hoping Peter King is wrong on his Charlie Johnson prognosis and his information on Jerry Hughes. If he isn't, Bill Polian and Jim Cadlwell have some explaining to do.