The Colts have made an incredible nine consecutive playoff appearances. But only one of them has produced a Super Bowl title, which is disappointing for a franchise with a surefire Hall of Fame quarterback. Peyton Manning turned 35 last month, so he’s probably only got 3-5 great years left.
Indianapolis must capitalize on what’s left of his prime.
OL: Especially for the Colts, you don’t use sacks allowed to evaluate line play. Manning’s quick release and ability to sense pressure have bailed out his front five over and over, almost to the point where linemen have been devalued in the organization. But the situation became dire last season. Combine the Colts’ putrid run game with even worse pass protection, and Manning went on a five-game run during the season’s second half that saw him throw 13 picks. His 17 for the year were Manning’s most since 2002. Left tackle Charlie Johnson, who’s better at guard, is a free agent, and right tackle Ryan Diem is due $5.4 million after a career-worst year. The interior line isn’t in much better condition.
RB: 2009 first-round pick Donald Brown is shaping up as a bust. He’s averaged 3.76 yards per career carry, and last year fell behind Mike Hart and Javarris James on the depth chart. Perhaps the light flips on eventually, but we wouldn’t bet on it. Starter Joseph Addai is a free agent, and the Colts would be smart to not overpay to retain him. Addai does everything pretty well, but is far from a special talent. Hart and James are replacement-level backs.
DT: Former second-rounder Fili Moala finally showed signs that he might be a player last season, but fellow starter Daniel Muir is easily washed out against the run, and the rest of Indianapolis’ defensive tackle depth chart is unimpressive. The Colts can probably get by at this position for another year, but there’s no one dynamic, difference-making interior presence in place.
S: The Colts parted with Bob Sanders, but he hadn’t played much recently anyway. Third safety Melvin Bullitt is a free agent. Indianapolis could use a strong safety capable of filling hard against the run, because few teams are annually as porous in rush defense. And with undersized players all across the front seven, a “box” safety in the Sanders mold could do a lot of damage if utilized correctly.
Overview: The Colts have worked out numerous quarterbacks before the draft. While Bill Polian may like the idea of grooming a developmental prospect behind Manning, he’d be much better off surrounding his franchise quarterback with an improved supporting cast. Manning isn’t getting any younger.
No disrespect to Dan Marino, but if the Manning era ends with a single Super Bowl win, you’ll be able to make a good argument that Polian, Jim Caldwell, and Tony Dungy are/were all vastly overrated. Manning needs more rings.