As The Post-Tony Dungy Era Begins, Can The Colts Take Back Their Division? [2009 Team Preview]
Key Additions: On offense, the Colts added two key guys in the Draft, HB Donald Brown and WR Austin Collie. After a tough season last year for HB Joseph Addai (and the Colts run game as a whole), the Colts wanted to have another back, and Brown looks to be a very solid back. In a perfect world, Addai gets back to form and they are a great 1-2 punch. If Addai isn't there, then Brown I believe could be a solid starter.
Austin Collie is a WR many around the Colts have compared to former slot man Brandon Stokley. Smart, great route runner, great hands. With Anthony Gonzalez moving to the #2 role, Collie will be expected to step up in the slot.
Defensively, their defensive tackles were a major weakness for the defense last season, and the Colts addressed this. First, they brought back former starter Ed Johnson, who was cut because of marijuana use. If he gets back to form, he is a very solid player. They also drafted Fili Moala from USC and Terrance Taylor from Michigan, two solid guys who should fit well into the rotation.
Key Losses: The biggest loss is obviously the retirement of head coach Tony Dungy. In 7 years with the Colts, the worst record they had under Dungy was 10-6, which is quite remarkable when you think about it. While Jim Caldwell seems perfectly capable, you know what you were getting out of Dungy, and that was success.
From an on the field perspective, the Colts didn't lose very much at all. They lost longtime starting WR Marvin Harrison, but he was a shell of himself last season. On top of that, they lost longtime starting punter Hunter Smith, but rookie Pat McAfee seems very capable of punting at an NFL level.
Strengths: The most obvious is of course, Peyton Manning and the passing game.. Reggie Wayne is a legitimate top 5 WR, Dallas Clark is an excellent tight end, and Anthony Gonzalez is showing to be a solid target. Defensively, they have perhaps the best combination of pass rushing ends in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Also, if healthy (Which is a big if), they have a strong secondary.
Weaknesses: Last season, the offensive line was pretty awful, which helped lead to a crappy running game, which weakened the passing game. The offensive line really hasn't improved. Jeff Saturday is healthy, and Ryan Lilja is back at LG (He missed all of last year at injury). But LT Tony Ugoh was benched for the not so fantastic Charlie Johnson, RG Mike Pollak still needs to improve, and RT Ryan Diem just plain sucked last year. They need some work here.
Defensively, the outside linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Clint Session both are relatively unproven, and are a question mark. And Bob Sanders is hurt as he always is, which of course hurts. Luckily, Melvin Bullitt showed to be a respectable backup, but the defense is just different when Sanders is on the field.
Prediction: Overall, the Colts still have a lot more talent than many teams in the NFL. On top of that, the Titans appear to have taken a big step back in losing the Headstomper on defense. I believe the biggest threat in the division will actually beat Houston. In the end, I still see the Colts winning double digit games and taking the AFC South.
That's my Colts prediction, what's your thought on the Colts?