AFC South: Brandon James

The Colts just sent out their weekly Tuesday injury update. Here it is in its entirety:
"Defensive back Bob Sanders (biceps) will be out this week against Dallas. Wide receiver Austin Collie is improving and his practice role will be determined as the week progresses. Collie suffered a concussion at Philadelphia on November 7. After being cleared medically to participate at New England on November 21, he encountered symptoms from his previous injury, though there was no recurrence. Running back Joseph Addai progressed to practice last week for conditioning purposes. Addai will do so again, but a timetable for a full return to action is uncertain. The club has waived wide receiver Brandon James and signed wide receiver Taj Smith. Linebacker Cody Glenn will be placed on injured reserve after suffering a neck injury last week against San Diego."

The lack of a mention of Gary Brackett and Clint Session suggest the linebackers could have a chance to return, which Bill Polian indicated in his weekly radio show. Same for Mike Hart, who practiced some last week.

Thursday school sessions aiding Colts

November, 17, 2010
11/17/10
5:12
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Working with the unfamiliar people who’ve replaced guys like Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Addai this season, Peyton Manning's put school in session.

Thursday afternoons have been prime time for extra work.

Asked Wednesday about trusting Jacob Tamme, Manning gave an answer that went beyond just the tight end.

“I think you have to trust him,” Manning told the Indianapolis media. “There is no time to get out there and say, ‘Boy, I can’t make this play because I’m not sure.’ You have to go out there and go play. That’s why practice reps, walk-throughs and meetings, we do a little extra meeting together with some of these young guys, we have a little school after Thursday’s practice…I’m at least 14 years older than everybody in the room, I think.

“It may not be 14, but I feel really old. Javarris James, Blair White, Brandon James and Tamme and (Austin) Collie, it’s a little Colts school after practice, but it’s fun. We talk about kind of the basic fundamental things which you have to do. You can’t take those things for granted with some of these new guys that just haven’t been playing.”

It’s not 14, of course.

It’s nine.

Manning is 34, while Collie and Tamme are 25, White and Javarris James are 23 and Brandon James is 22.

The way the season has unfolded has made it more of a grind, Manning said, but that grind is worth it when a guy like Brandon James is able to step in and make a few third-down catches. Manning said he’s had to be more patient this season, which has also wound up being rewarding.

“Every week there is something new,” he said. “You do have to be patient with that and understand that there is going to be some adjustments and some of what we call storms that you have to sort of work through. If you can work through, at the same time getting a win, and realize that we are making some improvement in certain areas, then that is a good thing.”

Sunday in New England, the pace of grinding and patience may well be accelerated.

Wrap-up: Colts 23, Bengals 17

November, 14, 2010
11/14/10
6:25
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Thoughts on the Colts’ 23-17 win over the Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium.

What it means: The Colts moved to 6-3 and stand alone atop the AFC South thanks to Tennessee’s loss in Miami.

Turnover festival: Indianapolis scored 17 points off turnovers. Kelvin Hayden had his second pick-6 in three games. Tyjuan Hagler and Aaron Francisco also had interceptions, while Kavell Conner and Dwight Freeney forced fumbles that were recovered by Antonio Johnson and Mike Newton. Meanwhile, the offense didn’t turn it over. That’s an easy way to survive being outgained 341-256 in total net yards.

What I liked: A start for Jeff Linkenbach at right guard over Mike Pollak that appeared to be merit-based.

What I didn’t like: Pierre Garcon’s inability to secure an onsides kick late that would let the Colts’ worry less. A 42-yard run by Brian Leonard on a fourth-and 1 for Cincinnati. It was his only carry of the game.

The next newcomer: Brandon James did little as the punt returner, but he did chip in with four catches for 36 yards. For those keeping track he qualifies as the team’s sixth wide receiver.

What’s next: A trip to New England for the always intriguing matchup with the Patriots.

RTC: Brandon James ready for his shot

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
11:56
AM ET
Reading the coverage …

How long are quarterbacks holding onto the ball before they get sacked? J.J. Cooper examines the question. (Hate tip to Nate Dunlevy.)

Houston Texans

Frank Bush knows a defensive turnaround has to start with him, says Jeffery Martin.

Arian Foster is outshining better-known backs, says John McClain.

Matt Schaub took a full load at practice, says McClain.

What’s Jason Allen going to be asked to do, wonders Houston Diehards.

Indianapolis Colts

Phil Richards hands out his Colts midseason assessment.

Bob Kravitz hands out his dopey midseason awards.

Pat McAfee won’t be prosecuted for public intoxication, says Will Higgins.

Brandon James is ready for his shot as the Colts’ return man.

Jerraud Powers has an introductory video blog at his website.

John Oehser’s weekly magnificent seven entry includes discussion of Dwight Freeney and Antoine Bethea.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Line coach Andy Heck heaped praise on Eugene Monroe, says Vito Stellino.

The Texans are seeking consistency as they head to Jacksonville, says Ganguli.

Aaron Kampman hurt a knee and Tyson Alualu is also dealing with an injury, says Stellino.

Stellino and Ganguli preview the game. (Video.)

Tennessee Titans

What sort of influence will Randy Moss have on the Titans? John Glennon looks into the question.

Mike Heimerdinger talked with David Climer about how he’ll use Moss.

Vince Young (ankle) and Kerry Collins split reps at practice, says Jim Wyatt.

Police concluded their investigation of Kenny Britt’s bar fight, says Wyatt.

RTC: Every word written, plus pictures

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
10:25
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Reading the coverage …

Arian Foster, Wade Smith and Jason Babin are on Jason Cole’s midseason All-Unlikely Team.

Houston Texans

John McClain thinks Brian Cushing back to the strong side is the right move.

Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels missed practice, says John McClain.

More on the injuries from Nick Scurfield.

Pete Prisco and Clark Judge debate Gary Kubiak’s future.

What’s “wrong” with Matt Schaub, asks Battle Red Blog.

Thoughts on Cushing and the secondary issues, from Houston Diehards.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts front office has to keep digging up suitable replacements, says Mike Chappell.

Jerraud Powers says he’s ready, writes Phil Richards.

Breaking down Bengals-Colts with Phillip B. Wilson.

The Colts added Joique Bell, says Wilson.

Brandon James is back, says Wilson.

Clint Session said his injury came with major pain, says Wilson.

Peyton Manning is the glue holding things together, says Michael Marot.

Gary Brackett is dealing with turf toe again, says John Oehser.

Shutdown Corner says Pat Angerer is a Top 10 NFL name.

Joseph Addai talked to 18to88.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Rashean Mathis hopes to line up against Johnson, says Vito Stellino.

The division race is tough and tight, says Tania Ganguli.

Vince Manuwai has overtaken Justin Smiley at left guard, says Ganguli.

Eben Britton’s shoulder surgery was the “Drew Brees special,” says Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

Randy Moss wants wins, not trouble, says Jim Wyatt.

Joe Biddle assesses the media crush for Moss. (I was not left speechless, for the record.)

The defense knows what Moss can bring, says John Glennon.

A transcript of Moss’ news conference.

Vince Young sat Wednesday out, say Wyatt and Glennon.

A slide show of Moss at practice from George Walker.

Moss was gruff but compliant, says William Rhoden.

The Titans think any Moss distractions will be worth it, says Chris Harry.

Moss intends to be all business, says David Boclair.

Young Titans admit to being star struck by Moss, says Terry McCormick.

Why Powers is the Colts' punt returner

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
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Many of you who follow the Colts have been asking about the punt returner situation. There was a bit of a charade leading into the opener about Anthony Gonzalez fielding punts, but it didn’t come to life before he was hurt. And the guy who made the team to field kicks, Devin Moore, has taken a backseat on punts to starting cornerback Jerraud Powers.

Powers
Powers

Discussions about starters with big roles as returners always hit on Jason Sehorn, the one-time Giants corner who missed a season as a result of a preseason injury suffered as a returner.

Every coach and team measures such risk, and based on a transcript of coach Jim Caldwell on Thursday he doesn’t think it’s an unreasonable one for the Colts to use Powers in the role.

“It was a combination of a little bit of everything,” Caldwell said of the decision to use Powers. “He’s done it before. He’s very good at it. Even the week leading up to it we certainly didn’t give any definite declaration of who was actually going to do it, so we worked several guys back there, Pierre Garcon, Blair White, Anthony Gonzalez, Jerraud Powers and Brandon James. We had a number of guys that still work at it. Obviously, we felt that particular day with the situation we were facing that he would do a great job for us and that carried over to the second week, as well.”

Caldwell also talked about how many starters have special teams roles, singling out Philip Wheeler, Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt while talking of how many starting offensive linemen are on the field-goal unit and how many starters are in the field-goal block group.

But linemen and even players who run down to cover kicks are not being targeted and tackled.

The Colts took a thorough look at three return candidates in the preseason – Moore, James and seventh-rounder Ray Fisher. It’s unfortunate none of them emerged as the best option to field punts. For now it looks like Powers, but I won’t be surprised if he’s not permanent in the role.

While it would be nice to bust some big ones, it’s usually been an area where Bill Polian teams have been willing to sacrifice play-making ability because the offense is capable of gaining the yards the special teams can’t.

It’s probably a safer strategy than putting a top cover guy at additional risk.
Roster and practice-squad news so far Sunday:

Houston Texans

Were awarded linebakcer David Nixon from the Oakland Raiders and cornerback Jamar Wall from the Dallas Cowboys of waivers. Released linebacker Danny Clark.

Indianapolis Colts

Signed quarterback Tom Brandstater, defensive end John Chick, receiver Brandon James, defensive back Mike Newton and receiver Blair White to the practice squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Were awarded defensive tackle Landon Cohen off waivers from the Detroit Lions. Released offensive lineman Paul McQuistan.

Signed offensive tackle Daniel Baldridge, tight end Mike Caussin, receiver John Matthews, and defensive tackle Kommonyan Quaye to the practice squad.

Tennessee Titans

Were awarded linebacker Tim Shaw from the Chicago Bears and linebacker Patrick Bailey from the Pittsburgh Steelers off waivers. Released linebackers Stanford Keglar and running back LeGarrette Blount.

Signed defensive lineman Hall Davis, receiver Dominique Edison, cornerback Pete Ittersagen, center Kevin Matthews, safety Myron Rolle and linebacker Patrick Trahan to the practice squad.

Indianapolis Colts cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
9/04/10
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Check here for a full list of Indianapolis’ roster moves.


Biggest surprises: Undrafted running back/returner Devin Moore, undrafted offensive tackle Jeff Linkenbach and undrafted cornerback Brandon King all won roster spots. Defensive tackle Mitch King, who also ranked as a long shot when camp started, survived. So did Gijon Robinson, the primary blocking tight end in recent years who figures to lose snaps to rookie Brody Eldridge. John Chick, a CFL star, lost out to Keyunta Dawson in his bid to be the fourth defensive end.

No-brainers: Two out of three of the return candidates were going, and those turned out to be Brandon James and seventh-rounder Ray Fisher.

What’s next: The team traded an undisclosed pick to Washington for defensive back Justin Tryon, so it appears more settled with cornerback depth. Despite fan desires for a change from Curtis Painter, I’d expect he’s locked in as the backup quarterback to Peyton Manning. The team is currently 10 deep on the offensive and defensive lines, but there doesn’t seem to be a spot screaming out for help at the expense of a lineman right now.

Thoughts on Bengals 30, Colts 28

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
11:12
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Some bullet-point thoughts on the Colts’ 30-28 preseason loss to Cincinnati on Thursday night.
  • The Colts sat 32 players.
  • The kick and punt return candidates didn’t seem to do a whole lot to differentiate themselves. Devin Moore took two punts 4 yards and Brandon James took one punt 2 yards. Those two and Ray Fisher all had averages between 17.5 and 25 yards on kickoffs.
  • James and Tom Brandstater certainly had nice statistical nights, linking up for three touchdowns and a 2-point conversion in the final 20 minutes of the game.
  • Indy gave up a 93-yard touchdown run to Cedric Peerman and didn’t get a run longer than Javarris James’ 12-yarder.
  • Even playing a large share of guys who will be cut by Saturday, the Colts played pretty clean. They committed just three penalties worth 30 yards, while Cincinnati had 11 for 99.

Three things: Bengals at Colts

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
3:00
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Three things I’ll be looking for in Bengals at Colts:

The return games: It may be hard for the Colts to use all three of their return options in the same game, as they can’t do much to control how many punts and kickoffs a game will have. But they’ve got to have Devin Moore, Brandon James and Ray Fisher in some pecking order going in. They hope for enough on tape that they will be able to adjust that order if they need to.

Pat Angerer: The guy’s been all over the place in the preseason and is sure to get a lot of time in a game where the Colts typically don’t put starters on the field at all or for very long. His production gives them confidence he can step in if there is an injury and hope that he can get the job done on special teams.

Brody Eldridge: If you’ve missed it, I love the potential for this guy to be an impact player on offense -- a tight end who can make a significant difference in the run game while still threatening to slip out and catch a pass. We could see a lot of him here. If we don’t, I’d suggest that means he’s in line for an even bigger role than I thought.

RTC: Good news/bad news reports

September, 1, 2010
9/01/10
12:00
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Reading the coverage ...

An AFC South preview from Andrew Lawrence.

Houston Texans

David Anderson’s latest column focuses on pressure.

The Texans have hit a record in season-ticket sales, says John McClain.

Dan Orlovsky will start the preseason finale, says McClain.

A replay of McClain’s chat.

On Arian Foster’s emergence as the lead back.

Matt Musil spoke to Owen Daniels, Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans and Matt Schaub during Celebrity Server Night at Morton’s Steakhouse.

Good news/bad news on the Texans from Khaled Elsayed.

It’s put-up time for Gary Kubiak, says Alan Burge.

Houston Diehards thinks the Texans showed way too much against the Cowboys.

Indianapolis Colts

The move of the umpire is a good one, says Bob Kravitz. He and Michael Wilbon have made a good point in this debate: rule after rule has protected the quarterback. It’s time for them to give a little on protecting someone else now.

The preseason finale is a biggie for return candidates Devin Moore, Brandon James and Ray Fisher, says Mike Chappell.

Jerry Hughes is likely to get good work against the Bengals, says Phil Richards.

John Oehser covers the umpire, the receivers, Jeff Saturday and the run game.

Good news/bad news on the Colts from Elsayed.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Special teams are expecting big things, says Tania Ganguli.

Injuries thinned out the Jags at center, says Vito Stellino.

Stellino and Ganguli preview the preseason finale against Atlanta.

Good news/bad news on the Jags from Elsayed.

Vic Ketchman discusses leverage and rates Troy Polamalu as the league’s best tackler.

Tennessee Titans

What do the Titans’ skill guys think about wearing leg pads? Jim Wyatt’s story.

Chris Simms sees a 50-50 chance to stick, say Jim Wyatt and John Glennon. I admire Simms’ optimism.

Tony Brown is ready to roll, says Glennon.

Defensive line depth has been revealed in the preseason, says David Boclair.

Greed is good for Chris Johnson, says Mike Silver.

Good news/bad news on the Titans from Elsayed.

The Eugene Amano-Leroy Harris combo is proving a good fit, says Mitch Pulley.
A check in on unresolved starting position battles in the division as teams prepare for preseason finales on Thursday and the cut down to 53 on Saturday.

Houston Texans

Right guard: It’s third-year man Mike Brisiel, who missed all but the opener last season with an injury, trying to hold off second-year man Antoine Caldwell. I’d think they view Caldwell as having more upside and being more suited to the system, but it seems too close to call still.

Kicker: Kris Brown could be limited with a bit of a foot injury, but it doesn’t sound like it will factor into the decision. He and Neil Rackers have been quite even, so the question becomes does Gary Kubiak stay loyal to Brown or decide a change of scenery will be healthier and go with Rackers?

Outside linebacker: While Brian Cushing sits the first four games to serve his suspension, it's still unclear what the Texans will do. There was a lot of talk about Zac Diles playing strongside while rookie Daryl Sharpton took Diles' spot. Now the local media is talking as if Kevin Bentley is the front-runner.

Indianapolis Colts

Left guard: The offensive line’s been a complete scramble in the preseason because of injuries. Presuming Charlie Johnson is set to return as left tackle for opening day in Houston, this spot looks like the one most up in the air. Tony Ugoh was plugged in at the start of camp, but then wound up at tackle when Johnson was hurt. Jamey Richard could also win it, and if the Colts are being secretive, rookie Jacques McClendon could factor in.

Return man: Three newcomers -- Brandon James, Devin Moore and Ray Fisher -- have all gotten looks in games. Moore had the best results with the ball in his hands. But he's been dinged and the other two have made fielding errors with Fisher booting one against Buffalo and James doing the same at Green Bay. How they stack up in-house right now is unknown, and Thursday could certainly still factor into things.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Right guard: Has Vince Manuwai, an incumbent starter, held on to the one open spot on the line? If so he should play on the right. If not, Uche Nwaneri will probably play on the right with Kynan Forney on the left. It seems Jack Del Rio’s decided, but just isn’t sharing yet.

Safety: Both spots are hardly cemented, and it will be a bigger surprise if the team doesn’t add a safety from waivers than if it does. Anthony Smith looks to lead at strong with Gerald Alexander at free, but they have Sean Considine and Reggie Nelson and even Courtney Greene and Tyron Brackenridge in the mix too. None of them has stepped forward and made a huge push so far.

Tennessee Titans

Right cornerback: Jason McCourty is steadier and faster, rookie Alterraun Verner is a bigger playmaker. Jeff Fisher’s left open the possibility of playing them both, but that’s a difficult juggling act that could slow the progress of both. It’s also a good way for the coach to keep quiet on the starter in the opener until just before kickoff.

Returner: Damian Williams is the guy they’d like to win it, but he’s been a little timid and lost a fumble during a return in Carolina. Another rookie, Marc Mariani, is the primary alternative.

Outside linebacker: While Gerald McRath serves his four-game suspension, who lines up with Stephen Tulloch and Will Witherspoon? Colin Allred would appear the leader, with Jamie Winborn the other possibility. Activating David Thornton off PUP and using him is an outside option. I don’t see it considering his scheduled salary of around $5 million, his propensity for getting hurt and his current physical status.

Thoughts on 49ers 37, Colts 17

August, 15, 2010
8/15/10
4:17
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Some bullet-point thoughts on the Colts’ 37-17 preseason loss to San Francisco on Sunday afternoon.

Impressive:
  • The starters on offense put together a smooth and efficient 89-yard touchdown drive on their first chance. Peyton Manning hit on 8 of 10 passes for 91 yards, and got to where people want him in these games -- to the sideline with a ball cap on.
  • The front-line defense, minus some key guys who were held out, made plays. Philip Wheeler forced a fumble right out of the gate. Robert Mathis pushed rookie tackle Anthony Davis around. Jerraud Powers pounced on a tipped ball for an interception, and scared Ted Ginn into a drop.
  • Rookie linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner were both very productive. Angerer had a couple sacks, and Conner was in on a lot of tackles. Barring injuries, there should not be room for them on defense. But they should be impact special teams guys.

Unimpressive:
  • Curtis Painter was incredibly ineffective. Even with protection issues, his performance makes it impossible to say he’s improved on his rookie work. He was 9-for-19 for 64 yards with three interceptions. Yeesh. San Francisco third-stringer Nate Davis was more calm and collected than Painter and the Colts’ third quarterback, Tom Brandstater.
  • Everyone was looking for a chance to assess new returners, but we’ll have to wait at least until Game 2. Kickoff returns by Brandon James and Sam Giguere looked like the same old deal, and James only had a chance to field one punt.
  • Run defense in the second half against San Francisco’s bulky rookie Anthony Dixon was insufficient. He will head back to the Bay Area feeling very good about himself after 21 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Unfortunate:
  • Reserve safety and special teamer Jamie Silva went down with what looks to be a serious knee injury.

Reading the coverage:

Houston Texans

The competition between Neil Rackers and Kris Brown goes to game level Saturday, says John McClain.

At 42, Matt Turk has no competition, says Jordan Godwin.

Rashad Butler’s developed a mean streak in camp, says Godwin.

A postcard from Texans camp courtesy of Andrew Lawrence.

Previewing Texans-Cardinals with Andy North.

Indianapolis Colts

Dallas Clark suffered a left leg injury in practice, says Mike Chappell.

Some offensive linemen could be pressed into a lot of action in Sunday’s preseason opener, says Phillip B. Richards.

Brandon James could ignite the return games, says Chappell.

More on the return games, from Cliff Brunt.

Is Donald Brown a breakout fantasy possibility?

Who’s the better fantasy tight end, Dallas Clark or Antonio Gates?

Jacksonville Jaguars

When the starters were in, the Jaguars were dominated, says Vito Stellino.

Injuries dictated the lineup, but the front didn’t rush the passer well in Jacksonville’s loss at Philly, says Tania Ganguli.

Luke McCown shined but the starters didn’t, says Gene Frenette.

Deji Karim looked pretty good returning kickoffs, says Ganguli.

Gerald Alexander warns about putting too much stock into preseason results, from Ganguli.

City councilmen blew it with a dinner with Jaguars brass, writes Gene Frenette.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans starters won’t see much action, says Jim Wyatt.

Mike Heimerdinger talks about the progress of Kenny Britt and praises Craig Stevens. (Audio from Jonathan Hutton.)

A preview of Titans-Seahawks from Wyatt.

Durability is a key for Michael Roos and David Stewart, says Phil Brame.
ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 1

ANDERSON, Ind. -- They could have made a bid at an undefeated regular season and their hopes for a Super Bowl win were snuffed out by an onside kick and an untimely pick.

So it should concern the rest of the AFC South that the 2010 Indianapolis Colts appear to be better than last year’s version.

They get two high-quality players, who were injured for most of last year, back in safety Bob Sanders and receiver Anthony Gonzalez. The Colts added a third edge rusher and a blocking tight end in the draft.

“Coach [Jim] Caldwell wants us to be a consistent team and not one that plays really well one week and not one that goes into a slump the next couple of games and then comes back,” Peyton Manning said. “I think we have been pretty consistent. Our offseason work, our execution and our attention to detail in training camp make a difference.

“But what has happened in the past doesn’t guarantee you anything for this 2010 season. We have some new players, new coaches and it is up to us to go out and form the identity of his team and to go out and try to win games this season.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeBob Sanders
AP Photo/Darron CummingsBob Sanders doesn't plan on changing his style to avoid injuries. "It's a physical game," he said. "I make tackles."
1. Can Sanders stay on the field? The thing that makes him so good is the same thing that makes him so injury prone. He throws himself around like a torpedo, and suffers the consequences. He’s upbeat and happy right now to be spending his time on the field and with coaches and teammates instead of in the training room with medical staff.

“I don’t think you can put yourself in less danger on the field,” Sanders said when I asked if there was any way he could be less reckless to try to preserve himself. “We’re football players so we’re going to be physical. It’s a physical game. I make tackles. You just never know what’s going to happen. You just have to play your best, hope for the best, I pray and put it in God’s hands and just try to do my job.”

When he’s out there, he’ll be more creative than when we last saw him playing consistently. Second-year defensive coordinator Larry Coyer is much more willing to blitz than Ron Meeks was.

As good as Melvin Bullitt's been as Sanders’ replacement, Sanders is a game-altering presence when he’s out there. Sanders is making plays in camp. If he’s out there, the Colts’ defense could be fantastic.

2. Will offensive line changes amount to an upgrade? Left guard Ryan Lilja was let go, so at least one spot will be filled by someone new. Tony Ugoh looked like the early choice, but he’s been pulled back to tackle to work for the injured Charlie Johnson, so Jamey Richard is in play. Richard might shift to center while Jeff Saturday recovers from a knee scope, which could open the door for rookie Jacques McClendon, if he’s healthy, or someone like Jaimie Thomas.

The talent pool now includes McClendon and tackle Adam Terry, but there was no overhaul. Pass protection combined with Manning’s ability to get the ball out quick meant few sacks, but the team needs to run better for balance. Short-yardage bugaboos have been a factor in season-ending losses the past two years.

New offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars has a chance to make minor alterations that could have a bearing, and a quality-blocking tight end like Brody Eldridge could even help revive the once bread-and-butter stretch play.

[+] EnlargeJerraud Powers
Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireSecond-year cornerback Jerraud Powers had 66 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception during his rookie season.
3. Will secondary depth hold up? Bill Polian purged the roster of some injury-prone corners, then saw third-round pick Kevin Thomas go down shortly after the draft with a serious knee injury. Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey should be a fine top three, but if one gets hurt, Deshea Townsend or Marcus McCauley, who were available recently, could be the next option.

If the Colts have to go that deep down the depth chart, their pass rush will be even more vital. But how many teams would love for the fourth cornerback to be a primary issue heading into a season?

BIGGEST SURPRISE

It’s hard to find them with a very low-key team that drafts and grooms the bulk of its players. Polian’s harped on short-yardage failures, but then the team didn’t add a sure fire starter to the line with Andy Alleman (already gone), Terry and McClendon.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Before the Colts could start to sort things out, injuries dictated they move offensive linemen around. Saturday is out 2-6 weeks after a knee scope, and Johnson and McClendon are sidelined. It would have been nice to see Metzelaars have a full deck for a long stretch in order to best hold competitions and compare and contrast players. The sooner they resolve the lineup and start to build cohesion, the better. Now it’s probably going to be later than would be ideal.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • [+] EnlargeLarry Coyer
    AP Photo/Darron CummingsExpect more surprises out of Larry Coyer's defense this season.
    In Year 2 of Coyer’s tenure as defensive coordinator, I expect the Colts will be more exotic with an occasional surprise look or package -- perhaps most often utilizing their depth at safety where Sanders, Antoine Bethea and Bullitt make for three starting-caliber players.
  • While the defensive line shows fantastic speed and strength, Mitch King looked the least smooth during the drill in which linemen weave through blocking dummies, turn a corner and try to strip a quarterback. For those excited about him, an adjusted timetable might be advisable.
  • As the punter and kickoff man, Pat McAfee is electric. But teams in the market for a kickoff specialist might want to keep an eye on Garrett Lindholm, who looks like he can regularly put the ball in the end zone.
  • Powers carries himself exceptionally well. During a break in one practice, as most guys went to the cool-down tent or took themselves out of football mentality for a minute, he picked the brain of Reggie Wayne. Powers already has become a media favorite, too.
  • Manning could make good money if his only job was to put on clinics about how to best loft red-zone passes to the pylons in the back corners of the end zones.
  • Joseph Addai knows what he’s doing on every play, and Donald Brown is smart enough to follow his lead, though Brown doesn’t shine in pass protection one-on-ones versus linebackers. The Colts will be just fine if the line can block for the runners, and maybe even if it can’t. Brown’s had more than a year to get pass protections down. If that keeps him off the field any this year, it’s no one’s fault but his.
  • Better didn’t mean great for the interior defensive line in 2009. Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson continue to improve, and Fili Moala will make for a third 300-pounder in there. He appears to be comfortable and ready to contribute.
  • The Colts haven’t emphasized the return game and, at times, it’s felt almost like they de-emphasized it. But undrafted rookie Brandon James is a miniature speedster who is in position to win at least the punt-return job. He could give Manning and the offense a short field once in a while.
  • John Chick, who joined the Colts from the Canadian Football League, could win the fourth defensive end spot if he shows a good learning curve and durability.

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