AFC South: Kelvin Hayden

On the Colts' need at corner

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
12:06
PM ET
Among the Colts' list of needs, cornerback ranks right up there with offensive linemen.

Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus has Indianapolis on the list of teams that should look into trading for Darrelle Revis of the Jets.

“Bringing in Revis would allow them to allocate their resources toward must-needed upgrades to the front seven and ensure they can do something they weren't able to do this year: Shut down a team's wideouts,” Palazzolo writes.

But the Colts don’t have the ammo to make the deal. They are without a second-round draft pick in April because they sent it to Miami for the one good corner they do have: Vontae Davis.

With a lot of needs, sending picks to New York for Revis would be a difficult thing to do.

Tying into the Colts’ need at corner, it’s interesting to see the impact a big play they got from a cornerback in Super Bowl XLI had on the game.

William Cohen of ESPN Stats and Info looked at the 10 plays that created the biggest swings in win probability in the recent history of the Super Bowl.

Kelvin Hayden’s interception of Rex Grossman ranks ninth -- raising an already high win probability up an additional 24.7 points.

A reminder of the scenario from Cohen:
Situation: 11:59 left in 4th quarter, Bears' ball, trailing by 5, 1st-and-10 from own 38-yard line

Trailing by five early in the fourth quarter, the Bears still had about a 34 percent chance to make a comeback, but a Rex Grossman interception returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Kelvin Hayden made the score 29-17 and sealed the deal for the Colts, raising their win probability to 90.8 percent.

Win probability for a team that put together an 11-5 regular season will rise with cornerback addressed. I’d be really surprised if they are a player for Revis. But I expect they’ll spend a first- or third-round draft pick plus something later on the spot.

Dee Milliner from Alabama is likely to be gone by the time the Colts draft at 24th.

Johnathan Banks of Mississippi State could be an intriguing first-round option.

Scouts Inc. says he has good situational awareness and might be at his best in man-press coverage. The Colts didn’t get good situational awareness from Cassius Vaughn, who played the bulk of the season as a starter. And Chuck Pagano wants corners who can play tight man coverage.
Regrets? Everybody’s got a few… We asked for some feedback on one thing you’d like to go back and change for each team in the AFC South.

For the Colts, the overwhelming response was regretting not having a solid backup plan for Peyton Manning. But I’ve said time and time again that all but a few teams in the league would trade the Colts run of success and one awful year for what they’ve had. So I don’t place a lot of blame -- developing some young quarterback with Manning yielding no snaps or luring a quality veteran backup who expected he’d never play would have been difficult.

Here’s my biggest second-guess about the 2011 Indianapolis Colts.

Not shoring up the secondary.

Re-signing safety Melvin Bullitt was, I believe, the right thing to do. But he quickly got hurt and the backup plan was insufficient.

The same can be said at cornerback. They let Kelvin Hayden go over money and while Justin Tryon’s been cast as far better than he is, he was better than the other options. He landed in the doghouse and got cut. Jerraud Powers was the lone quality corner and was under too much strain before he got hurt.

Jacfob Lacey was awful, and got benched, though he rebounded well when he found his way back into the lineup.

No one was afraid to throw the direction of safeties Joe Lefeged or David Caldwell or corners like Terrence Johnson, Kevin Thomas or Chris Rucker.

The Colts got good play from Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney on the defensive line and from Pat Angerer at middle linebacker. But on the secondary level, no one played to that standard and it was a big part of what killed the Colts in a miserable season.

Whatever system the new Colts run, it’ll be a big part of what they need to fix under new GM Ryan Grigson.

Rebounding Lacey was big piece for Colts

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
10:43
AM ET
Jacob Lacey had fallen so far out of favor that he was inactive for the Indianapolis Colts' eighth game after starting the first seven.

The Colts had decided they would be OK without veteran corner Kelvin Hayden, who was cut before the season in a cash-saving move. Then they cut Justin Tryon after three games.

Lacey's struggles made those decisions look very questionable.

But Lacey has played much better since the team gave him back a big role because of injuries.

Sunday he muscled a pass away from Chris Johnson and took it 32 yards to the end zone for a crucial touchdown in the Colts’ win over the Tennessee Titans. He also had 12 tackles and another pass defensed.

“Lacey had an excellent day out there again,” coach Jim Caldwell said.

Lacey is a soft-spoken, thoughtful guy who’s basically working as the No. 1 corner now with Jerraud Powers and Terrence Johnson on IR. His game really slipped, but a change in coordinator from Larry Coyer to Mike Murphy appears to have helped him rebound.

“Team-wise and personally, being in the position we were in has been tough on us, but we never strayed away from each other or gave up on anybody or anything like that,” Lacey said. “It felt good to come out here and show how much we’ve jelled as a unit.

“I put my nose to the grindstone and I used my time at practice to improve myself going against Pierre Garcon every day, just battling, coming out and trying to work on everything I needed to work on.”

RTC: Kareem Jackson productive in win

November, 7, 2011
11/07/11
10:42
AM ET
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Throwback football personified by a bloody Brian Cushing has the Texans three games over .500 for the first time in franchise history, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Arian Foster and Ben Tate have four 100-plus-yard efforts apiece this season, writes Dale Robertson of The Houston Chronicle. “And to think that just two years ago, before Tate had been drafted and while Foster was trying to shuck the anonymity of being an undrafted rookie free agent, the Texans didn't deliver a 100-yard afternoon until Foster broke through on the season's final Sunday.” It’s an incredible advantage and luxury to have two backs of such high quality.

Much-maligned cornerback Kareem Jackson may have played his best game for the Texans, writes McClain. I’m glad to see the progress, but need to see this caliber of play against a tougher opponent in a tighter game.

Richard Justice of the Chronicle can’t find much to nitpick about out of the win over the Browns.

Brooks Reed is picking up what the Texans lost when Mario Williams went down, says Jeffrey Martin of the Chronicle.

Shaun Cody picked off a two-point conversion pass, says the Chronicle staff.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts were frustrated and baffled by another blowout loss, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Bob Kravitz of the Star looks at the Colts’ competition with Miami for the No. 1 pick in the draft: “Remember the day when we watched the scoreboard to see how soon the Colts might clinch home-field advantage? Remember how we spent November preparing the annual rest-'em-or-play-'em debate? Now we're a city of Dolfans, checking our phones to get updates on the Miami game.”

Kelvin Hayden had a great day for the Falcons but feels for his old teammates, says Phillip B. Wilson.

Donald Brown got most of the carries after Delone Carter lost a fumble, says Chappell.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald says the Dolphins trading for Peyton Manning is an intriguing possibility.

Kravitz’s report card.

Nate Dunlevy of 18to88.com shreds Kravitz’s Sunday column in the Indianapolis Star that shredded Chris Polian.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Among the class of rookie quarterbacks, Blaine Gabbert’s been subpar, writes Tania Ganguli of the Times-Union. But anticipation, footwork and mechanics are coachable flaws, says one analyst. I think most of us understand the limitations he’s got with the Jaguars' offensive personnel. Still, we just want one big flash that shows off the promise.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans botched the second half and lost to the Bengals Sunday, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. The vibe about the team that had gone from 3-1 to 4-4 has changed.

The Titans have a split personality that leaves David Climer of The Tennessean struggling to see them better than 8-8 at season’s end.

Chris Johnson had a solid first half, then disappeared, says Wyatt. Also covered in this notebook: Jared Cook’s fumble, Mike Munchak’s fourth-down decision, Damian Williams’ great catch and an injury rundown.

The offense found a groove in the first half, then was a second-half disaster, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Receiver A.J. Green was pretty special against the Titans, writes Glennon.

Wyatt’s report card.

Steady Bethea surrounded by questions

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
2:06
PM ET
Antoine Bethea is surrounded by nobodies.

Jerraud Powers is a good corner who’s going to be a factor for a while, but he’s got a bad hamstring.

Everyone else in the Indianapolis Colts’ secondary is hardly noteworthy.

Yet Bethea is playing as effectively as a free safety in such circumstances can, a true pro who won’t allow his game to be influenced by such circumstances.

Quarterbacks are completing 69.9 percent of their passes against Indianapolis. They have a 104.0 passer rating and a 70 QBR (out of 100), the 31st worst number in the league.

I’m not sure what Indianapolis’ plan for the secondary was this season. When they let cornerback Kelvin Hayden go because he cost too much, one had to believe the Colts felt confident in the alternatives. Then Justin Tryon, who was an effective player last season, fell out of favor and wound up getting cut. The No. 2 corner, Jacob Lacey, is no longer a full-timer in the base defense with Terrence Johnson getting some time in the spot.

The Colts are playing David Caldwell at strong safety in the base defense and Joe Lefeged in the spot in the nickel.

Corner Chris Rucker is also seeing some action.

“As a veteran back there, I see myself as the glue,” Bethea said. “One of my roles is to get everybody lined up and confident. As a safety, that’s my job.”

Bethea said he likes the way the Colts are deploying their other safeties, using Caldwell (“He lays the boom”) against the run and Lefeged (“He plays the ball well”) in passing situations. In time each may be well-rounded enough to be a full-timer, but for right now splitting the job between them is a smart approach.

Bethea is backing his guys, but neither has been great since Melvin Bullitt was lost for the year with a shoulder injury.

Bethea said the young corners need to play technique, show improvement week by week and be sure not to repeat the same mistakes.

The Tryon situation was business, and players can’t spend time questioning a front office decision. Bethea is great at focusing on his stuff and his guys. He said that although 0-5 is a miserable place, no matter where the team goes moving forward we will not see the sort of fissures that often open on struggling teams.

As for being surrounded by unproven guys ...

“You can’t let other people affect how you play,” Bethea said matter-of-factly. “How you play is how you play, how you study is how you study. If my play goes down because there are different players around me, it says guys can’t look up to me. They need to see 41 flying around, playing hard, making plays.”

Justin Tryon's fall in Indy a mystery

September, 28, 2011
9/28/11
6:36
PM ET
Last week we got an indication from defensive coordinator Larry Coyer that Justin Tryon may have done something to get into Jim Caldwell’s dog house.

Tryon
Tryon
Even that was an interpretation for those of us trying to figure out why the team was using Jacob Lacey ahead of Tryon.

Now the Colts have shown us how far Tryon’s really fallen in their eyes.

They’ve released him, filling his roster spot with Jermale Hines.

Hines was a fifth-round draft pick, 158th overall, for St. Louis out of Ohio State. He was a strong safety and is likely to be in the mix as the team looks to replace Melvin Bullitt, who was placed on IR earlier today.

The Colts traded with Washington for Tryon on Sept. 4, 2010 for an undisclosed draft choice. He wound up bailing them out in an injury-plagued season, playing in 12 games and starting six. I thought he was a really nice system fit who did some good work.

When the team released Kelvin Hayden, now of the Falcons, I was one of the many who presumed they felt confidence in shedding Hayden’s big salary in part because of Tryon.

If they did, it didn’t last long.

Look for Terrence Johnson to work in the nickel package and be the guy who has a chance to press Lacey. Kevin Thomas and Chris Rucker may also get increased opportunity.
The always informative Stephania Bell, our resident physical therapist, chimes in on Peyton Manning here.

She brings former Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden into the conversation, as he had a similar procedure in the offseason.
“Dr. Joseph Maroon, who is vice chairman and professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, as well as team neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers and medical director for the WWE, has extensive experience with these types of surgeries in this population of athletes. Maroon has performed this ACDF on at least 10 professional football players and wrestlers, all of whom returned to competition. Examples include wrestler John Cena, who returned to the ring within two months after surgery, as well as former NFL players Ruben Brown and Mike Alstott, who both played for several years after their surgeries. In an interesting note, cornerback Kelvin Hayden, recently signed by the Atlanta Falcons after spending the past six seasons with the Colts, underwent a similar procedure in the offseason. Hayden had to pass the Falcons' physical to join the team, and as he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "My neck is fine. … It's something that everybody was questioning. I'm just glad the Atlanta Falcons gave me an opportunity. I'm just excited to get out there and have some fun. I want to show that I can still play."

I confess Hayden’s surgery was news to me. The Colts cut him because he was scheduled for a big base salary, even though doing so didn’t save them much in terms of the cap. Perhaps the surgery factored in, too. If Jacob Lacey turns out to be a weak link a lot of fans will bemoan the move if Hayden is doing well for Atlanta.

Now we have another reason to keep an eye on him.

Colts consensus pick: First

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
11:53
AM ET
Five of us asked to pick the AFC South still have the Colts winning the division.

While Peyton Manning is the big story and his status can change things, once he’s back he will be surrounded by a team that has a lot of key pieces back and healthy. Don't fool yourself. This will be a very talented team.

Here’s my intelligence report on Indianapolis. You can find it along with the predictions, a draft element from Mel Kiper and a look inside the number from ESPN Stats & Information here.

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Colts:

1. Quarterback uncertainty: A lot of people are saying Peyton Manning will start the opener, no matter what. Really? No matter whether doctors advise against it? I don't think so. He's driven, for sure, but he's not putting himself at medical risk. I expect we may not know his status until 90 minutes before the Sept. 11 game in Houston kicks off. In the meantime, late addition Kerry Collins provides an upgrade at backup. He needs better protection and a better run game than Manning's been getting in recent years to have a chance at success.

2. Stopping the run is key: The Colts failed to stop Arian Foster in the opener a year ago. They'll face the same challenge at Reliant Stadium on Sept. 11, followed by Peyton Hillis, Rashard Mendenhall, LeGarrette Blount and Jamaal Charles. Is the front good enough to stop those types of runners? It needs to be, especially if the offense isn't primed to run out to the sort of leads that prompt opponents to stop running it. Additions like Drake Nevis, Jamaal Anderson and Tommie Harris may help the front be better overall.

3. Special teams, with benefits: The new kickoff rule won't make kickoffs obsolete the way many doomsayers are predicting, but it certainly will make them less important. This is a great thing for the Colts, who regularly underachieve on special teams. Pat McAfee will bury a high percentage of kickoffs in the end zone and the team's lack of a consistent return man won't matter as much. When Manning is in place, the offense will happily take the ball at the 20-yard line at the start of most drives in exchange for not suffering as it did on Antonio Cromartie's big return late in the playoff loss to the Jets. McAfee's used that big leg to become adequate at long-range field goals. Once they are out of Adam Vinatieri's range, they could try the punter in desperate situations.

4. Depth a concern: Indianapolis has unproven depth at both safety and corner, and injuries akin to last year's could really leave the Colts exposed. They let Kelvin Hayden go in a salary-cutting move. That leaves them with Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey and Justin Tryon as their top-three corners, with untested Kevin Thomas fourth. They re-signed Melvin Bullitt to play safety alongside Antoine Bethea, but all the options behind them are young and haven't done much. It could be an issue.

5. Short-yardage offense: Joseph Addai can be effective in all situations, but he'd likely benefit and be fresher later in the season if he played fewer snaps. When the Colts are moving the ball, they go no-huddle and trap opponents in personnel packages, unable to substitute. The thing is, they are also unable to substitute. The Colts might do well to pause a bit more often to get rookie Delone Carter on the field to give them their best cracks on third-and-short and near the goal line.
Insider file: K.C. Joyner picks the guy on each team who’s got a Michael Vick factor to him in that he’s difficult to plan for. His AFC South choices: Jacob Tamme, Mario Williams, Chris Johnson and Brad Meester.

Houston Texans

The preseason finale is a numbers game for Gary Kubiak, says John McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

Kerry Collins is ready for extensive playing time tonight, says Mike Chappell.

Atlanta signed cornerback Kelvin Hayden.

Rivers McCown thinks the Colts run may be over. It’s an insider file, so I will share an important piece of it: "It goes beyond the preseason: Their core is aging. (Peyton) Manning's injury is only the first symptom, and unless Indianapolis' last two drafts blossom fast, this could be a team without a direction in a few years. Can they hold off Father Time for one more year? That remains to be seen. But we're not betting on it."

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars rookies are ready for their final auditions, says Tania Ganguli.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans and Chris Johnson are making progress, say Jim Wyatt and John Glennon.

It’s the last chance for some guys to secure a spot for dome Titans, says Glennon.

Where is Kelvin Hayden?

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
10:41
AM ET
Where’s Kelvin Hayden?

The Colts didn’t save a lot against the salary cap when they released the veteran cornerback. It was about a big base salary they were unwilling to pay him this season.

It was an understandable move.

Although he visited a few teams, Hayden is still out of work, and he’s too good a player to be out of work.

I talked with a scout about him recently, and he said the same. Hayden can still be a significant contributor.

Hayden and a guy like former Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu are simply waiting, the scout said. With no one stepping forward aggressively for their services and offering significant money, each can sit back and see what teams wind up with needs, most likely as a result of injury.

It makes sense. Hayden is a starter in the right situation. And most teams feel like they have their starting people in place right now. After they sift through cuts there may be a new wave of opportunity. After that, there will be guys who go down that need high-caliber replacements. And most teams simply don’t have that guy on their roster right now.

His agent hasn’t returned my messages trying to gauge Hayden’s mindset right now.

If the Colts intended to bring him back at a low cost, I think they would have done so already. (I’m still not sold on Jacob Lacey as a starter, and i like Indianapolis’ group a lot more with Hayden than without him.) An injury to Jerraud Powers, Lacey or Justin Tryon could create a different scenario.

Otherwise I look for Hayden to land elsewhere. Eventually.

RTC: Ruud means end for Tulloch

July, 31, 2011
7/31/11
9:55
AM ET
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

The Texans let Amobi Okoye and David Anderson go, says John McClain. Okoye landed in Chicago. Anderson was on his was to Denver.

Dan Orlovsky was set to sign with the Colts, says McClain.

It’s time for Wade Phillips to start cooking, says Alan Burge.

Indianapolis Colts

Jim Irsay says Peyton Manning’s new deal works for both sides, writes Mike Chappell.

If the Colts fail to win the Super Bowl now, it’s on Chris Polian, Jim Caldwell and the people putting the team together, says Bob Kravitz.

Competition, not money, drives Manning, says Pete Prisco.

Joseph Addai re-signed and Kelvin Hayden was cut, says Chappell. The Hayden move only saves the team about $1 million against the cap, so they must not think he’s deserving of the $6.105 million base salary due this season.

Jeff Saturday has leadership in his DNA, says Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tania Ganguli helps us get to know the six new Jaguars.

Dawan Landry and Daryl Smith played together at Georgia Tech, says Ganguli.

Jason Spitz had other options but chose to come home, says Vito Stellino.

Tennessee Titans

With Barrett Ruud on board, the Titans are moving on from Stephen Tulloch, say Jim Wyatt and John Glennon. I like the move and think Ruud brings the sort of veteran leadership the team’s been missing. Tulloch quickly landed in Detroit, per Sean Jensen and Adam Schefter.

Jake Locker was erratic early, but better later, says John Glennon.

Kenny Britt was talking football only, says Wyatt.

Britt also talked about his appearance on stage at a recent Britney Spears concert, says David Climer.

Coaches and players are all living the hotel life for camp, says Wyatt.

Colts offer updates on injuries

July, 29, 2011
7/29/11
12:02
PM ET
The Colts just sent out a pre-camp injury report.

They says Peyton Manning's injury "continues to progress, but there is no timetable for his return to unrestricted activity.”

The one item of note I see here is that while most of the key players get updates that say they have “been cleared for full participation,” Austin Collie’s note on concussion recover is worded differently: He’s “been cleared to return for football activities.”

Their updates:

David Caldwell, DB
  • Injury: Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve before the start of the regular season)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Dallas Clark, TE
  • Injury: Wrist (Was placed on injured reserve on October 25, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation and will wear a splint during practices
Austin Collie, WR
  • Injury: Concussion (Was placed on injured reserve on December 22, 2010)
  • Update: All concussion symptoms have cleared and has been cleared to return for football activities
Kavell Conner, LB
  • Injury: Foot
  • Update: Has been cleared for limited participation
Brody Eldridge, TE
  • Injury: Knee
  • Update: Practice status is to be determined
Cody Glenn, LB
  • Injury: Neck (Was placed on injured reserve on November 30, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for limited participation
Anthony Gonzalez, WR
  • Injury: Knee (Was placed on injured reserve on November 6, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Kelvin Hayden, DB
  • Injury: Neck (Was placed on injured reserve on January 8, 2011)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Brandon King, DB
  • Injury: Hamstring (Was placed on injured reserve on October 19, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation

Peyton Manning, QB
  • Injury: Neck (Had surgery in the offseason)
  • Update: Injury continues to progress, but there is no timetable for his return to unrestricted activity
Devin Moore, RB
  • Injury: Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve on October 5, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Jerraud Powers, DB
  • Injury: Foot (Was placed on injured reserve on December 7, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Jamey Richard, OG
  • Injury: Hip
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Kevin Thomas, DB
  • Injury: Knee (Was placed on injured reserve on August 28, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
Chip Vaughn, DB
  • Injury: Ankle and Shoulder (Was placed on injured reserve on November 23, 2010)
  • Update: Has been cleared for full participation
We don’t know if the Colts made any sort of inquiries about another safety to pair with Antoine Bethea.

But as two top guys, Quintin Mikell and Eric Weddle, disappeared from the market, Indianapolis locked up its own guy before he started getting more attention from teams still in need.

Melvin Bullitt has struck a new deal with Indianapolis, according to 1070 the Fan, and he returns as a starter instead of a guy capable of taking over for Bob Sanders when he gets hurt. (Sanders was released after the 2010 season and signed with San Diego.)

Bullitt is a smart, steady player who fits the Colts mold. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M in 2007, he made the most of an opportunity. But he was part of the injury parade last season, missing the final 12 games of the regular season with a shoulder injury.

While they likely attempt to trim the hefty salary of cornerback Kelvin Hayden, I think he will remain.

That would give the Colts a starting secondary of Bethea and Bullitt between Hayden and Jerraud Powers, with Justin Tryon and Jacob Laceyas situational cornerbacks. That’s a strong group and might also include sixth-round pick Chris Rucker.

Bullitt is slated to join The Ride with JMV shortly. You can listen here. I will come back into this post to add some highlights from the interview.

UPDATE:

Bullitt said he heard from the Rams, the Cardinals, the Texans and a couple other teams.

Some quotes...

On deserving the deal:

"I feel like I've done enough for this team, the organization to show my worth and to show that I want to be here. There have never been any problems out of me. I am going to go out there and produce and try to help the team win."

On his health:

"I'll be ready for the first preseason game. I'm ready now. I told you before if there were different rules I could have played in January."

On Eric Weddle's five-year, $40 million contract with San Diego, with $19 million guaranteed:

"If that's what they want to do, that's up to them. Congratulations to him. If you look at my stats and Eric Weddle's stats, I haven't started nearly as many games and have the same amount of turnovers and have just as many tackles as him without the amount of starts he's had in the regular season. ...I don't understand how you can pay him more than Antonie [Bethea's] paid or even more than Bob [Sanders] was paid when he was defensive player of the year. But if that's what San Diego believes. Eric Weddle's a good player, he's a great player, actually. But that's just the way it is."

Colts back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:02
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: Players were very hush-hush about player-organized team activities, but they did happen, with Peyton Manning spearheading the effort. Before his neck surgery, Manning had spent time with a lot of his targets, doing the sort of offseason route work that he said is key to much of what unfolds in games. Curtis Painter did the throwing during workouts after Manning had his neck operation. Reports say Manning won't be ready for the start of camp and could miss a large chunk of it, which will hurt the team's readiness.

Biggest challenge: Holding on to people. The team could conceivably lose running back Joseph Addai, linebacker Clint Session, strong safety Melvin Bullitt, versatile offensive lineman Charlie Johnson, defensive tackle Daniel Muir and kicker Adam Vinatieri. Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis are heading into the final years of their deals. The Colts also need to sort out high salaries for tackle Ryan Diem and corner Kelvin Hayden.

Medical report: We’ve heard good things about all the hurting Colts, but they need checkups from a slew of guys coming off injuries. It’ll start with Manning, whose surgery was in late May. Key guys who also ended last season on IR: tight end Dallas Clark(wrist), Bullitt (shoulder), Austin Collie (concussions), Jerraud Powers (arm), Hayden (neck) and Session (elbow).

Key players without contracts for 2011:Addai, Session, Bullitt, Johnson, Muir, Vinatieri.
When the NFL returns to business, we’ll return to talking about money matters.

Even setting aside the push and pull of the salary cap, the AFC South is, for the most part, economically sensible.

Which means if you’re due a big salary this season and you haven’t been producing at a big-salary level, your agent could field a phone call about a pay reduction or worse.

Here's a list of everyone in the division scheduled to earn more than $1 million in base salary in 2011. Who accounts for the biggest money issue for each of our teams?

Houston Texans

Defensive tackle Amobi Okoye has not produced the way you’d expect from a first-round pick. Now, heading into his fifth season, where exactly does he fit in a new 3-4 front? The team is touting Shaun Cody, who got a new contract, and second-year man Earl Mitchell as its nose tackles. Antonio Smith and first-round rookie J.J. Watt should start at end. Can Okoye find a role that makes him worth a $2.95 million base salary?

Indianapolis Colts

Right tackle Ryan Diem could be knocked out of the lineup after a sub-par year. The Colts used their top two draft picks on offensive tackles, though Ben Ijalana could start out at guard. Diem has put in 10 mostly good years for Indianapolis, but his $5.4 scheduled base salary is something the Colts need to address. If he’s pushed out of the lineup, sticking around as a veteran backup/ alternative doesn’t pay nearly that well. If the team feels deep enough it could say thanks for your solid service and best of luck. Cornerback Kelvin Hayden is due $6.105 million. He didn’t play particularly well in the team’s first 11 games, then missed the last five. He too could be asked to take less, though I think they are counting on him to be a healthy guy they count on.

Jacksonville Jaguars

With Blaine Gabbert potentially challenging for playing time, a $7.975 million base salary for David Garrard is quite high. But the Jaguars might have no choice but to pay it to their veteran quarterback. A much easier salary to get off the books will be defensive end Derrick Harvey’s $2.8025 million. Harvey will have to have a great camp and win a spot to stick. The team showed last season, when the 2008 first-rounder was pulled from the starting lineup after seven games, that draft status won’t earn playing time.

Tennessee Titans

We spoke of strong safety Chris Hope slipping a bit in this recent post about age issues. He’s due $6.5 million, a huge number considering his play last season. I don’t think the Titans current roster offers a viable alternative. Will the Titans shop for a free agent safety? It will be a tough market considering how many teams are in need at the position. I can see Hope remaining, but surely he’ll have to take a far less costly deal with some incentives to do so.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider