AFC South: Kevin Thomas

The Houston Texans didn’t make the cut as one of the three deepest teams in the NFL, according to Rivers McCown of Football Outsiders.

But the AFC South is well represented in his three shallowest teams : Both the Colts and the Jaguars make the cut.

A look at his rationale:

COLTS

McCown: “Perhaps the most telling indication that this team has little depth is that the recent foot injury suffered by inside linebacker Pat Angerer could lead head coach Chuck Pagano to seriously consider elevating Moise Fokou or Greg Lloyd to the starting lineup. You may remember those names from August 2nd, when the Colts traded Kevin Thomas and a seventh-round pick for them in an ‘our castoffs for your castoffs’ deal.”

Kuharsky: I don't think Lloyd is in the mix to sub for Angerer; it's Jerrell Freeman and Fokou. Name the deepest spot on the Colts. Outside linebacker? If Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney transition well and Jerry Hughes emerges, they’d be three-deep, which is really the minimum number of functional outside backers you need in a 3-4. Receiver? Maybe -- if Austin Collie stays healthy, Donnie Avery rebounds and rookies T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill pan out.

JAGUARS

McCown: After addressing the offensive line, which we hit recently, he turns to defense. “The Jaguars do have Aaron Ross and can field a respectable back end with their corners and safeties, but Russell Allen may have to ascend to the starting lineup due to Clint Session's post-concussion issues, and top young defensive line backups Austen Lane and D'Anthony Smith have been underwhelming and injured, respectively.”

Kuharsky: Allen can be OK as the third linebacker, but the question is who’s fourth? Rookie Julian Stanford is hopefully better than Kyle Bosworth. I think they have some talented young corners and can be good on the interior defensive line, where C.J. Mosley outranks Smith. Quarterback, offensive line, receivers, safety and end all have depth issues. But I am not sure there aren’t three teams less deep than the Jags.
The Colts big preseason win against the Rams came with a significant loss.

Inside linebacker Pat Angerer will miss about six weeks with a fractured foot that needs surgery, Chuck Pagano told Indianapolis reporters Monday.

Angerer emerged last season as a play-making force, shifting to the starting middle linebacker job in the Colts' 4-3 after Gary Brackett was lost in the first game of 2011.

In Pagano’s 3-4 hybrid, Angerer was to be a key cog in the middle, working with Kavell Conner.

“(Angerer) is the signal caller, he’s the guy that stands in front of the huddle,” Pagano said. “He has the respect of all those guys in the huddle. So when you lose your signal caller, you lose your middle backer, for an extended period of time, it means a lot. The guy’s productive, he’s a playmaker, he’s a warrior, he’s a Colt. He’s got all the Colt traits that you’re looking for, you know. So now it’ll be up to somebody else to step up and fill that void until we get him back.”

I thought Conner was effective against the Rams even after Angerer was hurt.

Jerrell Freeman was first in line as Angerer’s replacement.

Undrafted in 2008, he signed with the Titans out of Mary Hardin-Baylor, but didn't stick. Ultimately he landed with Saskatchewan of the CFL. In three years with the Roughriders, he totaled 144 tackles, 13 sacks, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

Pagano also mentioned Greg Lloyd and Moise Fokou, recently acquired from Philadelphia in a trade for cornerback Kevin Thomas, and Mario Harvey when asked about Angerer replacements.

The Colts will keep looking for possibilities, too.

Pagano was politically polite when asked about Brackett. But the former Colts linebacker doesn’t bring the team the sort of size it wants in the new scheme, and the team is in the midst of a youth movement.

Don’t expect them to call on the old guard. I think Fokou might be the guy to challenge Freeman, and they'll be happy with the backer who emerges until Angerer is back.

RTC: Colts sorting through corners

August, 4, 2012
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Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

J.J. Watt is being offered elbow massages and pledges to be 100 percent for the Texans opener as he comes back from a dislocated elbow, says Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle.

Watt’s injury creates opportunity for Tim Jamison, says Angel Verdajo of the Chronicle.

Indianapolis Colts

After dealing away Kevin Thomas, it’s clear the Colts still have a lot to sort out at cornerback, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Chuck Pagano is sticking with the style that helped get him his job as the coach of the Colts, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Running back Rashad Jennings stood out at the Jaguars' Friday night scrimmage, says Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union.

The big jump for the Jaguars will come in 2013, says Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com.

Tennessee Titans

Keith Bulluck officially retired Friday, and said he maximized his opportunity, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Versatile offensive lineman Fernando Velasco has changed roles because of injuries to Eugene Amano and Kevin Matthews, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.
Reading the coverage …

See my amateur snapshots from my AFC South training camp tour by following me on Instagram, where I'm "pkuharsky."

Houston Texans

Gary Kubiak said the Texans dodged a bullet when J.J. Watt’s elbow injury was not more serious, says Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle.

T.J. Yates is settling back into his backup role, says Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Chon.

Rookie guard Brandon Brooks had trouble with the heat, says Robertson.

At the Chronicle blog, offense rules Stephanie Stradley’s list of who’s looked the best at Texans camp so far.

Indianapolis Colts

Vick Ballard took a tumble when he ran his 40 at the combine, but the Colts' rookie running back is a steady guy, says Mark Ambrogi of the Indianapolis Star.

Once he met offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, rookie tight end Dwayne Allen knew exactly where he’d fit into the Colts' offense, says Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star.

Jim Irsay has guaranteed that the Colts' two home games in the preseason will be on local TV, says Mike Chappell of the Star.

The Colts are moving on quickly from guys they don’t think can help them, as we’ve seen with the waiving of Ben Ijalana and the trade of Kevin Thomas, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Star.

Looking at the two linebackers, Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd, the Colts got for Thomas, with Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Cornerback Aaron Ross has shifted into husband/cheerleader mode, watching his wife compete in the Olympics, says Vito Stellino.

Mike Mularkey and the Jaguars intend to make their annual scrimmage a big event, says Stellino.

The Jaguars are talking with Justin Blackmon’s agent as the rookie receiver, and veteran back Maurice Jones-Drew, continue their absences, says Stellino.

The Jaguars see a gradual step each day from Blaine Gabbert, says John Oehser of the team’s website.

A super-detailed practice report from Big Cat Country.

Running through the first week of Jaguars' camp with Jessica Blaylock, who’s doing practice reports for 1010XL.

Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker has cooled down as Matt Hasselbeck has heated up, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Keith Bulluck, now working for Sirius NFL Radio, will officially retire from the NFL at Titans camp Friday, says Wyatt.

Pannel Egboh has earned some first team snaps at defensive end, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Several members of the organization will attend O.J. Murdock’s funeral this weekend, says Wyatt.

Pondering fullbacks with Tom Gower of Total Titans.
Checking in on afternoon developments around the division:

Item: The Texans suffered another injury to a significant player, and breathed another sigh of relief that it wasn’t bad.

Defensive end J.J. Watt dislocated an elbow, got it popped back in and could be back in 10 days or two weeks.

Thoughts: They’ve been incredibly fortunate on the injury front, with Andre Johnson, with Kareem Jackson, with Duane Brown and now with Watt.

The pain scale on a dislocated elbow’s got to be off the charts. I’m figuring Watt’s toughness is too.

Item: Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said Justin King is working with the first team at cornerback. This means, for now, he’s overtaken Kevin Thomas, who was in the second starting spot opposite Jerraud Powers through the offseason.

“Well I think he’s an athletic player, a smart player,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky told the Colts press corps. “That’s the one thing that he understands. He understands the scheming a little bit better and we’re putting him with the ones right now and he’s doing a good job.”

King was a fourth-rounder out of Penn State for the Rams in 2008.

Thoughts: Corner has been a big concern as the team shifts to more man coverage. The Colts added quantity more than quality, through trades, waivers and with King as a free agent in the secondary market.

The expectation has been that at least a second starter and a nickel would emerge, though the team is likely to continue sifting through what becomes available around the league.

Wondering who’s first in line at nickel at this point. Will get to see some for myself starting Sunday afternoon.

UPDATE: The Colts apparently saw enough of Thomas. The Eagles announced they acquired him and a conditional seventh-round pick for linebackers Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd.
AFC camp battles: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

An early look at the biggest training camp position battles:

HOUSTON TEXANS

Right tackle: Rashad Butler versus Derek Newton

Right guard: Antoine Caldwell versus Brandon Brooks

The Texans are reshaping the right side of their offensive line after releasing right tackle Eric Winston to save money and watching right guard Mike Brisiel take a free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders.

Butler and Caldwell have experience in the system and go into training camp as favorites to win the starting jobs. But it won’t be a giant upset if one of them loses out to the promising kid in position to make a push. The team is high on Newton, who appeared in 14 games as a rookie in 2011, and Brooks, a third-round pick who was listed at 343 pounds when he was drafted and would be the team’s biggest lineman even if he slims down. We won't see Newton and Brooks as starters, but we could see one of them pull an upset.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Cornerback: Kevin Thomas versus all comers at left cornerback

The secondary is the Colts’ biggest issue, and depth beyond starting right cornerback Jerraud Powers is very questionable at corner. Thomas lined up as the second starter during spring and summer work. But the team did a lot to give itself other options for that slot as well as nickel and dime.

The Colts traded for Cassius Vaughn, claimed Korey Lindsey off waivers and signed free agent Justin King, previously of St. Louis. Those three, plus holdovers Chris Rucker, Terrence Johnson and Brandon King will look to earn roles during training camp. The team could continue to seek help at corner, too.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Cornerback: Rashean Mathis versus Aaron Ross

While Derek Cox will man right cornerback, veterans Mathis and Ross will compete for the starting job on the left side.

Mathis is a true pro who’s been a good leader for the Jaguars for nine seasons. He’s made great progress in a comeback from a shredded knee suffered in November. Ross was part of two Super Bowl-winning teams with the New York Giants and also offers leadership. The guy who doesn’t get the starting job still will be an important player on defense, lining up in the slot in the nickel package.

TENNESSEE TITANS

Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck versus Jake Locker

It’s experience versus potential in what will be one of the most-watched training camp battles in the NFL. Don’t believe Hasselbeck can’t lose the job. Coach Mike Munchak wouldn’t be setting it up as a competition for show.

To me, the question is whether Locker can be accurate enough to make his mobility too appealing to pass up. If so, he’s got a chance. If not, then Hasselbeck should retain the job. In the long run, it would be far easier to pull Hasselbeck along the way than it would be to take Locker out of the lineup. That could be a factor in what the Titans say will likely boil down to a gut feeling on whom they are better off with under center.
It’s understandable that Jerraud Powers has tired of the negative talk regarding the Colts’ cornerbacks.

I’ve been among those banging that drum, though I’ve tried to consistently say that my concerns are about who will play corner beyond Powers, who is a quality player and leader.

Provided he stays healthy, I think the Colts have their lead guy. It’s the rest of the cast who qualifies as my primary concern for the franchise heading into the 2012 season. Kevin Thomas has been working as the second starter. And like most of the guys beyond Powers, he’s got minimal experience.

Chuck Pagano said this week that position will get sorted out far more easily once pads are on and training camp practices are underway.

Powers told Mike Chappell the corners are anxious to shut people up.
"I kind of get pissed off every time I see an article or someone talking that the Colts' secondary is this or that," he said after the Colts concluded their ninth of 10 organized team activities (OTAs) Wednesday. "(Critics) aren't in the building every day seeing how these guys work at their craft or how they conduct themselves.

"Going into this year, we're definitely going to have that chip on our shoulder. I feel like that every year. But this year as a group, guys are eager to go out there and show people what we can do and what we're all about in the secondary."

As Chappell points out, the Colts continue to address the spot. They recently traded for Cassius Vaughn and claimed Korey Lindsey off waivers and reports said they inquired about Michael Jenkins when it appeared Dallas could deal him.

There will be far more man-to-man in the new scheme. The former architect of the team, Bill Polian, recently said Powers was the only guy there who could play that style. Polian was presumably talking only of the holdovers, not the newcomers.

The spot is a concern. Powers is reacting the way you’d want the leader of a group under fire to react.

But I won’t be surprised if the Colts are still shopping for a corner at the end of training camp when players come free around the league at cutdown day.
AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Colts in 2012.

Dream scenario (8-8): I consider this a pretty optimistic dream, but since we’re dreaming …

This one would require exemplary rookie seasons from quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and at least a few others from the new regime’s first class.

But beyond that, they’ll need several guys from the old regime to play far better in a new system than they did in the old one for which they were better suited.

Donald Brown or Delone Carter will have to run effectively, for example. From a pool of returning cornerbacks, including Chris Rucker, Kevin Thomas, Terrence Johnson and Brandon King, they need to find at least a nickel, and that presumes the guy they just traded for, Cassius Vaughn, will be the second starter. (If I am playing against the Colts, with that collection of defensive backs, I’m trying to get them in dime.)

Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis prove to be pass-rushing demons as outside linebackers in a 3-4 base set in which they are coming from less predictable spots and forcing quarterbacks into all kind of mistakes. Their play offsets the questions at other spots for the defense and helps set up Luck and the offense with good field position.

Nightmare scenario (2-14): Yes, it’s possible the first year of the Ryan Grigson-Chuck Pagano regime matches the last year of the Bill Polian-Jim Caldwell one.

The Colts will face Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler in 2012. But if things go badly, plenty of second- and third-tier quarterbacks will also shred a patchwork secondary that added only safety Tom Zbikowski in free agency and Vaughn in a trade and got no help in the draft.

The defense can prove to have too few quality pieces to run a 3-4 or a 4-3 effectively, and if it’s giving up a lot of points, Luck will be dropping back a lot to try to lead comebacks. If a line of leftovers and castoffs can’t consistently fend off rushers, there will be trouble.

Should Luck get hurt and miss any time, the team will look to Drew Stanton or seventh-round pick Chandler Harnish. Either one is likely to leave fans pining for the halcyon days of Dan Orlovsky.

Also damaging would be the Texans' ability to stay good and improvements from Tennessee and Jacksonville. The Colts got their two wins last season against the Titans and Texans late in the year.

Spots that still need attention

April, 30, 2012
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The draft is over, the rosters are filled up.

But what areas weren’t sufficiently addressed and where can we expect to see the teams of the AFC South continue to seek help?

Some thoughts.

Houston Texans

Veteran corner Jason Allen left as a free agent. He helped the Texans cover for Kareem Jackson, who played just 55.73 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in 2011.

Brandon Harris was a second-round pick out of Miami last year, but didn’t show anything. The Texans look to be counting on him to contribute more. They like Brice McCain, but he's a situational guy.

But corner is a spot where the Texans need some additional depth at the very least.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts loaded their roster with offensive players -- eight of 10 draft picks went on that side of the ball.

The defensive picks were on the defensive line.

Which means the Colts still have a ton of work to do in the defensive backfield.

Jerraud Powers is a quality corner and a good leader. But after him, there are no proven corners on the roster. Is the second starter Chris Rucker? Kevin Thomas? Mike Holmes? Brandon King?

That’s not a great group to be choosing from. Look for team to give some undrafted rookies a chance and grab a veteran or two as guys come free during camp cuts.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars believe a healthy Eben Britton will help fortify their offensive line and he should.

But they don’t have sufficient depth on the offensive line and should create a situation where there is more real competition.

They re-signed Guy Whimper, who is a swing tackle at best and had some bad stretches last season. They like John Estes as a reserve center, but it would be nice to have someone to compete with him for the right to take over for Brad Meester.

Tennessee Titans

The team has sent major mixed signals about its offensive line.

Tennessee courted all the top centers in free agency but did not land one. And then they didn't draft an offensive lineman. Coach Mike Munchak said it wasn’t a dire need and the team can win with what it has.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reports that among the team’s undrafted rookies is William Vlachos. Perhaps the center from Alabama can scramble the mix. But the Titans should still be adding options on the interior.
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.

Roster moves in Indy and Jacksonville

December, 5, 2011
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We've got roster news in Indianapolis and Jacksonville.

The Colts’ pass defense, miserable as it’s been, is about to get worse.

The team’s top cornerback, Jerraud Powers, and another corner who’s played a lot, Terrence Johnson, were put on injured reserve today after suffering injuries in the loss to New England.

Jacob Lacey, Kevin Thomas and Chris Rucker figure to be the top three players at the position going forward.

Linebacker Zac Diles, cut by Tampa Bay, was claimed off waivers by Indy.

In Jacksonville, the Jaguars claimed and were awarded receiver Taylor Price from New England. The third-rounder was a bit of a surprising release by the Patriots.

It appears the Jaguars won’t have to clear roster space for Price until tomorrow.

Colts offense scrambled by injuries

October, 30, 2011
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After crossing off inactives and drawing lines to move guys around and up the depth chart, my flip card for the Colts' offense looks silly.

Ryan Diem, Anthony Castonzo and Joe Reitz all didn’t travel.

So the line will look like this:

LT Jeff Linkenbach, LG Seth Olsen, C Jeff Saturday, RG Mike Tepper, RT Quinn Ojinnaka.

Three of those players -- Olsen, Tepper and Ojinnaka – were not on the Colts' opening day roster.

The group will start out blocking for running back Delone Carter, who is starting ahead of the injured Joseph Addai, who is dressed.

On defense, cornerback Jacob Lacey is a scratch and will be replaced by Kevin Thomas.

The Titans suffer one big lineup loss. Their primary blocking tight end, Craig Stevens, is out with a rib injury and Daniel Graham will start in his place.

The full lists…

Indianapolis:
Tennessee:

Breaking down Colts as they break down

October, 27, 2011
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Peyton ManningDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireThe Colts were clearly ill-prepared for life without star quarterback Peyton Manning.
It’s ugly in Indianapolis.

At 0-7, the Colts are talking about sticking together, improving and giving themselves a chance to win.

But as they prepare for a trip to Nashville for a Sunday meeting with the Titans at LP Field, they are a severely broken team. Where they would be with Peyton Manning is an interesting hypothetical question, but we’re dealing with realities. And those realities are the sort that will test the franchise’s stitching -- seamwork that might not hold together when this is all over.

Who’s at fault? Everyone’s got a hand in it, but let’s look at the Colts from a couple of angles.

A big cover-up: It’s not a secret that Manning has helped cover up a lot of flaws and allowed the franchise to under-address certain areas.

The Colts during the Manning era have never been much concerned with size, always valuing speed and instincts more. They’ve never worried about stocking special teams with any veteran backups, in part because they spend their money on stars or adding a high-quality return man. They’ve settled for being below average running the ball. And they’ve won despite a general inability to stop the run.

Without their four-time MVP running the offense, all those things are magnified in ways they’ve never been before.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. They’re built to have Manning at the controls, and he’s been there all the time from the very beginning in 1998 until opening day this season.

There are maybe two teams and markets in the league that would not trade for what the Colts have done since 1999. Twelve consecutive playoff seasons followed by one complete dud? Where do I sign up for that?

[+] EnlargeJacob Lacey
Michael Hickey/US PresswirePersonnel decisions by the Colts put cornerback Jacob Lacey, 27, in a prominent role in a secondary that has struggled this season.
Construct questions: That said, regardless of a serious neck surgery to the star quarterback, what exactly was the plan in the secondary? Is an evaluation that leaves Jacob Lacey, Terrence Johnson, Kevin Thomas and Chris Rucker as cornerbacks Nos. 2 through 5 good enough? Absolutely not.

The Colts get credit for adding a couple of outside veterans this season -- linebacker Ernie Sims, and defensive ends Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton. But the drafting has dropped off.

Set aside the most recent class, as it’s too early to judge.

The Colts drafted 41 players from 2005 through 2010. I count one star, safety Antoine Bethea, and two guys who can become stars, linebacker Pat Angerer and receiver Austin Collie (if he’s working with Manning). Running back Joseph Addai is a good fit who does more than people think. And receiver Pierre Garcon and cornerback Jerraud Powers have been pretty solid starters.

Sure, the Colts drafted higher in the five years before. Still, those classes produced five guys who rank among the best players of their generation at their positions: tight end Dallas Clark, defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, safety Bob Sanders, and receiver Reggie Wayne. The next tier provided steady starters on the offensive line (Jake Scott, Ryan Diem) and at linebacker (David Thornton).

That list is more than a third of a starting team, a big-time core. As those guys age or disappear, I'm not seeing a core in waiting.

Colts president-turned-vice chairman Bill Polian said recently on his radio show that they needed to have done better recently, particularly at defensive tackle and cornerback.

And there is a domino effect to the problem. Find Tarik Glenn’s ultimate replacement at left tackle in 2007, and you don’t need to use your top pick in 2011 on Anthony Castonzo. Hit on Donald Brown in the first round in 2009, and Delone Carter might not be necessary in the fourth round in 2011.

The Polians: Bill Polian has been pulling back and yielding responsibility to his son, GM Chris Polian. (Chris politely declined to be interviewed for this story.)

We don’t yet have much tape on Chris Polian, so to speak. Bill Polian is a good talent evaluator who has had success in three NFL stops and has done well to build a team with which Manning has won. But Bill Polian also has overseen those recent draft drop-offs.

His strong-willed personality is part of what has made him good at his job, and his big-picture assessment of important league issues is as intelligent as anyone’s. He’s got clout and influence that extend beyond Indianapolis.

Stylistically, he’s a stubborn and demanding boss. There are indications from within that, without the steady stream of personnel hits he provided earlier in his tenure, some inside the building are tiring of the way things are run.

Bill Polian recently talked about how Curtis Painter's play vindicates the team for having faith in him, but failed to mention that faith was so strong that the team signed Kerry Collins to a $4 million contract shortly before the season started and handed him the starting job.

I suspect Bill Polian has the backing of owner Jim Irsay for as long as he wants it. That would ensure safety for Chris Polian, too.

Bill Polian made the Manning-over-Ryan Leaf call in 1998. Because of the way Leaf busted, people forget that was a coin flip at the time, that Leaf was regarded as a big-time prospect just as much as Manning was. Polian called it correctly, built a team that’s been to two Super Bowls and won one, got a new stadium built, and greatly enhanced the value of Irsay’s franchise.

Cryptic messages: Further complicating things is Irsay, who clearly gets a kick out of being the center of NFL attention in the Twitter-verse but has undermined some of his people with it.

He announced the team added Collins while coach Jim Caldwell was conducting his daily news conference. It did Caldwell no favors, as he appeared completely out of the loop.

Most recently, following the 62-7 loss in New Orleans on Sunday night, Irsay provided this gem:
“Titanic collapse, apologies 2 all ColtsNation...problems identifiable;solutions in progress but complex in nature/ better days will rise again”

A day later, he added:
"Just because you perceive problems on the horizon,and you possess solutions..doesn't mean they are avoidable and implementation is instant"

Solutions in progress, but complex in nature. That sounds to me like what would be written in big silver letters on the lobby wall of a consulting company on a TV show. Or a clever, but far-too-long name for a band.

It also sounds like change is going to come.

Caldwell
Caldwell
Coaching questions: While Bill Polian recently said that adding Jim Tressel to the staff as a replay consultant was Caldwell’s idea, it’s a weird-looking move that’s made some of us wonder whether a bigger role awaits the former Ohio State coach.

Caldwell does a nice job managing personalities, looking at things philosophically and staying on message. I believe he’s a good teacher, and his patient, quiet style is generally healthy for a team with a good share of veteran stars.

But he has blind spots, too, and is hardly a strategy master. There are bound to be significant changes at the conclusion of what’s sure to be a dreadful season, and he’ll be at the front of the line.

If he does the best job we can remember at holding a terrible, ineffective team together, is that enough? I’d guess not.

Injuries: This team gets hurt too much. There is a huge element of bad luck to it, of course. But is there something bigger at work as well?

Last season as quality players went down, Manning helped some role players such as tight end Jacob Tamme and receiver Blair White emerge. This season, guys such as linebacker Gary Brackett and safety Melvin Bullitt were lost for the season early, and there's been a revolving door on the offensive line because of injuries.

The Colts are constantly testing their depth and shuffling the back end of their roster. There is only so much shuffling a depth chart can handle.

I believe they need to attempt some change that might have a positive effect on their overall health -- whether it be adopting new training philosophies, altering how they evaluate prospects or changing personnel philosophies.

It's easy to ask them to figure out why they tend to suffer so many injuries, and it's hard to find an answer. But some sort of shift is due, even as we know it comes with no guarantee of better health.

When the current approach is failing, it's OK to try something else. It's not admitting some sort of failure; it's merely part of a necessary process of evaluating and revising operations.

Suck for Luck: Given a chance to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, I think the Colts would. Bill Polian can give Chris Polian the guy expected to be the NFL's next great quarterback, and Chris Polian's legacy would be built on a fantastic cornerstone.

But there is no losing on purpose to get in position for Luck. You think Wayne or Mathis is interested in such a master plan?

Said veteran center and team tone-setter Jeff Saturday: “I'll steal a Robert Mathis quote: 'I ain't sucking for anybody.'”

Wrap-up: Saints 62, Colts 7

October, 23, 2011
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Thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts' 62-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:

What it means: Indianapolis remained winless in gigantic fashion, with a performance that likely drove some TV viewers to the World Series. The 0-7 Colts are one of three teams that have not won yet, along with Miami and St. Louis. But the Dolphins and Rams have already had their byes, so they’ve lost six each while the Colts have lost seven.

Just how bad: The 62 points were the most allowed in an NFL game since 1985 and the most allowed in Colts franchise history, topping the 58 Baltimore gave up in Chicago on Oct. 21, 1956. The margin of victory for the Saints was the second-largest ever against the Colts, trailing only a 57-point loss to Chicago in 1962. According to NBC, Drew Brees’ 88.6 completion percentage was the second-highest in history for a quarterback with at least 30 attempts. New Orleans’ 36 first downs tied the record for the most the Colts have surrendered in a game.

Would it have made a difference? Quarterback Curtis Painter just missed receiver Pierre Garcon on a home run ball deep down the middle on the first play from scrimmage, letting it go a touch late against single coverage by Jabari Greer.

First start: Kevin Thomas started at left cornerback ahead of Jacob Lacey. One notable moment was when he was faked out by Lance Moore after a catch, allowing for plenty of yards after the catch. The Colts will likely not be able to judge where Thomas stands off his role in this blowout.

Injury info: Running back Joseph Addai, who made a surprising return from a hamstring injury, did not last very long and tight end Jacob Tamme was checked for a concussion.

What’s next: The Colts travel to Nashville to face the Titans at LP Field. It’s just the second AFC South game of the season for Indianapolis.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Matt Schaub’s completion percentage is one of the things affected by the hits he’s been taking, says Jeffrey Martin of The Houston Chronicle.

A game breakdown from John McClain of the Chronicle.

Indianapolis Colts

A year removed from an embarrassing arrest, Pat McAfee shares a lot of perspective with Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.

Cornerback Kevin Thomas will see his first action tonight in New Orleans, says Phil Richards and mike Chappell of The Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Vito Stellino of the Times-Union looks at the Jaguars’ last six prime-time games, all losses.

The game won’t be blacked out in Jacksonville.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans are happy with rookie linebacker Akeem Ayers, but they’d like to see more explosive plays, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Jim Wyatt and David Climer of The Tennessean break down Texans-Titans.

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