AFC South: Philip Wheeler

This time, Luck couldn't bail out Colts

September, 15, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- The reputation was inevitable for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

Eight fourth-quarter rallies in 12 victories in his young career. He has earned the right to be known for his come-from-behind ability.

But you knew the magic that Luck provided during fourth quarters would run out at some point. The Colts couldn’t continue to rely on him to bail them out. It’s a fun story and all, but it’s a dangerous way to try to succeed.

That point was proven on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Thomas J. Russo/USA TODAY SportsMiami's Cameron Wake and Randy Starks made sure that Colts QB Andrew Luck didn't have any fourth-quarter dramatics.
Luck threw a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone and took a sack on fourth down with under two minutes left as the Colts fell 24-20 to the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“I guess a little angry at myself,” Luck said. “Again, credit to them. They put us in all these situations, but I feel like we are a better team than what we showed out there. But I don’t know if I’m any harder on myself after this loss, other losses, wins, whatever it may be.”

Luck’s numbers weren't bad -- 25-of-43 for 321 yards and a touchdown. But he was also unfortunate because the Dolphins were able to get their hands on a lot of his balls to go with some throws that were behind his intended targets.

Those miscues would have been forgotten if Luck could have pulled off his second straight winning drive in the fourth quarter.

Luck drove the Colts down to Miami’s 34-yard line when he tried to zip a pass to receiver Reggie Wayne. Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes didn’t have a problem coming up with the interception in the end zone because Luck’s pass was poorly thrown.

“I forced the throw up there,” Luck said. “Good coverage by Grimes. We knew coming in he was a phenomenal corner. ... There’s another play I’d love to have back.”

Grimes said, “We knew coming in, and we talked about it all week that he makes plays down the stretch. That’s his thing.”

The Colts' defense did its part and forced the Dolphins to punt after the turnover.

You just knew something special would happen after Luck bounced off two Dolphins defenders and one of his teammates to scramble for 14 yards on the Colts’ first possession of the ensuing series. Then there was a 22-yard completion to Griff Whalen, who was playing because of an injury to receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (shoulder). Another 18 yards to Wayne followed.

But that’s when it all stopped. That’s when things became reality again for the Colts.

An incompletion to T.Y. Hilton in the end zone -- a pass that should have been intercepted by Dolphins safety Chris Clemons. Another incomplete pass.

The final offensive play also proved how much the Colts missed running back Vick Ballard’s blocking ability.

Luck took the snap out of the shotgun, and running back Donald Brown looked pitiful trying to block linebacker Philip Wheeler. Brown went for the block -- if you want to call it that -- and Wheeler threw him to the side like it was nothing and sacked Luck.

No magical ending this time.

“Disappointing last series,” Luck said. “I don’t think I handled a lot of those plays well. You start thinking about the plays afterward. They did a good job of pressure on that last play. You never want to get sacked on fourth down. That’s almost one of those cardinal sins, if you will, of playing football.”
Some Colts fans have been in touch, confused about the awarding of compensatory draft picks. The Colts were awarded one pick, the final pick of the draft (No. 254).

But in the league's formula that figures out who gets what in terms of the extra draft selections, Indianapolis didn't actually "earn" a pick. Compensatory picks add the equivalent of one round worth of selections to the draft. When there aren't enough awarded by the formula, the league adds picks for the near misses until it gets to 32.

One thing many people forget is that many of the biggest losses for the Colts were released. Only players who reach free agency with expiring contracts count here. So Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett and Curtis Painter were all let go and didn't factor in at all.

According to the NFL, these are the players who did factor into the equation for compensatory draft picks for Indianapolis.

Players lost: Jamaal Anderson (Cincinnati), Pierre Garcon (Washington), Dan Orlovsky (Tampa Bay), Jeff Saturday (Green Bay), Jacob Tamme (Denver), Philip Wheeler (Oakland).

Players signed: Guard Mike McGlynn, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, defensive end Cory Redding, center Samson Satele, quarterback Drew Stanton and safety Tom Zbikowski.

Stanton counted despite the fact that the Colts traded for him, because he was signed by the Jets as a free agent in 2012 before that deal. A player with such circumstances is part of the formula.

Garcon was the lone giant contract on either side of that ledger, and apparently the Colts did enough to offset that signing with what they brought in.

Here's the league's language explaining the process.
Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. The 32 compensatory choices announced today will supplement the 222 choices in the seven rounds of the 2013 NFL draft (April 25-27), which will kick off in prime time for the fourth consecutive year.

The first round will be held on Thursday, April 25 and begin at 8 p.m. ET. The second and third rounds are set for Friday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by rounds 4-7 on Saturday, April 27 at Noon ET.

This year, the compensatory picks will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost.

Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula.

Two clubs this year (Indianapolis and the New York Giants) will each receive a compensatory pick even though they did not suffer a net loss of compensatory free agents last year. Under the formula, the compensatory free agents lost by these clubs were ranked higher than the ones they signed (by a specified point differential based upon salary and performance).

What I'd do if I ran the Colts

March, 1, 2012
The money isn’t mine. I’m not certain about what you can afford and what the market will pay when free agency opens on March 13. I’m not positive about your plans and schemes.

But I’ve got a good sense of your team. We've looked at the free-agent list.

And here’s what I’d try to do with your major issues:

1) Tell Peyton Manning thanks for everything. Say we had every intention of you playing out your career with the Colts, but the chances of all these elements aligning -- his health questions, a new GM and coach, the top pick and Andrew Luck’s availability -- make it impossible. Maximize your graciousness.

2) Assessing what will be available in the draft, or a relatively inexpensive free agent or two you’d like to grab, then franchise either defensive end Robert Mathis or receiver Reggie Wayne accordingly. Both will have great chances to move on in free agency, and you can’t afford to move forward without them, either. You can make a case either way -- Mathis would be a great piece in a transformation to a 3-4; Wayne would reliably be in place to convert third downs for a young quarterback.

3) Convince defensive end Dwight Freeney to sign an extension. You have to drive down his $19 million-plus cap hit and his $14 million-plus base salary for 2012. But cutting him would be awfully painful, especially if Mathis is getting to free agency. If Freeney has to go because of cost, then Mathis has to be tagged and Wayne is likely lost.

4) Look for cost savings with these players: Tight end Dallas Clark ($7.32 million cap hit, $4.53 million base), middle linebacker Gary Brackett ($7.4 million cap hit, $5 million base), running back Joseph Addai ($4.3 million cap hit, $2.9 million base), and safety Melvin Bullitt ($3.7 million cap hit, $2.4 million base). Brackett and Bullitt are now injury prone and I don't know if you can count on them. But just cutting them won’t necessarily save money as accelerated bonus cost could produce a cost approaching their scheduled cap numbers. Same with Addai, who may not fit with a new run philosophy.

5) Let receiver Pierre Garcon walk. The guy is a blazer who will make a good amount of big plays, but he’s not guaranteed reliable in big moments. The sort of drops and gaffes he’s capable of can really mess with a team trying to build confidence and he'll be overpaid by the market.

6) Try to get Jeff Saturday to sign up for one more year. He’d be a great influence on Luck and a young team and could help get a group of young linemen ready to protect the new centerpiece and to block for a newly emphasized run game.

7) Re-sign reserve quarterback Dan Orlovsky, tight end Jacob Tamme and receiver Anthony Gonzalez cheaply if you can. Orlovsky can spot start if need be and it’ll be difficult to find a quality backup who wants to come to be No. 2 to Luck. Tamme has quality hands. Gonzalez was highly rated not too long ago and a doghouse visit under the last regime will make him affordable. It’s worth trying to keep them around at reasonable cost and they are unlikely to draw significant offers elsewhere.

8) Let three other free agents walk: linebacker Philip Wheeler, guard Mike Pollack and tackle Ryan Diem.
Early thoughts on some key Colts scheduled to become unrestricted free agents come March 13.

Thanks to Mac’s Football Blog, where you can find complete team-by-team lists that include exclusive right and restricted free agents.

QB Kerry Collins – He may not have filed paperwork, but he’s retired.

QB Dan Orlovsky – Showed enough to be on a roster in the league as a third quarterback in a crowded situation or a backup somewhere with a sure-fire starter.

WR Pierre Garcon – He’s inconsistent, but this team needs a speed receiver for Andrew Luck and it’s better to keep the one they’ve been developing than going searching.

WR Anthony Gonzalez – Was completely in the doghouse at the end and could not get on the field. Probably needs to sign for a season, in Indy or elsewhere, and prove he can be healthy and contribute.

WR Reggie Wayne – Has said he’d stay and be honored to be part of a rebuild, but they’d have to be fair. Other teams will court him and somebody will pay him better than the Colts would if they pursued him, I suspect.

TE Jacob Tamme – Was quite a good receiving option for Peyton Manning in 2010, but how much of that was Manning? I think Tamme is a valuable piece they should want back and can certainly afford.

OT Ryan Diem – Did well to serve as a veteran example for a young line and was flexible, playing some guard. But his time is going to be up.

OG Mike Pollak – Has played a lot and not gotten a lot better. They got new tackles last year; it’s time for a new guard or two.

OC Jeff Saturday – If Manning is gone, it would make sense to turn the page with Saturday, too. Reportedly the Colts and at least one other team would like him in their front offices.

DE Robert Mathis – Will be a commodity, for sure. Never mind his age. He can help you rush the passer for the next three years. Colts should want to keep him, but will they pay what he costs?

LB Philip Wheeler – If the Colts are getting bigger on defense, they’ll probably move on here. He’s consistently failed to get in or stay in the lineup for extended stretches in a defense for which he’s better suited.

Other UFAs:

Tamme, Sims starting for Colts

December, 18, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- Matt Hasselbeck will start at quarterback for the Titans as we expected, as he’s worked through the calf strain that knocked him out of last week’s loss to New Orleans.

But with Hasselbeck and Jake Locker (chest) dinged up, third quarterback Rusty Smith is active for the first time all season.

The Colts have two lineup changes.

Jacob Tamme starts at tight end in place of Dallas Clark.

Ernie Sims starts at strongside linebacker in place of Philip Wheeler.

Earlier, this post said Mike Pollak would start at left guard in place of Joe Reitz. But the Colts announced about 20 minutes before kickoff that was an error and that Reitz will start.


Kerry Collins does fine in Colts debut

September, 1, 2011
Quarterback Kerry Collins first game as a member of the Indianapolis Colts was not about the stats as much as it was whether he could show that he was comfortable.

And while five-for-10 for 45 yards hardly made for a big evening, he looked like he knew what to do and where to go with the ball.

Twice he got hit by Michael Johnson. The Cincinnati defensive end got pushed wide by Indy rookie tackle Anthony Castonzo, but kept working and managed to land a meaningful swipe on Collins anyway. The first time hit forced a red-zone incompletion and the second resulted in a lost fumble.

Collins made a great deep throw down the middle for David Gilreath on his first snap and drew a pass interference penalty. And later he hit Chris Brooks deep on the left side, a pass that was dropped.

The quarterback didn’t get a completion or yardage for either.

After Collins yielded to Dan Orlovsky, owner Jim Irsay tweeted: “#5 looked good 2nite,gonna help us if #18 needs a few more weeks getting ready...but Peyton is improving rapidly..steady progress!”

Collins is No. 5 while No. 18, of course, is Peyton Manning.

I think it has to be considered an encouraging start for the backup, He could play in the season opener on Sept. 11 in Houston if Manning isn’t sufficiently recovered from the May neck surgery that kept him out of action until a recent return to limited practice.

And hey, the Colts actually won a preseason game, 17-13. It was their first preseason win since August 20, 2009.

One defensive note: Linebacker Philip Wheeler started with Kavell Conner and Ernie Sims.

Wheeler seemed a prime culprit in the Colts’ struggles against the run, getting run through on multiple occasions. Brian Leonard ranks as Cincinnati’s third back, but got the early work and managed 5.2 yards a carry.

And running back Cedric Peerman stiff-armed Wheeler after a short catch, watched him slip off and ran for more yards.

Wheeler did make a nice play tracking and dragging down Jermaine Gresham after a short catch.

ANDERSON, Ind. -- It’s trendy to call the Colts aging and to view the Texans and even the Jaguars as up-and-comers in the AFC South.

But if Indianapolis is healthy, it’s awfully risky to be ahead of the curve regarding its demise.

This is a team that lost a ton of talent to injury last season and still won the division at 10-6. It’s added some nice pieces on defense through bargain-basement free-agency. It drafted two offensive tackles who should be pillars, and also selected a short-yardage back.

There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a big rebound year, and most teams aren’t even talking rebound when it comes to following a division title.

“I think it’s really the same team,” middle linebacker Gary Brackett said.

The same team is a major threat to win the division and compete for home-field advantage in the playoffs. Should it break through for the third Super Bowl appearance of the Peyton Manning era, a huge prize awaits: The game will be played at Lucas Oil Stadium.


1. Manning’s health.

Peyton Manning
Photo/Michael ConroyIt's unclear how soon Peyton Manning will return from offseason neck surgery.
He spoke after signing his contract and has been seen around the team a couple of times during training camp at Anderson University. But like in 2008 following offseason knee surgeries, he’s not practicing.

This time it’s a result of neck surgery in May. It’s the second year in a row Manning had a neck procedure after the season. But he and the team have expressed confidence that all he needs is time and rehabilitation. It’s unlikely that a five-year, $90 million contract would have gotten done if the medical staff and management had any doubts.

While the Colts move forward without Manning, his absence also puts them in limbo. No matter how strongly they spin Curtis Painter’s performance, the defense isn’t being pushed in practice the way it would be if Manning was running the other side.

And no matter how precise the routes, how good the blocking or how well-timed the play, the offense will still need to sync it all up with the star quarterback once he returns.

That knee in 2008 limited him early, when the team struggled out of the gate. Coming back from a neck injury, Manning is less likely to have any sort of mechanical issues or physical limitations that affect his passing. That’s one case for expecting a better start after so much missed time.

The timetable for his return is unknown. You know the drill: They say he’s progressing well, that they are optimistic, etc., and no one outside a very tight circle has any real idea when he will re-emerge. He was spotted once throwing with what a witness called “decent velocity.” Hey, encouraging news is encouraging news.

2. Is the secondary deep enough?

Last season, the Colts were stretched virtually everywhere. Aaron Francisco wasn’t on the team for opening day, ranking as the fourth or fifth option at strong safety, and he played a good share of the season as the starter.

Behind free safety Antoine Bethea and re-signed and healthy strong safety Melvin Bullitt, there are unproven options including Al Afalava, Joe Lefeged, Mike Newton, David Caldwell and Chip Vaughn.

And after the top three corners -- Jerraud Powers, Justin Tryon and Jacob Lacey -- there also isn’t proven depth.

“At the safety position, I’m confident that we’re going to get two guys that will emerge there,” Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said. “We see enough signs to know that there is quality in that group.

“I also think there is some quality in the backup corners. Kevin Thomas is one of them. There are some interesting guys, and they’ll play themselves on or off the roster based on the preseason. But based on what I’ve seen thus far, I’d say we’ve got a good group and one or two guys will emerge.”

They will all benefit, of course, from a better pass rush. And if Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are better supplemented by Jerry Hughes and Jamaal Anderson on the edges and Tommie Harris provides a solid nickel push in the middle, they could have one.

3. Will the passing game have enough consistent weapons?

The ability of the 2010 Colts to get production from the likes of tight end Jacob Tamme and receiver Blair White was remarkable.

Austin Collie
AP Photo/Michael ConroyThe Colts hope Austin Collie's concussion issues are in the past and that he'll be on the field for the entire season.
But if they can’t count on often-injured receiver Anthony Gonzalez or Austin Collie, who was shut down last season after concussion issues, it will be harder to make things go again.

Reggie Wayne is in fantastic shape and working hard, and will be a key target for Manning as always. Dallas Clark is back from a wrist injury. If the Colts are calling plays for those two and Pierre Garcon, Collie and Gonzalez, they can be potent. If the group shrinks, the effort is more exhausting.

Manning averaged 6.92 yards per attempt in 2010. That’s the lowest mark in his career outside of his rookie season (6.5). The Colts need to find more big plays and move the ball with a little less effort to be the kind of team they want to be.


If the Colts get a significant contribution out of Anderson, Harris or linebacker Ernie Sims, it’ll be a win. All three signed cost-effective one-year deals that amount to low-risk, high-reward scenarios. Polian said in a normal year, the market wouldn’t have given the team an opportunity to sign players like these, veterans who are all ideally suited for Indy’s defense. If they get something from two of them, it will make for a home run. Three-for-three amounts to a grand slam. Harris looks very good so far, while Sims is recovering from an appendectomy.


Polian was singing Philip Wheeler’s praises and saying that while the team loves starting strongside linebacker Pat Angerer, it loves Wheeler too. But he failed to hold the job last season and should be able to win and hold a starting job by now. Brody Eldridge gets a mention, too. He had knee surgery after last season, and a setback means he hasn’t seen the practice field yet. They need him to be part of the run game.


  • Delone Carter is coming into a perfect situation as a rookie. He’s unlike any of the Colts' other running backs and should get chances in short yardage and goal-line situations. If Javarris James ran for six touchdowns last season, Carter could run for 12 this fall. The Colts can continue to praise Donald Brown, but with Joseph Addai back and Carter in the fold, when does Brown get on the field?
  • It was a surprise to find Lacey as the No. 2 cornerback at the start of camp. He was better as a rookie than in his second season. And he can be an effective piece of the secondary. But I’d bet on Tryon passing him before opening day.
  • After one long and hot afternoon practice session, two players stuck around to catch machine-thrown balls: Wayne and Bethea. Those are some solid veterans and the kind of guys any team would like to have leading the way.
  • Manning didn’t react well to TV crews that saw a recent throwing and running session. My understanding is that the Earth is still spinning, however. I understand being private, but everything and everyone cannot always be controlled. Did I miss the catastrophic outcome?
  • The buzz is good on Hughes, and with him and Anderson in the mix, the Colts may pace Freeney and Mathis better. That could make for fresher stars in December and January.
  • They won’t talk until after the season, but as of now I’d expect the Colts to try to keep both Wayne and Mathis with new contracts.
  • Jacques McClendon or Joe Reitz could be an upgrade over Kyle DeVan at left guard. The big question on the line to me -- presuming Anthony Castonzo takes over left tackle reasonably quickly -- is right guard. Mike Pollak has had sufficient opportunity, and the team can aspire to be better there. Couldn’t they be better with Ben Ijalana there until he’s ready to displace Ryan Diem at right tackle?
  • 'Tis the season for Garcon to prove he's a consistently reliable threat. He had too many drops and too many lapses last season. He needs to be more than fast. He spent more time with Manning this offseason, before the neck surgery, than he did last offseason.

Welcome to the NFL Twindex

May, 26, 2011
Shaun Phillips/Aaron RodgersGetty ImagesShaun Phillips, left, and Aaron Rodgers hold the top two spots in the debut of our NFL Twindex.
Welcome to the NFL Twindex. Or Twitterdex. Or Twitter Index. (Shall we vote?) No, we’re going Twindex.

This is our periodic look -- I’m thinking twice a month for now, weekly once we’re in a season -- at what players and others who work for NFL teams are saying via Twitter. Because I love being subjective and we all love lists, it’s a subjective list.

I’m following everyone I can find -- 328 people and growing -- and I hope they’ll follow me back. It’s difficult to read every tweet every day, so if you see a great one, forward it to me. I’m @ESPN_AFCSouth and @PaulKuharsky. The Twindex will be built from the best sampling I am able to do while still also fulfilling the obligations of a full-time job.

Each guy who makes the list each week will get a tweet notifying him of his status. We’re fluid. If a guy is interesting this week, he may find himself in the top five. Be boring next week and he may disappear, depending on what his competition is doing. Former players, coaches, owners, equipment guys and mascots are eligible, too. Bring it.

What gets you here? Tweets beyond the ordinary.

You’re scored down for morning greetings (sorry @MikeSimsWalker), birthday wishes, constant song lyrics (sorry @JimIrsay), weather updates and dinner reviews (unless, maybe, you are @PotRoast96).

You are rewarded for witty observations, clever lines and exchanges, smart life advice, amusing family stories, a great re-tweet or picture and, certainly, high-quality football information or commentary. A good week of tweeting can get you a spot. One outstanding tweet can, too.

As I am a positive guy, this is a positive list. Generally, we want to be a place players want to be. Like in our MVP Watch or the best restaurant in town or in unrestricted free agency after a great season. It’s an evolving concept, and whether you’re a candidate or a reader, I welcome your input.

Titans cornerback Jason McCourty and his twin brother, Patriots Pro Bowl cornerback Devin McCourty, combined Twitter accounts and have made a big push to let fans see them.

When I told him about this during their recent ESPN car wash, Jason wasn’t ashamed to say he wanted @McCourtyTwins to get a spot on the initial Index.

“I think guys are so competitive, anything like that with a list and a top spot, guys will get some enjoyment out of it,” he said. “Somebody may post, ‘Hey, check out so-and-so, he’s No. 1 this week on the Twitter poll.’ I think it’ll probably be a cool idea. I’ll check it out.

“Hopefully that gets us to No. 1.”

Maybe next week, Jason.

Here’s the debut list.

Need to point me to a tweet? Have ideas for the NFL Twindex? Find me @ESPN_AFCSouth and @PaulKuharsky.

Colts blind spot: Third round

April, 26, 2011
Every team in the league has some sort of blind spot when it schemes to the draft: A position it can’t resist or won’t touch, a spot where there is always need, a round that’s an extra high hurdle.

Today we’ll strive to examine one biggie for each team.

Indianapolis Colts -- The third round

Thirty-five draft picks were on the Colts roster (including IR) at the end of the season. Here’s the round-by-round composition: Eight first-rounders, five second rounders, three third-rounders, five fourth-rounders, two fifth rounders, six sixth-rounders and six seventh-rounders.

The third round has been a bugaboo, and while 2009 corner Jerraud Powers is definitely a quality player, the other two third-rounders on the roster are question marks. Philip Wheeler, a linebacker from 2009, has been unable to hold on to a starting spot and 2010 cornerback Kevin Thomas was injured and lost for the year during the offseason before his rookie year.

Notable misses: Corner Dante Hughes (2007), defensive tackles Quinn Pitcock (2007) and Vincent Burns (2005), defensive backs Donald Strickland (2003), Joseph Jeffries (2002) and Cory Bird (2001) and receiver E.G. Green (1998)

The lesson: Stay away from defensive backs in the round, and don’t be afraid to trade the pick.

UPDATE: Apologies for initially including guard Brandon Burlsworth from 1999 on the notable misses. He died in a car accident before his rookie season.
Williams/GarrardAP Photo/Phil CoaleMario Williams and David Garrard are two of the 53 players under contract in the AFC South slated to make more than $1 million this season.
After being struck recently with how the NFL's labor rift has been cast as billionaires vs. millionaires, I thought I’d look at some players' salaries.

Totaling-up career earnings is quite difficult, and bonus money can be hard to nail down and sort through.

We can still get an interesting snapshot by looking at scheduled 2011 base salaries. I suspect many readers will be surprised that the vast majority of players will earn less than $1 million this fall.

Here, according to the NFLPA, are the players from each AFC South team currently scheduled to make a base salary of $1 million or more in 2011. Keep in mind guys in line for some form of free agency are not part of things here.

Fifty-three of 216 players under contract are slated to make $1 million or more. That’s 24.5 percent of the division.

Houston Texans
Total base salaries of $1 million or more: 13

Total players under contract for 2011: 49

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 26.5

Indianapolis Colts
Total base salaries of $1 million or more: 11

Total players under contract for 2011: 57

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 19.3

Jacksonville Jaguars
Total base salaries of $1 million or more: 13

Total players under contract for 2011: 51

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 25.5

Tennessee Titans
Total base salaries of $1 million or more: 16

Total players under contract for 2011: 59

Percentage of roster making $1 million or more: 27.1

*Young will be cut or traded, the Titans have announced.

Halftime thoughts on Colts-Titans

December, 9, 2010
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Halftime thoughts from LP Field where it’s 21-7 Colts over Titans.
  • Donald Brown is not the guy to solve the rushing problems for Indianapolis. Spins in the backfield provide time for defenders to tackle him in the backfield. That’s especially ineffective when it’s losing yards inside the 5-yard line. Javarris James is simple better in the red zone.
  • My understanding of the Titans use of Randy Moss gets worse and worse. He played minimally in that half, and I don’t think he and Kenny Britt were on the field together for a snap. Meanwhile, a drop for Nate Washington and a good bit of action for Justin Gage.
  • Kerry Collins can’t get nearly enough on the ball if he can’t step into it and the pocket rarely holds up. There are quarterbacks in the league who can make quality throws as they retreat. He’s not one of them.
  • Rookie linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner were in the starting lineup, but the Colts are mixing and matching at linebacker beyond Gary Brackett. Tyjuan Hagler has played a lot. Philip Wheeler’s been out there some too.
  • Two Tennessee giveaways led to two Colts touchdowns -- Dwight Freeney stripped Britt for one, Brett Kern couldn’t pull in a high snap from Ken Amato for a punt and Taj Smith recovered it for the other.
  • Ryan Diem, two false starts. Not good. Manning, no picks, good. Still a couple more bad throws than you’d expect -- one where he missed an open Reggie Wayne on a scramble, one where he had James at the goal line.
PHILADELPHIA -- There was no suspense at all pertaining to the Colts' inactives today. Every one of them is hurt.

There was a bit of suspense about the lineup.

Donald Brown is sill starting at running back, where Joseph Addai and Mike Hart are out. Gijon Robinson starts at tight end with Brody Eldridge out. Tyjuan Hagler will play weakside linebacker for the injured Clint Session and Jacob Lacey will play right cornerback in place of the ailing Jerraud Powers.

Pat Angerer stays at strongside linebacker, ahead of Philip Wheeler, and Kyle DeVan remains at left guard.

The inactives for Indy: CB Justin Tryon, S Bob Sanders, CB Jerraud Powers, RB Joseph Addai, RB Mike Hart, LB Clint Session, TE Brody Eldridge, DT Antonio Johnson.

The inactives for Philly: QB Mike Kafka, WR Chad Hall, RB Joique Bell, CB Ellis Hobbs, DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, T King Dunlap, G Reggie Wells, TE Clay Harbor.

Final Word: AFC South

November, 5, 2010
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:

[+] EnlargeMatt Schaub
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesMatt Schaub will have to match Philip Rivers' performance if the Texans hope to take down the Chargers.
Canceling out Rivers: The odds are good that San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who’s got record passing yardage through eight games, will be able to move the ball against Houston’s porous pass defense. Rivers should succeed even with injuries at receiver and to Antonio Gates, who's doubtful. The Texans' best defense might just be a big offensive day for Houston, too. Matt Schaub was shaky last week, especially in the first half. He needs to carry the Texans and match Rivers.

New venue: The Colts’ game in Philadelphia is their first in the city since 2002 and their first visit to Lincoln Financial Field. In two games in the city with Peyton Manning at quarterback, he’s thrown six touchdown passes and the team has two wins and 79 points. Mike Tanier thinks the Colts’ defensive scheme, with lots of defenders in short zones, is perfect for containing a scrambling quarterback like Michael Vick. But this version of the defense will be missing two or three key pieces, depending on the status of cornerback Jerraud Powers.

Watch first down: San Diego’s offense is the second best in the league this season on first down, while Houston’s is dead last, Aaron Schatz tells us. The Texans have to fare better on first down, and Gary Kubiak has to do better with the play calling there. Last week’s failure in Indy was pinned largely on third-down ineffectiveness. But more yards on first and second down produce more manageable third downs and presto. Well, I guess you can fail to give the ball to Arian Foster enough there, too.

More shuffling: The Colts pulled Philip Wheeler for Pat Angerer at strongside linebacker last week, but they’ll probably shuffle linebackers again this week. This time it wouldn't be by choice, it would be because of Clint Session's elbow/arm injury. It’s a guess as to how he’s replaced if he's out, but the candidates to be the third linebacker include Wheeler, Cody Glenn, Tyjuan Hagler and Kavell Conner. We’re also expecting receiver Anthony Gonzalez to be out, which means Blair White could get work if Austin Collie isn’t ready or is limited.

Hurry up and wait: The arrival of Randy Moss in Tennessee ranks as one of the biggest stories in the division this season. But the Titans are closed up for the weekend and his head start might not begin until Monday or Tuesday. As far as the potential to hear from him about being released in Minnesota and claimed by the Titans, we may not hear from him until Wednesday. We don’t know if he’ll provide both the questions and the answers as he said he would when he last talked as a Viking. The Jaguars, who also have a bye, will have a quieter return.
Philip Wheeler's demotion may have only lasted one week.

With Clint Session's agent, Harold Lewis, confirming his client finished the Monday night win over the Texans after dislocating his elbow and breaking his arm, it’s hard to imagine we’ll see the feisty linebacker in the lineup against the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sunday.

I asked a couple of medical people about the outlook for Session, and while they couldn’t make a real prediction due to the lack of details, they said most injuries like the one Lewis described would require surgery and several months to recover. But they cautioned that the agent could have overstated the injury. Mike Chappell said an MRI was scheduled.

The Colts have announced surgeries and been quick to declare when players with big injuries would sit out games this season. They’ve said nothing so far about Session except listing him on the injury report with an elbow issue and saying he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.

Against Houston, rookie Pat Angerer replaced a healthy Wheeler on the strong side while Gary Brackett was in the middle after missing a game. Session manned his usual weakside spot.

Brackett is a certainty to remain in the middle, and Angerer got good reviews. The candidates for the other outside spot, presuming Session is out, are Wheeler, Cody Glenn, Tyjuan Hagler and rookie Kavell Conner, who just resumed practicing after a long layoff following foot surgery.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Philip Wheeler’s healthy but not in the starting lineup, replaced by the active and effective rookie Pat Angerer at strongside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts tonight against Houston.

Two injured Colts are also out of the starting lineup: Joseph Addai (shoulder/neck) will be replaced as the starting running back by Mike Hart and right cornerback Jerraud Powers (foot) will be replaced by Justin Tryon. Nickelback Jacob Lacey is also out.

Kyle DeVan will start instead of Jamey Richard at left guard for the second straight game.

The Colts also let running back Andre Brown go, adding cornerback Cornelius Brown, who is active.

The Texans have no surprises among their inactives. Antoine Caldwell starts at right guard for Mike Brisiel.

The complete inactive lists.

Colts: Receiver Austin Collie, safety Bob Sanders, Powers, Lacey, linebacker Kavell Conner, guard Jacques McClendon, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson.

Texans: Quarterback Matt Leinart, receiver Dorin Dickerson, cornerback Carl Paymah, linebacker Daryl Sharpton, guard Kasey Studdard, defensive end Jesse Nading, tight end Garrett Graham, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell.