Indianapolis Colts: Aqib Talib

INDIANAPOLIS -- There is no better time for an offseason power ranking than right after the draft, because that is the unofficial ending of the major moves made by teams.

Teams will continue to tinker with their roster, but the draft is compete and the majority of the headline-making moves are complete.

ESPN.com's post-draft Power Rankings, based teams' offseason moves, were released Tuesday. The Indianapolis Colts are seventh in the rankings up one spot from the season-ending rankings.

To no surprise, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are at the top of the rankings. From an AFC standpoint, the Colts are third behind Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (2nd), who lost to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (4th).

I think the Broncos are still the class of the AFC after they added DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward on defense to go with Manning and that high-powered offense.

I only give the Patriots the edge over the Colts because they beat Indianapolis in the playoffs last season, and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has struggled in two games -- seven interceptions -- against New England.

The Colts didn’t make a major splash in the offseason, but they continued to add offensive weapons to go with Luck’s arm, feet and ability to pull off the unthinkable. Questions at center and safety will remain until Khaled Holmes (center) and Delano Howell prove they are the right players to start at those positions.

The Colts will be able to see how they match up with those teams next season. They play the Broncos in Week 1 and the Patriots in Week 11.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Who said the Indianapolis Colts aren't spending money?
That’s a slight exaggeration because the Colts really haven’t been big spenders during free agency, and it’s expected to stay that way.

The one thing the Colts did do, though, is fork over a lot of guaranteed money. They gave cornerback Vontae Davis $20 million in guaranteed money when they signed him to a four-year, $39 million contract shortly after free agency started on March 11.

Davis’ $20 million in guaranteed money is tied for the fifth most given out to a player since free agency started, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Teams obviously think high of defensive players, as five of the six players with the highest guaranteed money are on defense. Safety Jairus Byrd received the most guaranteed money, with New Orleans giving him $26.3 million.

Left tackle Branden Albert is the only offensive player, as he received $26 million in guaranteed money from the Miami Dolphins.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts have said a number of times that they know about the moves other teams in the NFL have made during free agency. They also noted that they're not letting other team's moves dictate what they do.

“Everybody's going to approach free agency and try to better their teams however they feel necessary,” coach Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We really focus on what we have to do to get better. We're not really concerned. We keep an eye on things, certainly in your own conference. But our focus is on us trying to make ourselves better.”

Denver and New England have been two of the most talked about teams when it comes to free-agent moves. But the Broncos and Patriots aren't the only two opponents the Colts face in 2014 that have been active in free agency. Washington and Baltimore have been active, too, with the addition of receivers DeSean Jackson and Steve Smith, respectively.

Here's a look at each of the Colts' 2014 opponents and the free agents they've signed that were with other teams last season with at least a ‘C' grade by Bill Polian in his FA tracker.

New England

Key additions: CB Darrelle Revis, CB Brandon Browner, WR Brandon LaFell

Denver

Key additions: CB Aqib Talib, S T.J. Ward, C Will Montgomery, DE DeMarcus Ware, WR Emmanuel Sanders

Pittsburgh

Key additions: S Mike Mitchell, RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, LB Arthur Moats

Baltimore

Key additions: WR Steve Smith, TE Owen Daniels

Cleveland

Key additions: S Donte Whitner, WR Nate Burleson, LB Karlos Dansby, TE Jim Dray, G Paul McQuistan, RB Ben Tate

Cincinnati

Key additions: S Danieal Manning, OT Marshall Newhouse

Dallas

Key additions: None

New York Giants

Key additions: OT Charles Brown, RB Rashad Jennings, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB Walter Thurmond, DE Robert Ayers, TE Kellen Davis, G John Jerry, OL Geoff Schwartz

Washington

Key additions: DT Jason Hatcher, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Clifton Geathers, LB Adam Hayward, LB Akeem Jordan, WR Andre Roberts, LB Darryl Sharpton

Philadelphia

Key additions: OT Andrew Gardner

Jacksonville

Key additions: DE Red Bryant, DE Chris Clemons, RB Toby Gerhart, DE Ziggy Hood

Houston

Key additions: S Chris Clemons, RB Andre Brown, S Kendrick Lewis

Tennessee

Key additions: WR Dexter McCluster, OT Michael Oher, DE Al Woods, LB Wesley Woodyard
The talk of the NFL's free-agency period through the first two weeks in the AFC has centered on the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.

The Broncos bulked up their defense by acquiring defensive end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib to go with quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of the offense. The Patriots signed cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner while re-signing receiver Julian Edelman.

The Indianapolis Colts?

They didn’t make any free-agent splashes outside of re-signing cornerback Vontae Davis. General manager Ryan Grigson easily could have panicked as the Patriots and Broncos, the two teams who played in the AFC Championship Game last season, made their moves.

Nope.

The Colts went into the free-agency period with a plan, a plan they weren’t going to deviate from. Grigson said they signed all the players they wanted to get.

"You're competitive, but you can't be competitive in that way where you're watching what they're doing and say, 'We’re going to one-up you.' That makes no sense to me," he said. "We're in our own little world over here with our own vision of the future with our own set of problems and circumstances and things we're trying to work through positionally and needs we're trying to address. And they have a completely different landscape on all of those different teams."

The Broncos loaded up their roster in an attempt to make at least one more run at a Super Bowl with Manning before his Hall of Fame career likely ends in the next couple of years.

The Colts, like the other 31 teams, want to win the Super Bowl, but don’t have a short window to win a title like Denver and New England. Their quarterback, Andrew Luck, is headed into only his third season. Grigson also has to be financially conscious because they’ll have to pay players such as Luck, offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and receiver T.Y. Hilton sooner than later.

"It's a team effort when we bring guys into the building," Grigson said. "We really attack it like a team and at the end of the day, we stick to our plan and our vision. Again, it's forward thinking and always looking ahead and not necessarily living in the now even though we feel like Super Bowl XLIX is something that we can attain. With the quarterback that we have and the young players around him, you want to build for sustained success. It's something that you have to stay disciplined in day in and day out."

A look at free-agent cornerbacks

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
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INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s no secret that the Indianapolis Colts want to re-sign cornerback Vontae Davis. Davis talked about it at the end of the season and general manager Ryan Grigson referenced him during his season-ending news conference. Using the franchise tag on Davis is unlikely since the tag number is expected to be around $11 million.

The salary cap has yet to be set, but the Colts will have the fourth-most money in the NFL to spend once free agency starts March 11. As it’s been noted before, though, do not expect the Colts to spend just because they have the money to do so. They know that's not a wise decision.

Davis won’t be the only cornerback hitting the free-agent market.

Here’s a look at how Davis’ stats stack up against some of the other free-agent cornerbacks:

 
Some of these names could be removed from this list if their teams decide to use the franchise tag on them by next week.

Although he was inconsistent at times last season, Davis and the Colts appear to be on the same page as far as re-signing goes. Davis referred to the organization as a family at the end of the season. Davis, a former first-round pick, has the talent to become one of the top cornerbacks in the league.

Rapid Reaction: Indianapolis Colts

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few quick thoughts on the Indianapolis Colts’ 43-22 loss to the New England Patriots.

What it means: Colts coach Chuck Pagano said trying to tackle Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount was similar to attempting to take down a “greased pig at the county fair.” It turns out Blount was too slippery for the Colts. Blount set a Patriots playoff record when he rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns on 24 attempts Saturday. The Colts were within seven in the fourth quarter, but Blount’s 73-yard touchdown essentially iced the game for New England. The Patriots ran all over the Colts, finishing with 234 yards and six touchdowns. The 234 yards rushing were the most Indianapolis gave up all season.

Poor play by Luck: It would be easy to point the finger strictly at the defense, which gave up 419 yards. But Colts quarterback Andrew Luck continued his struggles against the Patriots. Luck threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns but he also increased his turnover total to eight -- seven interceptions and a fumble -- in two games against New England. Luck’s ability to lead the Colts back from 28 points behind in the second half against the Kansas City will be talked about for some time, but his seven interceptions in two playoff games can’t go unnoticed, either, especially when he only threw nine picks in the regular season.

Hilton steps up again: The Patriots went into the game with the intention of slowing down receiver T.Y. Hilton, Luck’s primary target. It didn’t work. Hilton had four catches for 103 yards despite being defended by cornerback Aqib Talib for most of the game. Hilton, who was thrust into the go-to role once Reggie Wayne was lost for the season in Week 7, had 17 catches for 327 yards and two touchdowns in two playoff games.

Setting a record: Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri set the playoff record for most PATs when he made his first one in the first quarter. The 41-year-old Vinatieri now has 60 PATs in his playoff career. Vinatieri will likely extend that total next season, but it’s uncertain where that will happen because he’ll be a free agent.

What’s next: The season is complete.

Tedy Bruschi talks Colts-Patriots

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
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ESPNBoston.com NFL analyst and former New England Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi held a chat on Monday afternoon.

I pulled out a few of the questions and answers that involved the Colts.

Question: Hey Tedy,I keep hearing the talk of Talib on Hilton, and I don't dislike the idea. But considering Talib seemed to have more success on big guys, and sometimes being beaten by Hilton-type guys (Steve Smith of course comes to mind) could you see Belichick and Patricia going a different route and using Ryan or Dennard on Hilton with safety help?

Bruschi: I do see Talib matched up on Hilton in certain situations throughout the game. The interesting thing about T.Y. Hilton in Pep Hamilton's offense is that he moves around. Do the Patriots want Talib on Hilton if Hilton is lined up in the slot? Usually there are options for double teams with slot receivers. So it all depends on how creative Pep Hamilton wants to be with the Colts' offense. Is it possible that Bill Belichick says to Talib, "You have him no matter where he goes?" It is. But the Patriots usually like to use other players to double-team.

Question: Tedy,Where does the X-Factor for a Pats victory lie this weekend? Vereen? Blount? Stopping TY Hilton? Pressure on Luck? It seemed from seeing last years game pressure on Luck paid dividends, I know he is more experienced but is this this weeks X-Factor?

Bruschi: I think the X-factor is going to be LeGarrette Blount. This Colts defense is 26th vs. the run. I think Blount and the power running game can be successful, but watch out for sub runs with Shane Vereen. That's something the Colts have struggled with, as they like to substitute a smaller defensive lineup against multiple-WR sets.

Question: What's a guy like Austin Collie going through? Being signed, cut, and re-signed can't be easy.

Bruschi: This guy has had multiple concussions in his past. He's bounced around the league, but this is a case of what players will go through to play this game. I'm sure he's just happy to have the opportunity.

Question: Do you think if we apply a lot of pressure with different blitzes that would benefit us or is that too risky?

Bruschi: Andrew Luck is a dangerous quarterback. He does an outstanding job of staying alive in the pocket. Not only that, this is one of the strongest quarterbacks in the NFL. I've seen defenders draped all over him and he still completes a pass downfield. So bringing pressure can be dangerous. If you blitz, you better get there. This guy has a little Ben Roethlisberger in him. He will extend the play and make you pay.

Question: Is Andrew Luck enough of a threat running with the ball to use a player to spy on him?

Bruschi: I would say no, although Luck is extremely athletic. He has exceptional arm talent and you would rather give up a 20-yards scramble than a 5--60 yard pass. You need that extra player in coverage.

Question: Who do you think will have to have a breakout game for the Colts knowing that Coach Belichick will blanket what they do well and that's take away T.Y. Hilton and everything deep?

Bruschi: Donald Brown. This kid makes big plays as a receiver and a runner. He's a guy that has fought all year to earn his keep, starting the year behind Vick Ballard. Then they signed Ahmad Bradshaw in August. Then they traded for Trent Richardson. When all is said and done, he's still been their most productive back.

Getting to know the Patriots

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
1:30
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Seven years. Yes, almost seven years. That’s how long it’s been since the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots faced each other in a playoff game.

The Colts pulled off the improbable 38-34 come-from-behind victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots at the old RCA Dome on Jan. 21, 2007, in the AFC Championship Game to reach the Super Bowl.

A lot has changed since that game.

Kicker Adam Vinatieri, linebacker Robert Mathis and safety Antoine Bethea are the only holdovers from that game for the Colts. Brady and kicker Stephen Gostkowski are the only two starters still remaining for the Patriots. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork played in that game but he missed most of this season with a torn Achilles injury.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how the Patriots reached this point:

Record: 12-4 (1st AFC East)

Head coach: Bill Belichick

Offensive coordinator: Josh McDaniels

Defensive coordinator: Matt Patricia

FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH

1. QB Tom Brady. Brady could put out a manual on how to get the most out of a group of relatively unknown receivers. There’s no better quarterback in the league at doing that. The 36-year-old Brady overcame the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) to still complete 60.5 percent of his attempts, pass for 4,343 yards and 25 touchdowns. Brady, like Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, is simply a winner no matter who he has lined up around him. One thing Brady won’t do, though, is beat you with his feet. He only rushed for 18 yards this season. Good news for Mathis & Co., Brady was sacked 40 times during the regular season.

2. WR Julian Edelman. He became Brady’s primary target after Gronkowski was lost for the season. Edelman finished fourth in the league in receptions with 105 and was targeted 151 times, which was good enough for 10th in the league, by Brady. Edelman had 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. The health status of the Colts secondary is up in the air right now, as cornerback Greg Toler left the Kansas City game with a groin injury and safety LaRon Landry has to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol before he’s cleared to play.

3. RB LeGarrette Blount. He took a backseat to running mate Stevan Ridley for most of the season, but Blount ended the regular season by rushing for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries against the Buffalo Bills in Week 17. Blount had five games where he averaged more than 5.3 yards a carry. He finished with 772 yards rushing to Ridley's 773 yards despite having 25 fewer carries.

--CB Aqib Talib. He could be matched up against Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton, who had 224 yards receiving against the Chiefs on Saturday. Talib, who was selected for the Pro Bowl, had a team-high 13 passes defended and was second on the team in interceptions with four.

OTHER NOTES: The Patriots were undefeated at home during the regular season. But don’t think they’re unbeatable at Gillette Stadium, though, as half of their eight home wins were by three points or less. …The Patriots finished 26th in the league in yards allowed (373.1) on defense. …Edelman finished fourth in the league in punt return yards (374).

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