Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: AFC South

by Tim Gerheim

Houston Texans

Draft Recap

Ever since those ESPN draft ads showed David Carr about to take a snap with no blockers in front of him, the Texans have failed for one reason or another to take a single offensive lineman in the first round of the draft. This year, finally, they took one, but not everybody was happy with Duane Brown. Everyone who followed the draft had heard of Jake Long, Chris Williams, and Ryan Clady, but nobody expected Brown to be a first-rounder. Then again, nobody expected a record eight offensive linemen to be drafted in the first round. The Texans would have taken Brown at 18 had they not traded down to 26 and received extra third- and sixth-round picks from Baltimore. Brown is a converted tight end who still has a lot of room to develop, but he's already running with the first team in minicamps.

The Texans lost their second-round pick in the Matt Schaub trade last year. Third-rounder Antwaun Molden, a corner out of Eastern Kentucky, has the size and sub-4.4 speed to be a starter, but he's very raw coming out of a directional school. Molden figures to start the year in nickel and dime packages. With the third-rounder they got from Baltimore, the Texans took running back Steve Slaton, who was a star at West Virginia but might be too small to be anything but a role player in the NFL. Still, his quickness could make him a good fit in Gary Kubiak's Broncos-influenced offense.

In the fourth round Houston took Xavier Adibi, another smallish but highly productive college player. He could push for a starting job on a linebacker corps that, apart from DeMeco Ryans, is nothing special. Fifth-round defensive tackle Frank Okam is an intriguing player. He never seemed to live up to his potential at Texas, but if Houston coaches can get him to consistently play the way he occasionally shows he can, they'll have a fifth-round steal on their hands. Sixth-round safety Dominique Barber, the brother of the Cowboys' Marion Barber and a member of a family that's clearly a fan of gender-ambiguous names, will probably be a backup and special teamer, although he hardly has to beat out world-class talent to start at safety for the Texans. Quarterback Alex Brink of Washington State was the Texans' final pick, and he'll compete for the third quarterback spot or the practice squad.

Remaining Needs

The running game isn't in much better shape now than it was last season. Chris Brown replaced Ron Dayne, a move that seems (fittingly enough) like running in place. Unless Slaton is much more an every-down back than anyone really expects, the Texans are one 31-year-old Ahman Green injury away from giving a marginal starter too many starts.

The linebacker corps exemplifies the entire defense, featuring one star player (Ryans) and a cast of understudies. Even the defensive line, which has been carpet-bombed with first-round draft picks, has only one current standout, Mario Williams, and still relies heavily on aging players like N.D. Kalu and Anthony Weaver.

Undrafted Free Agents

Clearly in the market for a slot receiver, the Texans signed Darnell Jenkins (5-10, 188 pounds) of Miami and Ryan Grice-Mullins (5-10, 187 pounds) of Hawaii. One of them, but probably not both, has a chance to stick behind Andre Johnson, Andre' Davis, Kevin Walter, and Jacoby Jones. They also picked up a couple linebackers -- Ben Moffitt of South Florida and Troy's Marcus Richardson -- who have a chance to make the roster at a position that has room for improvement.

Indianapolis Colts

Draft Recap

Indianapolis is a team that knows where its bread is buttered: They drafted seven offensive players and only two defenders. And that doesn't even count tackle Tony Ugoh, whom the Colts traded their 2008 first-rounder to get in last year's second round. They took three interior linemen, starting with second-rounder Mike Pollak. He was a first-team All-Pac-10 center at Arizona State, but the Colts plan to use him as a guard. He should compete with Dylan Gandy for the starting right guard spot. Seventh-rounder Jamey Richard is another college center who will be a guard with the Colts, in Richard's case as a reserve if he makes the roster. Steven Justice, taken with one of the Colts' three compensatory sixth-round picks, will be the backup and heir apparent to Jeff Saturday (to the extent that centers have heirs apparent). He was actually a much more decorated college player than Pollak in terms of postseason awards, but that just goes to show the relative values of offensive line positions in the NFL.

The Colts' other compensatory sixth-round picks were Mike Hart of Michigan and Pierre Garcon, a wide receiver out of Mount Union. Hart joins a crowded backfield that now includes prodigal son Dominic Rhodes as well as Kenton Keith backing up Joseph Addai. Hart probably needs to establish himself as a third-down back to make the team. Garcon has good size at 6 feet and 210 pounds, and he dominated at the D-III level. If he plays a solid role on special teams in camp, he could make a roster that doesn't have a lot of juice at wideout behind Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, and Anthony Gonzalez (and Dallas Clark).

Tight ends Jacob Tamme of Kentucky and Tom Santi of Virginia, taken in the fourth and sixth rounds respectively, will attempt to replace the departed Ben Utecht. Tamme is cut from the same cloth as Dallas Clark -- a fast pass-catching wide receiver of a tight end -- but he's even smaller. Santi is more of a blocking tight end and could find himself squeezed out if the Colts carry fewer than five players at that position.

In the third round, the Colts took linebacker Philip Wheeler out of Georgia Tech. He has good size at about 6-foot-2 and 248 pounds, which is unusual for Colts linebackers, and he could compete for a starting spot somewhere. Fifth-rounder Marcus Howard, a defensive end out of Georgia, is smaller than Wheeler at 6 feet and 237 pounds, but his 4.45 speed earned him a look as a possible backup to Dwight Freeney terrorizing quarterbacks and left tackles off the edge.

Remaining Needs

There is no crying position of need anywhere on the Colts' roster. They addressed their lack of offensive line depth, so the biggest question mark on the team is at linebacker. In the last two years they've lost Cato June and Rocky Boiman to free agency and Rob Morris to age. Their linebackers will probably be solid again, though, because throughout Tony Dungy's tenure the Colts have always done very well with lightly regarded players, like Rocky Boiman and Cato June.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Colts signed eleven free agents, five on offense and six on defense. None are particularly noteworthy, but the Colts are notorious for giving free agents just as good a shot at making the team as draftees. You can bet that one of these guys will emerge as a significant contributor, a la Ed Johnson and Dominic Rhodes. Personally, I hope it's Kent State defensive tackle Colin Ferrell, because I can't wait to read his player evaluations, talking in scoutspeak about his erratic but generally effective performance in the phone booth.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Draft Recap

The Jaguars drafted like they knew they had a very good roster that didn't have a lot of room for rookies to make the team. They traded up in the first round, giving up two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder to take Derrick Harvey with the eighth overall selection. The draft punditocracy immediately pooh-poohed the move as a reach, but public opinion has warmed to the idea. Plus, Harvey gives the Jaguars a second consecutive first-round pick out of nearby Florida, an actual consideration for one of the only NFL teams that has trouble selling tickets.

Like the Colts concentrated on offense, the Jags focused the rest of their draft on the defensive side of the ball, the side that does the most to win them games. In the second round they took Quentin Groves, another defensive end, from Auburn. In 2008 he'll probably only see duty as a situational pass rusher. He's a similar player to Harvey but riskier on and off the field. But hey, that's the difference between the eighth overall pick and the 52nd.

In the fifth round the Jaguars took Southern Cal linebacker Thomas Williams and South Florida cornerback Trae Williams. Thomas Williams had trouble staying healthy and getting consistent playing time, so he will have to earn his pay as a special teamer while learning his way into a niche with the Jaguars. Trae Williams is a little small at just 5-foot-9 and less than 200 pounds. He should be the team's fourth or fifth cornerback, and will be expected to provide value on special teams. He also has experience returning kicks, so he could take that dangerous job and allow Maurice Jones-Drew to focus on being one of the Jaguars' best offensive players. The Jaguars' final pick was USC running back Chauncey Washington. He's a good runner whose style is reminiscent of Jones-Drew's, but his weakness in blitz pickup and other nuances of the position, together with his academic difficulties at USC, raised plenty of questions to push him to the seventh round.

Remaining Needs

The Jags are right: They have a very good roster. Their biggest weakness is in the passing game, where they are relying on players like Reggie Williams, Dennis Northcutt, and Jerry Porter. The situation is not as dire as in years past, though, because Williams showed marked improvement last year and Porter has been a good No. 2 receiver when healthy. They also lack a receiving threat from the tight end position since Marcedes Lewis has yet to justify his status as a first-round pick.

Other than that, the Jaguars lack depth along the offensive line and at defensive tackle. They have a shortage of interior linemen and utilize a lot of swing-position players, so more than one injury could cause a domino effect and seriously impair the overall effectiveness of the line. The Jaguars also don't have any playmakers other than John Henderson at defensive tackle. An injury to Henderson would all but neutralize the interior of the line and allow opponents to put a lot more double-teams on their shiny new defensive ends.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Jaguars signed 13 undrafted rookies, not very many of whom figure to make the roster. One who does have a shot is quarterback Paul Smith, who led a gangbusters Tulsa offense in 2007. For his career he completed 62.5 percent of his passes over 40 starts, so if he had been a first- or second-round pick, David Lewin and the rest of us would have been drooling over him. But he's just 6-foot-1 and threw 19 interceptions in 14 games in 2007, so he wasn't drafted. He could make the Jags roster, though, because in Todd Bouman and Cleo Lemon there is a lot more experience and name recognition than talent backing up David Garrard. Another rookie worth mentioning is fullback Anthony Catrone from Maine, only because the only guy ahead of him on the fullback depth chart (apart from hybrid back Greg Jones) is Montell Owens, another fullback from Maine. Considering that there were only six former Black Bears on NFL rosters last year, and Owens was the only fullback, that's just weird.

Tennessee Titans

Draft Recap

As wide receivers are to the Lions, so are running backs to the Titans. They selected Chris Johnson, of combine-best 4.24 speed fame, out of East Carolina with the 24th pick. Actually, the comparison to the Lions isn't quite valid, since he was the franchise's first first-round running back since they were the Oilers, but with recent second-round running backs Chris Henry and LenDale White, the Titans will have to be creative in how they deploy their talent. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was a kid with a new remote control race car at Tennessee's first minicamp, but the Titans are still hoping without yet knowing that Johnson is more Brian Westbrook than Reggie Bush.

In the second round the Titans took Jason Jones, a defensive end from Eastern Michigan. He has the size, strength and mediocre speed to fit as a left end once his technique catches up to the change between a directional school and the NFL. Third-round pick Craig Stevens out of Cal will play the blocking tight end role in Tennessee's two-TE packages. The Titans' fourth-round selection of William Hayes ruffled some fan feathers because many thought the Winston-Salem defensive end could be had at least two rounds later. But the Titans coaches were impressed with the workout at which he put up a 4.6 40-time at 270 pounds. He may take some time to crack the lineup as well, but it's clear from the apparent reach that the Titans wanted to make sure Hayes was on their team.

The most recognizable name the Titans called on draft day belonged to Cal wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, taken late in the fourth round. A smaller receiver who is a good route runner, Hawkins could see a lot of action this year in three-receiver sets. With their final fourth-round pick the Titans selected Purdue linebacker Stanford Keglar, who will provide depth to a fairly solid corps. Seventh-round cornerback Cary Williams from Washburn has experience as a kick returner, taking two kicks back for touchdowns last season, and could make the roster on that basis. Fun facts about Washburn College: It's located in Topeka, Kansas, and its athletes are known as "Ichabods" after Ichabod Washburn. He was a Massachusetts machinist and captain of industry who, at the request of Horatio Q. Butterfield, donated $25,000 in 1868 to struggling Lincoln College, which was then renamed in his honor. In an interesting twist of fate, $25,000 is in the neighborhood of what Cary Williams can expect to receive as a signing bonus from the Titans.

Remaining Needs

Tennessee's biggest weakness remains at defensive tackle behind Albert Haynesworth. If he goes down like he did last year, Tennessee's defensive productivity will go in the toilet like it did last year. And if he's not dominant like last year, the defense won't be either, because there is no one else there to pick up the slack.

Undrafted Free Agents

The Titans signed ten rookie free agents, including three offensive linemen: Eric Scott of Kentucky, Fernando Velasco of Georgia, and Brock Pasteur of Stephen F. Austin. The Titans would love for one of them to show enough in camp to make the roster and help get more youth and depth on the offensive line, after it merely treaded water in free agency by signing Jake Scott after Benji Olson retired. They also signed Delaware running back Omar Cuff, which proves that Cuff was the second-best Blue Hens player last year ... by a mile.


101 comments, Last at 01 Jun 2008, 8:50pm

1 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Fifth-round defensive tackle Frank Okam is an intriguing player. He never seemed to live up to his potential at Texas, but if Houston coaches can get him to consistently play the way he occasionally shows he can, they’ll have a fifth-round steal on their hands.

I never really got to see much of Okam, but how often do these big NTs that fall down the draft turn into decent players? Off the top of my head I can't think of a single good 3-4 NT who does have the ideal size for the position that has turned into a decent player who was drafted outside the first round. If you are trying to find a run stopping NT outside the top two rounds you are probably better off taking a player who has played well but hasn't got the ideal size (eg Kelly Gregg) rather than the guy who looks the part but hasn't been able to put it together. If you have the physical skills of an NFL NT and aren't able to play like you should in college how likely is it that you will be able to do so in the NFL?

(I tried to find out where Pat Williams was drafted but couldn't, so it is entirely possible that he could be a player that blows my little theory out of the water. Although Williams didn't start until his fourth season, which in the modern NFL would be the one before he goet a free agent contract.)

2 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Rats and double rats.

It was meant to say drafted in the top two rounds. Sorry to double post but otherwise my argument is complete nonsense.

3 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I think the plan for Jason Jones for the Titans is to keep him at the DT spot.

and not only did Benji Olson retire, they also lost their other guard Jacob Bell to free agency.

4 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Pat Williams was not drafted.

Why a 3-4 NT? The Texans run a 4-3, unless I missing something...

5 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

As a University of Delaware alumnus I hope Omar Cuff could make the Titans. But, his best hope for doing so would be as a special teams player (Cuff is a converted DB). Also, Cuff wasn't the Blue Hens second best player, that would be Mike Byrne (RT) who signed with the Miami Dolphins.

6 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

[edited again -- the game's not really that fun I'm sure -bb]

7 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

There is no way that "Stanford Keglar" is a real name.

8 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I just want to commend on the "directional school" tag. That's great.

9 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Aside from insightful, cutting-edge anaylsis, one of the reasons I love this site is the quirky sense of humor, as evidenced in the analysis of the Jags' fullbacks from Maine. The kind of thing only true trivia geek, like me, is likely appreciate. And I did. I hope they both make the roster, if only because of the goofy backstory. We had LBU (Penn State) QBU (BYU and Miami) and now we have a FBU (Maine). Who knew?

Plus the (and Dallas Clark) reference at WR for Indy. Also a nice, subtle little joke, since we all know from his number (44) that he's a fullback!

10 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

dryheat, I assumed that was a typo. clearly it was just over my head. pls explain... thx.

11 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

The term "directional school" refers to universities that have a direction in their name, like Eastern Kentucky. The term (at least in Oklahoma, which has a plethora of such schools) is something of a pejorative as they tend to be smaller, less academically rigorous, and with smaller and less-impressive sports teams.

12 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Thanks, Lance. Pretty obvious. Just not part of my east coast city-boy academic background, particularly the pejorative aspect.

13 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Mike Pollack is a perfect fit for the Colts. He is the kind of guy that might not be winning pro bowls, but he will be a scrappy guy that will start for 10 years and do a good job without getting all of the accolades. There are certain teams out there ( Den, NE, Indy, NYG) that are exploiting the offensive lineman market through zone blocking and technique. These teams have some of the best offensive lines in the game but might have 1 pro bowler each in any given year.

I like Xavier Adaibi to add speed to the Texans LB core in mid draft. People were talking about him slipping into the late first round at one point in time, and he could be a nice WILL LB next to D.Ryans for years.

I am also not opposed to the Jags strategy of drafting high at the same position, and especially when that is a glaring ( and important) need for an otherwise talented team. The Jags have some real pieces in place on defense, and adding a premier pass rusher ( assuming 1/2 work out) could make a strong defense even stronger.

I am an NFC East buff, but this is clearly the 2nd best division in pro football. Most people would say the Colts/Jags fight it out for first place. The Titans will be a strong young team on the rise that will at least challenge for a WC, and If the Houston Texans were in a weaker division, they probably would too. Last year I felt the Texans were an underrated team and I do think they have a favorable coach.

14 Re: Four Downs: AFC South


You really do have no shame. Even after one of your previous posts was blanked!

15 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

#4, lionsbob

Yes the Texans do play a 4-3, and on that line Okam would be at best the third and probably the fourth or even fifth concern for an opponents blocking shceme, which could allow him more opportunity to thrive.

My point is really more about the fact that these massive men who pass the eyeball test for a big run stuffing DT yet are unable to produce at the college level rarely are able to do much more than provide servicable depth for an NFL team. Yet every year draft reports state that a team may have gotten a steal by taking these players in a later round. From what I have been able to ascertain (and I would be happily corrected on this) Okam started for at least a couple of years but wasn't able to consistently produce. Bigger, stronger and better NFL linemen will probably prove too much of a test for such a player. He may become a decent backup but is unlikely to become a steal.

I would argue that you are likely to get better value with a player who has produced more in college even of they don't pass the eyeball test for their respective position.

I did a little digging on Pat Williams and it seems that he may have been a JUCO transfer who didn't even start every game he played in during his final year at Texas A&M, which probably explains the undrafted status for such a dominant player in the NFL.

16 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Pat Williams is kind of a wild story.

As one the like 3 Texans fans on this site, I'd say Amen to #13 Chris. We'd really like to play the Dolphins, Jets and Bills 6 times rather than the Colts, Jaguars and Titans. I'd even take Chargers, Broncos, Raiders Chiefs for a higher win %.

Also I think the Texans drafting is fox-crazy as opposed to Al Davis crazy. Word isn't in on their 2007 class, but 06 (first year of new regime) was 2 ProBow level guys in Mario Williams, and DeMecco Ryans, along with a promising lineman in Winston, a really promising hurt LT in C Spencer, and Owen Daniels, a very productive (look it up) TE. We also are not paying Reggie Bush to do that thing he does - deposit paychecks.

17 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

16 - I think we all know that Chris Cooley deposits paychecks the best of any NFL player.

18 Re: Four Downs: AFC South


I don't care how he looks in a uniform. We're not selling jeans, here.

19 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Does anyone else think that Groves might end up at SAM for the Jags? He has the speed, height and athleticism that you look for in that position, though I am aware that he could play end, he'd be undersized there but would be prototypical as an LOLB.

20 Re: Four Downs: AFC South


What about the Redskins' Anthony Mongomery (5th round)? He's a starting DT on a playoff team, 6'6" 315 and fell because of questions about his consistency and work ethic. The Skins also have Kedric Golston (6th round), not a regular starter but a frequently used sub. He's listed at 6'4" 320 (though I remember him being smaller when he was drafted and he fell because of injury concerns I think).

21 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

18: I don't reckon that Jimmy will know who Billy Beane is (us Limeys don't like most of your colonial games)

22 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Agree with Bobman in #9. As a Maine graduate, I took notice to that to begin with. But it was also quite funny, and required looking it up just to make that connection.

I am curious how things will go-- hopefully he sticks here, and Mulligan sticks with Miami, and I have not heard of any other Black Bears being signed by anyone.

23 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

The Jags have more depth on the OL and DL than they are being given credit for. G/C Dennis Norman filled in well enough for Brad Meester at the beginning of last season. He can also play tackle. Richard Collier is a guy they really like and may threaten Khalif Barnes for the starting LT position. Uche Nwaneri is a guard they took in last year's draft and who they're comfortable with in a reserve role. Mo Williams will start at RG, but started for several years at RT.

On the defensive line, Rob Meier will be an upgrade over the 2006-2007 Marcus Stroud. He could easily start at DT for almost any 4-3 team in the league. Tony McDaniel played very well in the rotation until he got hurt last year. Derek Landri showed great flashes last year as a rookie.

wrt Marcedes Lewis... I think he's done OK for a late-round pick. His numbers from last year aren't great, but he was held out of the Week 17 game (starters rested) and basically Week 16 (whipping of the Raiders) and remember that Garrard missed 4 games. He was getting 3-5 catches a game in most games otherwise. It's not like there's a ton of those to go around in JAX.

24 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

6'3, 315 Honestly isn't that big for a DT. Is it above avg., probably, but compared to the Pat Williams, Vince Wilforks, Ted Washingtons, Jamal Williams, Gilbert Browns of the world 315 really isn't that huge. Many Right tackles on the O-L are bigger than 315 so saying that the guy is a super raw specimen is probably pushing it too much. I'd agree with Jimmy's thesis though. If a "big" guy can't dominate college, why will he dominate pro's? I sort of get sick of the pundits saying "this big 5th rounder might be a steal" too for the same faulty and overly optimistic logic.

16. I liked Winston a lot at the combine and think you guys got a baller with him. Ryans is a pure tackeling machine and Mario Williams true potential hasn't even been unleashed yet.

The Texans divisional schedule is basically 6 playoff games with two games each against 3 teams that SHOULD make the playoffs. Imagine if you traded divisions with the Patriots and got the 6 games against the Bills, Jets, Fins instead.

I think the Texans got a true player in Winston ( I was real impressed by him in the combine and college), Ryans is a tackeling machine, and we haven't even seen the true potential of Mario Williams unleashed yet.

I think Kubiak is a guy that get's it and he will finish intalling a player friendly cookie cutter offense that is meant to succeed. I just think on the offensive side of the ball that they could use some more talent. I think the offense he runs can generally do more with less, but having your stud WR hurt, QB, RB's, and having an average at best line to begin with... Kubiak wasn't dealt a fair deck of cards.

25 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I thought Rob Meier looked alright too. When I saw him in there I was expecting a huge drop off but it just wasn't there. I think Lewis is alright too. He isn't a Kellen Winslow, Antonio Gates kind of guy, but he is an above average big target that can catch passes. I think the backup tight ends had some size/pass catching ability too but dropped some balls they shouldn't have.

26 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

#19, poster formerly known as SJM

The DTs I really mean are the big squat widebody types (ie 6'1"-4" and 330+lbs). In a couple of places I found Golston listed at 292 (which fits with my impression of his size) and Montgomery at 305. I have no idea if those are correct weights as teams are deliberately secretive about the actual weights of players. Golston especially typifies the type of player I think teams should look to take in later rounds.

My thinking is that the guys who do have the size teams look for in a perfect NT will get drafted in the first two rounds if they have been productive in college. The guys with that kind of prototypical size who are unable to be a force in college are very likely to fail when confronted with opponents who they are unable to beat using their bulk alone.

If I may refine my criteria a little I think the failure rate for these players will be more pronounced when the player in question has started for a major college program. If these guys aren't able to be productive when surrounded by what is for college standards good quality players then there is little reason to assume they are going to be at all productive in the NFL. Also I am not really referring to players with with injury or off the field character concerns, these players obviously carry a seperate but different risk.

Of course it is entirely possible that Okam will turn out to be a monster and my little point of contention will prove to be utterly false. I was merely posing a proposition to create food for thought based upon a small observation I had made. To be honest the criticism is probably better aimed at media draft 'experts' who seem to have a disappointing propensity for simply picking the biggest player a team has drafted as the sleeper pick, probably because they haven't a clue who most of the later second day picks are.

27 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

so you're saying that the big NTs that are productive are good athletes besides being big. And that a college team on the other hand can use a big, unathletic NT just, well, because he's so big.

28 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Dylan Gandy won't be competing for any starting jobs in Indy. They released him about 2 weeks ago.

29 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

The thing with Okam is that he's a terrific athlete for his size, as well as a wide body. And he did have plays in college where he dominated as he ought to have. Statistically, he was somewhat productive, with 5 sacks and 16 pressures in his senior season, as well as 11 tackles for a loss and 5 pass deflections. His problems are motivational, and in a slightly unusual way: he's rather a bright chap (3.9 GPA, I believe), and by all accounts he simply doesn't need to succeed in football - he can be a lawyer or an accountant or something if it all falls through. I suspect he'll wash out of camp, but a big run-stuffer was an important ancillary need for the Texans, and if the coaches can light a fire under him this summer Okam could be a good one. Most fifth rounders flop, so I don't think it's such a bad risk.

Brown . . . I was surprised by the choice, but I think it's pretty clear the coaches and front office really liked him and at this point I'm willing to trust their judgement. Somewhat similarly, I'm not a huge fan of Molden as a prospect, but what do I know?

The one pick I really had a problem with was Slaton. I think he can be a good player, but 1. The 3rd round is too high to take someone you see as a situational 3rd down back, which apparently they (rightly, in my opinion) do, and 2. The team already had a promising young player filling that role in Darius Walker, who will now presumably be cut.

"Ever since those ESPN draft ads showed David Carr about to take a snap with no blockers in front of him, the Texans have failed for one reason or another to take a single offensive lineman in the first round of the draft."

This is of course true, but I feel somewhat misleading. The story of the Texans left tackle position is one of bad luck and bad player evaluation, not of failure to identify the problem. The team used the first pick of their expansion draft on Boselli in 2002, and have since spent three first day picks at the position. Seth Wand was a bust because he sucked. Charles Spencer looked great through camp, pre-season and his first game and a half, before suffering a freak injury so horrendous that two years down the line he has only just recovered to the point of being able to potentially compete for a roster spot. At guard. Brown could develop into an all-pro, or a scrub, or something in between, or if the curse of Boselli holds he could be hounded to death by a pack of Rhesus monkeys during training camp. Regardless, he's unlikely to unseat Ephraim Salaam (who was actually ok last year) before opening day. The coaching staff want to give him as many reps as they can, hence the first team status, but Mario Williams is by all account giving him a rough time of it. Hardly surprising - the biggest knock on him is his lack of NFL readiness, particularly in terms of pass protection technique.

30 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Mike Pollak is competing with Charlie Johnson for the starting right guard spot. Everyone likely knows how Colts fans feel about Johnson after he got extended time at tackle last season. He might be a lot better at guard though. Speed rushers were his problem at tackle (which is strange for a converted TE) and he won't see those at guard. I think Pollak beats him out and I hope Dan Federkiel and Micheal Toudouze can be better backups at the tackle spots than Charlie Johnson, who should stay at guard whether he wins the starting job or not.

31 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

The return of another SB 41 hero, Dom Rhodes, makes me wonder about Charlie Johnson.... did he have his one shining moment? Manning himself said that he didn't realize a rookie was in the lineup for over a quarter--that's how well Johnson protected him on the right side in the SB.... And then there was 2007, when CJ played Fredo to Manning's Vito Corleone. I think most fans were ready to take CJ out on a remote lake by season's end, but I cannot forget his biggest game. Clearly the coaches saw something we did not. Hopefully deep down he's really a guard.

(This was not to say that Rhodes had only one moment in his 5-6 years in Indy, but his brightest moments, aside from his first game vs KC which featured an 80+ yard run from scrimmage as well as an 80+ yard KO rtn, were his last--the SB, and then maybe the final grinding drive vs Balt a couple weeks earlier.)

I have not seen commentary on something that would concern me if I were a Jags fan: Last year was a bit of a breakout year for the passing game, which usually suggests that some regression is expected. But most of the offseason personnel moves were on D. They're putting a lot of faith in Jerry Porter, who seems to be basking in the reflected glow Randy Moss's 2007 Raiders-to-Pats move. Does anybody else think those are not exactly comparable situations? I'd probably have tried to get a security blanket type receiver to keep moving the chains. If the offense regresses a bit (and really, if they regress in the passing game, it affects balance and would also hurt the strong running game), it puts more pressure on the D.

They can get after Manning with fast rookies all they want, but they still have to outscore Indy to win.

32 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

31: Well, getting to Manning is supposed to make it easier to outscore him.

Secondly, they already had a plethora of security-blanket possession receivers. The problem was having guys who could stretch the field.

Thirdly, though the offense did have a "breakout" season, the defense slipped a lot too. I would expect the defense to return to its elite status. The offense also improved as the season went on. While it was statistically a break-out year, they did have a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator. There is just as good a chance, IMO, that they will continue to improve as they will regress.

33 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

For the Jags to improve on offense would mean that they jump to a truly elite level of play on that side of the ball. I think we all look at their talent and say, "Eh. I don't see it." With the players they have, it seems far more likely that they regress (Garrard's near picks soared in the last few weeks of the regular season). It may happen that they get better, but with very average talent at WR and a career backup at QB, I wouldn't bet on it. Possible. Not likely.

34 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

13: pollack will play gangbusters for 6 years, then pull a jason david somewhere else. what's the hole-in-zone equivalent for a guard?

35 Re: Four Downs: AFC South


When I say the offense will improve, I mean taking the whole season into view. Calling Garrard a "career backup" isn't fair. He was drafted to be the starter in Tom Coughlin's last draft, and then Del Rio drafted Byron Leftwich and bent over backwards to make sure Leftwich had every chance. The personnel is better on offense this year. The offensive coordinator has a year of NFL experience under his belt. And as previously mentioned, Garrard has a fairly low INT rate over his career. Yeah, he'll throw a few more next year, but he should improve in other areas (experience, an offseason entrenched as starter, etc.).

36 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

@29 - Ah, Texans fan #2. Good to hear from you.

I'm hoping that the LT curse will be broken, and that Spencer will recover well enough to play again. Also, I disagree on Slaton. It's strange to me how players get labeled "every down" or "change of pace" without us really knowing what they can do. Philly's Westbrook certainly looks like a 3rd down guy, but he's been a great every down guy. He's not the one to move piles at the goaline, but he brings so much else it doesn't matter much. I'm hoping Slaton is like that. People all initially labeled Jones Drew a bust of a 3rd down back.

I follow the Longhorns as well, and I know that Okam has the talent to be an NFL player. I wish someone could impress on Okam the idea that going to law school at 32 with ten million in the bank isn't that bad an idea. Or that successful NFL players have access people at the very highest levels of the corporate world - particularly former Longhorns playing NFL ball in Houston.

I think about Magic Johnson's financial empire and think that Magic is a very bright guy, amazingly personable and has a good head for business. But what if just had an MBA from Mich. St and no NBA career. It's hard to think he'd have done as well.

37 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

If nobody else is going to take the bait, I will: OG HIZ = Charlie Johnson.

Thank you, thank you, I'm here all week.

32, TOS(fs&s!), (1) Yes, but how often does that happen? With the exception of final-week giveaways, the Colts don't generally lose 13-10 (in their 3 real L's last year, everybody scored at least 20). In 2006, their low was 14 and they had 17 twice. In 2005 SD held them to 17 and Pitt to 18. In 2004 their 3 reg season losses saw them score a minimum of 24 (Though NE did paste them 20-3 in the playoffs). Basically, to beat them you have to put up about 20 at a minimum. And the teams that beat them recently are generally known as strong offensive teams. Do you really look at Jax's O and Indy's D and say "Yup, we got out 20 taken care of."?? I do not.

(2) You second point is one I overlooked, though in college Reggie Williams was an exciting phenom, not a possession guy.

(3) I hadn't noticed the D's regression, probably for the same reason the same linemen get elected to the pro bowl year after year--reputation. I assume Jax's D is good and if they succeed, I assume that's why. My fault there. I used to like Mike Pete and hope he stays healthy one year. Regarding offensive regression, I am not predicting the sky falling--I expect NE's offense to regress a bit as well. It's just that when a person's career performance has such a spike and he's not named Barry Bonds, that spike is generally not the kind of thing you want to bet on for the next year. I'll accept your argument of "another year of maturity and working together for the OC and QB" which is a good thing, but I see Garrard's INT rating increasing dramatically. That's not to say it will be bad or even average, but it was insane last year--he had 8 straight games without a pick? Not gonna happen again. And those 8 games included a 3 pt loss, a 6 pt win, and a 7 pt win. Throw one pick in each of those wins on the key drive, and he still has only 5 INTs which is still excellent, but they go 9-7 instead of 11-5. I know that is a way-out extreme way to look at it, but I am saying their margin for error was not great last year and even a small regression could hurt a bunch. Now he could have thrown the same 2 extra INTs in one of their losses and they'd still be 11-5.

As an example, I will dissect one of my Colts' fatal flaws: protecting Manning. I estimate his average sack total had been 16 per year before 2007 and in 2007 it was (wild guess) 25. Now the %age jump is big, but the actual number is still pretty good when compared to sack totals league-wide. So you can say "their OL protected him well" by some measures. But because PM avoids sacks well, the hidden numbers include pressures and rushed passes, which led to a higher INT %age for him and really kept their O from clicking the whole second half of the season.

By the standards of 03-06, the OL was only "off" a little, yet Manning had his worst season in a while. Because their margin for error was not large. Compounded by the loss of Harrison, who caught roughly 70 fewer passes than his typical year. And so their season ends. They were still able to beat most teams, and given a healthy Harrison and OL may have beaten SD or even the NYG in the SB, but would never have beaten NE in the playoffs last season because of their greater fatal flaw: lack of pass rushing depth.

And Manning is a guy who has proven himself over 10 years to be one of the tops of all-time; the offensive leader of an offense-first team. For him to have a hiccup one year I can see myself saying "they'll be back offensively in 2008." But for the Jags O, which has struggled for years before having a very good 2007, I am not so sure I wouldn't also say, "They'll be back," meaning something quite different.

38 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Re 37:

"I hadn’t noticed the D’s regression"

There was a league wide defensive regression. The best defense was only -13.5% DVOA, the previous lowest DVOA for a defense was -21.5. Although some weighted DVOAs are higher, suggesting that maybe there was a some rule change that defensive coordinators didn't catch onto until later in the year, it was pretty much a terrible year for defense.

40 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Impressively close for a guess. Manning's been sacked on average 14.67 times over the last 3 years, 18.9 for his career. He was sacked 21 times last year. Only the fourth most times in his career, but the second highest % of sacks per pass play he's had.

I heart pro-football-reference

41 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

The thing with Slaton is that Kubiak has gone on the record saying he sees him as a 3DRB. If he turns out to be more, great. I still hope Walker makes the roster.

43 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

#11,10,8 Thanks.
That'll teach me to read the comment first!

44 Re: Four Downs: AFC South


Doesn't Walker have a tough road to go through, the coaching staff is also high on Chris Taylor it seems like as well.

45 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

From the article: "The Jaguars drafted like they knew they had a very good roster that didn’t have a lot of room for rookies to make the team."

That's partly a result of having TEN draft picks from last year who are still on your team. A couple of guys, like Mike Walker, spent the season on IR but are expected to make the team.

Jacksonville has great depth - maybe not at every single position, but no one in the NFL really does.

They were right to approach the draft looking for impact players rather than amassing even more depth. They need impact, especially in the pass rush. Are Harvey and Groves guaranteed to provide that? No, there's no guarantees. But if the Jags believe in those guys, the strategy was very sound.

46 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

What the... I've been f*&%ing cut?!?! Oh crap!

Man, first thing I'm gonna do it kill my agent, then I'll see if Denver has any openings.

Man, I should also probably resume my newspaper subscription... the world just seems to pass by when I don't check out the sports section.

47 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

@41 - I'm hoping that's a political answer on Kubiak's part. It's just sort of a pet issue with me - deciding on a guys niche before he's played a down. Doing just that Westbrook is still a 3rd down back, and Wes Welker just returns punts.

Most guys seem to add about 15-25 lbs of muscle in the NFL. If Slaton can do that and not fumble, he's well within range of other feature RB. I see RB these days as being a matchup thing, and you want several. So I have high hopes.

In a weaker division I'd have the Texans as a WC team (given just average health). In AFC South, who knows?

@24 - Thanks for the kind words. Texans fans would be happy to trade divisions with the Pats. Then they could prove how historically awesome they are 6 times a year against good teams, instead of running up the score. We could rack up 4-6 wins pretty easily. It's a win-win.

48 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Headline: Patriots land in AFC South, miss playoffs five years in a row

49 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

#44 - Taylor's an interesting one. He had one great game at the end of 2006, and Kubiak was raving about him in camp in 2007, but he went down before the opener and spent the whole season on IR. As a rookie, the concern was that he had something of a fumbling problem. If he's fixed that and is back to full speed, he has every chance of making the roster. I expect the Texans to go into the season with four RBs - Green, Brown, Slaton and Taylor. When the top two guys have the injury history of Green and Brown, three backs really isn't enough. They'll probably try to stash Walker on the practice squad, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if another team picked him up. Backup FB Jameel Cook is the guy who I really find it hard to imagine making the cut.

50 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Texans fan #3
Texans were .500 last year, despite a 1-5 division record. If Texans somehow can split 3-3, then the WorldWide Leader might get off their New England/Dallas love affair and consider them a playoff contender. Second thought, nah.
On the draft, maybe Slaton is a special teams guy. That was the only real head scratcher for me. Last few years, I really liked the drafting of Winston.

51 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

37: Agreed about Manning and the Colts offensive line. A. Gonzalez is the real deal though.

This is the toughest division in football now, and the Colts are beginning to look as if they can't hold on forever. Jacksonville should be lights-out this year, and Houston is no more than two years away from being a five-year playoff team (it looks like). Tennessee really depends on whether or not Vince Young is ever an effective NFL quarterback - and I'm guessing not.

The Colts need to get Manning better protection, he's not 22 anymore.

52 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

RE: 24 and 48

Don't be ignorant. I understand 48 was a joke, and 24 was hyperbole... but the AFC East had the most wins of any division in 2006, and was the last division to send 3 teams to the playoffs. Miami dropped off ANOTHER cliff and the Jets regressed a lot this past year... do you see both happening next year?

I see the Bills as a 9-7 or better team, the Jets as an 8-8 or better team, and the Dolphins should get at least 4 wins this year. (And thats a 3 game improvement!)

Meanwhile, I see TEN being average, and JAX will be hard pressed to repeat their 11-5. I'd still rank the AFC South as a tough division, but the NFC East is clearly harder, and the NFC West is clearly easier than the AFC East.

Actually, I would say that the AFC West is easier than the AFC East too. Which is funny, because the AFC East gets to face both the AFC and NFC West this year. Going by that, I think everyone will be surprised at how good the AFC East is when their records get inflated.

And btw, a 16-0 team that beat the #2, #3, #4, #5 seeds in the AFC and the #1 and #5 seeds in the NFC would probably be alright no matter what division it was in.

53 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

The Colts seem to have given up on obtaining elite players. In the past six years or so they draft/sign above-average "system" guys who they then tie up with huge contracts (freeney, sanders, reggie, i'm sure addai soon, etc.) Sorry, reggie benefits from 18 throwing to him. His stats may be up there with other elite receivers but he is not elite. Harrison is no longer elite. Addai is not elite. Freeney is not elite. Sanders is the closest. Only elite player for the colts is Manning. We need more. But we won't get it until we have played through our good years and are on top of the draft again.

54 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

52. Watch who you're calling ignorant.

"AFC East had the most wins of any division in 2006, and was the last division to send 3 teams to the playoffs"

2007 playoffs:
AFC South - Ind, Jax, Ten
NFC East - Dal, NYG, Was

55 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

RE 54:

"Last" implying, prior to 2007.

I was well aware that both the NFC East and AFC South sent 3 teams to the playoffs. I assumed it was common knowledge, therefore, I could reference the last time that it happened.

Plus, I was replying to someone who was stating that the AFC South was vastly superior due to the fact that they sent 3 teams to the playoffs. So I thought it had already been stated enough.

But one last time. Did any division send 3 teams to the playoffs recently? I forgot about that.

56 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

And btw, a 16-0 team that beat the #2, #3, #4, #5 seeds in the AFC and the #1 and #5 seeds in the NFC when almost all the teams had some of their best players stood injured on the sideline would probably be alright no matter what division it was in provided that such massive luck with opposition injury were to be repeated next year.

There that's better.

OK that is a bit over the top, but when did this thread become about the Patriots anyway?

57 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Hate to turn it into a Patriots thread, but what the hell are you talking about?

Keep in mind, you can completely ignore them beating SD in the Playoffs, because I was talking purely about the regular season. They spanked SD when they were healthy, the beat the Colts, Giants, Dallas and Cleveland when healthy... who is left?

58 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

The Pats beat the Colts when healthy in 2007? When did they play that game? I must of missed it. I was watching a game where the Colts were down 5 starters.

Congrats to 53 for making one of the greatest unsubstantiated claims of all time. I'm fascinated to know why you don't think of Freeney, Addai, and Wayne as being elite. They certainly have generated elite numbers. They have been recognized as being elite by going to Pro Bowls. They all pass the eye test (Addai was the best player on the field in the Indy NE game last year...and that was a pretty good field). what measure are those players not elite. I'd love to know.

59 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

RE: 58

The Colts didn't have Harrison, who ended up missing the majority of the season. Their rookie LT, Ugoh, was injured, and then Anthony Gonzalez got hurt before the half.

So... two rookies and someone who ended up not playing much the rest of the year? Would they have made a difference?

I mean, granted, they were the 1st and 2nd round picks, but come on-- thats like me saying that the Patriots lost the Super Bowl because Meriweather was hurt.

But alright, you think it made a difference. Throw that game out-- who else did they play when injured? The original contention was that they went 16-0 because of a string of injuries to the best player on the opposing team. Back it up.

60 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

57. Please remove #5 in AFC if you're talking regular season.

(oh, yeah, that's common knowledge...)

61 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

You're right. You have successfully nitpicked the argument and evaded debating the merit of it.

I should have said "You can completely ignore beating SD in the playoffs, because they already humiliated them when fully healthy during the regular season."

Does that suit the nitpick police better?

62 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Wowzer. Just a throwaway comment from a Texans fan about how it's tough to get ahead in our division, what with 3 playoff teams in it.

Ask this - Titans - better than the Dolphins? I'd say yes. Jaguars - better than the Jets? Again, definitely. Colts - better than the Bills? Yes. So that was all I was saying.

I'll refrain from any comment at all on NE, as I want the The Boston Inquisition to leave quietly now.

So sorry AFC Southers. I apologize.

63 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

OK, I'm game...

#2 AFC: Ugoh, Harrison, Gonzolez
#3 AFC(reg): noone of note
#4 AFC: Polamalu, Clark
#5 AFC: Peterson
#1 NFC: Glenn
#5 NFC(reg): Bradshaw, Moss, Madison
#6 NFC: Brunell, Smoot, Cartwright

(Note: I really don't remember starting lineups at the time, so I'm easily correctable - these are from gamebooks as inactive.)

Of the games I've watched, Ind and Jax could have had different outcomes with healthy players.

Personally, I think that theory is meaningless, as backups should be nearly as good as starters.

64 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

59 They were also missing two starting linebackers. That's 5 starters (unless you count the fact that one of the linebackers was a replacement for Rob Morriss who was out for the season). I'm not even counting Booger McFarland either. Oh, and if you watched the 4th quarter of that game and saw Charlie Johnson getting mauled at LT, you wouldn't be minimizing the impact of Ugoh being out. As for Gonzalez...his injury was huge, because he dropped a gimmie TD because of the thumb. Oh, and Dallas Clark played the 2nd half with a concussion.

I'm not excusing the Colts for losing that game. The Pats beat the players who were on the field. But please don't act like they beat a "healthy" Colts team. That team wasn't close to healthy.

65 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Didn't Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney get hurt in the game too, and fail to finish the game? I specifically remember when Bob Sanders went down, the Patriots deep passing game suddenly opened up.

66 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I would say that the Chargers not having Tomlinson, having Gates playing like a shadow his full ability as well as Castillo and Williams going down fairly quickly during the game had a pretty major effect on the playoff game. Also (purely from memory) Hampton was injured for the Pittsburgh game, although I can't recall if he suited up. Three of those players are amongst the best in the league at their positions, and the fourth is an excellent player.

Look The Pats had a great season last year, that much is undeniable. It would be extremely difficult to win as many games on the trot as the Pats did without some omens falling their way. I remember checking the injury lists last year and the Pats major opponents seemed to routinely be missing more players than the Pats were. I didn't do a study or anything, but it seemed that way to me.

67 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Sanders missed 1-2 plays. Freeney got hurt the next week

68 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

In reference to the "directional School" comments, one of George O'Leary's first efforts when he came to UCF, even before recruiting, was to get the name changed from Central Florida, to Orlando University.

69 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Man, I love the feeding frenzy, especially when I'm not in it!

DZ's right about Colts/Pats last year. A healthy Indy would probably have won the mid-season game--they were 10 minutes away from it with the depleted lineup. Without Gonzo's broken thumb in the 1st he'd likely have caught that TD, and if Dallas Clark could see straight... or Tony Ugoh (don't disparage him with "rookie"--the running game IMPROVED when he replaced Glenn and the passing game held its own, and Glenn was a pro-bowler)... okay, it goes on from there. Sanders was on the sideline for at least one HUGE pass to Moss, maybe both. And in a theoretical rematch in the playoffs, we all know NE would have won. The Colts team that faced SD in the playoffs at home just was not good enough to advance, mainly because of Freeney's injury, but they also seemed to lack... something.

56 They're ALL Patriots threads! (okay, that was unfair. I hate it when a Colts discussion takes over non AFCS threads as well.)

68 Back on the Directional School theme.... does that make Case Western inferior? Northwestern? Middlebury kind of fits the bill, too. Just wondering. (Then again, Snake "Goodbye student loan payments!" from The Simpsons went to Middlebury, so maybe.... Outstanding that a football coach is focusing on the big picture like that.

70 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Now it's time to join DZ in piling on #53. I think I see the rationale, but also think the reasoning is thin.

Having Manning makes everyone else on the O suspect. That's giving a lot of weight to one guy, deservingly or not. Yes, he gets rid of the ball well, so the OL stats appear better than if they had David Carr at QB. Duh. Doesn't make them any worse. Yes, the D has to worry about him a little more than most other QBs, so the running game gets a small boost. Again, that doesn't mean the RBs are NOT elite, it just means it's hard to judge them. There is NO vacuum in the NFL--too many guys, too much going on. Maybe Manning is only good because of Tom Moore (who made an all pro out of Scott Mitchell IIRC)..... because everything is interrelated, it's a really difficult statement to support by stating that Addai, Wayne, and Freeney are not elite. (Furthermore, look at the stats pages herein--Addai and Wayne--and Freeney who had the most QB pressures in 2006 despite a down year for pure sacks--all seem to be elite by the FO metrics, which you must give some credibility to since you are here.)

Did Dungy's system make Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch et al seem good? Were they elite? They DID sustain what appeared to be excellence for years. Or were they actually good, and ALSO happened to play in a system that enhanced their performance? Chicken and egg, my friend.

The clearly ludicrous counterpoint that I love to use is that Jerry Rice was really an above-average WR who lucked into having HOF QBs throwing to him for most of his long career. Even with the Raiders he had Gannon winning an MVP and in SF and Seattle he also had Garcia and Hasselbeck who made a few pro bowls too. Using that logic, Jerry Rice was just kinda good. Hook him up with David Carr and see what happens. (Sorry, Mister Carr, you're my punching bag tonight. Better me than Dwight "I'm not elite" Freeney, I guess.)

I'd argue that Freeney certainly is elite because for most of his career he did not have a stout back 7 supporting him (the revolving door LB policy and teensy, non-tackling DBs until recently), and only had a complimentary speed rusher opposite him for half his career. Yet he has the most sacks over the past 5-6 seasons. Sanders is.... well, amazing. It's too simple to call him a "4th LB" when he can play at the LOS and 25 yards downfield, seemingly on the same play. And it's not just speed--he may be the best tackler and have the best ball skills on that D. I only hope he lasts another 5-7 years before all those collisions take their toll.

I think the system guys who need the Colts to thrive are pretty obvious--Stokley was not a system-only guy, Jason David was. Nick Harper probably was, Cato June probably was not. Dom Rhodes... tough to tell because his only year away was marred by suspension. Edgerrin James clearly was not. Craphonso Thorpe... good God! Is he STILL on the team? Adam Meadows (RT) seems to have been. The list goes on, but every team no doubt has guys who thrived in one setting and not in another. Is Randy Moss a system guy in NE whereas in Oakland he was not elite? I think not.

71 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

"Boston Inquisition" is classic. I need a new keyboard now.

72 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I don't believe Wayne, Freeney, or Addai is top 5 at their position. The colts have made them work well in their scheme. There are better players playing for worst teams. I don't think they pass the "eye" test. You seriously think of Addai like you did of Edge back before his ACL? Reggie was drafted to compliment Harrison not to replace him. Reggie doesn't scare me like an elite receiver should. Freeney is a one trick over paid spinning pony.

73 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Sorry for the last part about Freeney - that was unfair. Of the players I mentioned Freeney is the one you are convincing me might be elite.

74 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Do I think of Addai the way I thought of Edge? Oh yeah. Absolutely. Actually, I have more confidence in him than I did in the Edge. Addai is every bit the player Edge was. The Colts have wised up and utilize him a bit differently (more effectively), thus surpressing some of his numbers, but he's easily a top 5 back. Which 5 RB would you take over Addai? Tomlinson, Peterson, Westbrook, maybe. Edge was a good receiver, Addai is a great one. The stats won't help you, so all I can say is get your eyes checked.

If you don't think Wayne passes the eye test then you aren't watching the same games we are. I appriciate that you think so highly of Manning that he turns average players into Hall of Fame players, but I watched Peyton play with some real turds at WR, and while the offense still functions, Wayne's emergence is what made it special. Wayne wasn't drafted 'to replace' Harrison? Of course not, Marvin was in his prime. He was drafted to be an elite multiple probowl WR. He's killed the league in DPAR for several years now. I'm sorry, but if Reggie Wayne isn't elite, then no one is. And no, there aren't five guys I'd rather have than him. There's Moss and Owens-mythical good teammate version- and NO ONE else).

75 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

In reference to the “directional School” comments, one of George O’Leary’s first efforts when he came to UCF, even before recruiting, was to get the name changed from Central Florida, to Orlando University.

Funny, since "Central" isn't a direction.

76 Re: Four Downs: AFC South


Oh don't get me started on that dirty underacheiving Jerry Rice!!!!!

77 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

He has a point, in regards to Addai. Addai was the fourth RB drafted, so teams considered him to be less talented than Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney and DeAngelo Williams.

I actually heard rumors that the Colts were really upset that the Patriots grabbed Maroney, or that the Patriots grabbed him partially to keep him from the Colts. Something like that.

So to say that Addai isn't as elite as his numbers say can be accurate-- throw Maroney in the same system, and he would look a heck of a lot better than he does now.

And remember, in regards to Edge-- talk about Edge before the injury, not after. That knee injury took something out of him, he came back and was great, but not the same level as before.

I think Wayne is an ideal WR and does a good job, although there are other receivers (Braylon Edwards, Andre Johnson) that I think might be more talented if given the same opportunities Wayne has had. I think that is all that the original author is saying-- Addai and Wayne are both about 6-10 in terms of talent for their position, but look like 3-5 because of the Colts system. They have to be great players in order to look elite, but they are only elite because of the Colts.

78 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

The Colts offense has been very consistent (top 1-3 in league for many years). I attribute this to an above average OC Tom Moore, an elite QB Manning, and loyalty and mastery of the no huddle / flexible play calling "system". I think in 2004-2006 when this really found its groove they still had Harrison at an elite level. So are Reggie and Marvin going to swap? Is Reggie as good as Marvin was? If Marvin retired who would be number 2? Now maybe we don't need an elite RB - I much liked the tandem of Rhodes and Addai in 2006. But I feel we need a solid 1-2 punch at receiver that to me feels like a 2-2 punch.

79 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Are you really basing your argument on draft order? There isn't a GM in the league that would take Marooney over Addai today, so just because Paoli blew the pick and missed Addai and MJD (AFC SOUTH SOLIDARITY), doesn't mean that Addai isn't as good as Marooney. Funny thing about rumors, they often aren't true. All the stories I heard about the Indy draft board that day said they were targeting Addai all along.

And yes, when I compare him to Edge, I mean pre-ACL Edge. Addai has similar power and better moves and catches the ball as well and is more elusive after the catch. The Colts struggled on 3rd and shorts with Edge. They don't any more. I don't know what it is, but Addai has an extra dose of 'dangerous' that Edge didn't. I know that's crazy talk, but you won't buy stats that say Addai is elite, so this is what I'm reduced to.

Comparing Wayne to Edwards and Johnson is fools game. There are a lot of factors that go into playing WR in the NFL and phsyical skill is only so much. Even if I bought the argument that those guys were more physically talented (which I don't), Wayne is vastly superior in terms of route running and knowledge of defenses. Wayne plays in a super sophisticated system where he has to read and understand a defense to the same degree as his QB, and react to his reads with little to no communication. This is a skill. This makes him elite. There is no evidence that those other guys are capable of that even if they do have faster 40 times. When there is a big 3rd down to convert, Manning is every bit as likely to throw to Reggie Wayne as he is to Marvin Harrison. If that isn't elite, then the word should be taken out of the dictionary.

80 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Jacksonville, with their recent acquisitions, is shamelessly trying to attract the large contingent of Fullbacks from Maine that retired to North FL.

81 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

(1) If Reggie had played for the texans/browns for the last seven years what evidence would we have that he is superior at reading defenses?

(2) A lot of QBs convert 3rd downs with number 2 or 3 receivers. The number 1 is often covered with the other teams best corner or double-teamed.

(3) Where are Addai's dominating performances? The 06 Philly and 07 NE games are the only one I classify as close to dominating. Where did he go after the NE game last year? He has been lucky to have Rhodes and Keith pick up some of the slack.

82 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

On a side note, what is up with the Titans and Colts defenses (#1 and #3 last year) supposedly going down the toilet without ONE key player (aka Sanders and Haynesworth)?

83 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I have rarely seen a QB play at the level Manning has in the last two (maybe three) years. The others I would put alongside his current level of play would be Favre and Steve Young (this is obviously linked to players I have been able to watch a good deal of). There have been other great QBs I have seen but some of them were guys I never really got to watch so personally am unable to form a judgement upon. There have also been QBs who will probably end up in the HOF who I don't think have produced at quite the level of the three I picked out. If you compare the way Favre made ordinary players around him into Pro Bowlers I think you have seen a similar phenomenon from Manning in the last few years. Four or five years ago Manning (while still a fantastic QB) had some weaknesses in his game - ie he was poor when forced out of the pocket or restricted in his ability to step up and throw when the rush forced him to move. Those small weaknesses made it possible to produce a gameplan that restricted the Colts offense. I would argue that most of the improvement in the Colts short yardage production in recent years stems from it now being almost impossible to stop Manning getting rid of the ball in these situations.

Manning final evolution into a near perfect pocket QB will inevitably have made those players around him look better. Think of all the players who looked great playing with #4 but whose production fell away outside his presence. I do think that Wayne has rounded out his game over the last couple of years to the extent that I am not sure he could be getting any more production out of the abilities he is born with. While he is certainly no slouch, Wayne doesn't have any elite physical skills. It is his mastery of his craft over the last couple of seasons combined with a QB who is constantly striving to do the same that has caused his production to soar.

84 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Exactly what 'skills' is Wayne missing? Is being tall a skill?

As for dominant performances from Addai, I'd say a little game call the Super Bowl was pretty amazing. The joke is that you want it both ways. His total stats (yards from scrimmage, TDs, ect) are exceptional, but you want individual dominant games? The two back system the Colts began to employ once Edge left precludes some of those games from happening. As for where he went in the second half of last year...he went behind Charlie Johnson. A black hole from whence there is no return. Addai was amazing in many of those games. His runs against KC were sick (they all had to occur 5 yards behind the LoS unfortunately). Watch the tape of that game and tell me he isn't one of the 5 best backs in the game.

85 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I believe the Colts employed the two back system out of necessity not out of choice. Statistically I like Edge's first two seasons were superior to Addai's. The Colts asked Edge to do a lot more in a less refined and sophisticated offense.

86 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I'm not so incensed at thinking of Addai and Wayne as ranked somewhere between 4 and 8. That's still pretty damn elite to me. When you consider Addai is used in a share the load manner and the NFL has about 60 legit starting WRs, 20 of whom you'd actually call good, so being in the top quartile of the best is pretty elite. I think Andre Johnson is a pretty good argument--he's quite impressive and this year should establish his career for better or worse.

As DZ pointed out, the Indy system requires that all guys be "junior QBs" in terms of recognizing coverage and adjusting IN SYNCH WITH the actual QB and other receivers. That is a skill that other teams' WRs either don't have or don't have the opportunity to display. It does not show up in measurable stats like YAC or catch %age, but it is amazing to watch. When Wayne misses a pass, it's usually because it's 4 yards away (and not dropped); that is because he is expected to read the D and react the same as Manning does. When he fails, it's a failure of communication/cognition, not physical skills and it looks terrible. You cringe and say "what were you thnking?"

What you may not realize is that the failure emphasizes the other 95% of the time he gets it right. Imagine you and your buddy are playing chess against the same computer. It moves then you move. 95% of the time, you are your buddy make the exact same moves even though you are 40 feet apart and can only vaguely tell what the other is looking at. Plus sometimes it happens on the fly, when you are in motion, and people are hitting both you and your buddy. That's the best analogy I can make and I find it pretty impressive.

That is a very critical skill and one I am not sure others have. Remember, like in 2002 when Marvin caught 143 passes, this year Reggie was the only real WR threat and he carried the passing game, facing double coverage most of the time. Moss "disappeared" in more games last year than Reggie (when the opponents decided HE won't be the reason we lose and the Pats went to Welker instead).

Even Moss, whose skill DZ overly inflates above, is primarily physical--it's of the "I run and you throw it to me. Anywhere near me and I'll catch it" type of skill set; I am not sure if he or TO have the recognition/route running skills because they have superior physical presence (speed/size/strength). The Colts draft for football smarts and Reggie fits the bill. From my view, Reggie has replaced Marvin (heretical though it might be to say) and it wasn't just this year. They were equals or near equals the two previous years. When you're talking about equaling a guy who is top-five all-time, that's pretty impressive.

Regarding Addai, (disclosure: I am a HUGE Edge fan and want nothing more than for him to return and retire a Colt) I have to point to a few FO stats: Success rate was at or near the league lead (perhaps even at record levels?) for BOTH Edge and Addai in recent Colt seasons. This suggests that the OL and system had something to do with it more than just the RB. YPC favors Addai and 3rd down/short yardage/power situations favor him big-time. And this is comparing him against a 1,500 yard Edge of just a couple years ago. (I honestly cannot remember the pre-injury Edge of 1999/2000 well enough, aside from his forward lean as his finished runs getting an extra yard or two.) They are used differently (a testimony to Tom Moore's adaptability--what are the odds of him making it to Canton as an OC?), but I cannot decide which I would rather have, Edge in his first 2 years or Addai. That is not a denigration of either--Edge led the freakin' league in rushing and nearly yards from scrimmage (darn you, Marshall Faulk!) his first two years. He was extremely elite and more or less returned to that level in his final Indy years. So is Addai, but his eliteness will never show in traditional stats because of the way he is used. You have to watch him. Plus his platooning life so far means he'll likely last a little longer. I often argue here in regards to Marvin Harrison that I'd prefer him to go down rather than struggle for an extra 2 YPC and get walloped, because it'll add two years to the back end of his career. Same for Addai. (Edge did that well too)

As for Maroney, I think that all stemmed from a jokey phone call Manning purportedly made to Brady during or after the draft. "Hey man, you guys stole our guy," or something like that. That and the pre-draft predictions are all I ever saw about the Colts preferring Maroney. In discussing that draft Polian has always said (as you'd expect) "we got the guy we wanted all along." Not that it's worth too much. Not even sure how something like that phone call gets out to the public, but who in their right mind would draft the RBs in that class in the same order today? Maroney might end up being the real deal--he's shown some flashes. But he also seems ordinary on more runs than Addai and looks pretty brittle (those two items may be related).

87 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Edge's first two season WERE superior in terms of stats, but the Colts were wise to get away from that style of one back game. It's not a question of if Addai could put together a season like Edge's, it's a question of why would you want him to. Two backs is the smart way to go. It leads to some stat supression, but overall superior performance. In XLI, neither Rhodes nor Addai did quite enough individually to take the MVP from Manning, but combined they were freak show, racking up huge numbers out of the backfield. Granted, Manning's early TD to Reggie "not elite" Wayne freaked the Bears out and kept them playing deep and off the line, but Addai catching the ball and Rhodes ripping through holes was a much more effective strategy than just playing one back. Edge was a talented runner, but he suffered because he was the only back. He wanted the ball on every down, and it has hurt his longevity. I hope they never go back to a one back offense. Don't pretend like it's some kind of concession. It's a smarter way to play.

88 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I think you're getting defensive, DZ.

Draft order does reflect how someone was viewed when they were drafted. That was my only point-- Addai has put up much better statistics than the three RB's drafted above him, but that does not necessarily mean he is a better RB. You are pointing to what you've seen him do as evidence-- and I agree, he has done the most. But in similar circumstances, either of the three taken above him might have done just as well. You're logical assumption is that they haven't, therefore they wouldn't... and I disagree with that premise.

I think Indianapolis has done a great job with what they can. They don't have the high draft picks to select uber-talents like Manning and Edge anymore-- so they have to coach up a good player and make them elite. They take in good talent, but not amazing-- in this years draft, where do you think Addai would have been taken? Probably after Mendenhall, making him 4th as well. But on the Colts, he looks like a star.

As for Wayne, I can't argue about the mental aspect of the game-- he does a very good job. I can just say, in terms of talent and playmaking ability, I see Wayne as very impressive, but I see others as above him. TO, Moss, Andre, Braylon, Holt (in his prime), Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson (projecting here, I love his ability), and Steve Smith are all "naturally more talented" and have that ability to take over a game. Wayne doesn't seem to take over the game, he and Manning combine to outthink it-- they are the type to systematically dissect a defense and pick on Jason David or the Denver CB. The other WR's I mentioned can be double or triple teamed and still come down with the catch. Wayne comes down with the catch due to lapse in coverage or good plays, not because he was just purely better than the defense.

89 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I don't think you can compare the way Favre turned Antonio Freeman into a probowler to the symbiotic relation ship Manning and his receivers have. The Colts invest a lot of high draft picks to get players to put around Manning, so he can fulfill his potential. The Packers took nearly the opposite route, they believed the offense would be fine as long as they had Favre (and decent line), so they invested in the defense to have a well rounded team. Obviously I'm talking about the 90s Packers here, and not the Mike Sherman "avoid talent at all costs" approaching to building a team. In the Colts case the Manning and his teammates make each other better, in the Packers, it was Favre making everyone around him better.

Another interesting aspect about the Colts, is that their skill position players are precision based. So they would be successful (or as successful) on other teams. Just a quick comparison to Braylon Edwards, Harrison woudn't have been as good as Edwards was for the Browns last year because no matter how open he gets, Anderson isn't accurate enough to get him the ball. While Edwards had the ability to jump and get ball, or out-muscle defensive backs. Conversely Edwards probably wouldn't have been as successful on the Colts because he wouldn't have the separation Manning expects, so he wouldn't throw the ball. Now, both of these players are so good, they still would have had some measure of success, but they were better suited to the teams they played for.

90 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I'm 'defending' those players sure. My presupposition is that the only thing we can know for sure is what happens on the field. Now, I will allow that in some circumstances a player can have great stats and 'fail' the eyeball test. What usually happens is that the Alvin Harpers of the world get found out at some point. Bill Polian is a smart dude, and the best talent evaluator out there. He drafted Reggie Wayne and more importantly chose to resign him. That tells me that Polian thinks he's elite. I'll take his judgement over yours anyday.

My point is that what you are saying (that Addai and Wayne are not elite) is utterly ridiculous. The stats say they are elite. The eveball test does too. Your definition of elite is so narrow as to be restricted to only a small band of physical skills that you have ignored a variety of other skills that are what separate a Reggie Wayne from lesser WRs who may (or may not) be physically gifted. The whole package is what makes a player elite. Otherwise, Ryan Leaf would be an NFL god.

Do you really think Addai would be taken AFTER Mendenhall this year? I think that's crazy. Addai went lower than he should have for one reason: NFL people worried that he was an injury risk who couldn't handle a full workload.

I'm sorry, but I can see no evidence to support your original claim.

91 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

What gets me about this argument is there is attitude out there (especially with fans in the AFC South) that their teams are oh so talented and if they could just get better QB play, they'd be better than the Colts. The Texans think Andre Johnson is better than Wayne. The Jags think Fred Taylor is better than Addai. They all think that if they can only just sack Manning and their QBs play better, they'll take the division. The Colts own the South for more reasons than just Manning. They have surrounded him elite players and as a team have become king of the hill in the division. Obviously, Peyton makes the engine go, but guys like Addai, Wayne, Freeney, Gary Brackett, and Zombie Bob Sanders are what make the Colts freaking hard to beat. If it gives you all hope to think that it's a one man show, go ahead. Indy is a team loaded with talent. The key is if a guy gets a second contract with the club. If they do, you know they are special. If they are just a guy who can be replaced...they get walking papers. Edge got franchised for a year, and let go. Pathon, Green, June, and half a dozen Oguards got the same treatment.

92 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I guess my only point is that there are more talented WR out there than Wayne, and more talented RB than Addai. But due to being in the Colts system, their stats pop out more. I'm agreeing that both Wayne and Addai are very good players, but I could see them being only "good" if they weren't on the Colts. You can't seem to accept this.

And as for Addai, I was saying if he came out this year, with the same scouts take on him that he had when he was originally drafted, he would have been drafted after Mendenhall. I think Stewart and Mendenhall have better measurables than Addai does, but since Addai has learned the Colts system and put in position to succeed, you view him as elite.

Notice the difference? You could make a computer simulation of the NFL with every single RB having the same stats and talents, and some of them will perform better than others due to the system. People like you would then claim that they were elite, when we know that they are identical to all of the other RB's. Thats my only point-- numbers don't show it, and you are relying solely on numbers and your homerism.

93 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I'm relying on numbers and my eyes. You are relying on hypotheticals. I understand your point. I get what you are saying. I see zero evidence for it. I don't see it in the stats; I don't see it all field.

I don't think you're wrong becuase I don't understand your point. I think you're wrong because you have a baseless claim that is flawed on the surface and unverifiable. I think you underestimate how difficult it is to play in the Colts scheme. You are favoring one set of skills and minimizing another set which is just as important.

I won't accept your point because it's wrong. I'd be happy to hear evidence to the contrary, but you haven't presented any.

I'll stick with the facts and the numbers. I trust my eyes and Polian's eyes over yours.

94 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

"I reject your reality, and substitute my own"

And remember-- Polian doesn't get to choose from every single WR and RB to make his roster-- he gets to choose from where he was able to draft in those years. So Polian chose a good to great player, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't choose any of the other players over Wayne or Addai.

So stop saying Polian versus me, because that isn't a logical argument and doesn't prove anything.

I'll leave it be, as I don't see the point in discussing it more. Neither of us are using the same scale, so therefore, neither of us can be persuaded.

(Although I will point out... Wayne and Harrison, as well as Addai and Edge before him, have continued to be top 5 in DPAR, year after year, with only slight exceptions. Either they are just supernaturally good, or the system plays a role. Edge himself went from 4th in the Colts system to 39th and then 21st in DPAR in Arizona's system. Same player, and one year didn't make him less talented.)

95 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Edge wasn't the same player...he was a year older. A year makes a big difference to a RB. Still I appriciate you giving some kind of evidence. At least it gives a starting place for rational discussion. We can do things like track the statistical age and number of carries at which RBs dramatically decline, and thus intellegintly discuss whether Edge's drop off was due only to a system/line change, or perhaps due to some other factor.

96 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I think part of the disconnect here is the definition of talent and how that fits into a definition of elite.

Leaving the above guys out of the discussion for now, let's pick two QB's drafted so close together it's vitrtually impossible to say who is better on draft day. One works his ass off, has an encyclopedic memory and knowledge of the game. He has always had his arm criticized by people struggling to find a flaw, yet can make every throw. And finally, he drastically improved his ability to throw on the run, his only real flaw. He is the very definition of elite.

The other guy could throw a rock onto the surface of the moon and leave a small crater. He was bold and brash and fearless. But his mind wandered in team meetings, he didn't get along with teammates and did not inspire them. He made bad decisions on and off the field, got dinged up, and never made it. He is the very definition of non-elite.

Who had more talent at age 22, Manning or Leaf? At age 30? Part of my definition of talent in this context is the ability to put it all together, to read a D, to synthesize it all on the fly, to work hard to perfect what you have and to improve what you lack. It's the old Thomas Edison 90% perspiration/10% inspiration thing.

Colt receivers are not the Plexico Burresses of the world because their QB can read a D, find the flaw, and deliver the ball to the right spot, so they don't need to be power forwards. They need different skills and talents to be elite. If you only measure by production, they're elite. If you broaden your definition of talent, they're as talented or better than the rest. Would I love a 6-5 elbow-throwing leaper at WR? Yes. Could Indy make the most of him? No.

Why was Edge so valued in Indy? One reason was his blitz pickup--a very important talent for them, but possibly not for other teams. Again, part of that is recognition of the D, communication, and finally the willingness and ability to engage a rusher and keep him off the QB. That is a talent and the kind of talent that people emphasize in Hines Ward. Runners who can gain 5 YPC but cannot get the hang of receiving or blitz pickup are NOT elite in my book. They have some big talents, but not the whole basket of talents.

Keep in mind that Edge has put up two 1,000 yard seasons on a team that did not have a 1,000 yard rusher for a decade. He was truly elite in Indy and he is still DAMN good in a hellhole at age 30. DZ, I don't know that he's gone downhill. Sure he's aged some, but look at his line and his QBs (talented but inconsistent). The fact that he can produce what he has produced the past two years in AZ might speak more to his Canton-worthiness than all his years in Indy.

A last item: What exactly is Bob Sanders's talent? He's fast, we all know that. But plenty of guys are fast, yet not as effective. He can tackle, but I have seen plenty of times when he used poor technique to blow guys up rather than wrap securely. And somehow at 5-8 he seems pretty adept at intercepting. His teammates cannot even really put a finger on it--they say things like "he makes up play better" and "he gets us fired up." Maybe he scares them. I guess those are talents. I say he is elite because of those non-measurable traits of football intelligence, hard work, film study, and instincts. It's the same kinds of talents I am extolling in guys like Addai and Wayne--the brain is a large part of it.

97 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I think enough people hit up Wayne and his reads vs physical skill.

I'd take Edge over addai and I really only saw 1 person mention his blocking ability.

People credit the Colts system with their strong RB play, but the effect manning has in calling audibles into favorable plays has a huge effect on his backs.

Last year I was saying that as much hype Manning and Brady get, they were still underrated.

98 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

A talented Carnell Williams playing in Peyton Mannings offense, or Carnell Williams running behind a busted Tampa Bay line?

What happens if the Bucs traded Cadalliac for Joseph Addai? Carnell turns into a star with 1500 yards as a Colt, and Joseph Addai rushes for under 1000 and gets injured.

99 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Chris, I like the last line of #97. Scary, hunh?

Regarding Caddy and Addai, I don't doubt one would do better and one worse if they switched teams, but (and I can only really address the Colts portion of this) I don't think Caddy would be *allowed* to surpass 1,250-1,300 yards in blue and white.

My impression is they learned from James's lackluster postseason performances that platooning or at least resting a guy is the way to go. I doubt Addai will ever surpass those numbers in Indy, but I suspect his success rate will always be at or near the top.

So say Caddy racks up 1,300 yards in Indy. Good for him. But good for the team? Will he block as well? Catch as well? Have the same success rate and 3rd down rate? Will a couple flubbed passes lead to INTs like it did for Kenton Keith in the SD playoff game? Will a whiff on a blitz pickup make Jim Sorgi the new starter? Manning's protection is of vital importance as you imply in #97, and part of that protection is the RB's recognition of D's and communication with 18, as well as his ability to either stick a blitzer, or brush him and slip out for a check-down pass.

Also remember, Addai has been monstrously consistent. I don't really know much about Williams, but a guy like Barry "Boom & Bust" Sanders, despite freakish talent, would sink the Colts offense as it is currently constructed. They rely on a back's ablity to do it all and his consistency (maybe because that's the kind of back they have, maybe by design. Tom Moore could probably adapt, but then we're no longer trying to compare apples to apples). And injuries... Addai has been pretty good so far. Gruden might overwork him so thathe gets injured each year. Right now, at 20 carries a game, he's great. At 25+, maybe not.

100 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I would argue that Ronnie Brown and Steven Jackson would both have more success in the Colts offense than Addai, to name two more. And I also think that Manning has improved so much since even 2004 that comparing Wayne's numbers now and Harrison's back then and concluding that Wayne is as good as Harrison was is unsound. Manning has gone from super-elite to ridiculous. For what it's worth (and I don't set much store by FO's WR metrics), Andre Johnson's DVOA and DPAR/game for his 9 games in 2007 (his first season without David Carr) were better than Wayne's. And while Schaub and Rosenfels are competent, perhaps even above average, NFL starters, neither of them is Peyton Manning. Or even slightly close.

101 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

Totally off topic, but Jacksonville has signed Craphonso Thorpe! One of the all-time great name guys might be in the league for another year!