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The question is not whether Saquon Barkley is the best running back in this draft class. The question is whether any running back, even one as good as Barkley, warrants a top-five draft selection in the NFL in 2018.

15 Feb 2011

Four Downs: AFC South

by Tom Gower

Houston Texans: Do they have the players to run Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense?

The Texans were a terrible defensive team in 2010. They finished last in the league in pass defense DVOA at 36.8%. They gave up 24 or more points in 14 games, holding only the Rusty Smith-led Tennessee Titans and the Trent Edwards-led (and Maurice Jones-Drew-less) Jacksonville Jaguars below that threshold. The solution: out with defensive coordinator Frank Bush and the 4-3 defense, and in with Wade Phillips and the 3-4.

The Texans probably have the right parts on the defensive line to run Phillips' version of a 3-4, which places less of a premium on large space-eating defensive linemen. Their problem is that they may not have four linebackers who could start in the 3-4.

The projected starting linebackers include two players who ended the season on Injured Reserve, DeMeco Ryans and Connor Barwin. Ryans should stay in the middle as one of the inside linebackers, while Barwin will have to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. He looked like a capable pass rusher as a rookie in 2009 with 4.5 sacks, and he should do reasonably well. Brian Cushing will be another of the starters at linebacker, and he was much less impressive after his return from a season-opening suspension but still was not a bad player. His skills are better suited for an inside linebacker position next to Ryans, as he probably does not have enough burst to get around even right tackles. If Cushing does indeed move to the inside, the Texans need another outside linebacker. There is no good candidate on the roster for the role, so that is a position the Texans must address in free agency or the draft.

Once they find enough players to run their preferred defensive scheme, the Texans also need to fix their secondary. The best place to start is by finding a good free safety, something they have lacked in the nine years of their existence. Eugene Wilson started 13 games there this year but was not very good, and Troy Nolan does not appear to be the answer either. The Texans will also need to retain or replace strong safety Bernard Pollard, a capable run-stopper whose limitations in both man and zone coverage were revealed and frequently exploited in 2010. The Texans could also use a cornerback or two, but they will probably instead rely on new secondary coach Vance Joseph work on improving 2010 first-round pick Kareem Jackson, who had a poor rookie season.

Free Agency, Whenever It Happens, Watch

The Texans have a couple moderately prominent potential free agents. As indicated above, strong safety Bernard Pollard will be a free agent and could be allowed to leave. The other key free agents are on offense, led by the NFL's leading rusher in 2010, Arian Foster. Foster is scheduled to be an exclusive rights free agent, so the Texans should not have to worry about losing him. They will still want to avoid the sort of extended holdout that that the Titans underwent with Chris Johnson last offseason.

The Texans have two more offensive starters who might be allowed to depart. Fullback Vonta Leach had a good 2010 after a mediocre 2009, but he is 29 and may be let go. Tight end Owen Daniels had a slow recovery after a season-ending injury in 2009 and only rarely flashed the vertical explosiveness that made him fifth in DVOA among tight ends in 2009. Third wideout Jacoby Jones is also a free agent, and the Texans may let him go elsewhere.

On defense, they'll need to pick up linebackers, linebackers, corners, and safeties. Nnamdi Asomugha would certainly help shore up the secondary. Eric Weddle would fill the need at safety. If any of Tamba Hali, LaMarr Woodley, or David Harris ends up as a free agent, the Texans should take a long look at him. While Wade Phillips' 3-4 puts less of a premium on large space-eating lineman, the Texans could still look to add a nose tackle like Shaun Rogers or Aubrayo Franklin.

Indianapolis Colts: Who's going to play with Peyton Manning?

The Colts' biggest need is obviously to re-sign Peyton Manning, who is not under contract for the 2011 season. They will use the franchise tag on him, if available, if they cannot agree on the terms of a new contract. Everything the Colts do is based on his unique skills, and the team falls apart without him.

When the Colts and Manning do agree on a new deal, the Colts need to figure out who will be playing around and in front of him. Reggie Wayne had another good year in 2010 but is 32 years old. When Marvin Harrison was 32, Wayne was around to help him carry the load. It's not clear who might play that role for Wayne. Anthony Gonzalez seemed like he might be that player when the Colts made him a first-round pick in 2007, but has not been able to stay healthy, appearing in only three games in the last two seasons. Pierre Garcon started opposite Wayne, but put up below-average numbers and appears better suited as a complementary player. Like Gonzalez, third wideout Austin Collie has serious injury issues after suffering multiple concussions in 2010.

The second most important Colts' pass-catcher of recent years has been tight end Dallas Clark, who turns 32 in June and ended 2010 on Injured Reserve. Few tight ends are productive long into their 30s, and his prominence has been partly a result of his ability to stretch seams, which age will likely sap. Jacob Tamme was productive in Clark's absence, but he is not as proficient a seam-stretcher or blocker as a younger Clark.

Of course, Tamme's mediocre blocking ability fits in well with the Colts' offensive line. A year after the line ranked 26th in Adjusted Line Yards and Bill Polian singled the unit out after the Super Bowl los, the Colts failed to address the unit in free agency or early in the draft and once again ranked 26th in Adjusted Line Yards. The most obvious weakness is Charlie Johnson at left tackle, but could probably use an upgrade at every offensive line position as even mainstay center Jeff Saturday turns 36 in June.

Unless the Texans are able to vastly improve their defense, the Colts have the inside track at winning what looks like another weak AFC South in 2011. But if they are to win another Super Bowl, Peyton Manning, like John Elway late in his career, needs an infusion of talented youth on offense.

Free Agency, Whenever It Happens, Watch

Beyond Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai is the biggest potential free agent. He is probably most valuable with and to the Colts, so he seems like a good candidate to return. The Colts may keep Adam Vinatieri for another year, as he was a better distance kicker in 2010 than he had been for several years, and punter Pat McAfee handles kickoffs. On defense, linebacker Clint Session is the only big name.

Potential tampering aside, owner Jim Irsay tweeted the Colts weren't interested in Asomugha and were committed to developing through the draft. If the Colts do go after somebody in free agency, it would probably be an offensive lineman. Logan Mankins is the highest profile name and draws most of the attention, but Redskins tackle Jammal Brown or Packers guard Daryn Colledge could also be targets.

Jaguars: Can't anybody here play defensive back?

In 2009, the Jaguars finished next to last in the NFL in pass defense with a DVOA of 39.8%, and we highlighted their need for upgrades at defensive back last offseason. The Jaguars responded by adding defensive end Aaron Kampman with their big free-agent move, then drafting defensive linemen with their first four picks.

The pass rush actually did improve, as the Jaguars jumped from 14 to 26 sacks and from next to last in Adjusted Sack Rate to 22nd. The pass defense as a whole also improved, but only from 31st in the league to 30th.

The Jaguars' biggest move in the secondary last offseason was trading first-round bust safety Reggie Nelson to the Cincinnati Bengals for cornerback David Jones, then inserting Jones into the starting lineup. Jones started five games and yielded an average of 12.2 yards per play when he was in coverage before being relegated to the bench. For a better idea of just how bad that was, only three other corners gave up more than 10 yards per play, and passes completed against holes in zone coverage only netted 11.6 yards per play.

Unfortunately for the Jaguars, the starter opposite Jones, Rashean Mathis, was another member of that elite quartet of corners that gave up at least 10 yards per play. Mathis turns 31 in August, and the Jaguars should not count on him in 2011 to play as well as he did in 2010 -- or to be healthy for all 16 games, as he was for the first time since 2006. Jones's replacement, Derek Cox, wasn't as bad, but Jones's insertion in the starting lineup in the first place was a sign of the Jaguars' displeasure with Cox's lack of development.

Good safety play would undoubtedly help the Jaguars corners perform at a higher level, but unfortunately even competent safety play was at a premium in Jacksonville in 2010. Converted (failed) cornerback Don Carey was the primary starter at free safety and was neither very good in coverage nor a proficient tackler. Strong safety Courtney Greene was also not very good at tackling, primarily because he did not take very good angles to the ball. The Jaguars were desperate enough to give veteran Sean Considine five more starts at safety to help show why the Eagles were so willing to part ways with him. General manager Gene Smith simply must upgrade the Jaguars' personnel in the secondary, or they will be one of the league's most porous pass defenses once again in 2011.

Free Agency, Whenever It Happens, Watch

Marcedes Lewis had another excellent year in 2010 and is one of the league's most complete tight ends. The Jaguars will probably give him the franchise tag if they cannot agree to a new deal in time. Wideout Mike Sims-Walker could also be a free agent, and the Jaguars will look to retain him at a reasonable price. Backup quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Luke McCown are both free agents.

On defense, the biggest free agents are starting linebackers Kirk Morrison and Justin Durant. Morrison was a minor disappointment after being acquired from the Raiders, while Durant has had an up and down career.

Add the Jaguars to the list of teams who could be interested in Asomugha and Weddle. They will likely be conservative in free agency, and their targets will depend on who departs. If Sims-Walker leaves, a player like Mark Clayton could be a target. If both Edwards and McCown leave, expect them to add a veteran quarterback. If Morrison and Durant leave, linebacker is another position they could address. Either Barrett Ruud or Paul Posluszny could be a good fit in the middle.

Titans: What kind of team and quarterback does Munchak want?

For the first time since the run-up to the 1994 season, the Tennessee Titans will go through an offseason with someone other than Jeff Fisher at head coach. In the past 15 years, Fisher developed an identity as a defensive-minded head coach who preferred to move the ball on the ground and play tough, physical football. Fisher is now gone, replaced by offensive line coach and Hall of Fame offensive lineman Mike Munchak. With that kind of internal replacement, continuity seemed to be in order, only for Munchak to quickly fire offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger.

With defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil already fired, Munchak has a chance to put his stamp on the team. Moving directly from position coach to head coach, he has not defined his style as a coordinator and exactly what sort of offense or defense he wants to run is largely a mystery. Who he hires to fill the coordinator positions should help answer those questions -- and should help dictate what kind of personnel changes the Titans need to make this offseason.

The biggest known personnel change will be at quarterback, where the team announced in early January Vince Young would not be brought back for the final year of his contract. Jeff Fisher may have been cast as the primary antagonist in Young's battle for NFL respect, but he was not the only one, and Munchak's hire does not mean Young will be back. That leaves 2010 sixth-round draft choice Rusty Smith as the only quarterback under contract.

Smith was a pet project of Heimerdinger, and his poor performance in his only 2010 start, a shutout loss to the Texans, makes it unlikely a new offensive coordinator would take a similar shine to him. Kerry Collins is a free agent, and unless the Titans will run a similar offensive scheme to Heimerdinger's, the rationale for bringing him back seems to be gone.

The Titans could choose to go in a number of different directions, adding a possible longer-term option like Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton, trying to win in the short run with a veteran quarterback like Carson Palmer or Donovan McNabb, or using the highest pick they've had since taking Young third overall in 2006 on a promising rookie. Whichever directions Munchak chooses to go, at offensive and defensive coordinator and in acquiring a quarterback, he must be sure to choose as wisely: Wrong choices could lead him to the unemployment line, and right choices could lead to another long-tenured head coach for the Titans franchise.

Free Agency, Whenever It Happens, Watch

We know quarterback Vince Young will be gone, even though he's not strictly a free agent. Quarterbacks Kerry Collins and Chris Simms are also doubtful to return. Randy Moss is out of contract and won't be re-signed. Tight end Bo Scaife is a long shot to get another contract. Left guard Leroy Harris had a disappointing year and may not be brought back.

On defense, defensive end Jason Babin's return became less likely with the departure of defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and the Titans probably will not use the franchise tag on him. The team has not recently put a premium on middle linebacker, so Stephen Tulloch may not be retained.

Beyond quarterback, linebacker and defensive end may be the biggest positions of need, especially if Tulloch and Babin are not brought back. Chad Greenway would fill the need at outside linebacker, while Barrett Ruud would fit in the middle. At defensive end, Mathias Kiwanuka or Charles Johnson may be attractive targets. The Titans may also look to improve the interior offensive line.

Portions of this article originally appeared on ESPN.com Insider.

Posted by: Tom Gower on 15 Feb 2011

48 comments, Last at 21 May 2011, 2:53pm by Benny


by JW (not verified) :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:04pm

I remember reading that Mario Williams was being moved to OLB for Houston - not sure if it's been confirmed.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:09pm

That would certainly make the most sense. Williams = DeMarcus Ware? I can't believe it wasn't mentioned in the article.

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:13pm

From my memory, Williams is not great in coverage. Cushing and Ryans are not great in this arena either. Barwin has shown some ability but he is a converted TE who played one year of DE in college, one year spot situations for the Texans and one year on injured reserve. This may be a concern or it may not. I suspect Mario will be moved all over to try and get him a free shot at the QB.

by Randy Hedberg (not verified) :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:36pm

How about Williams = Charles Haley, 49ers edition? He could be devastating as a standup DE/OLB that is free to rush the passer from wherever, while rarely dropping into coverage.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 10:08pm

Who said anything about playing coverage? Playing a 3-4 OLB does not imply that you'll be in coverage more than one or two plays per game.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:15pm

I was thinking the same thing, though he might have to lose about 15 lbs. Then the front seven would be: Smith, Okam and Okoye on the line with Williams, Ryans, Cushing and Barwin at linebacker. Looks quite scary, especially if they win the Nmandi sweepstakes.

by Tom Gower :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:28pm

Wade was a little ambiguous in his most recent comments re what position Mario will play. If you had to line up the Texans Week 1 2011 with their current roster, Mario would probably play OLB just because the Texans need linebackers, but I think he ends up playing DE in a Bruce Smith role.

by Dean :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 4:13pm

With his size, I would think he'd be a natural fit for a 3-4 end.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 8:08pm

Seconded. I've seen nothing from Phillips suggesting Williams will play linebacker, and plenty hinting that he'll play end. Bruce Smith is always the player mentioned.

I'm reasonably high on Barwin, and I think the ends are going to be a stellar group, with Earl Mitchell coming into the rotation behind Williams and Smith. I don't think anyone on the roster has even the slightest chance of being a good solution at nose tackle, and I'm not at all convinced that Ryans will work well as a 3-4 ILB; just look at Vilma in New York. Sharpton might be quite effective inside - I guess we'll see.

None of it matters a lick if they don't sort out the secondary.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 02/17/2011 - 1:05pm

If they're moving to a system similar to the one Buffalo used to run then wouldn't Barwin play Marcus Patton's spot with Ryans doing his best Cornelius Bennett impersonation? I could see that working very well.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 02/18/2011 - 9:33am

I'm guessing you mean Barwin in Bennett's spot and Ryans in Patton's, no?

Thing is, Patton never played for Phillips in Buffalo - he left the offseason Wade arrived. Bennett played one season under Phillips - 1995 - and if PFR is to be believed he was moved inside to RILB for that season and put up precisely two sacks.

Fundamentally, the issue is this: Phillips expects his defensive linemen to do less block-absorption and more gap-shooting than is typical in a 3-4. That means that even more than a typical 3-4 ILB, Ryans will be expected to take on blockers. That is not his strength: he reads well, tackles soundly and has (or had, pre-injury) excellent range, but he can be blocked out of a play. Cushing is probably pretty well-suited to the position: taking on blockers at the point of attack is his specialty. Ryans, not so much.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:34pm

A few thoughts. Firstly, is Pollard any good? It seems like he's been torched wherever he's been but he has played on some awful units. Is it him or has he simply been let down by his team mates.

Secondly, I know that this is not going to be popular with Colts fans but is it time for Manning to move on? Many of the Colts' star players on offense are looking rather long in the tooth is there another Championship run in them? There are quite a few teams that he would transform and would offer him a better chance to win one more title. I would suggest the 49ers, not that I'm being biased.

Finally, what's the value of Vince Young. Just a look at his stats for the last two years:

Passer Rating 2009:82.9 2010:98.2
DVOA 2009:17.7 2010:26.9

He has completed about 59% of his passes for 20TDs and 10 INTs over the last two seasons.

The fella doesn't seem to be the most commited player and could be a real pain but it does look like he might be a decent qb.

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 4:21pm

Via the eye test Pollard hits hard but is not good in coverage. This would be ok on a team with a strong secondary to make up for his coverage deficiencies. Not ok for the Texans unless they find a different answer at CB and free safety.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 8:22pm

Yeah, he's excellent in run support and as a blitzer, but terrible in coverage. That still makes him one of the best players in the Texans secondary, because most of them suck at absolutely everything.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 6:57pm

How many of those teams would be willing to offer Manning what the Colts can offer him, and would those teams be willing to cede to him the same degree of control over the offense that he has in Indy now?

I'm not sure that Manning is really interested in winning another ring on a different team, but it does seem a bit unlikely at this point that the Colts will be able to fill enough holes on offense to be legitimate contenders again.

I think the value of Vince Young depends heavily on intangibles ... if his recent troubles in Tennessee were just the result of frustration with Fisher and/or Heimerdinger, then it may not affect his value to other teams much. It may cause another team to give up on him more quickly, though, if a similar pattern recurs ...

by Bobman :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 1:29am

I don't see how Manning has a better chance with another team (that is, a team remotely likely to sign him--while it's easy to say 27 other teams in the league would love to have him, it's not that simple). He owns the offense and has played with a half dozen guys for a half dozen years and they share in that ownership. It would take a while for him to implement the Manning O on another team (if given free reign, which I assume they'd have to do), and that team would then be hamstrung by what they'd have to give up to get him (financially and player-wise).

The Bears stand out as a team that would probably go for it and their D and ST (Hester) could help hinm win a couple more rings. But along with his old school approach, his streak, his work ethic, his regular Joe-ness, he seems like the kind of guy who puts a high value on playing for one team his whole career.

The problem with Young is that he is talented and has decent numbers,but it's at such a critical position that demands maturity, decision-making, and leadership as well as good stats. And worth ethic.... If he was a RB or TE or WR or even defensive player putting up similar numbers compared to his position peers, he'd have little problem finding a team. But putting him at QB is a little like Young Frankenstein putting an abnormal brain in his creation. A little too risky when your organization is worth $1B. Always fun working in a Mel Brooks ref.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 1:48am

The Bears would not go for it. I'm 90% sure. Angelo and Lovie are married to Cutler.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 11:29am

Give up to get him? Isn't he a free agent? They wouldn't have to give up anything to get him. They'd have to pay him, sure, but how many teams in the league wouldn't rather have a franchise quarterback with a franchise pricetag than not?

by Marcumzilla :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 12:09pm

I think they're referring to the first round picks the team would need to give up if the Colts had used the non-exclusive franchise tag.

by Monkey Business (not verified) :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 10:53am

Let's take a swing at your hypothesis that Manning needs to move on.

First, let's assume he has five years left in his career. That would put up at 40 at retirement, which sounds about right.
Secondly, let's assume that he's only going to go to a team with a need at quarterback.
Thirdly, let's assume that he's only going to go to a team that would immediately be a championship contender with him.

So, let's start eliminating teams with either franchise or promising young quarterbacks. That eliminates Indy, Houston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New England, New York A, San Diego, Denver, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York B, and St. Louis.

That leaves Jacksonville, Tennessee, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, Carolina, Minnesota, Washington, Seattle, Arizona, and San Francisco.

Of those teams, the only one I could see Manning going to is Minnesota. Good defense, strong running game, good offensive line, playmakers in the receiving corps, and Leslie Frazier is a Dungy disciple. Moreover, they have the cap room to do it, with $108 million on the books right now.

I ruled out the 49ers because frankly, even with Manning, the 49ers are two or three years away from contention. Also, the team isn't very stable from a management standpoint.

So now, you now have one very large question. How do you pry Manning, who seems to genuinely love playing in Indianapolis, away from the Colts, who have already said they want to make him the highest paid player in history?

Long story short, it's so unlikely as to be basically impossible.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 11:40am

I ruled out the 49ers because frankly, even with Manning, the 49ers are two or three years away from contention.

Shoot, last year people everywhere were ready to crown the 49ers superbowl contenders if they'd traded for McNabb. I still read weekly how well they would have done if they'd gotten McNabb, how their only big hole is quarterback.

Still, chances of Manning leaving Indianapolis have got to be slim to none.

Umm, isn't "cap room" an obsolete phrase? There was no salary cap last year.

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 3:28pm

The 49ers actually had the highest DVOA in their division

by tuluse :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 3:32pm

Just ask Will Allen how good that Minnesota line is.

Not sure how good the defense is either. The d-line is pretty good, and the linebackers do their jobs (though none of them really excel), but the secondary is not very good.

Actually, the Vikings are built a lot like the Colts. Only they don't have Peyton Manning and the receivers are a lot younger, and AP of course.

by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:35pm

The Titans offense is going to be such a mess. When Rusty Smith is your only QB on your roster, you got serious problems.

by Randy Hedberg (not verified) :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 3:37pm

It's a pity that the Titans are going to waste the best years of a runner as exciting as Chris Johnson.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 4:08pm

Steven Jackson agrees.

I had no idea what bad shape Tenn is in. Wow.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 6:03pm

There are rumors of a Matt Flynn trade to Tenn up in Packerland. If that would actually happen who knows and Flynn is still fairly unknown, but he only has 1 year left on his rookie contract. I like him as a back-up but there seems to be a lot of buzz around Graham Harrell being capable so I could see the right deal getting Ted to pull the trigger and drafting another mid rounder as the 3rd string or back-up. It's not like the Packers haven't shipped out capable back-ups before, though that was under different management.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 02/17/2011 - 9:26am

I could ask my brothers (two live in GB). This sounds like wishful thinking by the Packers faithful. I think Flynn showed he might be a capable QB in the New England game. Not sure if that will be enough to get teams interested like they were for Brunell and Hasselbeck. Flynn reminds me more of Ty Detmer, smart but not athletic enough to be more than a career backup. If a team is willing to part with a first or second round pick, I could see the trade. But I don't think he'd be worth more than Whitehurst, a third round pick and swap of second round picks. Rodgers has shown to be more durable than many people thought, but he won't be mistaken for Favre or Manning in the durability department. The Packers need to keep a capable backup on the roster. I don't think that is Graham Harrell. I might have more confidence in Brian Brohm.

by Brett (not verified) :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 4:07pm

Kenny Britt is the key to the Titans QB performance. When he was healthy last year, both Collins and Young played great, but when he was injured both looked mediocre with no other receiver on the team capable of consistently forcing and beating double coverage.

by Ben 14 (not verified) :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 4:11pm

I wouldn't count Cushing out as an OLB. He played a hybrid DE/OLB position at USC from an even front.

by Tom Gower :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 6:55pm

In the interview I linked to upthread, Wade talked about Cushing playing ILB, so that's where I expect him to play.

by Duke :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 6:46pm

In 2009, the Jaguars finished next to last in the NFL in pass defense with a DVOA of -39.8%

Unless I'm momentarily forgetting how DVOA works, that DVOA should probably be +39.8%, not -39.8%.

by Independent George :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 7:46pm

Wasn't Bum Phillips' rationale for the 3-4 that he had more good LBs than good DL? Why would Wade be so wedded to the 3-4, just because that's what his Dad ran, than adopting his Dad's logic and just applying his defense to the parts he has available?

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 10:20pm

Excellent question!

by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 02/18/2011 - 12:35pm

I don't know the answer to this question, but I believe the answer to be that since Bum Phillips' time, defenses have become much more schematic. Being a 3-4 coach means more than it used to, in part because it's part of your resume. If you then go and coach a 4-3, even based on personnel, it dilutes your resume. So Wade has to coach a 3-4 wherever he goes because that is what he's brought in to do.

by Bionicman :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 7:48pm

Just unbelievable. According to DVOA, the Colts were 19th in rush defense, 26th in pass defense, and 31st in special teams, yet all the talk (both in the article and the comments) is about the their 6th ranked offense, with a focus on their 5th ranked pass offense.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 02/15/2011 - 9:20pm

Have to agree. The only mention of any FO stat in the Colts section is the ALY, which is bad, but its been bad before.

Do the Colts really need to fix an offense that despite massive injuries to almost every skill position player (only Wayne played all 16 games of teh major TEs, RBs and WRs) finished 6th in DVOA, going 5th in passing and 10th in rushing??

How about adding to the pass rush. Getting some good DTs. Getting another SS.

by Bobman :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 1:42am

I am pretty optimistic about the DL; I thought the no-name DTs played better as the year went on and Hughes should take the sophamore step up next season at DE and actually spell Mathis and Freeney (or at the very least, be on the active freakin' roster!).

I think it was the back-seven injuries that crippled the D. If they had JUST one more healthy starter at S and DB all season, that team would have ranked higher as well as won one or two of those close games, particularly the last one. Now I am not saying I am content with the back seven and I'll just stick my head in the sand hoping for good health--I'd love more LB depth (or a starter upgrade) as well as another viable starter at CB and S. Put another way: Aaron Francisco's greatest contribution should be on special teams. Perhaps his only one. He stepped in gamely and started a bunch of games, but I really don't want to see that again.

Oh, and as in years past, I'd give a nut for them to pick in the first three rounds a stud KR/PR. How many years can you "lead" the league in worst starting field position? That PFR article on playoff QBs and their starting field position was insane--it's like Manning is playing with the deck stacked against him in that regard. If they really want to help him, Yes, an OT would be great. But a five yard bump per possession would lighten his load as well.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 3:31am

I would call it a freak case that the starting, backup and backup's backup at SS all got hurt. Bob obviously isn't a surprise at this point, but Bullitt had stayed healthy most of his career.

It's all about injuries with the Colts, as it always is. Their depth at CB is there. Powers is a good young player (and he was really missed in the playoffs - as was Hayden). They have that 3rd round pick from last year who got hurt in camp. They have the bodies, its just if the bodies play well and stay there.

by Tom Gower :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 2:14am

Should have been included in the article: Peyton had his worst DVOA since 2002, when Edgerrin James was lost with a season-ending injury and a young Dom Rhodes was unable to fill the same role. The mainstay of the Colts' continued success has been Peyton Manning, yes, but Peyton with an excellent cast of "skill position" players around him. As I said in the article, the Colts can probably win the division with Reggie Wayne and a bunch of JAGs around Peyton in 2011, but they're not going to be an elite offense or serious Super Bowl contenders.

Could the Colts really use a defensive upgrade, too? Well, they did have a better defensive DVOA in 2010 than they did in 2006, when they won the Super Bowl. Still, I'll say yes, and will probably write more about that in a future edition of Four Downs, just like I'll write more about the Jaguars' need at quarterback and the Titans' need to upgrade a pass defense that was even worse than the Colts the second half of last year.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 3:29am

Didn't his DVOA only start to drop once his "skill position" players started dropping around the Washington game. At least in conventional stats he was money until then, when Clark and Addai went out. Two games later it was Collie, and then Garcon couldn't get over the drops.

I guess this plays into your point, that health is a big factor (as are Wayne and Clark avoiding the usual downward trend at their age at their positions), but most Colts fans will tell you how important Joseph Addai is to that team, and his injury, which was pretty flukey (and he doesn't have a huge history of injuries), was about as important to the Colts lagging play in the middle of the season as Collie or Clark.

by John (not verified) :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 9:02pm

When injuries started piling up on offense and Peyton started struggling, I wondered if it's really the skill dropoff, or the experience lost.

If Manning started a year with inexperienced receivers and they stayed healthy, instead of starting with the "name" guys who then proceeded to get injured, would the end result be different? The Colts pass offense is so heavily reliant on timing and joint decision-making, that I have to wonder if Peyton could make unknowns world-beaters if only they had a full pre-season and season to work on it.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 10:02pm

We got that answer to a bit in 2009. Garcon was unproven and Collie was forced into action when Gonzo went down in Week 1. By the end of the year, they were both playing pretty well. The injuries just happened too constantly this year, and at every position, unlike 2009 when it was limited to just WR.

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/17/2011 - 2:13pm

Well, there is an explanation for that. In particular, the defense and the receivers were beaten up by injuries this year; they were playing a 4th string FS, missing 2-3 CB's, 2-3 LB's, TE, 2nd and 3rd WR's (Gonzalez and Collie) and had their only two decent DL, best WR, and 4th WR (Garcon) hobbled by the playoffs. Plus however you choose to describe the RB situation. Maybe Garcon was healthy, but I prefer to think that his goliath of suck of a season was at least partially due to lingering injuries (he did miss a few games).

So to some extent, the offensive line was the only part of the team that sucked because of who the starters were, rather than because the Colts were fielding their practice squad players. If the Colts take anything but linemen in this draft, I will scream, but I would be happy if they spent a few second-day picks on the defensive side of the ball, rather than at LT.

Seriously, Peyton's DVOA and the offense's woes generally (and the offense's DVOA suffers from serious "Philadelphia Disease", in that the short-passing offense pleases the DVOA gods but not the fans who want wins) were more about injuries and line play than personnel problems at skill positions.

That said, the team's failure to win Super Bowls since 2006 has a lot to do with draft busts like Ugoh (who Polian moved up to get), Hughes, Brown, and Gonzalez (although the latter at least is a talented player with injury issues, rather than a dink like the other two). The Colts have not drafted well in the early rounds in a long time, and it isn't just that they're a perennial playoff team; they aren't even getting value for the 26-32 range of picks.

by Bobman :: Thu, 02/17/2011 - 4:30pm

kick/punt returner, in rounds 1, 2, and 3. Then a handful of OTs.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 12:09am

Colts: Take Daryn Colledge. Please.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 02/16/2011 - 8:29pm

The Texans have, have, have to be agressive in free agency. It would be insane to waste this great offense by refusing to accept the need to import veteran talent on the other side of the ball, especially when there are good players available at the positions of clearest need - NT, CB and safety. Add Asomugha, Weddle and one of the various available nose tackles, and the team starts to look like a championship contender.

I strongly suspect, however, that it won't happen.

As to the guys already on the roster, I imagine they'll fight to keep Leach (dude was All Pro with good reason). I suspect Daniels and Pollard are probably gone. Jones is a tough one to call: he's so talented, and he really looked good at times towards the end of the season, but he does just drop so many damn balls. I suspect he'll go too.

by Benny (not verified) :: Sat, 05/21/2011 - 2:53pm

I would watch out for Houston this year. I think they are extremely legit!