Day: August 19, 2010

Gridiron Blitz: Indianapolis Colts Preview

The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Indianapolis Colts

Music to listen to: Rain on the Scarecrow by John Cougar Mellencamp

 

Weak options for the city. It came down to Babyface and John Cougar Mellencamp. I couldn’t pick some soft music. Give me the Cougar!

Current State: The last time we saw the Colts, we saw them blow a first-half lead to New Orleans in the Super Bowl. Since then, minimal attention has been paid to a franchise that returns the only-ever four-time NFL MVP and arguably the best ever at his position and returns nearly everybody from its conference winning squad. More attention has been paid to New England, the Jets, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minnesota, New Orleans and even San Diego and Green Bay before the Colts. This is the same team that was only two games away from finishing the regular season undefeated and has been the class of the entire conference the past decade besides New England and maybe Pittsburgh.

The Colts may be the most under-publicized preseason Super Bowl favorite in recent memory.

Biggest Change: The thing about the Colts is they don’t make changes.

If you want to be critical, you can say that they released left tackle Ryan Lilja in the offseason, which did happen, but that wasn’t a change worthy of significant attention.

The biggest change is that the Colts may finally have its two best defensive players back healthy this season in defensive end Dwight Freeney and safety Bob Sanders. If they get those two players back in full form, there isn’t a reason for the Colts to not return to the Super Bowl.

For the coaching personnel, the Colts have brought in a new “play-caller” named Clyde Christensen on to the offensive staff. However, long-time offensive coordinator Tom Moore is still around and Peyton Manning has the most control any quarterback has on any offense in the league. Once again a change is technically made but doesn’t register high on the overall impact of the team.

Uniform Grade: They have the most basic uniforms outside of Cleveland in the entire league. I’ve seen the new unis that they displayed last week in its first preseason game. If anything, they look even plainer than the normal ones. Uniform designers, please add something to this year’s kit. A black jersey. An all-blue look. A blue-based colored helmet not like the one in the preseason. Let’s take some chances out there. Grade: C-

Best Player: I’ve always said when you have a discussion of the best player at a particular position and you start it with “besides player X, who is the best position Y in the league?”

We’ve reached the point where you have to say “Besides Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who are the best quarterbacks in the league.”

In football, only Jerry Rice and Jim Brown get that distinction in all-time discussions. Manning has done it for the current quarterbacks today.

That’s a big compliment to Manning but what will his legacy ultimately be?

He has one championship so he doesn’t have to deal with the same thing that guys like Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Dan Fouts and others have to. Manning will own nearly every passing record when he completes his career. Brett Farve has to retire at some point and Manning will pass him.

However, Manning has three things working against him. First, he will always be compared with Brady as a contemporary and will most likely finish with less championships than the Patriots quarterback. Fans and analysts who look as championships as the ultimate determinant on ranking quarterbacks will look down on Manning.

Second, he has played in the same era as Brett Farve, a media darling who will be remembered as a top-five quarterback, deserved or not.

The most tangible issue is that Manning has played twelve full seasons, starting in 192 consecutive games and is 34 years old. While he has showed some amazing durability and has the desire to keep playing, the physical demands of the position will eventually wear him down.

However, that won’t happen this year.

Most Important Player: Its definitely Manning but we’ll look a bit further into the team.

Offensive players such as Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday serve as very productive players at their positions but the defense also has to play at an elite level for the Colts to reach its top goals.

When he’s completely healthy, Freeney may be the best defensive end in the entire league and anchors the Colts defensive unit. Robert Mathis is also an elite defender.

Best Case: Everything that happened last year, top-line offense, excellent defense, another MVP season from Manning, continues this year. Throw in a more productive rushing attack and you have not only an AFC South title but the best record in the NFL. A return trip to a Super Bowl happens but this time a victory and the core unit has its second title in the past few years.

Worst Case: Injuries continue to hamper the defense. Manning gets dinged up and is mortal. The offensive line continues to show some struggles from last year. Wins the AFC South but bows out of the playoffs early.

Coaching: Jim Caldwell has been the head coach that realizes that if you have an efficient organization from top to bottom with a Hall of Fame quarterback and maybe the top general manager ever in the sport, you keep things the same. Some may criticize Caldwell’s quiet approach but if things work, why would you change it.

I will say that the only thing that may be held against him from some including myself was the lack of effort to preserve the undefeated season. By giving up the regular season game to the Jets to rest for the playoffs was not a smart move because your players wanted to reach that record. There may be a slight dissection in the locker room if the same situation takes place this year but that’s a minor critique.

First memory of team: I had no opinion of the Colts until they made a run in 1995 to the AFC Championship Game. At that time, I always went for the underdog and jumped on the bandwagon when they won at San Diego and Kansas City in the playoffs.

They eventually fell to the Steelers but I liked the spunk of Jim Harbaugh, the starting quarterback at that time.

Schedule: They have to deal with Tennessee, Houston and Jacksonville in the division.

As far as home games, they get the New York Giants, Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Diego and Dallas. That’s an average slate with the Chargers and Cowboys looking like the most trouble. The road games will be at Denver, Washington, Philadelphia, New England and Oakland. Those are tough games against traditionally strong home teams.

City Nicknames: The city has several including Indy, The Circle City, The Indy City, Crossroads of America, The Racing Capital of the World, Naptown and Amateur Sports Capital of the World. I like none of them accept maybe The Circle City.

Fantasy Focus: This is one of the stronger fantasy football teams in the league. Manning should be one of the first quarterbacks taken alongside Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and maybe Tony Romo. Don’t like the running back situation because Donald Brown and Joseph Addai will be splitting carries. Reggie Wayne is a top-receiver and if Dallas Clark is considered a tight end in your league, you have to jump on that.

Overall Outlook: Similar to my Pittsburgh Steelers preview, you know exactly what you’re going to get from the Colts. Their true season begins in the playoffs. Expect another division title and possibly a top-seed in the playoffs.

Final Record: 12-4

Gridiron Blitz 2010 Season Previews:

AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Baltimore Ravens

Pittsbirgh Steelers

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Triple Option Attack: #17 Georgia Tech

Next up on the Triple Option Attack is #17 Georgia Tech

Music to listen to: B.O.B by Outkast

There are a variety of choices that I can make because Atlanta has produced a significant amount of musical talent over the years. However in my music choices for the Triple Option Attack, I haven’t had any hip hop and that’s an injustice. I’m going with the first rap artists I ever heard from Atlanta when I was a young pup. B.O.B. is my favorite song of Outkast so there you go. Plus props to Big Boy for wearing an LT jersey.

The Story: Georgia Tech reached levels last season that it hadn’t achieved in several years. The Yellow Jackets won its first outright ACC championship since 1990, the same season Georgia Tech won its last national title. Despite losing its two finals game of the season, at home against Georgia and in the Orange Bowl to Iowa, fans and analysts have shown the prospects of this upcoming season to be positive for the team. The Jackets do have to replace four out its five top players from a season ago, including two NFL first-round picks.

Last Season: Finished the year 11-3, tying the most wins the program has had in one season. However, the three losses truly hurt the squad from possibly playing for or at least competing for the national title. The Yellow Jackets lost at Miami, to Georgia and Iowa. All three of those opponents had a bye week or longer to prepare to defend Georgia Tech’s triple option offense.

Offense: The Yellow Jackets run the triple option offense exclusively, making it unique in the fact that they are the only school in a major conference to practice it. The head coach of Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson, has used the offense his entire career and mastered all of the variables that come with it.

The trigger of the option for Tech is senior quarterback and dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate Joshua Nesbitt. Along with running back Roddy Jones, the Jackets hope to continue where it left off last year with arguably the most productive rushing attack in the entire nation.

However, the Jackets do lose All-ACC performers this year in running back Jonathan Dwyer and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, both of whom are now in the NFL. The good news is that Tech returns a majority of its offensive line as well as has significant depth at running back. Replacing Thomas as the primary receiver will be Stephen Hill.

Defense: While the offense seeks to keep continuity, the defense is going through a transition in personnel and scheme.

The biggest change is the addition of former Virginia head coach Al Groh as the new defensive coordinator. He will switch the team to using a 3-4 scheme as the base defense. His first task will be to find replacements for two elite defenders, defensive lineman Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett who have moved on to the NFL.

The squad doesn’t return any preseason All-ACC selections but potentially return up to six of its seven starting defensive linemen and linebackers.

It takes time for a defense to change its scheme completely, sometimes up to an entire season so this has to be a concern.

The Schedule

Sept. 4 vs. SOUTH CAROLINA STATE
Sept. 11 at Kansas
Sept. 18 at North Carolina
Sept. 25 vs. NC STATE
Oct. 2 at Wake Forest
Oct. 9 vs. VIRGINIA
Oct. 16 vs. MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
Oct. 23 at Clemson
Nov. 4 (Thur) at Virginia Tech
Nov. 13 vs. MIAMI
Nov. 20 vs. DUKE
Nov. 27 at Georgia

The schedule has two disadvantages. First, the toughest games look to be on the road accept for Miami. Secondly, its back loaded with a final four-week period, including games at conference favorite Virginia Tech, home against Miami and at Georgia. The Jackets can be 8-0 before hitting that stretch but must also make trips to Kansas, North Carolina and Clemson.

Most Famous Sports Alum: Tough list. You can go with Bobby Jones, arguably one of the best golfers in history and creator of the Masters. Keith Brooking and Calvin Johnson are known in the football world.

However, if we’re going to go with fame at this time, it would tough to go against Chris Bosh, now of the Miami Heat with the actions of this summer. Even non-NBA fans at least know that he’s on the same team as Lebron James.

Most “badass“ alum: Usually this section would be reserved for the “crush” who is also an alum. However, and I say this as a fan of the program and school, the list of women to choose from was the weakest of this series so far.

Instead, we’re going to go with the most “badass” alum in this case and when you produce a President of the United States, it doesn’t get more powerful and “badass” than that. Congrats President Carter. Your Noble Prize has nothing on this honor!

Prediction: 10-2

The toughest teams to predict for are the ones that you’re a fan of. The two losses that I see right now are at Virginia Tech and Georgia. However, losses to Miami, North Carolina and even Clemson would not be surprising. Overall, I think that the squad will find a way to get ten wins but won’t repeat as ACC Champions.

Sports Inquirer Top-25 Preseason College Football Poll:

#25 West Virginia

#24 South Carolina

#23 Auburn

#22 Oregon State

#21 Arkansas

#20 Florida State

#19 Georgia

#18 North Carolina