Will the Indianapolis Colts be Contenders in 2010?

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The Indianapolis Colts have been Super Bowl contenders every year for a decade. Truly, everyone in the AFC must be getting sick of them by now. Fortunately for everyone in the AFC, the Colts are beginning to show a bit of age and a little vulnerability going into 2010.

The good: Peyton Manning looks to be healthy again, after a neck injury slowed him a bit in 2009. Well, slowed him a little by Manning standards. He only threw for 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns, spreading the receptions around to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clarke effectively. In fact, Wayne and Clark each had exactly 100 receptions, and they combined for nearly 2,400 yards. The team was 2nd in the league in passing yards.

The bad: The Colts did not pick up any marquee names in the draft, nor did they get any big free agent acquisitions. Of course, that is their typical M.O. The Colts rely on player development, and then resigning of those players throughout their career. The selected defensive end Jerry Hughes (TCU) in the first round. Hughes is a disruptive defender and pass rusher, and will do a nice job spelling Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. In the second round, they picked up Pat Angerer, a linebacker from Iowa. He’s a bit undersized, but is a good athlete, and an excellent developmental propect. The third round pick leads us to…

The ugly. The Colts’ defense is middle of the pack in the league, and they are thinnest at corner. So, in the third round of the draft, they picked Kevin Thomas, a cornerback from USC to shore up that position. At rookie minicamp, he promptly injured his knee, and he could miss the entire season. So, the cornerback position is led by veteran Kelvin Hayden, followed by two second-year players in Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey. Not exactly your household names.

Where IS everybody?? Veteran players in Indy apparently put the emphasis on optional in “optional team activities”. Antoine Bethea is not allowed to participate in the OTAs because he hasn’t signed the 1-year offer that the team gave him. Robert Mathis, who has been a Pro Bowler the last two years is looking to upgrade his contract, so he is currently holding out. For heaven’s sake, it’s unreasonable to expect him to squeak by on only $2.3 million next year. Finally, Peyton’s favorite target, Reggie Wayne, is not even in town. Apparently, he doesn’t do OTAs, preferring to work out in his old college town (Miami). Can’t blame him…let’s see. Miami? Or Indianapolis? Hmmmm.

The Colts, as always, are expected to be in the conference finals again. Their early schedule (at Houston, Denver, Jacksonville, and Washington and home against the Giants and Kansas City) suggests they will be 6-0 going into their bye weekend. If their aging veterans can stay healthy, look for them late into January.

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