|GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: Colts will have trouble repeating and other thoughts on upcoming season|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 30 August 2007 14:54|
The prevailing mood throughout the Indianapolis Colts' training camp was optimism. So what if we lost our starting cornerbacks, our weakside linebacker, our left tackle and our run-stuffer. We still have Peyton Manning and he can win us a second straight title.|
Maybe, but probably not. Things change. Yes, Peyton will continue to demonstrate his skills on the field and his dry humor on television. And Tony Dungy will set an example that hopefully will dissuade miscreants on other teams, like the one in Cincinnati whose headquarters is about 125 miles southeast of the Colts' facility.
But some cliches are true: It is hard to repeat.
So let's approach the season with snapshots, beginning with ...
PEYTON MANNING AND TONY UGOH
We know Peyton. Tony is currently the Colts' left tackle, a rookie from Arkansas the Colts moved up to take in the second round. Ugoh's a good prospect and was supposed to eventually succeed Tarik Glenn. Then Glenn decided to retire, so Ugoh is the starter. He may be good, but he's liable to allow a little too much pressure on Manning.
Manning may not get hurt - he's missed only one snap that counts in his 157-game career. And maybe Ugoh will be experienced enough by the playoffs. But think back to the San Diego game in '05 and the Pittsburgh playoff game later that season when Manning was pressured. The Colts lost.
See above. Shared the load with Dominic Rhodes as a rookie. Rhodes is gone and none of Addai's backups has a single NFL carry.
See the waiver wire.
NORV TURNER AND WADE PHILLIPS
A wonderful pair of coordinators with mediocre head coaching records or worse taking over teams whose fans expect big things.
Phillips has the better career record (48-42) but the more questionable team in Dallas. If Turner (59-83-1) goes 11-5 with a San Diego team that was 14-2 last season, he's already a disappointment. Unless he gets to the Super Bowl.
RANDY MOSS AND DONTE' STALLWORTH AND WES WELKER
Tom Brady's new receivers after a 2006 season with no reliable targets other than tight end Benjamin Watson. Moss is the faded megastar, Stallworth the less-than-durable former first-rounder. Welker is the do-everything receiver Bill Belichick has coveted since the game three years ago in which, among other things, he kicked a field goal and extra point for Miami against the Patriots after Olindo Mare was unable to start.
Don't worry about Moss' traditionally bad attitude. Belichick and the Patriots' veterans will take care of that. Worry about his health and declining skills. Worry about Stallworth's health.
Welker is the difference-maker.
REX GROSSMAN AND BRIAN GRIESE
Every time Grossman messes up (often), Bears fans scream for Griese. Griese was supposed to be the answer in Denver, Miami and Tampa Bay. He failed. Why should he succeed in Chicago?
Grossman will keep making mistakes, maybe enough to keep the Bears from getting back to the Super Bowl. If Griese plays, he'll make mistakes, too.
BRADY QUINN and VINCE YOUNG
nd, Miami. Yes, Oakland. The Raiders weren't 2-14 last season because the defense screwed up.
Vince Young's first start for Tennessee last season was against Dallas in the season's fourth game and he was pretty bad. But Young has the legs to scramble and his legs were how he led the Titans to six straight wins late in the season; his passer rating was a poor 66.7 with 12 TD passes and 13 interceptions. Young is likely to be a standout quarterback for a long time, but he could slide back this season without much help at receiver and running back.
Old adage that still holds true: Young QBs struggle. Even Vince Young.
DEVIN HESTER AND SINORICE AND SANTANA MOSS
Hester didn't play regularly in college at Miami because Sinorice Moss was much better. Both were chosen in the second round of the 2006 draft, Moss 44th by the Giants and Hester 57th by the Bears. Moss, bothered by leg problems, caught five passes for 25 yards, or one less catch than Hester had touchdown returns: three punts, two kickoffs and one field goal. Moss is still hurting. Hester is trying to learn to be a wide receiver, a position he didn't play in college because of Sinorice Moss.
Moss apologists point out that his brother Santana was hurt a lot as a rookie, when he had just two catches for 40 yards. He got healthy and has 290 catches for an average of 16.2 yards and 34 touchdowns in six seasons with the Jets and Redskins.
AHMAD BRADSHAW and ED JOHNSON
The combination of Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns hasn't looked so far like it can fully replace Tiki Barber with the Giants, although the team's locker room is better for the absence of the bloviator. But add Ahmad Bradshaw to the mix and the Giants might be fine.
Bradshaw and Johnson, an undrafted free agent who is starting for the Colts in the defensive tackle spot vacated by the injury to Anthony McFarland, demonstrate something else: Some teams could get a lift from players who fell through the draft because of troubled backgrounds.
It's still early, but Johnson has been a run-stuffer in McFarland's place. And Bradshaw, a seventh-round pick, rushed for 131 yards on 19 carries, a 6.6 average, in his first three exhibitions. Yeah, it was against scrubs, but he has the quickness and darting ability that the bigger and more powerful Jacobs and Droughns haven't shown.
Both slipped because of the draft emphasis on character.
After signing a letter of intent to play at Virginia, Bradshaw was arrested for underage drinking and obstruction of justice and was dismissed from the football team. He walked on at Marshall. There he was charged with burglary for stealing a video game from another student's room. He eventually pleaded guilty to petty larceny and was put on probation for two years.
Johnson was suspended by Penn State for violating team rules before the Outback Bowl and earlier was kicked out of school for two semesters in 2005 for violating a regulation on sexual misconduct. He says without that he might have been a first-day draft pick.
Both teams think they can turn the players around, and both have a history of it. Dungy is very good at keeping former miscreants in line. The Giants also have a history of success with troubled players, Kerry Collins and Christian Peter to name two.
For what they're worth, some predictions for the season:
AFC Division Winners: Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Chargers.
NFC Division Winners: Cowboys, Bears, Saints and, uh, Cardinals.
AFC Wild Cards: Ravens, Bengals.
NFC Wild Cards: Eagles, 49ers.
AFC Championship: Patriots 24, Chargers 23.
NFC Championship: Cowboys 17, Bears 13.
Super Bowl: Patriots 34, Cowboys 16.
MVP: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego.
Offseason MVP (2006-07) Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner.
Offensive Player: Wes Welker, New England, who will catch 106 passes for 16 touchdowns, kick four field goals and seven extra points, and have two returns for TDs.
Defensive Player: Haloti Ngata, Baltimore.
Offensive Rookie: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota.
Defensive Rookie: Darrelle Revis, New York Jets.
Coach of the Year: Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona.
Comeback Player: Rodney Harrison, New England.
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