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Indianapolis Colts Projected Lineup – Offense/Defense/Special Teams

Technically, the 2010-11 NFL season starts on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Colts have four days to get their depth chart up to speed. While the vast majority of players know if theu’re starters or reserves, there are still some positions that aren’t yet etched in stone.

Let’s examine each position and determine who starts and who comes off the sidelines:

OFFENSE

QB – Peyton Manning, Curtis Painter. Just one word for the best quarterback in the National Football League, not that he doesn’t know this already: please stay healthy. He should easily eclipse 4,000 and 28+ touchdowns. I did notice, however, that the Colts’ schedule gets difficult after Week 8, save for perhaps Jacksonville. I still cannot believe the team’s braintrust chose Painter over Tom Brandstater. Unbelieveable.

RB – Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Mike Hart. Remember back in the day when the Colts actually had a running attack? Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk – running backs who made Indianapolis somewhat dangerous back in the day. But the Colts have pinned their hopes on their passing game and defense. While you obviously do not want to fix what isn’t broken, it would be nice to have a rushing attack that averages at least 90-95 YPG for a change. Addai will start obviously, but Brown’s in his rear-view mirror.

WR – Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, Austin Collie. For the sake of being obvious, Wayne is the man in the Circle City. What gets interesting as the season rolls on is whether Gonzalez supplants Garcon as the #2 wideout. The numbers will be there regardless, but I think the battle between Gonzo and Garcon will be continuous. Collie has his moments, but he’s probably going to be used on 3rd-and-long or in the short-yardage situations where play-action passes are used.

TE – Dallas Clark, Gijon Robinson, Jacob Tamme. We already know what Clark can do. This is going to be one of those seasons where he is lined up as if he’s a WR, which will make things miserable for opposing linebackers. Robinson will get touches, but his role is as a blocking tight end. Tamme? Special teams seem to be his address.

FB/HB – Brody Eldridge, Gijpn Robinson. Eldridge is there to block, although Tom Moore’s playbook may allow for Eldridge to get thrown a bone once in a while. But blocking on 3rd-and-short is what he will be doing, for the most part.

OT – Charlie Johnson, Ryan Diem, Tony Ugoh. Ugoh, because of his inconsistent play protecting Peyton’s blind side, gets relegated to reserve status here. Fortunately, Johnson and Diem will be the pillars that ensure that Manning stays on his feet, as opposed to his backside.

G – Jamey Richard, Kyle DeVan, Jaimie Thomas, Jacques McClendon. Richard and DeVan are charged with opening holes for Addai and the other Colts RB’s, along with offering protection for Manning during passing situations. Because Colts O-lineman are usually aren’t the biggest in the league, speed and footwork will be the key here. Don’t expect much player tinkering during the season unless one of the starters Ugoh their way onto the bench.

C – Jeff Saturday, Mike Pollak. One of the best centers oin team history will get the most playing time, for the risk of being obvious here. Pollak will give Saturday a blow. Now if Saturday can remain healthy.

DEFENSE

DE – Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Eric Foster, Keyunta Dawson. Another strength of the Colts, Freeney and Mathis probably will see the field about 80 percent of the time, especially on passing downs. Foster and Dawson are capable, and they could see increased playing time should Freeney get injured this season.

DT – Dan Muir, Antonio Johnson, Fili Moala, Mitch King. Defensive tackle is, in my humble opinion, the Achilles heel of this team. After all, run-stuffing has never been the Colts’ calling card as the stats can attest to. Having said that, Muir and Johnson will have to utilize speed to smother running backs who dare to go down the middle. Whether they’re successful in stuffing the run is speculative; however, they will need to be successful early and often.

LB – Philip Wheeler, Gary Brackett, Clint Session, Cody Glenn, Ramon Humber, Pat Angerer. Easdy to figure who will start here; however, it would behoove Brackett to blitz more and leave the run-stuffing to Wheeler and Session. I would not be surprised if Angerer (perfect name for a LB) sees increased playing time as the season progresses.

CB – Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey, Deshea Townsend, Justin Tryon, Brandon King. What I love about Hayden and Powers is that they’re young, improving and not afraid to take risks. Look for Lacey to see action in nickel situations and when the Tampa scheme is used. Townsend will see spot duty, with Tryon and King seeing little action, unless injury makes this mandatory.

S – Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea, Melvin Bullitt. The strength of the Colts ‘secondary. Sanders and Bethea, with Bullitt in certain situations, will make things very difficult for opposing QB’s. If last season is any indication, the aforementioned three, combined with the CB’s should either lead or be in the AFC Top Five in interceptions and passes broken up. Yet you just know that most teams will throw short passes where the linebackers roam – which isn’t a good idea.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Pat McAfee will do his usual good work as the punter, while Adam Vinatieri, health willing, should score 110 or more points this season as the Colts’ offense is quite potent (I know, I’m beng obvious, but it’s true!).

Devin Moore, a pleasant surprise during camp and Gonzalez, will see the lion’s share of kickoff and return duties. I look for Gonzalez to return punts while Moore returns kickoffs – although that is subject to change.


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