Thanks again to go Deshawn Zombie of 18 To 88 for answering our questions about the Colts. Check out his site for insight about the Colts, both leading up to Sunday’s game and after that. This post is his answers to my questions. Check back tomorrow for my answers to his questions.
Total Titans: What’s been the impact of the coaching changes, both with Caldwell at head coach and with Coyer replacing Ron Meeks as defensive
coordinator? Offensively and defensively, do these both look like the
same old Colts we’ve gotten used to seeing in the Dungy era, or are
they changing things up?
18 To 88: First off, offensively there were no staff changes, other Caldwell
(an offensive guy) becoming head coach. Having said that, it seems the
Colts are breaking out more unusual formations. That may just be a
factor of Harrison being gone.
Defensively, the Colts are blitzing about 20% of
the time, which is twice as much as they blitzed in years past. That’s
a massive increase, but only takes them from LAST in the league in
blitzing to nearly last in the league in blitzing. Most of what you’ll
see on D from the Colts will look exactly the same, but instead of 2 or
3 blitzes a game, you might notice 6 or 7.
Total Titans: Beyond Wayne and Clark, the receivers seem to be a parade of new guys,
especially with Gonzalez’s injury. Are Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon
really actual players and not Madden-generated names, and why are they
succeeding when guys like John Standeford and Devon Aromashodu failed?
18 To 88: That’s a great question. Personally, I doubted they would
succeed. I’ve seen too many guys like them over the years. I think
the answer is that they are just better players. Collie lead the
nation in receiving at BYU. He’s also 24. So he came in a little more
mature, more ready to play in a Colts style offense than other guys.
year, mostly on the end of the bench. He is still raw in many ways.
He has picked up 6 penalties in 4 games for example, so he’s still
learning the rules. What he can do is stone cold flat fly. The Colts
drafted him in 2008 because of his crazy wheels, and he’s shown those
off, giving Manning a pure deep threat. I doubt you’ll see him
catching many 8 yard out routes, and if you do, watch out, because they
are sending him long right after that.
Ultimately, I think these guys are succeeding
because they got more work early. In past years (2007 for example)
when the Colts had injuries mid season (losing Harrison AND Gonzo) guys
just had to step in cold and try to make a contribution. These guys
were slated to have an impact in camp, so they’ve had more reps than
usual. Both are said to be fanatical note takers as well. Apparently,
they write down every word Manning and Tom Moore say. It’s paying off,
Total Titans: One of the big preseason concerns was the left tackle position, since
it looked like Charlie Johnson and Tony Ugoh were each having their
problems. Did Johnson suddenly become a competent LT, or are the Colts
successfully masking his limitations?
18 To 88: Johnson got better. It’s shocking to me. Honestly, it’s the last
thing I would ever have expected. They aren’t giving him any more help
than they do the right side, and to this point, the Colts have
surrendered just 2 sacks (neither on CJ) and Manning is throwing for a
YPA that is off the charts. This isn’t the dink/dunk Colts that they
had become since 2005. They are going deep all the time, and Manning
has time to throw. It’s no gimmick. CJ is getting the job done, and
no one is more surprised than I am.
One word of warning, however. The Colts are
horrible at running the ball wide left and right. They were bad wide
right last year, but have gotten a little better. But while they ran
well to the left behind Ugoh, they are struggling to the left behind
CJ. Again, that’s a huge shock because CJ was ok as a run blocker last
year. Johnson is struggling with an injury right now and might miss
the game, so we might get a chance to compare the two under live fire. [Ed: There's only one CJ in this game, and he plays for the Titans. -TG]
Total Titans: Teams this year have been able to exploit the Titans’ coverage on both
punts and kickoffs, with the Jaguars starting on a short field most
every drive. Do the Colts have a returner who can take advantage of
the Titans’ awful coverage units?
18 To 88: No. This is the Colts dude. Special teams aren’t that important to
the Colts. Our returner has been Chad “The Human Touchback” Simpson
so named because he returns every kick to the 20. He was replaced with
TJ Rushing who is coming off a major knee injury last year, but was
good in 2007. He did have a nice run back last week, so anything is
Total Titans: The Dolphins were able to run the Colts’ D up and down the field much
of the time, but stalled out in the red zone. The Cardinals only put
up 10 points. Is the Colts’ defense any good, and how have they coped
with missing Bob Sanders (all year), and Gary Brackett and Kelvin
Hayden (the past two games) hurt the team?
18 To 88: In watching the tape of the Dolphins game, it’s clear the Colts only
struggled with the Wildcat set. They actually defended the run very
well against the Dolphins base offense. Aside from Miami’s Wildcat
plays, Indy’s run D has been more than credible all year. They’ve
given up 29 and 41 yards rushing to the last two teams they’ve played
(and 114 to Jax week one, which isn’t a bad total against that team).
The Colts D is on the verge of becoming a super elite unit. The problem
right now is that they are 31st in the league in 3rd down conversion %.
The reason is what you noted: No Sanders, Brackett and Hayden. What
do they have in common? They are primarily pass defenders (even
Brackett…the best cover LB in football). Indy sucked at 3rd downs
last year because they were giving up tons of 3rd and 1s. This year,
they are getting teams in third and medium and third and long, but it’s
hard to stop the pass when you are playing with a patchwork secondary.
Once those three come back (and I expect Brackett and Sanders to play
this week), watch out. This D will be more nasty than it already is.
Total Titans: Is there anything else about the Colts you want Titans fans to know that I haven’t asked you about?
18 To 88: This
team is good. Really good. Our measuring stick for the Colts is the
2007 team. That was the best Colts squad, before injuries destroyed
it. This team is almost back to that level. Last year, the Colts were
never really good. The 12 wins was a total mirage (and we said so all
year). That was a team just riding Manning, Freeney and Mathis every
week. This team is legitimately stacked and is better at nearly every
position than the 2008 team. I never thought the 2008 team was a real
contender. The 2009 team is the best in football.
Having said that, no one is taking this game lightly. The Titans are
the true division rival of the Colts, and you get the feeling like the
Colts’ brass WANTS this game. They will show up with both barrels
loaded Sunday night. The players and fans are expecting a war. The
Titans could be 4-0 and you wouldn’t find us any more geeked up over
Total Titans: Finally, if you’d like to make a game prediction, our readers would appreciate it.
18 To 88: Indy 20, Titans 14.
Thanks again to Deshawn for his interesting answers.