The Myth of the Third Round Curse
Bill Polian has earned a reputation as one of the best executives in NFL history. He has created this perception largely due to having unparalleled success each year in the NFL Draft. No team in the NFL has used the draft and undrafted free agency as successfully as Polian, creating an atmosphere where the Colts system reigns king and where finding players who best function within it is the goal.
Generally, players that enter the NFL are no different than future professionals in the business world; once they are trained to play a certain way and are molded physically to fit in that role, they are more difficult to acclimate to an entirely different system. As a result, the best way for Polian and the Colts to find an endless crop of new talent is to get them early, train them to play the Colts way, and build the strength of the franchise by retaining the best players and not allowing them to leave via free agency. More >
Summer Showdown: Blair White v. Dudley Guice
Much of Colts nation is discussing the battle between Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garçon for the second wide receiver spot on the 2010 roster. What could be even more interesting is which young prospect makes the team in place of Hank Baskett, as a fifth wide receiver and special teams player.
Last season Colts fans saw Taj Smith emerge as a prospect with potential to break the final roster. Many who drew up mock rosters for the 2009 season included Smith, only to see him relegated to the practice squad. This year there are two new names to keep a close eye on who could both surpass Smith as strong players in the hunt for a spot on the roster in 2010.
Blair White is potentially one of the best kept secrets, or biggest post-draft gems to enter the summer with an NFL team for a long time. At Michigan State, White accumulated 1,649 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons. He had his biggest game against Northwestern in 2009, tallying 186 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Breakout Radar: LB Cody Glenn
It seems almost every year Colts President Bill Polian finds a way to get more out of less for his franchise during the NFL’s off-season. One need look no further than cornerback Jacob Lacey, an undrafted free agent signing following the 2009 NFL Draft to see that the Colts front office is capable of finding tremendous value from players who are passed over multiple times by each of the 32 NFL franchises.
Polian also manages to find solid contributors from cast-offs who fail to stick on the team that originally drafts or signs a player. A couple examples would be Raheem Brock, originally signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, who contributed to the club for eight seasons at both defensive end and defensive tackle before he was granted his release entering the 2009 off-season. At that time Brock was tied with Dwight Freeney as the longest tenured Colts defensive lineman on the team.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Colts managed to pick up long-time starting center Jeff Saturday after the Baltimore Ravens released him in 1998. After starting only twice in 1999, Saturday took over the starting job and has since played his way to four Pro Bowl selections.
Last year, on September 9, 2009, the Colts signed linebacker Cody Glenn off of waivers from the Washington Redskins after training camp and preseason play had concluded. The Redskins drafted Glenn in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Summer Showdown: Mitch King v. Ricardo Mathews
When Jim Caldwell took over as head coach for the Indianapolis Colts he quickly snagged Larry Coyer to take over for Ron Meeks as defensive coordinator. Coyer wasted no time starting an overhaul of the Colts defensive personnel and making tweaks to the team’s defensive philosophy.
Former fifth round draft pick Marcus Howard and undrafted free agent Curtis Johnson were quickly dismissed from the team, replaced by Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster, who would both move out from defensive tackle, where they played in previous seasons, to defensive end on rushing downs.
Raheem Brock, who started at defensive tackle in 2006, was rarely used inside as Eric Foster moved inside on passing downs and took a significant number of snaps as a penetrating, pass-rush specialist.
When the 2009 season ended Brock was granted his release and the Colts signed former Iowa standout Mitch King. Then, in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Colts elected to pick up Ricardo Mathews to compete for Brock’s vacated hybrid position.
Listed at 6-foot 2-inches tall and 280 pounds, Mitch King is a bit shorter and heavier than Brock but their play styles are rather similar.
Don’t Forget Anthony Gonzalez
It is amazing how quickly things can change for an NFL franchise. When the 2008 season ended, the Marvin Harrison era came to a close and the door flew wide-open for third year wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez. Then, without even getting touched, Gonzalez went down with a season-ending knee injury on the Colts first offensive possession as he exploded off the line to get into his route.
No one could have foreseen the insane physical development of Pierre Garçon, nor the lightning quick learning curve of Austin Collie. Many thought that once Gonzalez went down with his injury the team’s hopes for a playoff berth were diminished and that the offense would take a lot of time to get back in sync.
On the contrary, Colts fans watched Garçon break out with a critically important 48-yard touchdown reception to seal a tough road win in Miami. The following week he would reel-in three receptions for 64 yards and another touchdown in Arizona. The second-year receiver from Division III Mount Union was developing into the hottest new name in football.
What separated Garçon from Gonzalez and the other Colts receivers is the mind-boggling physical development that turned him into the most physically imposing Colts receiver in a very long time. The way he abused Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in Arizona, stiff-arming him, burning him deep, using his speed and size to out-class the proven corner gave good reason for fans to get excited.
In week four of the 2009 season, Austin Collie made his presence felt. Collie caught six passes for 65 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown. He then used the next two weeks to gain another 133 yards and pick up three more scores. For a rookie receiver to be playing out of the slot, and be reserved to Manning’s fourth option on most passing downs, to still manage to put up nearly 200 yards and four touchdowns in just three weeks (after taking only three weeks to get acclimated to the NFL) is astonishing.
Throw in Dallas Clark having his first official Pro Bowl season, generating 1,106 yards receiving, with 100 receptions, and 10 touchdowns and you have the second rated passing offense in the NFL.
All of these things combine to make it relatively understandable that Anthony Gonzalez, former first round draft pick (2007), could be downplayed, dismissed, forgotten, or even seen as a “bust” because he has missed an entire season worth of football in his first three years.
With summer workouts, organized training activities, and training camp ramping back up for the 2010 season, however, it’s crucial that these silly sentiments are corrected and that fans rediscover their appreciation for Anthony Gonzalez. Without it, there is no way to fully realize the depth of talent in the Indianapolis Colts receiving corps.
Summer Showdown: Philip Wheeler v. Pat Angerer
It is extremely rare for a rookie, even a high draft pick, to start and regularly contribute to a team in the NFL. Only the top 15 or so picks in each draft are really expected to be first year starters who perform at levels above their veteran successors while the rest of the early draft picks are generally expected to develop into an impact role by the end of their first year.
For Pat Angerer the expectations on him to push for a starting job are even lower as he was one of the last picks in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft and is considered the future heir to Gary Brackett’s starting spot at middle linebacker. How then could Angerer be in a competition against former third round draft selection Philip Wheeler for the starting position on the strong side of our linebacker group? More >
The Indianapolis Colts have been short a dynamic punt and kick returner since Terrence Wilkins was with the team in 2003 and 2006. Fans have been screaming for the Colts to replace Chad Simpson and T.J. Rushing with someone who could give Peyton Manning and the Colts’ high-octane offense a shorter field. The thought of getting Manning just five to ten yards closer to the opponent’s goal line left Colts fans salivating.
After Bill Polian appeared to engage in draft day trickery, when he suggested that no dual returners remained in the 2010 draft, he used one of the Colts seventh round picks to snag Indiana University’s explosive returner, Ray Fisher. More >
For some time now I have been encouraged by Colts bloggers, blog contributors, and readers to start a website devoted to espousing my thoughts and insights regarding the Indianapolis Colts. While I keep a busy schedule, I thought it was time to heed the advice and set up my own spot on the internet to write about my favorite team without stepping on toes or without worrying about the constraints of another website’s theme, vision, or formatting concerns.
It is my hope that Coltzilla will develop into one of the most active and insightful locations on the internet for Colts fans to discuss their favorite team, consider a wide range of opinions about the current state and future of our favorite franchise, and possibly learn more about football and the NFL than they could have otherwise imagined.
I plan to do this without failing to understand or appreciate the contributions of so many others, and hope that Coltzilla will become the first place fans look to find news and analysis by linking to multiple sources of insight outside my own. Over time, should this blog achieve a popular and sizable following, I will consider adding other writers and contributors to keep content fresh.
I hope you will join in supporting my efforts by visiting the site regularly, adding your comments and observations, and e-mailing me any suggestions you might have for the site. I am not the most experienced web editor, nor a graphically gifted person, so any insights or contributions in that area would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Coltzilla and I look forward to getting up new content soon!