Tag:Dwight Freeney
Posted on: March 5, 2012 7:18 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 9:03 pm
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Colts, Mathis come to terms on new contract

Indianapolis franchised Mathis but only as a formality while they hammered out the details of his new deal.  (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

Last week, talks were reportedly heating up between the Colts and free-agent defensive end Robert Mathis but the two sides didn't come to an agreement until Monday afternoon, the team announced in a statement. As a formality, Indianapolis designated Mathis as their franchise player while finishing up the paperwork for the new contract.

Mathis' deal is reportedly worth $36 million over four years with a $15 million signing bonus, according to the Indianapolis Star's Mike Chappell.

As for what Mathis brings to the Colts' defense, we'll repeat what we wrote last week: New Colts head coach Chuck Pagano comes to Indy from the Ravens where he was the defensive coordinator. Historically, this is an organization that has eschewed defense and deferred to Peyton Manning -- and for good reason. Prior to the 2-14 egg the team laid in 2011, the Colts had won 10 games or more 11 times in Manning's 13 seasons, making the postseason 11 times and winning the whole thing in 2006. Prior to Manning's arrival -- and since the Colts came to Indy in 1984 -- they made three postseason appearances.

But the Manning era is just about done, and Pagano understands that a good defense can carry an average offense featuring a young quarterback a long way. Joe Flacco is the most obvious example, but Ben Roethlisberger was the beneficiary of a stout defense early in his career, and Mark Sanchez made two straight AFC Conference Championship game appearances in large part because of the Jets defense.  With Andrew Luck next in line in Indy, bolstering the defense only makes sense.

But Mathis is 31, not an ideal fit in the 3-4 defense Pagano will install, and will tie up valuable salary-cap dollars with a new deal. That said, he's played at a high level for all but one of his nine years in the league; he had 9.5 sacks in '11 and 11 the year before that. Not counting his rookie season, Mathis has averaged 10 sacks a season. It's reasonable to conclude that he's still a capable pass-rusher, a commodity defenses can never have enough of.

Plus, in his annual list of the top 50 free agents, CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco writes that Mathis "has improved against the run and could easily make the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 rush 'backer."

Looking at the bigger picture, one of Pagano's goals was to keep Mathis and Dwight Freeney together on the Colts' defensive line.

"First and foremost, we're going to make sure that we put both of those guys in position to make plays," Pagano told reporters at last week's combine (via the Associated Press). "I don't think it would be very smart on my part or anybody else's part to make sure that doesn't happen."

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Posted on: February 27, 2012 1:08 pm
 

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

It sounds like Houston isn't remotely interested in letting Williams test free agency. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the defensive ends.

Most of the categories in our 2012 free agent rankings are fairly straightforward. Running backs are running backs. Tight ends are tight ends. Quarterbacks are quarterbacks. But when it comes to the defensive line, the category gets a little blurry.

Some defensive ends also play defensive tackle. Defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme oftentimes line up as an outside linebacker. That makes ranking them in a single list a bit more complicated. Though some of the following players won’t always line up as a defensive end, the idea that each of these players will be asked to rush the passer remains the same. So, we list them as defensive ends.

1. Mario Williams

Breakdown: Williams quickly caught on to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme where he played as more of an end/linebacker hybrid and recorded five sacks in the only five games in which he participated last year. Williams likely will return to terrorizing tackles and quarterbacks on nearly every snap if he leaves Houston and signs with a team that uses the 4-3. True, Williams is coming off a pectoral muscle injury that sent him to the IR list, but he says he’s healthy and the former No. 1 overall pick is going to be expensive. That said, Texans general manager Rick Smith continues to say that re-signing Williams is one of the teams’ top offseason priorities, though there’s a real question whether Houston has the cap room to do so. Even though Williams has failed to reach double-digits in sacks for the past three years, he still could win the richest defensive player contract of all time if he leaves Houston.

Possible Landing Spots:Texans, Jaguars, Seahawks, Titans
Avril made a name for himself in 2011. (Getty Images)

2. Cliff Avril


Breakdown: Although he’s not as well-known as teammates Ndamukong Suh or (probably) Nick Fairley, Avril emerged as one of the nastiest ends in the league this year. His 11 sacks were a career high, and he even managed his first career interception. The problem on Avril’s end is that there’s almost no chance Detroit will let him get anywhere near free agency. The Lions and Avril are working on a long-term deal. General manager Martin Mayhew said that while he doesn’t want to franchise-tag Avril, he’s also not willing to lose him. If that occurs, Avril -- who has hinted at holding out -- will have to decide if he wants to be on time for training camp.

Possible Landing Spots: Lions

3. Calais Campbell


Breakdowns: The past three seasons, Campbell has been consistent, and he has consistently improved, increasing his tackle totals every season and notching a career-high eight sacks in 2011 for the Cardinals. But like Avril, he’s got very little chance to test himself on the free agent market, because it sounds like if Arizona can’t come to terms on a long-term contract, the Cardinals will tag him. But unlike Avril, Campbell said he’s OK with that scenario. Besides, if he is tagged and makes close to $11 million for 2012 and puts forth another career-best performance, he’ll have the chance to set himself up with a huge contract.
 
Possible Landing Spots: Cardinals

4. Robert Mathis


Breakdown: Since he’s spent his entire nine-year career in Indianapolis, it’s hard to imagine Mathis in a non-Colts uniform -- almost as tough, I suppose, as imagining Peyton Manning in something other than blue and white. The potential problem, though, is new coach Chuck Pagano seems intent on installing the 3-4 scheme, and that will be a transition for somebody who’s always been a 4-3 end (it’s worth noting that CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco doesn’t seem concerned with the Colts turning Mathis into a pass-rushing linebacker). The Colts have said they want to keep Mathis in Indianapolis, but Dwight Freeney will cost $19 million against the salary cap. Another possibility for Mathis is the Colts placing the franchise tag on him, but considering Mathis is 31, the delaying of a long-term contract isn’t necessarily a great option for him.

Possible Landing Spots: Titans, Falcons, Colts

5. John Abraham

Abraham believes he's worth $12 million a year, even though he'll turn 34 before next season. (US Presswire)

Breakdown: Although Abraham will turn 34 before the start of the 2012 season, he still should draw plenty of interest throughout the league, simply because he continues to be one of the elite ends around. He’s durable, playing at least 15 games per season in the last five years, and he continues to churn out double-digit sack totals on a near-annual basis (his 9.5 sacks in 2011 just missed the cutoff). Can he command a long-term contract? Probably not, because of his age. Is he still a top-10 defensive end? Probably, yes. But is he worth $12 million? According to Abraham, the answer is: absolutely. “Check out the five top ends,” Abraham told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Everybody is getting 12-plus. I made $8 million last year. Everybody is saying, ‘Oh, he’s so greedy.’ How am I greedy when I’m just trying to get paid the same thing they are getting paid?” The chances of Abraham getting $12 million? Slim to none.

Possible Landing Spots: Giants, Buccaneers, Patriots

6. Cory Redding

Breakdown: He had a rough year in 2009 in his only season with the Lions, but since moving to Baltimore and playing with the Ravens for the past two seasons, Redding has returned to being a solid end who can stop the run and who occasionally can muster a sack (he’s got 7.5  combined in the past two seasons). But Redding will turn 32 next season, and he had injuries at the end of last year that slowed him a bit (even though it was one of the best seasons of his career). He’s probably not a great long-term value for most teams in the league, but the Ravens are a fan of him, particularly since he took on a leadership role when linebacker Ray Lewis missed four games. Redding just seems to fit in well with Baltimore’s defense. But remember, Pagano lurks to the west in Indianapolis.

Possible Landing Spots:Colts, Ravens

7. Jeremy Mincey


Breakdown: Mincey certainly picked the best time to have a career year. In his contract year, he recorded 57 tackles, eight sacks and an interception. Considering he didn’t combine for those numbers during the first five seasons of his career, that should tell you about Mincey’s mindset entering 2011. Or, it should tell you that last season was simply an anomaly (or, I suppose, you could say that it just took Mincey a long time to develop). Either way, Mincey is looking to get paid -- he’s on record saying he won’t give Jacksonville a hometown discount -- and though it appears the Jaguars would like to keep him, they’ll have to figure out where he fits in with the team’s finances (it should be noted that Jacksonville has plenty of room under the salary cap).

Possible Landing Spots: Jaguars, Bills

8. Israel Idonije


Breakdown: He obviously doesn’t get the love that’s reserved for teammate Julius Peppers, but Idonije notched a career-high 52 tackles last season (along with five sacks). Even better for Chicago, Idonije seems intent on returning to the Bears. “I want to be here,” Idonije said earlier this month. “I have an incredible relationship with the coaching staff, and I understand the system. So my No. 1 focus is to stay.” He even intimated he would give Chicago a hometown discount. He probably won’t command an expensive long-term deal, and he’ll probably be worth it for the Bears.

Possible Landing Spots: Bears

9.  Mark Anderson


Breakdown: Anderson is a strange case, because as ESPN Boston pointed out, he only played 47.6 percent of the Patriots snaps last year. Yet, he still managed 10 sacks. Also, he played all but one snap in the team’s final two games after Andre Carter suffered a quad injury.  Carter also is an unrestricted free agent, but reportedly, Anderson is a better bet to be re-signed by New England.

Possible Landing Spot: Patriots, Dolphins

10. Honorable Mentions


Unrestricted: Kendall Langford, Raheem Brock, Red Bryant, Andre Carter

Restricted: Phillip Merling, Michael Bennett

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 3:36 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 3

Posted by Will Brinson


Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 3 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman Fitzpatrick Colts  Knox  Gailey
Judge  McFadden Bills DBs  Bailey  Gailey
Prisco   Romo  Allen  Bailey  Coughlin
Brinson  McFadden  Freeney  Bailey  Gailey
Katzowitz   T. Smith  Freeney  Bailey  Schwartz
Wilson   Welker  Freeney  Bailey  Jackson
Week 3's over and everything in the NFL is clear, apparent and obvious. Like, for instance, that the Lions and Bills are really good. I mean, who didn't see that coming, right? Anyway, it's award time for us.

Offensively speaking, there were plenty of performances that inspired us this week, but Darren McFadden of the Raiders and his 171 yards against the Jets warranted enough consideration to sneak out the award. (And with good reason.)

It was a losing defensive effort that picked up the hardware this week, as Dwight Freeney's efforts inspired enough voters to cast something similar to his name in the ballot and pick up the award. What does it say about the state of defense in the NFL, by the way, that we had three voters cast for either multiple players or an "entity"?

Dan Bailey ran away with the Eye on Special Teams for the second week in a row after his six (six!) field goals against the Redskins gave the Cowboys a victory on Monday night. You can only make the kicks your team gives you and Bailey did just that.

As far as the Eye on Coaching award goes, well, Chan Gailey wins ... again! What kind of world are we living in, huh?

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Ryan Fitzpatrick Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills
He deserves to win every award ever invented. Offensive award, defensive, Nobel, a Pulitzer and throw in an Emmy. It is true the Bills intercepted Tom Brady four times, a rarity, like when all of the planets in the solar system are aligned. It's clearly Fitzpatrick, despite Buffalo's defense prowess, who is driving this team and did so against New England. They'd lost 15 straight games to the Pats. Fitzpatrick's accuracy, skill and guts powered the Bills in what was the best performance -- period -- of the week.
Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden, RB, Raiders
If this guy stays healthy, the Raiders stay at or near the top of the AFC West. He seems to run at a faster speed than everyone else, and last weekend the New York Jets were that everyone. It takes a lot to impress Jets' coach Rex Ryan, and he seemed overwhelmed by Oakland's running game -- with McFadden the first one through the door with 171 yards, two TDs and an average of 9 yards a carry. We always knew he could be special; what we didn't know ... and still don't ... is if he can stay on the field.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Tony Romo Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
I know his numbers weren't great, but did he ever tough it out against the Redskins. He played with a broken rib and punctured lung and made some tough throws. He took some shots, but kept on going. Not only that, he was playing with a bunch of backups.  Still doubt this guy?
Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden, RB, Raiders
If there was any question about Run DMC leading the league in rushing, he answered it Sunday, by rolling over the Jets with 171 yards on just 19 carries. He's piling up yards at a terrifyingly efficient clip (6.4 YPC) and deserves to be in the discussion as the best back in the NFL.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Torrey SmithTorrey Smith, WR, Ravens
The Ravens were looking to get off to a fast start vs. the Rams. And behind the play of rookie Smith, who had yet to record a single statistic in a game before Sunday, that’s exactly what they did. Smith caught three touchdowns in the first quarter, and overall, he had five catches for 152 yards to help get the Ravens offense back on track.
Wes Welker Wes Welker, WR, Patriots
It's rarely the case that a Patriots wide receiver has 16 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns and New England still loses. But when Tom Brady throws four interceptions and Chad Ochocinco drops what should've been a touchdown pass, that's exactly what happens. The lesson? No lead is too large for the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills to overcome.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Dwight FreeneyIndianapolis Colts, DST
I'll avoid more Bills slurping and go an unusual route--the Colts.I know. Very weird. Yet in a game which the Colts truly had no chance to win due to the absence of Peyton Manning that Indianapolis defense played brilliantly minus a play or two. They stripped a sloppy Ben Roethlisberger twice and picked him off. They were the only reason Indianapolis was in the game late.
Drayton Florence Buffalo Bills Secondary
The Bills' secondary had three of the team's four interceptions vs. Tom Brady and fueled the team's comeback from a 21-0 hole. Incredible. Nobody spots Brady 21 points and wins. Only Buffalo just did, ending a 15-game losing streak. Drayton Florence's go-ahead TD was the big blow, but defensive backs George Wilson and Leodis McKelvin had crucial interceptions, too. Do you believe in miracles? Brady had four interceptions all of last season; he had four on Sunday.
Prisco Brinson
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
I know his team didn't win, but he was a force all day. He had three sacks and was spent the game in the Lions backfield. He also made some nice plays against the run.
Dwight FreeneyDwight Freeney, DE, Colts
Don't tell Freeney that the Colts only upside to this season is nabbing Stanford's Andrew Luck -- in a game that the Colts weren't supposed to even be in by the fourth quarter, he dominated up front and gave Indy a shot at its first win of the year with two sacks, a forced fumble and total disruption.
Katzowitz Wilson
Dwight Freeney Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts
Freeney dominated the Steelers offensive line, recording two sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble. He almost single-handedly kept Indianapolis in the game and forced the Steelers to kick a last-second field goal for the win. Too bad Freeney can't play quarterback.
Dwight Freeney Dwight Freeney & Robert Mathis, DE, Colts
They spent Sunday night meeting on Ben Roethlisberger, combining for three sacks and two fumbles that resulted in 10 Indianapolis points. You could make a case that Freeney and Mathis are just as deserving of offensive honors, too.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Johnny KnoxJohnny Knox, WR, Bears
I know, I know. The spectacular return didn't count because of a phantom hold. A really phantom hold. Such a phantom hold it insults the word phantom. But the fake-out kick return by the Bears was such delicious subterfuge and Knox was king actor selling the fake completely. It was a wonderfully designed play that worked. Did I mention the phantom holding call? One other thing: I think Knox could be one of the top three special teams players in football if he got more opportunities.
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
He did the only scoring in the Cowboys' come-from-behind defeat of Washington Monday night, with a 40-yard field goal to win the game. Bailey wasn't the story of that game; Tony Romo was. Not sure how he gutted his way through another victory, but it wouldn't have been possible if Bailey weren't there to punctuate the drives that Romo began.
Prisco Brinson
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
He made six field goals, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter, to tie a rookie record. Well done.
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
The last place you want to kick as a rookie is in Dallas, where there's been a revolving door of kickers for a while now. But Bailey doesn't care and he gets my nod again this week as his leg carried the Cowboys to a crucial victory when they clammed up in the red zone.
Katzowitz Wilson
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
With Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo getting very little help from his wide receivers and his offensive line, Bailey provided all of Dallas’ points in its win against the Redskins and set an NFL rookie record with six field goals in a single game. Bailey is now 9 of 10 on the season.
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
For the second time in as many weeks, the Cowboys rookie kicker earns the nod. He was 6 for 6 on field-goal attempts against the Redskins and accounted for all of Dallas' points.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickChan Gailey, Bills
He ended a brutal losing streak to New England but Gailey has done more than that in Buffalo. He's made the Bills relevant and the Bills haven't been relevant since the invention of barbecue wings.Buffalo hasn't had a winning record since 2004 and the last time the Bills made the playoffs was the late 1990s. Gailey isn't a great coach but he's solid. If he can steer the Bills into the playoffs he will have done one of the great coaching jobs of the past decade and making the postseason begins with their win over the Patriots.
Mike Munchak Chan Gailey, Bills
He wins in a photo-finish with the Lions' Jim Schwartz, and for this reason: Somehow, some way, he convinced his players that they weren't dead meat after falling behind by 21 points to Tom Brady and the big, bad New England Patriots. They'd lost 15 straight to these guys, for crying out loud, so there was every reason to quit. But they didn't. Now the question: Are these guys for real? I don't care. I just care that Gailey accomplished what no one in Buffalo has been to accomplish in years.
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, Giants
When his team looks to be down, facing a lot of adversity, Coughlin always gets them to respond. They went into Philadelphia as 9-point underdogs and dominated the Eagles. That's why Coughlin is a top-tier coach.
Mike MunchakChan Gailey, Bills
We joked after Week 1 that Gailey deserved the award since it was his only shot of winning. Um, whoops? Gailey's masterful coaching job with the Bills has them undefeated and if the first two weeks weren't convincing enough, a 21-point comeback against the Patriots certainly should be.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jim Schwartz Jim Schwartz, Lions
What can you say about the Lions’ resiliency after falling behind by 20 points at halftime to the Vikings only to force overtime and win? Whatever it is, Schwartz’s coaching -- the adjustments the staff made and the fact it settled down the players -- can't go overlooked.
Hue Jackson Hue Jackson, Raiders
The Raiders first-year coach out-Rex Ryan'd Rex Ryan Sunday, forcing critical turnovers and relying on well-timed gadget plays to outlast the Jets.



Posted on: July 28, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: July 28, 2011 5:25 pm
 

Clint Session leaves Indy for Jaguars

SessionPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Whether the Colts have a chance to compete for another Super Bowl isn’t necessarily dictated by Indianapolis’ offense. With QB Peyton Manning and his ability to make any receiver look like an All-Pro, the ability for the team to score points is rarely in question.

For Indianapolis to compete, the Colts defense has to be tenacious and strong. Going forward, Indianapolis will be fine on the defensive line -- ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney are still pretty scary -- but oft-injured, yet very-talented safety Bob Sanders is gone to the Chargers.

And now, making the Colts defense just a little bit weaker, LB Clint Session has signed a five-year, $30 million ($11.5 million guaranteed) deal with the Jaguars, writes NFL.com’s Jason LaCanfora (via the Indianapolis Star).

He’s coming off a season in which he played only five games due to injury, but when he’s on the field, he can be a force -- he combined for 197 tackles in 2008-09 and was playing awfully well before injuries cut short his 2010 season.

And lest you forget, Session is a tough, tough man.

After breaking his forearm and dislocating his elbow, Session left the game briefly and then returned in the second half (!) to play well. Ultimately, the injury ended his season, but that’s a pretty strong mindset for a guy who now will go to a division rival and try, at least twice a year, to stop the Colts offense from advancing to the postseason.

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Posted on: July 6, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: July 6, 2011 10:01 am
 

VIDEO: 'Field of Dreams 2: NFL Lockout'

Posted by Will Brinson

For some reason, the NFL lockout really hasn't been that subject to parody thus far this year.

Fortunately, the guys at Funny or Die are here to remedy that, with their new trailer for "Field of Dreams 2: NFL Lockout" which features a PILE of celebrities.

There's Rich Eisen and Marshall Faulk from the NFL Network, Ray Liotta as Roger Goodell, Dwight Freeney, DeSean Jackson, Tony Gonzalez, Dennis Haysbert and even Kevin Costner with a guest spot.

Oh, and some kid named Taylor Lautner who got famous on the Bernie Mac show or something. I've never heard of him.

And I probably wouldn't mash the "Funny Meter" for this episode either, but it's funny enough to warrant talking about on a day when there's still no football in immediate sight.

Field of Dreams 2: NFL Lockout with Taylor Lautner from Taylor Lautner
Posted on: April 3, 2011 1:13 pm
 

Hot Routes 4.3.11: Freeney settles lawsuit



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • Colts DE Dwight Freeney was recently hit by a $400,000 lawsuit by a landlord because he allegedly was behind 11 months on his rent for a Hollywood recording studio. But not to worry. A six-figure settlement has made everybody happy. Wait a minute, Freeney rents out a Hollywood recording studio?!?!
  • The wife of former Falcons lineman Shane Dronett, who committed suicide in 2009, reveals some startling information in an interview with CNN, including accounts of his paranoia and rage after he retired from the league in 2006. Not surprisingly, Dronett’s brain revealed he was suffering from CTE.
  • Jay Gruden is excited about the new challenge of being the Bengals offensive coordinator. But, the Tampa Tribune asks, is he a savior?
  • Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer says Panthers fans can forget about seeing Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert in a Carolina uniform next year (unless the Panthers trade down in the draft). But if Carolina stays with the No. 1 choice, fans might see Auburn QB Cam Newton, Georgia WR A.J. Green or LSU CB Patrick Peterson.
  • You remember those two massage therapists who sued the Jets for apparently blacklisting them after objecting to Brett Favre text messages? Well, the Jets say the therapists are overplaying their ties to the club, considering they worked a total of five days during a two-year period.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .

Posted on: March 29, 2011 11:56 am
 

Offseason Checkup: Indianapolis Colts

Posted by Will Brinson

 

Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:





While the Colts were (*YAWN*) winning their ninth straight division title last year, holding off challenges from, I don’t know, the Jaguars I guess, Indianapolis showed cracks in its foundation that will have to be rectified if the Colts plan to continue dominating the AFC South.

Remember when the Texans upset Indianapolis in the season opener, and we (or at least, I) thought it was a brand new day in that division? Remember when, with the 38-35 loss to the Cowboys in Week 13, we wondered if Indianapolis, 6-6 at the time, would even make the postseason? Well, the Colts corrected themselves to win the final four games of the regular season, winning three of three division contests in the process, to earn the chance to lose to the Jets in the first round of the playoffs.

The Colts, though, no longer seem infallible. They’re, in fact, awfully beatable, and they’ll have to make some corrections this offseason to make it 10-straight championships.



Running game, head coaching questions

The Colts haven’t compiled a top-10 rushing attack since 2001, but that hasn’t stopped them from taking home nine-straight 10-win (or better) seasons since then (for the record, Indianapolis had the No. 7 rushing offense in the league in 2001, but the team finished 6-10). Last year, though, you could see the lack of a top-notch back to bail out QB Peyton Manning when he wasn’t playing well was a real detriment to the team.

The Colts ranked 29th in the run game last season with 92.7 yards per game. Hey, it’s an improvement on 2009 (32nd in the run game with 80.9 yards per game), but still, it’s not good enough.

Regarding Jim Caldwell, is anybody convinced he’s the next coaching legend? His record is outstanding, but the critics would say you could throw any old guy wearing a headset out there and pay him to watch Manning win games for you. I’m not saying those critics are right; I’m just saying it’s something to think about (though it’s not a great thing that owner Jim Irsay had to give him a vote of confidence after the 2010 season).



1. Better quality offensive linemen
This partly ties into the running game, but the Colts are in need of a solid group of guys to protect Manning. C Jeff Saturday is fine anchoring the middle of the line, though he’s in his mid-30s now, and while the line improved late in the season (not that it had anywhere to go but up), a left tackle would be nice so Charlie Johnson could move to the right side of the line. Manning does a nice job of getting the ball off quickly (which is why he doesn’t take many sacks), but you don’t want him taking more hits than he must. Although the Colts hardly ever draft offensive linemen in the early rounds of the draft – Bill Polian just doesn’t do it – this year might not be a bad idea to start.

2. Run-stopping DT
While Fili Moala, in 2010, had a big improvement over his rookie season, the Colts still ranked 25th in run defense. That’s why many mock drafts have Indianapolis selecting Oregon State’s Stephen Paea with the No. 22 pick (Polian also isn’t a fan of taking DTs very high in the draft). There’s little question that DEs Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney don’t have a problem finding the quarterback. But in order for the Colts to make deeper playoff runs – and four times in the past six postseasons, they’ve failed to win a game (the other two times, they made the Super Bowl) – they need somebody who can stop the run.

3. Backup QB
It’s time to stop thinking of Manning as an immortal Superman who rarely makes mistakes and never gets hurt. Instead, Manning was more mistake-prone than usual last year (his 17 interceptions were the most since 2002), and his backup, Curtis Painter, is simply not starting NFL quarterback quality. The problem here is that Manning – who is still a top-five quarterback, for sure – is going to make sooo much money the remainder of his career, Indianapolis probably can’t afford to bring in a quality, start-on-a-dime signal-caller. So, for now, the Colts will continue to pray the 35-year-old Manning doesn’t fall off a cliff (figuratively and literally).



Caldwell took a ton of heat after the Colts playoff loss to the Jets for calling an ill-advised timeout that allowed the Jets to regroup and win the game at the last minute. Sure, he’s 24-8 (2-2 in the postseason) in his two years in Indianapolis, but Caldwell isn’t shown the same respect as his predecessor Tony Dungy (one was the leader of the team, some say, and one is basically a figurehead coach).

On offense, though, Manning is the one running the offense, and how he plays usually is how the Colts go. For now, Indianapolis will be fine, because Manning is still really, really good. But what if he’s not next year? Is Caldwell the guy who can right the ship if everything is going bonkers? Frankly, we don’t know for sure. It shouldn’t matter this year or next (unless Manning gets hurt). But soon enough, that question will be the most relevant one to ask.

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 4:34 pm
 

NFL agent Gary Wichard dies

Posted by Will Brinson

Long-time NFL agent and founder of Pro Tect Management Gary Wichard died on Friday morning at the age of 60 of complications resulting from diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

The news of Wichard's passing was first reported by Darren Heitner of SportsAgentBlog.com and additional notes of sadness were passed along by Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports and client Jimmy Clausen.

Wichard represented some big-name NFL clients over the years -- including Terrell Suggs, Chris Cooley, Clausen, Dwight Freeney and Jason Taylor, to name a few -- but came under a great deal of scrutiny with his involvement in the agent scandal involving the UNC-Chapel Hill football team.

Wichard, at the time of his death, was serving a nine-month suspension from the NFLPA and was being investigated by the North Carolina Secretary of State.

Despite all that, many people who worked with Wichard during his lengthy career -- be it other agents or sportswriters -- noted what a professional he was.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com