The 2009 Season is just days away, and it's time to take stock of the Colts to see whether this year's team should be better or worse than last year's. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm comparing the team to the START of last season. That means things that happened during the year (like Addai getting hurt) don't factor in.
How are the 2009 Colts better than the 2008 Colts at QB? Manning is 100%. He's clearly in zone this preseason and starts '09 light years ahead of where he was at the start of last year.
Brown is a dramatic upgrade over Rhodes, though Simpson is a downgrade from a healthy Mike Hart. That's obviously not as important.
This is actually a close call. Wayne is a year older (that's bad). Gonzo is too (that's good). So the question is if Harrison last year is better than Collie this year. Yes. Without question. Garcon is back with another year's experience so that's good.
Clark is settling into his prime, but Robinson, Tamme, and Santi have all had a year in the system. The TE corps is poised for a huge year.
This is tough. Johnson is a major downgrade from last year's Ugoh. Lilja is a major upgrade from the revolving door at guard. Jeff Saturday is finally healthy after a camp injury made for a rough season. Pollack should be a year better. Diem is the same. All in all, the line should be at least a little better than it was at the start of last season. Let's hope so.
For all the talk about the improvement at the D-tackle situation, the line is basically the same as it was last year at this time. Remember that Ed Johnson wasn't cut until a week into the season. So three of the four starters are the same, only we've added a year of age to Freeney and Mathis. The D-line is better than what it was at the END of last season, but not necessarily at the beginning.
When two of last year's projected starters barely make the roster this year, you know you've gotten a lot better. Session struggled early in replacing Hagler, but made the necessary adjustments and is poised for a big year. Brackett is a year older, but Wheeler should be no worse (and hopefully much better) than Keiaho.
But not by much. The same four guys are starting, but injuries are an issue. Sanders and Hayden are dinged up now, and Marlin Jackson is coming off a major knee injury. It's the same excellent group, but it's only fair to assume the injuries have slowed them at least a little.
AV is coming off of major surgery and still isn't 100%.
McAfee looks like he could be a keeper and might prove better than Hunter Smith, but for now, it's only fair to downgrade him for being a rookie with no experience holding.
Same worthless crap as always. If TJ Rushing is healthy and has the job, I'll grade it as better. If not, it'll be a season long game of "Guess who we all pray won't fumble"
You don't lose a Hall of Fame coach and get better. I like Caldwell, but he has to prove himself.
Also, I am personally terrified that Larry Coyer will go blitz happy and ruin the season. My confidence level in him has plummeted after watching ineffectual blitz after ineffectual blitz in the preseason. I hate blitzes, especially on third and long.
Upgrades to the LB corps, the running backs, and the O-line outweigh slight drops to the WRs, secondary, and special teams units. The areas where this team is worse, it isn't necessarily much worse, and the areas where it is better, it is significantly better. Last year's team was an 8 win club led by one of the best QBs in history. It won 12 games. This year's team is a 10 win team lead by one of the greatest QBs in history who is healthy to start the season.
That's reason enough to hope.