Has there ever been a highly favored team with more glaring unknowns than the Indianapolis Colts?
By unknowns, I don't mean that the organization is unclear who is playing on the line or at wide out or at punt returner. I believe the Colts coaching staff knows exactly what is going to happen on Sunday and who is going to play where.
The rest of us have no earthly idea.
Despite our confidence in the Colts' ability to win football games, the truth is we have little idea who will be playing on the offensive side of the football.
We don't know for sure who will play any spot on the line, except right guard. Even if all available players are healthy, we can't be certain of what combination will start. I'm fine with this because I long ago reached the conclusion that the O line is irrelevant. Most people don't buy into that theory, so why is everyone else in America so confident?
We know, or we think we know, that Wayne and Garcon are the top wideouts. I'm sure that's who Texas is preparing for this week. We have no idea who the slot receiver is. Will the Colts go four wide? Will they even play a slot guy? Maybe they are going to line up with two tight ends. This problem doesn't worry us only because we love all the options. The only option that looks bad right now is to run the ball without Eldrige in the game.
Finally, there is the drama at punt returner. Caldwell says that Anthony Gonzalez can do the job. Gonzo claims he's never done it before at any level. Doesn't that strike anyone as insane? Who came up with this plan? I saw Gonzo field some kicks in camp off a jugs machine, but doing so under live NFL fire is a whole different matter. Could he be an electric return man? Sure. Can he do it without ever taking a preseason kick? I'm not so sure. I have a baaaad feeling about this.
As Gonzo said, "All questions are answered on Sunday". I certainly hope so. Right now, I'm staring at a coaching staff who can't communicate with the players and a special teams plan that invovles running Gonzo out to field punts without ever having done it under live fire. Frankly, none of that bodes well.
My suspicion is that this is just such a huge game that the Colts are just messing with everyone. Something is up. On Sunday, we are all either going to slap our foreheads and say, "Of course! Those wily Colts! That's what this was all about!" or we are going to see Gonzo on the bench except when he comes out to misplay a punt, and suddenly we'll all realize that internally, the coaching staff is falling apart and the beginning of the end is here.
I wish I had total confidence in Caldwell. I wish I could just grin slyly and say, "Something is up...".
Maybe I'll get there by Sunday.
Demond Sanders: I think you are reading too much into the punt return story. Many teams use their third or fourth receiver as a punt returner. I understand Gonzo has limited experience, but it isn't exactly a demanding job. Heck, the Colts used Jamie Silva as a punt returner a couple times last year. The Colts have basically one directive for this job: catch the ball and get down (if you accidentally pick up a couple yards in the process it is a bonus). I think Caldwell sees this as a potential way for the team to keep Gonzo involved and useful. It is a reality of the 53 man roster that lower-string recievers are expected to contribute somewhere on special teams (see Hank "Effing" Baskett).