I don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill, but this link deserves a front page airing.
Anthony Gonzalez had some vague quotes in today's Star. The first is about his role in the offense:
"What I wanted and what I was promised was an opportunity to compete for a job,'' he said.
Did that not occur?
"I don't know,'' he said. "All I wanted was what was promised to me. I'm not sure either way that it did.
"I'm probably not the person to ask, really. Whether a job is open or competition takes place, is something that is determined by coaches, not players.''
That sounds like he's not happy with whatever his role will be in the offense, at least to start the season. In the long run, talent will win out, and Gonzo will be on the field. Still, from those quotes, it's seems clear he didn't get the job he wanted.
The second quote is even more unusual:
The team's initial depth chart lists Gonzalez as its punt returner."It's possible,'' he said. "I have no idea.''
Wow. That means one of four things:
1. Devin Moore is the punt returner and the depth chart is inaccurate (most likely).
2. The Colts have done a horrible job of communicating internally (unlikely)
3. The Colts are trying to play games to throw other teams off track (improbable...is anyone worrying about the Colts' punt returner?)
4. Gonzo is the return man, but is being petulant about it (I'm not buying that either).
No matter what, this situation deserves watching. Bob Kravitz seems like he's trying to create a controversy (because those give us something to talk about) at the end of his piece on Melvin Bullitt:
At the same time Bullitt was talking about his return to backup status, receiver Anthony Gonzalez was at the other end of the locker room, quietly questioning his role on this team. Let's just say, he didn't sound like a guy who has been told he has unseated either Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie.
Asked if the coaches delivered on various promises, including letting him compete for the starting job, Gonzalez said, "I'm not sure either way that it did."
Listen, if this is what passes for discontent in the Colts' locker room, I'll take it. These quotes are as mild as milk, especially because we have no idea what Gonzo's role will be. There's a reason for that: The Colts play perhaps the biggest game of the season on Sunday. How do the Texans prepare for the Colts' offense? They have no idea who will be on the field. They have no idea what the personnel groupings are. Gonzo, Garcon, and Collie are all very different players. For all we know, this is just typical Indy misdirection designed to confuse the Texans.
It's rare that such a key game is taking place in week one. I don't remember a season opener like this since 2004. I don't think we should jump to any conclusions about anything until after Sunday.
Allow me to make an observation.
Both of these players are better right now than Curtis Painter.
I've been defending Painter in recent days, and frankly I don't enjoy it. While I believe he's pretty clearly better than Tom Brandstater, I don't think he's a quality NFL backup. Having said that, I recognize that the Colts have certain priorities when it comes to the kind of player they invest in. They are rolling the same dice this season that they have rolled every season for the past half decade. They are betting everything on Peyton Manning.
I'm good with that. While the Colts have talent at other positions, I firmly believe there are few quarterbacks in the league that could survive behind what passes for an offensive line in Indy. The Colts' backup quarterback is a boring and irrelevant topic when it comes to analyzing the season.
But I keep going back to what I wrote before: Smith and Davis are better than Painter. Smith is off the market, so let's look at Nate Davis.
By all accounts he has a serious problem with work ethic and doesn't know 'what it takes' to be a pro quarterback. They say he has a learning disability, and could struggle to process the Colts' complicated offense.
I'm fully admitting all that up front. He's a project, to be sure. He might not fit in 'culturally' with the Colts.
HOWEVER...is he any bigger a project than Painter? As long as we are going to chuck the season if Manning goes down, let's chuck it with a guy who looks like he could be a star someday under the right circumstances. We can split hairs over Painter and Brandstater all day, but neither one has any chance of winning an actual NFL football game. So why not sign Davis?
Davis would be coming back to Indiana. Maybe that's a bad thing because too many people would feed his ego, and he'd be too close to distractions. It could be a good thing though. He could come to a place where he'd be welcomed and supported.
Davis doesn't know how to work at the craft of quarterbacking? Fine. Let him spend a season in quarterback meetings with Peyton Manning.
Davis has a learning disability? Having a disability doesn't mean he lacks the intellect, just the normal processing tools. Maybe figuring out how to get him to have the lights turn on is too much work, but maybe it will lead to some creative thinking on the part of the coaching staff.
If the Colts don't sign Davis, I'll understand. He sounds like he could be a bit of a headache for a team that doesn't want to waste energy at a position as irrelevant as back up QB. Maybe it is better to have a hardworking, studious guy be the back up. At least he won't annoy the hell out of Peyton during film sessions.
But when it comes to talent, he blows Curtis Painter out of the water.
Nate Davis could become a good pro one day. Curtis Painter never will.
I hope the Colts take a chance on him. If nothing else, sign him to the practice squad.
Even if Curtis Painter isn't better than Brandstater, Nate Davis certainly is.
We've gotten pretty good at prognosticating over the years. It's always a war, but we are never lost when it comes to soothsaying. Will it be it a glorious day or a dark night for your favorite team? 18to88 is here to tell you.
This year, we pay homage to the birth of Harrison Dunlevy, the latest child born with blue in his blood. We are rocking 2010 Harrison Ford style. As always, the predicted records are loosely based on a combination of predictions by the Football Outsiders, pythagorean wins, and our own personal biases.
The debate is over.
The Colts made the right calls on cuts.
They've just announced five practice squad signings, and they are all the most controversial of the cuts:
QB Tom Brandstater
DE John Chick
KR Brandon James
WR Blair White
S Mike Newton
So, if any of these players were actually so good that the Colts had made a mistake by cutting them, they would have been signed by another team. Every franchise in the NFL had a crack at them, and no one wanted them for their active roster.
Now that the 'drama' is over, we can get on to the business of taking down the Texans next week.
Small but important things:
- The 18to88 League drafts today at 2 PM Indy time. You had all better show.
- If you are following 18to88 on Twitter, and I'm not following you, but you really want me to,send me a tweet. I'll pick you up.
- Are you friends with me on Facebook? You should be.
- I got an email (translated via an online translator) from Brazil. A guy named (I'm not making this up) Victor Hugo Dilger really wants to get his hands on a Ken Dilger jersey. I know that old Dilger jerseys are like gold, but if you happen to have a bead on one let me know, so I can help our Brazilian friend fulfill his noble dream.
- I'm doing a piece on getting tickets to the game. If you have any good Indy specific scalping stories or experience with online ticket brokers, pass them along.
- Everyone knows about my book right? Just making sure. There are a lot of new readers, and I want to be sure no one misses it.
- I'm tyring to figure out how to do my Game Blogs this year. The nominees are:
- "Refresh posts" like I've used in the past right here on the main page.
- Cover it live...without the chat. Just me typing. The chat is too hard to moderate and too hard to read after the fact.
- Twitter posts copied and pasted onto the main page after the game. It's easy to follow live and easy for me to have interaction with those who want to.
I'm leaning towards Twitter for now, but I'll take suggestions. Post them in the comments, please.
Finally, "WTF" just showed up as a spell check option when I mistyped 'with' as 'wth'.
Welcome to the new millenium
While the roster still has some shaking out to do, the worst of the cuts are past. What lessons can we take away from cut day?
1. The fourth preseason game is all but meaningless. If ever three players made a statistical case for making a team, it was Brandstater, White, and James who lit up the scoreboard at the Luke on Thursday night. In fact, none of them made the team, and it's not exactly a surprise. The truth is and always has been that the fourth preseason game MEANS NOTHING. The next time someone tries to sell you a line about how so and so secured his roster spot in game four, just say the name "Blair White". That'll end the discussion real quick. Maybe one guy on the bubble beat out another guy on the bubble, but game four is not the time for 'big movers'. No matter what they say, the results of this cut day show how much of the roster was already set before Thursday night. By the way, that's a good thing. You'd hope that after a month of seeing these guys every day, the coaches weren't all confused about who can play and who can't.
There is no need for four preseason games. I think we have proof of that.
2. Don't fumble a kick if you want to make the team. The Colts don't value kick returners. The only thing they ask is that the returner doesn't fumble. I don't think Moore looked any better than James or Fisher, at least not in the last two games. What he had that the others did not was a clean slate fielding kicks. He made the squad. The others are cut. Good for the local guy. The last time the Colts had a local kid return kicks, it was Courtney Roby who got cut after one week, an unfortunate casualty of a roster that was falling apart with injuries. Let's hope Moore hangs around longer.
3. Preseason stats lie. Without knowing who was in a game at any given moment, it's difficult to compare player performances. Fans can work hard watching tape, but there are just some things we can't know by crunching numbers and rewinding plays. The preseason, even more than the regular season, is difficult to gauge from the outside. The talent levels shift dramatically on both sides of the ball from drive to drive. Six points in the first half against starters is worth a lot more than 21 points in the second half against guys about to be cut.
4. Polian is shrewd. We don't know what he surrendered for CB Justin Tyron yet, but I do know that he made #5 the Football Outsiders list of 2010 Breakout Players. Of Tyron they said:
Tryon only started two games during his second year in the league, but he played like he belonged in the Millionaires' Club. According to the Football Outsiders game charting project, Tryon allowed 5.8 adjusted yards per attempt, nearly a half-yard better than any other Redskins corner. Despite spending time in the slot, Tryon didn't allow receivers to get open deep; passes at him were only thrown an average of 7.8 yards away from the line of scrimmage, the lowest figure -- by far -- among Redskins corners.
This is a great pickup, and another reason not to worry about depth at a position like corner. Cover-2 corners can be had on the cheap. Tyron fell out of favor with a new coaching staff looking to install a new defense. That's exactly the kind of guy who can turn around to do big things somewhere else. I love this move.
5. The Colts don't blow picks. All of the Colts 2010 draft class made the team except for Kevin Thomas (who blew out his knee in a freak accident in his first practice) and their last pick, Ray Fisher. Already, the most controversial pick, LB Pat Angerer, has shown signs of becoming a fan favorite and a steady contributor. Two of the Colts' three seventh rounders made the team.
6. Moala wasn't on the bubble. We all felt like he was improving, and if he had been on the bubble it would have burst after his antics Thursday night. He's still with the team. That's a good sign for him and probably a bit of relief as well. Next time, pass the keys, bud.
7. It's not over yet. There are still some questionable bodies on the roster (Ahem, Gijon Robinson, ahem). The Colts will go over the cast offs around the league and probably have a few more cuts to make. I doubt we'll see big names like Leinart or James Hardy, but now is the time to nail down some depth and special teams players. Darrell Reid, anyone?
The end results were anti-climatic. There were no serious upsets. No one who really deserved to make the team got cut. Even Blair White looked like a pretty average player. Some vets I thought were gone are still around like Hart and Robinson.
The roster is a moving target. Today is just a snapshot. There is a pool of 10 guys or so who are out of work at the moment, but will have to suit up before all is said and done.
We haven't heard the last of some of these guys.
I'm not a fan of Curtis Painter.
Last year, I argued that Jim Sorgi was the better player. Everyone else was up in arms about how good Painter looked in the preseason against 3rd/4th string players. I saw the upside, but wasn't impressed. I certainly have been as critical as anyone of his work in the past.
However, I've also been arguing for a couple of weeks now that he had locked up the backup job. There are two primary reasons why:
1. What the Colts have been saying.
2. The way he's been playing.
First, let's talk about what the Colts have been saying. It's been in vogue to post one out of context quote about what the team looks for in preseason. However, almost every other public statement the team has made has been in support and defense of Curtis Painter. That means, that whether or not you think he's better than Brandstater, no one can be surprised that he won the job. The mere fact that he played the entire first half and into the third quarter on Thursday night should have been a flashing neon sign that he was a mortal lock for the job. Our long standing joke is that whoever is playing in the fourth quarter of the preseason game is getting cut. The team announced loud and clear that Painter had the job. Any other decision would have been something of an upset. It's not that the previous Polian quote is 'meaningless'. Rather it's a case that that one quote was never meant to be held up as some kind of binding trump card to override all other factors.
Now let me talk about why Painter won the job. First, and most importantly, he improved a lot over last year. Last preseason, he was almost incapable of leading any kind of sustained drive. He led several scoring drives this preseason. That speaks strongly that his arrow is still pointing up. He has a nice arm and throws a great deep ball. He still stares down WRs too much, but that's not unusual for a young guy. He is still developing and could be come an asset.
He also played against a much higher level of competition than Brandstater did. Painter was also victimized repeated by drops by his wideouts, particuarly the now cut Taj Smith. The Bengals played a lot of starters and Painter did a quite respectable job. Most of the statistical advantage Brandstater gained on him came on his impressive stint against practice squad material at the end of that game. One his TD passes was actually an off the back foot throw to James at the goal line that was not pretty. It worked out, but wasn't some kind of laser or great read. Against a real defense, it's going back the other way for six.
What's unclear is why the Colts would keep Painter for any reason other than that they think more of him. It was suggested that it was based on "pride". Frankly, that doesn't make sense. What face would they save? I can only come up with three poor answers to that:
1. Polian wanted to justify the pick of Painter last year. That simply doesn't fly. He spent a sixth round pick on Painter. Where's the harm in cutting Painter? Most 6th round picks don't last through their second camp do they? If Brandstater was better, Polian would have kept him and not batted an eye over cutting a former low round draft pick.
2. Polian wanted to justify cutting Sorgi. That makes no sense either. Sorgi is already on IR. That decision was a solid one in hindsight. There's nothing to criticize.
3. Polian wanted to justify keeping Painter last year. No one questioned it last year. Last year, Painter was the most popular guy in town right up until he fumbled the ball against the Jets.
None of those make any sense at all. The Colts had nothing invested in Painter that they couldn't walk away from in a heartbeat. He made the team because he was the best of the options that they had.
That does not mean I'm sold on Painter as the back up. I think Matt Leinart would be a better option than Painter. There are scores of reasons that won't happen. Principally because the Colts won't pay Leinart to come in and ride the pine. Secondly, Leinart should be looking to sign with a team where he might have a fighting chance to get on the field. Indy wouldn't be that team.
Ultimately, it's a moot point. Veterans don't want to come to Indy where they know they'll never play. All we can do is shrug and hold onto Peyton Manning for dear life.
Keep checking @18to88 for roster updates. I'll come back with a full recap tomorrow.
Moala, a 2009 second-round draft
pickout of Southern Cal, was stopped at approximately 2:31 this morning when a marked police car noticed Moala’s black 2010 Toyota Tundra speeding on N. Illinois Street. In a police report, officer William Weber said Moala admitted to having “five or six drinks’’ at Club 6 and the officer said Moala’s eyes “were glassy and bloodshot.’’
Moala, 25, had a blood alcohol of .10. The legal limit is .08. Moala was booked and released late this afternoon. He was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, public intoxication and speeding.
So he wasn't "super drunk". He was just "normal drunk". I'm not going to moralize this. DWI is a serious offense in my book. I don't know the young man. I don't know enough about his life and background to know how the team should handle this.
One thing is for sure, you don't want to do this the day before cuts.
The preseason came to merciful end last night with a 30-28 loss to the Bengals. The Colts wrapped up the preseason at 0-4. Let's put a bow on this month of misery, shall we? Last night's game had several encouraging signs:
- The D line played well in the first half, largely against the Bengals starters. Ervin Baldwin made some plays and particularly encouraging was the play of Jerry Hughes. Hughes has struggled to acclimate to pro-style blocking schemes, but what we all wanted to see was some hint of his talent. We certainly saw that in the first half. Hughes first step was astounding. He did a good job getting pressure on several plays. I'm not so worried as to whether or not he did everything right. The question is: is the raw talent in there? After a quiet preseason, Hughes showed the speed and quickness the Colts drafted him for. If he gets more than three sacks this year, I'll be surprised. It's going to take time.
- Moala looks a lot better this year. The Colts largely shut down the Bengals run game in the first half. Guys tend to make a jump in year two, and I'm guessing he takes a big step forward.
- Curtis Painter continued to look vaguely reasonable as a back up. Painter has been victimized by a lot of dropped passes which depressed his stats. He has a tendency to stare down receivers, which isn't unusual for a guy so young. Still he throws a nice deep ball, and against more front line players for Bengals, he resembled a professional quarterback. It's not exactly high praise, but I'm grading on a curve. The most impressive thrown was a roll out on the run dart to White along the sideline. That's not a play everyone can make. The Colts have shown every indication of being committed to him, and I'm more comfortable with him than I was a month ago. If it's not Painter it's because someone not on the roster became available.
- Brandstander had a nice cup of coffee toward the end of the game, throwing three touchdown passes. It's basically meaningless, but it should help him land a practice squad job or employment somewhere in football. He was playing against other guys that are going to get cut. It's conceivable the Colts keep him and dump Painter, but extremely unlikely. They didn't treat last night's game like an open audition. Getting hung up on stats at the end of the last preseason game isn't a formula for accuracy in judging rosters.
- Humbler played well and Angerer again led the team in tackles. Something tells me Angerer is going to be a guy who ends up playing a key role on this team before the year is out. Something is going to happen to thrust this kid into the spot light, and my bet is that he handles himself well.
- The return game is going to be mediocre. Of all the returners, I actually like Fisher the best. Moore strikes me as "Chad Simpson Part Two: Return of the Touchback". That's not so much of a prediction as it is a wish.
- Lambert had played well earlier in preseason, but got BURNT more than once last night.
- Blair White will have a job somewhere next week. It might not be on an NFL roster, but he'll make a practice squad. I hope it's ours. I don't know that he has the top end speed necessary, but he clearly knows how to play football.
- Does Mike Hart make this team? We all love him. The coaches love him. That's fine. He's slow. Crazy, crazy slow. If he gets cut I won't be surprised. I hope not, but I won't be surprised.
- No one even noticed the officials.
- To my knowledge no one important got hurt.
It's over. In just a few days we'll see some real action. I for one, can't wait.
Bring on the Texans. IT'S GAME TIME!