Can you remember a time when we’ve entered a season, or even a single game, with so many questions surrounding our beloved Colts? I sure can’t, which is why I’m presenting this first game preview to you in a series of questions, the answers to which will go a long way toward determining the outcome of Game 1 and the season itself. Here, then, are five big questions to ponder as the Colts travel to Houston to play against the Texans, without Peyton Manning.
Can Kerry Collins ably lead the Colts offense?
My guess is that he can, simply because he’s been a successful NFL quarterback for the past 15+ years, and that ability doesn’t evaporate overnight. Still, Collins is 38, he’s immobile and, well, he’s not Manning. All in all, though, Collins is probably about the best option we could have hoped for. Of course, other factors will affect his impact …
Is the Colts’ offensive line markedly improved?
I dunno. It’s markedly different, but it remains to be seen how the reshuffling changes the final product. I think Anthony Castonzo has the potential to be a star at left tackle, but I don’t have much confidence in Ryan Diem. I also hope to see a healthy dose of rookie Ben Ijalana early in the season. Keeping Diem and Mike Pollak was a questionable tactic and actually limits the line’s depth compared to other available options (Jacques McClendon, Jake Kirkpatrick).
Can the Colts stop the run?
Honestly, I doubt it. Even if Arian Foster can’t go on Sunday, or cant’ go as hard, Ben Tate is waiting in the wings. Tate has exhibited big-play ability and could use the Colts to propel his career, much as Foster did last season. The Colts added some depth on defense during the off-season, and Drake Nevis, Adrian Moten and Ernie Sims will probably get a chance to show that they can help stuff the run, even though they’re not at the top of the depth chart to start the season.
Unfortunately, even if the run-stopping has improved, the secondary probably has not. Matt Schaub has been anointed as the greatest QB in the division now, and he might get his chance to earn those stripes.
Can the Colts run the ball?
Again, I don’t know, but they probably need to establish something on the ground if they hope to beat the Texans. The offense clearly won’t be as flamboyant as it would have been under Manning, especially with the Texans’ much ballyhooed switch to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense. That likely means the Colts should try to pound the ball up the middle, but that hasn’t been their strong suit in the past. Joseph Addai is a skillful blocker, so we might see some Addai-led runs by rookie Delone Carter, who looks like a comer.
Can Jim Caldwell coach without Manning?
It’s a poorly kept secret that many Colts observers think Jim Caldwell is ineffective at best and a Manning puppet at worst. Without #18 in the pocket, Caldwell will come under even more scrutiny from Colts fans, and he might be the scapegoat if the season falls apart quickly. My opinion is that Caldwell is not a real difference maker, but he’s not a complete bumbler, either. This year will go a long way toward determining his future as an NFL head coach.
With all of that said, I think there are enough questions for both teams that there is no clear-cut prediction for this game, and I’ll stick with the hometown guys until they show me I’m wrong. Colts win, 21-17.