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Scouting the Schedule: Colts

Posted by Albert Breer  July 22, 2010 01:40 PM

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Can the offensive line satisfy Bill Polian? The team president was critical of the offensive line's performance in the Super Bowl loss to New Orleans. Shortly thereafter, the team released starting left guard Ryan Lilja. During offseason work, former starting left tackle Tony Ugoh was moved to guard. Clearly, change is coming. Any new combination will need the preseason to gain its cohesion. Bolstering the process will be the return of Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday and tackles Charlie Johnson and Ryan Diem.
 
This needs to happen to win big: Sorry to state the obvious, but Manning must remain upright and on the field. He's arguably the most indispensable player in the league. Management has done a great job of surrounding Manning with blue-chip talent, and Manning has responded by maximizing his supporting cast. The team enters 2010 with a string of seven straight seasons with at least 12 wins -- that's an NFL record -- and eight straight seasons of reaching the playoffs. The key has been Manning. The backup QB situation is precarious at best. Curtis Painter, a 2009 sixth-round draft pick, struggled in two appearances at the end of last season.
 
Where they stack up: The Colts were a league-best 14-2 in 2009 and reached the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons. They appear to be a better team heading into 2010. Their major players return and remain in their prime -- Manning, Wayne, Clark, Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis -- and Sanders and Gonzalez return after being non-factors in '09. Sanders and Gonzalez are like adding two seasoned first-round picks to the mix. Barring an injury to a key player, the Colts once again should be considered the front-runner in the AFC South and for a top seed in the AFC. The beat goes on.


SCOUTING THE SCHEDULE SERIES
July 14: Bengals
July 15: Jets
July 16: Bills
July 17: Ravens
Sunday: Chargers

Monday: Vikings
Tuesday: Browns
Yesterday: Steelers
Today: Colts
Tomorrow: Lions
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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