Before the season started, I looked at the Colts roster and concluded it was a little better than in 2009. Obviously, the team finished 4 games worse. Let's see where and why.
Quarterbacks: Manning had a very similar year in 2010 to his 2009 season. In some ways, it was an incredible season especially given the context. However, there's also no way around the fact that the Colts dropped games they would have won if Manning had played better. The biggest difference between 2009 and 2010 is that Manning made EVERY clutch play in 2009, and 2010 he left at least three wins on the table (Philly, NE, Dallas). Granted, we didn't see Painter this year, so I guess that's a plus.
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Result: WORSE (slightly)
Running backs: This is a tough one to gauge because of the injuries. Addai, Brown, and Hart all had better YPC in 2010, but they all battled injuries. No one saw Dom Rhodes coming in to produce significant carries. The 2010 Colts backs out rushed the 2009 backs, but had four fumbles to two last year. They had two fewer touchdowns as well. Where the 2010 Colts were really devastated by the injuries comes in the receiving department. The 2009 backs combined for 70 catches, 560 yards and three receiving TDs. The 2010 backs only had 55 for 421 and zero scores. It makes sense that Manning would have thrown to Addai/Brown a lot more than to Hart/Rhodes/James. So on one hand they ran better, on the other they caught worse. Had Addai stayed healthy, I have no doubt this would have been a better season.
Prediction: BETTER (slightly)
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Wide Receivers: What a disappointment. Reggie Wayne had a massive volume season, but his yards per catch and catch rate dropped. That's a bad combination. He had dominating moments, but critical errors directly caused two Indianapolis losses (Jacksonville and Dallas). He was second in the NFL in dropped passes. It was an amazing season from Reggie who single handedly kept the receiving corp afloat, but it's hard to argue he was better than last year. Pierre Garcon saw some of his volume numbers go up, but his yard per catch and advanced metrics were down. Again, he was top five in the NFL in dropped passes. At best, he was a wash. Austin Collie was a revelation and almost single handedly gave the unit a 'Better' rating, but we know what happened to him. n. Blair White had a remarkable season filling in the gaps, and was similar in some ways to Collie last year. What's troubling is that the two primarily receivers were basically healthy and neither improved at all, and if anything you could argue they were worse than in 2009. Receiver is a worry spot for the Colts moving forward.
Tight Ends: Eldrige did have a big effect in the run game, which was much more efficient than in years past. Unfortunately, Clark's injury really hurt the offense. Clark and Tamme combined for similar volume numbers, but were down almost a yard and a half off Clark's YPC from last year. They also had a slightly lower catch rate between them. That's a bad thing when both catch rate and YPC drop.
Offensive Line: The 2010 line performed about the same as the 2009 line. The sack rate was a little better. The Adjust Line Yards were a little worse. YPA was down, but YPC was up. The left side improved at run blocking, but the right side got worse. They were worse in 'power situations', but had a better 'stuff rate'. The line continues to be pretty crappy, about like it has been for the past three seasons.
Ends: Freeney and Mathis played incredible again. They had 24 sacks in 2009 and 21 in 2010, but in 2009, the Colts got 3.5 sacks from Raheem Brock and zero from anyone else in 2010. Hughes barely played, qualifying as one of the major disappointments of 2010.
Tackles: Moala and Mookie Johnson played well this season. Indy's ALY was down as were yards up the middle. Sacks were virtually identical. It's not a great group yet, but it's better than when Brock was playing tackle.
Linebackers: It was an injury riddled year for the Colts linebacking corp, and the original starting three of Wheeler, Brackett and Session barely played together. Conner and Angerer proved to be inspired choices and the return of Tyjuan Hagler helped. The Colts linebackers aren't a dynamic group, but were basically the same in rush defense in 2009 as in 2010. What killed the Colts was going from being respectable against TEs and RBs in pass coverage to one of the worst defenses against both (31st and 28th). Injuries to Brackett and too many young players playing devastated the Colts ability to stop the passing game over the middle.
Secondary: Powers, Bullitt, Hayden, Sanders, Silva. Too many injuries to good players. The secondary has been a mess thanks to injuries.
Kicker: AV was amazing. We still don't know what his range is, but he had a whale of season.
Punter: McAfee started strong, but has not been right for awhile.
Return game: Worst kick off return unit in the NFL. Second worst punt return game.
You know what wasn't a story in 2010? Indy's play calling or the offensive coordinator job. Christensen did a great job adjusting on the fly and changing up the Colts offense. I saw lots of new and creative plays. The offense was only down about a half point or so off of 2009 despite all the injuries. Caldwell did an incredible job righting the ship and keeping the team's focus. It was a tough job, but he pulled it off. Strong year over all by the coaches. I'm even giving Coyer a pass because as I look at the secondary and linebacker injuries, I think it's hard to judge his performance.
The team was worse. Duh. Injuries led to regression at running back, WR, tight end, linebacker, secondary, and special teams. However, the DEs got worse thanks to no production from Hughes. The DTs were the only unit to improve over last year. The coaches held this team together, but for the most part it doesn't measure up. The true 'disappointing' performances were few and far between: McAfee, Garcon, Hughes all had underwhelming years. The recipie for the Colts moving forward is fairly simple at most positions: get healthy.