Colts still suffering from issues at defensive tackle

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 26: Head coach Jim Caldwell of the Indianapolis Colts watches as his team takes on the Green Bay Packers during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Colts 59-24. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

This past offseason there wasn’t a salary cap, but outside of the Bears that didn’t mean that teams broke out their checkbooks to sign free agents to lucrative deals. For the most part, things were business as usual in the NFL when it came to free agency.

That’s why it’s not a surprise that teams like the Colts are still affected by decisions they made in previous years. Is Indy in decline? No, they still have the same issues this season as they did last year when they represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. But since they’re 2-2 now, those issues have become magnified.

Those that were paying attention this summer knew that once again Indianapolis would have trouble stopping the run. GM Bill Polian has been ignoring the defensive tackle position for years and even when he tried to upgrade the position, he whiffed (’09 second round pick Fili Moala has yet to make an impact).

The Colts are 2-2 not because they’re in decline, not because Jim Caldwell picked the wrong time to be aggressive with his timeouts last Sunday (seriously Jim, just play for overtime – you had all the momentum), but because they failed to address their biggest weakness in the offseason.

The two teams that the Colts lost to were able to run the ball. In Week 1, somebody forgot to tell Arian Foster that he wasn’t Earl Campbell and he went off for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Last Sunday in Jacksonville, you knew if the Jags could keep the ball on the ground with Maurice Jones-Drew that they were going to have a shot in the end. Jones-Drew didn’t go Earl Campbell Foster on the Colts, but Jacksonville did rush for 174 yards and David Garrard actually resembled a starting NFL quarterback for the first time this season.

Football is the simplest, complicated game in the world. If you’re facing an opponent that has a great quarterback and can successfully and consistently throw the ball vertical, your game plan has to be to run the ball. You have to chew up the clock, you have to keep the chains moving and you have to keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines. Fail to do that and you’re going to lose on a regular basis.

Two weeks ago, the Falcons went into New Orleans and upset the Saints. They got a ton of help from Garrett Hartley’s 29-yard missed field goal in overtime, but they were able to run the ball with consistency in the second quarter and in the extra frame. There Drew Brees was, standing on the sidelines watching Michael Turner and Jason Snelling chew up yards and move into field goal position. That’s a slow death for a gunslinger like Brees.

The same goes for Peyton Manning, who is as far from decline as you’ll ever see in a 13-year veteran. The Colts need to sure up their defensive tackle position or else Peyton and Co. will continue to struggle. The best defense against the Colts right now is a sound running game, which the Texans and Jaguars displayed in their two games against Indy.

Maybe Moala will develop soon. It usually takes defensive tackles three years before they start having an impact, but Indy needs him to grow up in a hurry. If he doesn’t, then Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson (players who would be great in a rotation but who are weak as starters) will have to do.

The Colts did just fine with that pair last year and obviously Polian didn’t feel the need to upgrade the position, so they’re going to roll the dice again.

Hope for their sake it’s enough.

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