With a new contract and a new attitude, Simon could be exactly what the team needs. His presence will stiffen up the middle against the run (the Colts' most glaring deficiency) and make an already fearsome pass-rush even more frightening.
... I know the draft is always a gamble, but I thought the Colts had made some pretty sure bets when they chose Rob Hunt in the fifth and Anthony Davis is the seventh. Now both have been cut. I have a feeling that Davis (8-13-0 rushing, 2-7-0 receiving, 1-20-0 kick return) was still hampered by the injuries that ruined his junior and senior years at Wisconsin. If he was still able to run the way he did in his first two seasons there, he would have easily made the team.
... I'm a little more troubled by the team giving up so early on Hunt. They must have known that he'd have some trouble adjusting from North Dakota State to the NFL, and he didn't look that bad to me in the context of preseason, but sometimes on a team built for winning now, the numbers game can be cruel. The interior of the offensive line had been identified as a problem area and, with former starters Rick DeMulling and Tupe Peko gone, the personnel there could be critical to the team's playoff success. Hunt may have been a work in progress, but to be cut before guys like Matt Ulrich and Jim Netwon, he must have stepped on some important toes. The other cuts were a bit more predictable (some them had already been cut by the Colts at least once before anyway):
Montiese Culton (6-99-0 receiving): I liked the way this kid consistently got behind defenders, but was much less impressed by his lack of concentration and tendency to short-arm passes.
Roscoe Crosby: We all knew Crosby was a lottery ticket (not to be confused with a lottery pick), but when he didn't get any significant playing time in the preseason, it was clear he was a goner. Still, he does have more natural talent than most NFL starters and that could well translate into a practice squad spot. I don't think we've seen the last of him in Indy.
Levon Thomas (11-120-0 receiving): Never really had the concentration to be a successful wide receiver.
Joey Hawkins: A fan favorite, this 6'9 giant rarely saw the field while Ben Hartsock, Ben Utecht and Bryan Fletcher battled to determine the pecking order of the tight ends who'll actually make the roster.
Lou Lombardo: Loved this kid's quick feet, didn't think too much of anything else.
Jason Russell: Limited playing time showed he wasn't up to NFL standards yet.
Nick Rogers (1 tackle): I'm not as surprised at this as many might think. Despite what you'll read elsewhere, Rogers has no value as a linebacker and is somewhat one dimensional at end. With Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis and Raheem Brock (33 combined sacks in 2004) already in place and prospects like Josh Thomas and draft pick Jonathan Welsh in the mix, there was no room for Rogers. And you can't argue with production. Despite three preseason starts, he recorded just one tackle and two penalties. He could be back if someone gets injured, though; the Colts really like his special-teams ability.
Thomas Houchin (2 tackles, 4 assists, 3 special-teams tackles, 1 forced fumble): Poor Houchin — went from summer school starter to injured and unemployed after the first cutdown. I really liked his strength and agility, but it was clear he wasn't very instinctive at linebacker.
Eric Hill (8 tackles, 2 assists, 1 special-teams tackle): A great athlete who can now say he's been cut by the Colts at two different positions.
Jerome Dennis (6-156-0 kick returns. 1/1 fumbles, 1 assist, 1 special-teams tackle): Dang, my favorite prospect got cut again! I didn't see him play much on defense, but thought he had some great speed and moves as a returner. Too bad he carried the bad like he was allergic to it. As soon as he fumbled in Denver, my wife (who wasn't watching the game but looked up to see what the excitement was), said: "that guy just got cut."
Brandon Lynch (1 tackle, 2 assists, 2 special-teams tackles): Scrappy little guy ran around a lot, but didn't always appear to know where the ball was all that often.
Getting back to players the Colts actually want, Dexter Reid is a good pickup. A
lot of Colts fans wanted the team to draft him last year, but he went to New
England in the fourth round. Although he hasn't really shown that much promise
as a defensive back, he's one heck of a special-teams player. An excellent
open-field tackler who takes pride in his big hits, Reid has been called a
potential Pro Bowler on specials. His chances of making the team and becoming a
fan favorite are both very good. The other guy they signed, former
Oklahoma defensive tackle Lynn McGruder, also has a legitimate shot at the 53.
Undrafted after an effective but unspectacular senior season, McGruder signed
with the Bucs, but found himself behind some top talent. Quick off the snap with
good initial recognition skills, McGruder is a much better tackler than most at
the position. He's no Simon, but he could earn a spot as a part-time guy.
... Am I nuts, or does Jim Sorgi look a lot like annoying Oscar winner Roberto Benigni? I want to like the young man, but this preseason he's been holding on to the ball so long, it's almost as though he enjoys being sacked.
... The only Colt with a preseason rushing average over 3.5 yards a carry heading into last night's game against the Bengals? Tom Arth, who ran once for six yards. I'd like to give him credit for picking up a first down, because it came on 4th-and-2, but it was the last play of the game and many of the starters were already in their Escalades on the way home. Arth didn't become a star in his first seven preseason downs, but he was sharing the offense with four guys who were cut earlier this week. Travis Brown's injury makes his chances of sticking better, but the decision as to whether to keep a third quarterback will be based on how the other positions play out, not how well he plays.
Notice running back Vashon Pearson (3-4-0 rushing, 3-14-0 receiving) heading
into Cincinnati made the cut? He hasn't really done much with the ball, but I've
liked what I've seen of him as a blocker. He was a tough inside runner at Ole Miss and could be groomed for a short-yardage role. Still, I wouldn't be shocked
to see another back added if a nice one finds himself unemployed.
... With just seven wide receivers left on the roster, I'd expect to see some great competition for the fourth and fifth spots in the final preseason game.
... I'm still pimpin' the whole Ben Utecht thing. If another injury strikes Dallas Clark, I'm pretty sure Utecht could step in and put up big numbers.
While the backup o-linemen have been largely atrocious, there are still eight of
them on the roster. Expect no more than three to make it.
... Watch how quickly the running game regains its form once Jeff Saturday's back in there. He's not just a superior blocker, he's the brains of the outfit and keeps everyone else loose and on assignment.
... Simon's presence actually gives the Colts three potential Pro Bowlers (Simon, Freeney and Mathis) and two better-than-average players (Raheem Brock and Montae Reagor) on the defensive line. Josh Thomas can also expect to make the team I think, but the other spots aren't as easy to figure. Larry Tripplett had a great game against Denver, but it came after three dismal efforts (maybe he read what I wrote about him). He's been outplayed by Darrel Reid and Jason Stewart, neither of whom have much pedigree, and the Colts invested high draft picks in Welsh and Sweet Pea Burns.
... With Kendyll Pope out, Gilbert Gardner becomes valuable. Let's hope he can stay healthy. ... Things look good for pre-draft nobodies Nick Hannah and Chris Laskowski. They're competing with former Raider and NFL Europe veteran André Sommersell for what's probably one roster spot and both have done more than him. Likely scenario? One makes the team, the other makes the PS.
... A Donald Strickland-Marlin Jackson-Joseph Jefferson-Bob Sanders secondary sounds great, but I'll believe it when I see it -- which I hope will be on the second Sunday in September. The Colts still have 14 defensive backs in camp, just in case. I think Jason David's made the team and Kelvin Hayden gets a free pass (although he would have made it anyway), which leaves Nick Harper, Jermaine Mays and Willie Ford fighting for scraps. Von Hutchin's been placed on the PUP list which makes him ineligible until week six.
Okay, Dominic Rhodes or Brad Pyatt or someone can run back kicks, but I still
don't see anyone on the roster who can return punts with any consistency or
... Discount the onside attempt and Dave Rayner looked like a weapon against Denver. I have to wonder how much of that could be attributed to the thin mountain air.