Jerry Langton's "Observations"

We've officially entered Bizarro World....

After three games, the Colts are 3-0, that's not a big surprise. But if you bet the Colts would score 47 points in their first three outings and Peyton Manning would have just two touchdown passes, you're a genius and deserve your winnings. But even if you handed me a document notarized by the Pope that said you predicted their defense would allow just one touchdown over the same span, I wouldn't believe it. We all knew the Colts' defense would probably be superior this year, but nobody — not even defensive coordinator Ron Meeks — could have hoped they would be this good. If you're trying to tell me that you knew the Colts would have recorded almost as many sacks (13) as points allowed (16) after three games, I will, sir or madam, call you a liar.

... With the defense playing as well as it has, it's a shame the Colts don't have a decent quarterback to move the offense. Manning has suffered through one of the least productive stretches of his career, throwing for a few inches more than 200 yards a game and the sort of quarterback rating (79.9) Colts fans associate more with guys like Mike Pagel or Jack Trudeau than the vaunted Peyton Manning. His protection hasn't been great up the middle (though he has yet to be sacked), but he certainly can't blame his veteran crew of receivers. According to Stats Inc., the Colts have dropped exactly one pass this season. Still, to continue the betting theme, the smart money is on Manning to bounce back with gusto before much longer. No matter how long it takes, I doubt we'll hear chants of "Sor-JEE! Sor-JEE!" any time soon. ... You have to wonder what's up with Jeff Smoker. He's a superb talent — certainly better than a few guys who are taking snaps these days — but he can't get a job, despite look-sees all over the league, including Indianapolis. Must be his winning personality.

... Despite little help from blockers not named Ryan Diem and no real breakaways, Edgerrin James is quietly putting together a nice season for himself. Not only is he making yards on his own with strength and determination, but he's actually succeeding in short-yardage situations. It's a good thing, too; because the Colts have a serious depth problem at the position. Other than James, the Colts' "runners" have rushed 14 times for 24 yards, almost 62 inches per carry, and caught no passes. Ran Carthon has been the No. 2 guy — and actually scored a touchdown — but he hasn't inspired much confidence. Take out his one six-yard jaunt (when everybody was expecting Manning to pass) and he's run 8 times for 5 yards, for an average of 22.5 inches per carry. ... The Colts have since signed Anthony Davis, a seventh-round pick who washed out in the preseason, and Kory Chapman, who was recently cut by the Patriots. Although Chapman has put up some decent numbers in the preseason (29-129-0 rushing, 4-40-0 receiving) and in NFL Europe (126-718-5 rushing, 15-154-0 receiving, 11-231-0 returning kicks), he doesn't really strike me as special. He has good vision but only decent agility. He does hang onto the ball, though. But if If I were looking at unemployed backs, I would have gone for Kyle Eckel (also cut by the Pats), a 237-pound battering ram who's a load on short-yardage and a deadly blocker.

... Only three wide receivers — yeah, the same guys who had 1,000-yard seasons last year — have played much at all for the Colts this season. Marvin Harrison has caught 15 of the 27 passes thrown his way (55.56 percent), Reggie Wayne has caught 13 of 21 (61.90) and Brandon Stokely has snagged 10 of 16 (62.50). None has done a real whole lot after the catch, with Harrison averaging 0.33 yards, Wayne 1.23 and Stokely 3.60. I wouldn't exactly exile any of them to the bench in favor of Troy Walters or Aaron Moorehead yet, though. ... I think it's very interesting that when injuries hit the tight end corps, the only player not to get much action was Ben Hartsock. None of the others has exactly set the world on fire, but I still have faith in ColtPower poster boy Ben Utecht.

... Bone-headed penalties aside, Diem has played like a colossus at right tackle. The results haven't been as positive for the other four guys. ... Tarik Glenn has been doing his usual job as a pass-blocker, but hasn't moved much of anything in the running game. ... The return of center Jeff Saturday has improved the interior from the disaster it was in preseason, but not by all that much. Although right guard Jake Scott has been receiving the lion's share of criticism from fans, I grade him out higher this year than left guard Ryan Lilja. Watch for rookie Dylan Gandy to push for increased playing time, if not a starting job, before too long. ... If I were in charge, you'd see 2006's first-rounder (okay, maybe second) go for a guard. Anybody else like Pitt's Charles Spencer?

... I can't praise the defensive line enough. It's playing exactly as the Tony Dungy-style defense works on paper but never had in real life. Every player is getting penetration and causing havoc in both the pass and run games. ... I don't think I've ever seen anybody (and I include LT) play at the level Dwight Freeney is right now. What he's been doing to opposing tackles would be embarrassing if he wasn't on the team I root for. His stats (4 sacks, 2.5 stuffs, 1 forced fumble) don't do him justice. ... Same (at least the transcending of stats part) goes for Corey Simon. His presence has drawn so much attention, the other Colts defensive tackles are going almost unblocked. Don't think so? Playing beside him, Larry (1 sack in 45 career games) had a two-sack game and Montae (7.5 sacks in 73 career games) had a three-sack game. Makes you wonder what old Josh Williams would do. ... Not to be outdone, Raheem Brock and Robert Mathis have added another four sacks.

... The linebackers have reaped the benefits of the increased pressure up front. They haven't had to worry about blitzing or holding coverage very long or having to deal with rampaging backs or pulling guards and life has been relatively easy. ... People have been lavishing praise on middleman Gary Brackett, and he has played well, but I'm still a bit worried. He's been a whiz on passing downs, but only okay on run downs. Oh well, considering how Colts' middle linebackers have fared since Jeff Herrod went into decline, I shouldn't pick nits. ... The outside men haven't made many big plays — Cato June's big pick for a score notwithstanding — but haven't had to. Both June and David Thornton have contained outside runs and hammered would-be receivers. ... One thing that I have to admit I was dead wrong about was Rob Morris. The former starter and first-round pick has settled in quite nicely as a swing reserve and special-teams guy (1 tackle, 3 assists in three games). Maybe he's finally found a home after all. ... Two years after they drafted a couple of big names in Gilbert Gardner and Kendyll Pope and weeks after trading for a bigger name in Rocky Calmus, it looks like the Colts need more OLBs already. I'd keep this Keith O'Neil fellow though. In just two games, he has 2 special teams tackles and 1 assist and has looked good doing it.

... You'd think that losing two talents like Joseph Jefferson and Donald Strickland would have rendered the Colts' secondary awful, but they have responded in a huge way. Opposing passers have been taking their chances more with Nick "The Pick" Harper, and avoiding Jason "King" David. It really hasn't paid off as Harper has been tight and has gotten his hands on no less than 6 passes. ... First-rounder Marlin Jackson has had his moments as the third corner and could well move into a starting position before long. I really admire his tackling ability. ... Luckily for the Colts, Jefferson's annual injury coincided with the return of Mike Doss from suspension. In the two games he's started, he's played better than I've seen him perform as a pro. I don't think he's better than Jefferson, but at least he's ready to suit up every Sunday. I'll bet the reactionaries who wanted to trade or cut him are pretty quiet about it right now. ... The extraordinary play of the front four has overshadowed how well safety Bob Sanders has performed, but I'm pretty sure he's not complaining.

... Some people are openly questioning the value of drafting kicker Dave Rayner and his taking up a roster spot. So far this year, he has one touchback, a 62.42 gross and a 44.00 net. For comparison, Mike Vanderjagt had 0, 58.49 and 38.75 last season. But observers who are weighing Rayner's spot against the 5.25 yards he gives the Colts a few times a game are missing the larger point. Vanderjagt is old by football standards and has hundreds of college, CFL and NFL kicks on that leg. He sagged badly last season and, if his leg is to last, he needs to conserve the few kicks he has left. ... I know that I harp on the Colts' punt return woes, but this is getting ridiculous. While Walters' 4.40-yard gross average may look miniscule, it looks like a mile compared to his net average. When you factor in his 7 fair catches, the Colts have gotten just 22 yards from the 12 kicks he's fielded — that's a 1.83-yard average. At least he hasn't fumbled. But, oh, what could have been. Remember before the 2004 draft, a number of us fans begged the Colts to draft Tennessee's Mark Jones? Well, he went to Tampa Bay in the seventh round. They cut him twice. Then the Giants cut him. Back with the Bucs, he's returned 8 punts for 100 yards with one fair catch (12.50 gross, 11.11 net). I realize that doesn't make him Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, but he certainly would have helped the team more than David Kimball. ... Carthon has been adequate as a kick returner, averaging 18.75 yards a pop. Once Dominic Rhodes and his gaudy 25.08 career average return from injury, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. But at 3-0 with a frightening defense and a breakout game from Manning looming, how much relief do Colts fans need anyway?

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