Entering the 2005 season, some wondered if cornerback Nick Harper would be a starter while others wondered if he'd even make the team. In past seasons he's shown flashes of brilliance followed by periods of inconsistency. So far, Harper's not evoking shouts of "Nick the Pick" from the fans, but he is playing some smart defense. He leads the Colts with six passes defensed over the first three games. Safety Bob Sanders is a distant second with three.
Tight end Dallas Clark is off to a slow start. He's caught three passes, but nothing longer than eight yards. He's averaging 6.0 yards per catch.
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne is leading the team in receiving yards with 166 and in average per catch (12.8 yards). But excluding his terrific 51-yard pass play last week, he's averaging a mere 7.7 yards per catch on his other 14 catches. Back out Marvin Harrison's longest catch (28 yards) and he's at 9.3 per catch, and do the same for Brandon Stokley (28 yards) and he's at 9.8. Harrison opened with two consecutive games with a 12.0 average, but he dropped to just 9.0 against the Browns. No Colts receiver has broken the 100-yard mark in the first three games, although Wayne came close with 97 last weekend.
There have been some references made that the Colts' short-yardage game will be fine once running back James Mungro returns from his knee injury. Now I like Mungro a lot. He's a Pennsylvania guy like me, but to state that conclusively when he has just one regular season carry for three yards might be a bit premature. He had 14 carries in the preseason and averaged 2.1 yards per carry. So I guess as long as the Colts need only 2 yards or less on short-yardage, they're all set. That said, I'm hopeful he can be the answer. The Colts need him to step up and be that kind of guy for them.
The Colts have 13 sacks on the season after three games, but sacks don't tell the whole story when it comes to defensive linemen and the passing game. Pressures can force a quarterback to make a bad decision or throw the ball away to avoid a sack. If you add sacks and pressures together, it's no surprise that Dwight Freeney is at the top of the list (4 sacks, 5 pressures), but how about defensive tackle Montae Reagor sharing the lead with him with 3 sacks and a team-leading 6 pressures? Not bad for a guy who spent practically the whole preseason hobbled by a groin injury. Larry Tripplett is next in line with 2 sacks and 5 pressures followed by Raheem Brock (1 sack, 4 pressures). Reserve defensive tackle Darrell Reid got three pressures in the season opener against the Ravens but hasn't seen much playing time since. And how about this for an all-or-nothing kind of guy? Robert Mathis has 3 sacks, but hasn't been credited with a pressure yet.
Edgerrin James got plenty of kudos this past week for his work against the Browns. But his highest yards-per-carry game was against Jacksonville when he posted a healthy 4.7 average. He had a 4.0 against the Browns and 3.8 against the Ravens. So far in each of his first three contests his longest gain of the game has decreased from a high of 16 yards against the Ravens, to 14 against Jax, and 13 against the Browns. Interestingly enough, his longest catch in each game is increasing to a season-high of 20-yards against Cleveland.
Gerome Sapp continues to show why he's a special player when it comes to special teams. He's been credited with at least one special teams tackle in each of the Colts' first three games and is tied with Robert Mathis for the team lead with five special teams tackles.
Fantasy football alert! Brandon Stokley's productivity has been in the toilet the last two weeks (3 catches for 33 yards) after a season opener where Manning hit him seven times for 83 yards. Since Manning has been a bit more consistent from game-to-game hooking up with Wayne and Harrison, don't be surprised if he makes a special effort to give Stokley a few extra looks against the Titans.
One of the Colts' biggest question marks heading into this season was the linebacker corps. While David Thornton had a rock-solid reputation, many wondered if Cato June would continue to develop and whether or not middle linebacker Gary Brackett was too small for the mayhem that ensues after the snap near the center of the defense. June and Brackett have responded by leading the team in tackles with 29 and 26 respectively. And the duo has the only team interceptions to date with Brackett snaring two and June returning one for a touchdown in the opener against the Ravens.
Joseph Jefferson opened the season at safety paired up with Bob Sanders and made six tackles in his debut against the Ravens. During the game he suffered a turf toe injury, but fortunately for the Colts Mike Doss' suspension was reduced to one game, allowing him to step in for the ailing Jefferson. That injury could prove to be costly for Jefferson as Doss had 7 tackles against the Jaguars and 9 last weekend versus Cleveland. He's also been credited with a quarterback pressure and is more than likely no longer on Browns running back Reuben Droughn's Christmas card list after ringing his bell so hard that he likely thought the holidays were starting a bit early this year.
Peyton Manning's pass attempts keep shrinking. He opened the season with 36 against the Ravens, but has dropped to 28 and 23 over the past two weeks. That trend should bounce back against the Titans' young secondary and Tennessee's inclination to use blitzes to add pressure to the quarterback.
The Colts have forced six fumbles, but only recovered one (Raheem Brock). Robert Mathis is the only Colt to have two at this early point in the season. The Colts' luck could change if the ball bounces loose in Tennessee. The Titans have coughed it up six time and lost possession on four of them.
The debut of rookie Jonathan Welsh on special teams last week didn't pass without him getting his name in the stats book. He was credited with an assist on a special teams tackle. Fellow rookie Matt Giordano was expected to be a good contributor to the Colts' special teams efforts largely due to his reputation as a big hitter. He hasn't disappointed. In his first three games he's been credited with two solo tackles and one assist, tied for fourth overall on the team.