They may be undefeated, but that doesn't mean the Colts are going to stop
looking for more talent. On Tuesday, they visited with former Dallas offensive
tackle Kurt Vollers and with former Bengals quarterback Casey Bramlet. Vollers
was on the Colts practice squad until mid-October last season when the Cowboys
roped him in and added him to their 53-man roster. He was originally signed as
an undrafted free agent by the Colts out of Notre Dame.
Bramlet was a 7th-round pick by Cincinnati back in 2004 and was one of the leading quarterbacks in NFL Europe. But he was released in the final round of picks by the Bengals this year, losing the battle for the third quarterback spot to former Ohio State star Craig Krenzel.
Not so special
The Colts are hopeful that special teams kamikaze Keith O'Neil will be back in action for the New England game. He's been recovering from a dislocated shoulder after throwing his body at everything that moved in his first few games with the Colts. His physical style of play and all-out effort were particularly missed against the Texans. Gerome Sapp came up big with four special teams tackles, but he needs some help out there. Don't be surprised to see the Colts take a look at a couple of players this week from outside of the team. At minimum you'll see one or two guys who were on the sidelines get a shot to show what they can do covering kickoffs.
Keep runnin' that play
Despite all the talk of New England's banged up secondary and how Peyton Manning should have a big day against those guys, expect Edgerrin James to be the key player in this game. The Patriots know their defensive backfield is in shambles, just like the Titans knew earlier this season that theirs was too young to handle a full onslaught by the Colts receivers. And like the Titans, the Patriots are not a high-gamble, frequent-blitz style of defense. So expect them to stay back and challenge the Colts to run the ball. If they do, you could see the Colts deploy a similar strategy of running the two-tight end set frequently with Dallas Clark and Bryan Fletcher as they executed so successfully against Tennessee.
The Colts have drafted a number of Big Ten players over the past few seasons and one has to wonder if Colts President Bill Polian is getting the inside scoop on some of these players from a friend -- Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. A few weeks ago, Paterno was so impressed by Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez that after the Nittany Lions came from behind to win 34-29, he reportedly told Polian with a laugh, "I know you have [Peyton] Manning, but that quarterback is pretty good."
Dillon's not "all that"
Patriots running back Corey Dillon turned 31 this year and is having his worst season after the first five games compared to previous season performances. The nine-year pro is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on 96 attempts -- 19 per game. Twice in his career in Cincinnati he finished with 3.9 yards per season and he has a 4.3-yard career average. He's been bothered by an ankle problem for the last two weeks and is questionable for this weekend.
...but Manning is
How many times have you seen these polls during the game where they ask who
you would want running your team's two-minute drill with the game on the line --
and then you hear some announcer pick Tom Brady? Well, Manning is proving
himself to be Mr. Fourth-Quarter this season. His 140.2 passer rating in the fourth
quarter this year is tops in the league. He's completed 30 of 37 passes (81.1%) for 333 yards, four touchdowns and hasn't thrown an interception during that quarter. Manning is returning to the University of Tennessee this weekend for an official jersey retirement ceremony. No one has worn his number 16 since he left Tennessee and was drafted in 1998.
"This is probably one of the biggest honors, if not the biggest honor, that I've received," he said.
Former Colts still in action
Remember former Colts running back Zack Crockett, the playoff star against the Chargers back in 1995? He ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns while replacing Marshall Faulk, helping send the Colts to Kansas City the following weekend. Well, he's still playing in Oakland and caught a pass over the middle for a 23-yard gain last weekend against the Bills. It was his second-longest receiving gain since 1996.
Speaking of the Bills, don't forget to tune in to Sunday night's game to root for another Colts alum -- quarterback Kelly Holcomb -- as the Bills take on the Patriots. Another loss by the Patriots right before having to face the Colts would certainly damage their confidence.
A Manning wanna-be
Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich seems like a nice enough fellow. But he's no Peyton Manning. Through six games, his 82.7 quarterback rating is just a hair lower than his 83.7 rating from last season. Many thought this would be a breakout season for him, but it's just not happening. If he doesn't get it rolling soon, it could hurt the Jaguars' ability to catch up to the Colts.
Know your entire roster of talent
It's easy for a head coach to stand back and watch his starters, making sure everything is fine-tuned for the upcoming game. But Tony Dungy doesn't believe in that philosophy. Dating back to 1996 when he took the helm of the Buccaneers, he has run the scout team in practice. That's the group of players who spend their practice time playing the role of the upcoming opponent so that the starters can get a good look at their schemes and tendencies. It's one of the ways Dungy gets a feel for the developing players who could be his future starters and star players.
"You can tell how guys think," Dungy said. "You can tell how guys react, how they follow directions, if they're into it, if they get better during the course of the year, how important is it to them."
He followed the lead of former Vikings head coach Dennis Green while he was one of Green's assistants. Green still runs the scout unit, even with his current team, the Cardinals.
"He taught me you've got to look down the road for the guys with heart, toughness and desire," said Dungy.