Jerry Langton's "Observations"

Jerry Langton has reviewed the tape and provides his unique analysis of the Colts players following their 13th victory of the season.

"It's gonna be Seattle." Gord was just one of three people while I was bringing my kids to school on Friday who gave his or her opinion on who'll finally be the team to dethrone the Colts as the kings of Undefeatistan. "It'll be Seattle or nobody." 

Although I make a remark about how poorly Matt Hasselbeck handles pressure situations, I wish I had Gord's confidence. I know that any football game can be decided by a bounce and that a big part of 16-and-oh is pure, unadulterated luck. 

And fortune was not on the side of the Colts on that December day in 2002 when a rookie quarterback named David Garrard nearly led the underdog Jaguars to victory over the mighty Colts in Indianapolis. He wasn't hugely special, this kid from Jersey. He had a big time, if scattershot, arm but he had the ability to run and, even more important, improvise. He didn't play a masterful game in 2002, but he did come within touchdown of matching the Colts' final score. And so, going for their 13th victory this season, facing Garrard, Fred Thomas, Jimmy Smith, Marcus Stroud, John Henderson and the rest of the Jags, I was a bit worried for the Colts. 

Of course, we all know the Colts won and it wasn't as close as the 26-18 final would lead casual observers to believe. Still, it was an interesting game to watch and one that taught me a little bit about these Colts. 

• Despite seeing significantly more pressure than he's used to, Peyton Manning played an extraordinary game. Seeing all the field and deciphering coverage schemes, Manning executed with his normal surgical precision. That little fall and limp deal made me hold my breath for second — call me a cynic, but just I don't see Jim Sorgi as quite Manning's equal — but I knew he'd be okay. After 4,274 pass attempts, 244 carries and 151 sacks, Manning has missed a grand total of one play due to injury, and that was for a broken jaw. You'd have to saw his head off to make him miss any time in this season. I really do think he'd throw lefty if he hurt his right arm bad enough. 

Edgerrin James didn't have a great game statistically, but he ran hard and smart and caught a bucket-load of passes. I saw exactly how valuable James is when Dominic Rhodes was blown-by repeatedly by pass-rushers. James is on track for 1,772 yards rushing this year, which would be a career-best by a small margin. 

Marvin Harrison may not catch as many passes as he used to, but he's playing better than he ever has. What surprises me is his strength. Rashean Mathis is a tough character (not to mention an excellent defensive back), but he lost the arm-wrestling match with Harrison all day. He's wiry. On the other side, Kenny Wright (a far inferior defensive back) seemed scared of Reggie Wayne and gave him lots of room. I guess that's sort of understandable because Wayne is the superior player, but it doesn't make sense when you look at how the Jags' D works. If Wright plays tight, the safety moves in and helps, if he plays loose, a linebacker takes up the short slack. Who would you rather have on Wayne? And lay off the Stokely criticism. The time will come and you will be happy the Colts have him. He can be a monster when let loose on a nickel back or safety. 

• Is it just me or is Bryan Fletcher becoming Mr. Everything? He still blocks like Dante Hall most of the time, but he's shown some real field awareness and sticky hands. The knock against him for years has been a lack of toughness, so the jury's still out because he hasn't really faced any pressure. The Colts have been using lots of two-TE sets to help protect Manning and spring James. And Fletch has been the main benefactor (and Stokely the main man out). By the way, has anyone seen either of the Bens in a while? 

• I watched every play of the Jags game and the MVP was, hands down, Tarik Glenn. A roadblock on pass plays and a bulldozer on running plays, it was one of the best games I've ever seen him play. I know Paul Spicer is no Michael Strahan, but Glenn has traditionally had a habit of relaxing against the league's lesser lights. Not Sunday. Strangely, Ryan Diem, who had been playing like a man possessed this season, was caught with his pants down against Reggie Hayward and looked awful, at least for a few plays. My hope is that those whiffs were anomalies and that Diem will be straightened out this week when he faces Shawne Merriman, who's all about speed and quickness and could be handful or two. 

• I kept a close eye on Gilbert Gardner as he filled in for Cato June and, well, he's no June. Actually, that's not really much on an insult as June has played like a young Derrick Brooks this season. But Gardner actually played more like a young Steve Morrison (if you don't remember him, ask a few of the veteran Colts fans around here). Stiff and unsure, Gardner didn't do much to impress me. Y'know, they could have done better with that special-teams demon, young Keith O'Neil. He may not have Gardner's press clippings, but he's a vicious hitter and never stops to think about what's going on. No problem on the other side as David Thornton gave Kyle Brady (all 278 pounds of him) a year's worth of nightmares. The next person who tells me Thornton can't handle the strong side will be labeled a moron. 

Jason David is still one of my favorite players, but I'll admit he played very, very soft against the Jags. I still think he'd be better off as a freelancing nickel back, taking advantage of mistakes, but who am I to argue with 13-0? Mike Doss has stepped it up quite a bit of late, but is clearly the Colts' second-best safety. Bob Sanders has been hitting like a young Chuck Cecil, but has also been attracting penalties like him too. I don't think he deserved the big one he got against Jacksonville, but it probably makes up for a few they missed earlier. I love Sanders' potential, but he really has to get under control. On the plus side, he's much better in deep coverage than I thought he would be.

 • I'm down with the fake field goal. Come on, you're up 17-3, nobody suspects a thing and Hunter Smith is a pretty decent runner and passer. Unfortunately, he chose to pass. See, if he had run, he probably would have made it, but since he threw, he had to have someone catch the pass. The throw was on the money, but long-snapper/linebacker/defensive end/center/tight end in name only Justin Snow was the intended receiver. His performance only makes his listing on the roster as a tight end even more ludicrous. They should put him down as a cornerback, he'd be just as good at that. 

• Someone asked me the other day if Troy Walters leads the league in fair catches. Yes he does with 22. The next guy, Miami's Wes Welker, has 19, but that's misleading as Welker has run 33 punts back for 313 yards while Walters has brought back 16 for 101. A lot of wags have been saying that Walters is right to do so, that catching the punt is what's really important. While it is true that the catch is priority No. 1, Walters is abusing the privilege — you don't see Marvin Harrison sitting down after he's made a third-down catch or Edgerrin James making a beeline for the sideline after he clears the flag. Not including the one's he let bounce past him, Walters has fielded 38 punts for 101 yards or 3.06 yards a pop. Welker gets about double that and he makes $235,000 less a year. 

• One last note: I really think Rob Morris has found a home as a special-teams killer. He's got the mentality and the hitting ability. Good for you, Rob. 

Draft note: The Colts haven't drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since Tarik Glenn in 1997, before Tony Dungy, even before Bill Polian. Instead, they have relied upon position coach Howard Mudd to mold raw athletes into players. It's about time they stopped that — Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James deserve better. One kid I've had my eye on is Louisville's Jason Spitz. A tough kid who plays with discipline, Spitz sees the game like a veteran and blocks very well on the second level. Although he won't wow you with his 40, he'll pull and lead like a fullback. An iron fisted street-fighter inside, he can take care of defensive tackles much bigger than him. He's more of a destroyer than some of the players rated ahead of him and the Colts need that. Although the Colts have a few young prospects at guard, Spitz is better than any of them and he can play center, something the team likes a lot.


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