Behind Enemy Lines with Ed Thompson, Part One

J.P. Crawford from asked's publisher, Ed Thompson, some questions about the Indianapolis Colts as part of our pre-game analysis for this weekend's game. Get his insider perspective in the first of our two-part series.

J.P. Crawford: What does the loss of Edgerrin James really mean for the Colts?

Ed Thompson: After watching the preseason and the opening game, so far it appears to be consistency. Game in, game out, James seemingly would churn out 3 to 5 yard runs automatically practically every game. Last year, in 12 of the 14 games where he saw full-time duty, he didn't finish the day without racking up roughly 90 yards or more. During the preseason, the tandem of Dominic Rhodes and top draft pick Joseph Addai didn't get a bunch of carries, but what was a bit troubling was their rushing averages. Rhodes finished with a 2.7 yards per carry average on 17 rushes while Addai had just 1.5 yards per carry. Last weekend against the Giants, that flip-flopped. Addai had a few nice runs even though he was limited to just 7 carries. He finished with a respectable 3.7 yards per carry average in his NFL regular season debut while Rhodes had a disappointing 1.8 average on 16 carries. The good news is that Addai showed good hands out of the backfield and with his pass blocking skill, so the Colts won't lose much in those areas when Addai is out there.

JP: What are the expectations for the running game for the Colts with Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai?

ET: Tony Dungy is still exuding confidence that the Colts will get their running game going, but expect that to be questioned more on Monday if the Rhodes-Addai tandem doesn't get better results this week than the 55 yards they accumulated against the Giants. Addai is showing great progress, and Rhodes may simply need more carries per game than what he's been provided so far. Edgerrin James consistently got more than 20 carries per game last year. Interestingly enough, in the only full-time action he saw where he was limited to much less – just 13 carries against the Chargers near the end of the season – James averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. As mentioned above, Rhodes only got three more carries than that last week. The quandry for the Colts is going to be how long they stay dedicated to the tandem approach. Addai shows such promise in all three phases of his game – rushing, receiving and blocking – that it's hard to keep him on the bench. But Rhodes may be a back like James who needs those 20-plus carries per game to put up better numbers. Sharing the job may keep both of them from being able to contribute the best that they can to this offense.

JP: With all of the offensive success Indy has had, why is Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore not a serious head coaching candidate when jobs open up year after year?

ET:His name has popped up on a few rare occasions but it's fizzled out quickly. I don't believe he's even had a formal interview since coming to Indy. I think Moore is considered a real offensive genius who is widely respected and well-known around the league, so it's hard to fathom that he couldn't land a head coaching spot if he wanted it. But I think it's probable that he's made it known in conversation around the league that he's perfectly content to be an offensive coordinator rather than taking on the additional burden of leading a team. When he came to the Colts he was roughly 60 years old. This November, he'll be 68. While still fully capable of taking a head coaching spot, I think he simply loves what he's doing and loves the organization he currently works for. He gets to work with a future Hall of Fame quarterback every day, and has a great head coach to work with in Tony Dungy. As we've all seen, head coaching jobs can come with more headaches than glory these days. Moore may have quietly taken himself out of consideration over these past few years because he knows he's in a spot that practically any offensive coordinator around the league would love to have.

JP: What is the realistic Super Bowl window with stars like Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison getting older?

ET: The key is more Manning than Harrison at this point. While I don't want to downplay Harrison's incredible contributions to the team, the Colts do a terrific job of cultivating young talent year-in, year-out, which is why they are the winningest team in the league since 1999, Manning's second year in the league. They are an incredible 78-35 during that span. They truly run their team as though they have an internal minor league system. Rarely do you see young players in the lineup until their second, sometimes third year in the league. They are brought along slowly so that by the time a player hits unrestricted free agency, if the Colts can't afford to pay a high price tag, they have another talented player ready to step into his spot who already knows the system, the playbook, and the organization's approach to preparing for games. The consistency has been a huge advantage competitively for the Colts. They returned 20 of their 22 starters this year alone. Manning is in his ninth season and said he would love to play for another 8 years. Realistically, I think the team still has about a 5-year window for the Super Bowl. Beyond that, it probably hinges more on Colts president and general manager Bill Polian's future with the club. He's been the man who has brought in the philosophy and the staff that continues to uncover the right talent to keep the Colts at the top of the league each year.

JP: Does Tony Dungy still have the hunger to win a Super Bowl with all of the turmoil involving the death of his son last year?

ET:Most certainly. You couldn't help but admire the way he returned to the team so quickly following that tragic event. But hunger might be the wrong word for it. Tony Dungy takes pride in building a team that has a business-like, focused approach to football. He likely wants to win more for the joy and pride it will bring to his players and the organization than for his own personal glory; that's just the kind of individual he is. Dungy is the consummate professional who also sees his team as an extension of his family. And his players return that respect and affection by doing what they are asked, repeating his mantras that he instills in them, and staying focused on the vision he sets. It's really amazing when interviewing Colts players how well they all understand that vision and will say, "It's just like Coach Dungy says…" when answering questions. Over his first four seasons with the Colts, Dungy is 48-16 and has led the team into the playoffs all four years including three division titles and  one AFC Championship game appearance.

Check back on Friday for Part 2 of "Behind Enemy Lines With Ed Thompson" as he answers more of J.P.'s questions about the Colts.

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