Colts Blog: April 18, 2007

Tear up your draft boards! The Colts have signed a speedy wideout and re-signed a popular outside linebacker. While neither figures into the starting lineup, the presence of both Craphonso Thorpe and Rocky Boiman could have profound effects on what the Colts do next.

With a crying need at wide receiver, the Colts added some much-needed speed yesterday when they signed free agent Craphonso Thorpe.

Before you make any wisecracks about his name, keep in mind that it's a combination of his dad's first (Craig) and middle (Alphonso) names, and that he prefers to be known as Cro.

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 draft by the Chiefs, Thorpe has bounced around the league, making stops in Houston and Detroit without seeing the field.

The Chiefs drafted him so high because he had been a relatively productive deep threat at Florida State and because of his triangle numbers (6011/188/4.39). But a shoulder injury and an inability to run crisp routes sent him to the practice squad and, eventually, the waiver wire despite the Chiefs' chronic need at the position.

Thorpe plays very much like you'd expect a guy that skinny and that fast to play. He tries to blaze past defenders and is not adept at running routes, muscling corners or treading anywhere near the safeties. Those last two problems became especially acute in 2003 after he broke his leg in two places in overtime against North Carolina State. He appeared cautious in his return, rounding off his routes and avoiding safeties deep.

While he has struck out three times in the NFL so far, he's not without upside. Not only can he outrun just about anyone on the planet, he has natural hands, excellent body control and a receiver's vision.

The Colts have been desperate for a third receiver/slot man since Brandon Stokley left. The job description is simple: Get open on underneath and crossing routes, catch the ball and run as fast as you can toward the goal line. The difficult part of that is that it involves going over the middle — traditionally Thorpe's weakest suit.

He could also be given a shot as the Colts' primary return man. He had some experience there at Florida State, but never really showed much game-breaking ability (going 39-845-0).

Right now, I'd give Thorpe no better than a 50-50 chance to be around after Labor Day. He'll need to show he can make sharp cuts and face down charging safeties; but, if he does, the Colts could have a stealth deep threat on their hands.

His presence somewhat lessens the need for the Colts to draft a wide receiver. Considering that they normally keep five on the roster, the addition of Thorpe reduces the available spots from three to two and a half.

• Linebacker help is here! Sort of. The Colts re-signed outside linebacker Rocky Boiman to a one-year, $595,000 deal.

Nothing against Boiman, who's a valuable roster addition, but I don't think it's the kind of signing that will delight Colts fans. They've seen Boiman for a while now and know what he can do.

What he can do is help in the passing game. Not only is he much more fluid and agile than you'd expect for a man his size, he times his jumps like a corner and has an ability to get his hands on the ball. He's also not a bad blitzer, although he hasn't really been given the opportunity to do so in Indianapolis.

Actually, he hasn't had an opportunity to do much on defense in Indy. It seems strange to say this about anyone over 120 pounds, but the Colts coaches appear not to have much confidence in Boiman's ability to hold the point of attack and play strong against the run. So Boiman has played in dribs and drabs, collecting just eight tackles, two assists, a pick and two pass deflections in 2006.

When the Colts were desperate for a legitimate starting outside linebacker after Gilbert Gardner played his way onto the bench, the coaches ignored Boiman and opted instead for failed middle linebacker prospect Rob Morris.

Instead of a defensive force, Boiman was a consistent, if not spectacular, performer on special-teams, recording 11 tackles and five assists.

Look for Boiman to pick up where he left off in 2006. If he makes the team, he'll be a special-teams mainstay, play defense sparingly and start only in a dire emergency. Since Boiman provides depth and special-teams ability, if the Colts draft an outside linebacker, it will most likely be one with starting potential.

• What's with Antwan Marsh? The kid from Pikeville is loaded with talent but just doesn't seem to have the mental/emotional stuff for the big stage. Best of luck in the real world, son.

His absence leaves Scott Ware as the team's fourth-best safety — for now.

• The Kendyll Pope saga came to a very sad and predictable end this week as the team waived him. It's too bad. I remember when the Colts drafted Gardner in the third round in 2004, I felt relieved that they also drafted Pope because I wasn't sure Gardner would work out. Well, he didn't, really, but Pope was even worse.

Equipped with a natural talent Gardner could only envy, Pope failed in the pros for one simple reason: He'd rather get high than play football. I sincerely hope Pope does well in the future, but I don't think we'll ever see him in the NFL again.

It's sad. It's one thing when a guy like Robert Smith leaves a football career behind to go to medical school, but it's exactly the opposite when a guy gets suspended for a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy and then doesn't get reinstated. What a waste.

• It looks more and more like Jason David will be canonized (get it? he'll become a Saint?) any day now. While some are saying it won't be a bad thing for the Colts because they will almost certainly lose him as an unrestricted free agent in 2008 and get nothing in return, they are missing the fact that David would give the Colts a year of play and of mentoring the young men who would seek to replace him and already-departed Nick Harper. Colts president Bill Polian should have given him a higher tender.

If David stays, expect the Colts to have some growing pains at the position. If he goes, expect some out-and-out disasters. The company line either way will be to fervently hope it all comes together in time for the playoffs, like last year's run defense did.


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