Apparently, Mike Hart comes wrapped in swaddling clothes.
While the sixth-round selection of Mike Hart looks like a solid value pick for the Colts — after all, he IS the all-time rushing leader at the University of Michigan, college football's winningest program — judging by the television draft analysts' and fan's reactions, one would think he's the savior of the Colts' running game, which was stuck in neutral for the second half of the 2007 season.
A whopping 98 percent of ColtPower fans polled approved of the Hart choice, and many commented that he's an immediate upgrade over current No. 2 running back Kenton Keith. But Hart has a lot to do if he wants to prove he's better than Keith, who rushed for 533 yards and averaged 4.4 yards per carry last season.
Most of the criticism of Keith comes from his poor receiving performance last season, and he did have one of the highest drop rates on the team. But with just 13 receptions, he has a small sample size, and it stands to reason that Keith knows if he wants to stay on the Colts, he needs to improve his game in this area.
Kenton Keith could be fighting for his job in training camp this year
AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Considering Tony Dungy recently said that a player's greatest improvement is often between the first and second season it's a safe bet you're going to see Keith improve in this area next year if he wants to keep his job, and he should benefit from another year learning the Colts' system.
Most of the negative backlash comes from his most high-profile drop in 2007 — a game-changing play that led to an interception near the goal line in the playoff loss to the Chargers.
Hart, meanwhile, has benefited from the visibility that comes with his U of M career. As a four-year player for one of the country's top programs, many Big Ten football fans were used to seeing Hart run across their television screens most Saturdays.
But there's a reason 201 players were selected before Hart in the NFL Draft. His 4.7 time in the 40-yard dash is poor for a running back, and his size (5 feet, 9 inches, 195 pounds) is below ideal, as well.
Then, there's the issue of mileage. Consider this: Hart carried the ball 1,015 times during his Michigan career. Joseph Addai, in four years at LSU and two with the Colts in the NFL, has 969 career carries. Granted, Addai has had the luxury of playing in a two-back system virtually his entire collegiate and pro career, while Hart was a featured back for his entire career. But for a rookie to have more carries under his belt than a two-year NFL veteran, and one-time Pro Bowler, is a bit of a cause for concern.
Hart is by means a lock to even make the Colts, let alone unseat Keith as the second back. That said, it would be great to see him prove this wrong and be a contributor in 2008.
This should be one of the most interesting battles to watch in training camp, particularly if Hart can pick up the nuances of the Colts' offense quickly and show that he's a capable receiver, as well.
But, Hart or no Hart, it's time to forgive Keith for one high-profile blunder and recognize him for what he was in 2007 — an asset to the team, and a great find by the coaching staff.
• After the initial shock of hearing that Marvin Harrison was being questioned after a shooting in Philadelphia last week, it's starting to sound as though Harrison isn't a suspect in the investigation.
Colts fans are hoping Marvin Harrison can tiptoe his way out of off-field trouble
Although a handgun owned by Harrison was used in the shooting, it appears Marvin wasn't the triggerman, although new news has been slow to come since Friday.
If he's not involved in the shooting in any way other than owning the gun, Harrison could face a gun charge under Philadelphia law, but it would likely be no more than a misdemeanor.
What does that mean for the Colts on the field? Harrison could face discipline from the league and could be suspended for a game or two — which would be disheartening for a player hoping to successfully from a knee injury that kept him off the field for much of last season.
One of the things to keep in mind is that Harrison has not been charged with any crime, and his conduct with the Colts over his career means that the league, the team and the fans should wait for all the facts to come out before passing any judgment.
Both players were restricted free agents this offseason and didn't attract any interest from other teams, and the release of Fletcher isn't really a surprise, as he barely played in 2007 and was ineffective as a blocker, which is what the Colts need from their backup tight end.
Gandy's release was a little bit more of a surprise, since he seemed the frontrunner to take over the right guard slot departed by Jake Scott — until the team drafted three interior linemen during the NFL Draft.
The team apparently liked enough of what they saw from those new players — Mike Pollak, Steve Justice, and Jamey Richard — after one day of rookie camp to feel confident enough in their potential to cut ties with Gandy.
Now, it sounds like Pollak could be penciled in as the starter at right guard for the beginning of the season, although the team has said it will take a look at Charlie Johnson in that spot.
• Fans on the season-ticket waiting list may find this story in Monday's Indianapolis Business Journal interesting.
• Happy belated birthday, Joseph Addai. The Colts' running back turned 25 on May 3.