Indianapolis Colts Report Card has graded the Colts on their first three games of the 2008 season. See how the Colts stack up and where they need to improve as they come off their bye week and prepare to travel to Houston.


It's no secret that the Colts' passing offense hasn't been running at its usual high efficiency through the first three games of the season. Indianapolis is averaging 249 yards through the air and just 11 yards per reception. QB Peyton Manning has been sacked five times. He has a passer efficiency rating of 73.1.

The reasons for the Colts' struggles are varied. Manning did not have a training camp or preseason due to a July 14 surgical procedure to remove an infected bursa sac in his left knee. Indianapolis' offensive line has been in flux due to C Jeff Saturday's preseason knee injury, which sidelined him for the first two games of the season, and the loss of OT Tony Ugoh for at least one game with a groin injury.

Throw in the absence of OG Ryan Lilja, who is on the team's physically unable to perform list due to offseason knee surgery, and the needed quick maturation of a couple rookies, C Jamey Richard and OG Steve Justice, and it's easy to see why the Colts have gotten off to a sluggish start.


The up-and-down nature of the Colts' offensive line so far this season has been a factor in the slow start by the running game. Opposing defenses, however, haven't made the going any easier by often stacking the line of scrimmage and daring Indianapolis to throw the ball downfield.

There was some improvement in the team's 23-21 loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. The Colts are averaging 64 yards per game on the ground and 3.6 yards per rushing attempt in their first three games.


Here's the quandary: Is the Colts' high statistical pass-defense ranking due to above-average play, the opposition opting to run the ball more against Indianapolis' inconsistent rush defense, or a little bit of both? It's probably more of the latter than the former.

The Colts have recorded four sacks, are allowing teams 141 yards through the air (10.4 yards per pass play) and opposing quarterbacks have a cumulative 71.1 efficiency rating. But Indianapolis has just one interception and is allowing quarterbacks to complete 64.2 percent of their passes.


Needless to say, it hasn't been pretty. Opposing teams have gained 598 yards on 123 rushing attempts against the Colts over the first three games of the season. Indianapolis has allowed 100-yard rushers in all three games, including a pair of 100-yard runners against Jacksonville two weeks ago. Teams are averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 199.3 yards per game.

The worst part of the Colts' run defense is that opposing offenses have been allowed to dictate the tempo of the games and limit the amount of time that the Indianapolis offense can be on the field. Opponents are holding onto the football for an average of 35:18 per game.


Surprisingly, it's been the special teams units that have probably been the most consistent for the Colts. PK Adam Vinatieri has hit on three of four field-goal attempts and all five of his PAT attempts. P Hunter Smith is averaging 45.1 yards, 39.4 net, on 12 punts, including five downed inside the opposition's 20-yard line. And the kickoff and punt coverage squads have not allowed a big breakout during the first three games. The biggest negative has been the number of penalties against the special teams units, which have nullified some pretty good plays.


One thing is certain. Coaching is not the reason that the Colts have gotten off to a 1-2 start this year. It's players who win or lose games, and it's been the lack of key players that has hurt Indianapolis to begin the season. Manning has not displayed his usual form early, but much of that can be attributed to injuries along the offensive line. Lack of practice time, lack of time in the pocket and a sluggish running game have all been contributing factors to the offensive slowdown.

The same can be said for the defense, as the team lost both of its big defensive tackles (Quinn Pitcock and Ed Johnson) and will be without S Bob Sanders for the next few weeks. From this point forward, however, how the coaching staff can make the necessary tweaks on both sides of the ball will be key.

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