There is a laundry list of reasons why the Colts have an 0-6 record right now, and blaming it solely on Peyton Manning's absence is a bit of a cop-out. QB Curtis Painter hasn't been flashy, but he has played well enough to give his club a chance to win the past several weeks.
Indianapolis' secondary play, with the exception of FS Antoine Bethea and CB Jerraud Powers, although he has had some struggles, has been awful - and the players on the field aren't the only ones to blame.
The PFW Spin
In their past two losses, the Colts have allowed Chiefs QB Matt Cassel and Bengals QB Andy Dalton to complete 75.4 percent of their passes for 521 yards, five TDs and zero interceptions — with an average passer rating of 125.2.
Matt Cassel and Andy Dalton.
The main culprit in coverage has been CB Jacob Lacey, a former undrafted rookie who has regressed sharply the past two seasons. Lacey was benched last week, replaced by fellow undrafted rookie Terrence Johnson and sixth-round rookie Chris Rucker. Johnson and Rucker, however, are barely upgrades over Lacey and are certainly not the solution to the Colts' problems.
It is important to remember why the Colts find themselves in this position. Kelvin Hayden, the team's best cornerback prior to Powers' emergence last season, was released before the season because he was banged-up the past two seasons and his cap figure was too high.
Justin Tryon, a godsend when so many other CBs were hurting in 2010, was released in late September. Tryon's departure from the team was rather mysterious, though a source told PFW it was because he was not a good influence on some of the younger players in the locker room.
Still, if the Colts were going to make these moves, shame on them for not having a better contingency plan than Lacey, Johnson and Rucker.
Meanwhile, 2010 third-rounder Kevin Thomas has been a healthy scratch the first six weeks.
With the season over for all intents and purposes, isn't it time for the Colts to find out what they have in Thomas, an impressive athlete who looks the part but has not played in an NFL game? (Thomas missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury.)
What about '10 first-rounder Jerry Hughes, also inactive on Sunday and hardly on the field in his first year-plus in the NFL. Dalton was not sacked on Sunday and was hit only once. Cassel was dropped twice in Week Five, but was far too comfortable, as evidenced by his 138.9 passer rating. (On the season, the Colts have managed only nine sacks — 28th in the NFL.)
Prolific pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have been two of the club's best players this season under nearly impossible circumstances. But there is not another threat to create havoc on the roster, and Mathis will be a free agent at season's end. Moreover, while neither player appears to be slowing down, they are both north of 30 and can't play at this level forever — the exact reason why Hughes was drafted. We certainly aren't suggesting Hughes takes snaps away from the two perennial Pro Bowlers, but what happened to all the talk of packages designed to get all three players on the field together, let alone getting Hughes on the field period?
Vice chairman Bill Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell have used the phrase, "it's a numbers thing," to justify why Thomas and Hughes are not suiting up. Well, here are a few numbers:
Saints QB Drew Brees, the Colts' next opponent, is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 350 yards in four consecutive games.
After watching the Colts get carved up by Cassel and Dalton, now seems like a good time to find out if Thomas and Hughes can help stop the bleeding.