Last year the Indianapolis Colts were 30 minutes away from claiming their second Lombardi Trophy but fell short.

Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney make up an elite pass rushing duo, but will they ever both be heatlhy for the postseason?

Several of the issues that hampered the Colts during Super Bowl XLIV are still of concern entering the 2010 season.

To earn a shot at redemption, the Colts will have to find answers to several questions.

What’s going on with the offensive line?

Following the Super Bowl loss, president Bill Polian criticized the offensive line.

The timing was odd considering the unit had one of its better games of the season – Manning wasn’t sacked and the team averaged 5.2 yards per rush.

Following the comments the team cut Ryan Lilja, who started every game at guard in 2007 and 2009.

With the undersized Lilja out, the Colts signed a pair of giants – Adam Terry (6-8, 335) and Andy Alleman (6-4, 310) – and drafted another – Jacques McClendon (6-4, 324) – in an obvious attempt to bulk up the o-line.

Unfortunately for the Colts they are all unproven. Terry started 18 games in three seasons for the Ravens but was often injured. The Colts are Alleman’s third team in as many seasons and he has just seven NFL starts to his credit.

Tony Ugoh (Pick No. 42, 2007) and Mike Pollak (Pick No. 59, 2008) have both been disappointing thus far and have much to prove.

Heading into the season only two starting spots on the offensive line are secure – center Jeff Saturday and right tackle Ryan Diem.

Where’s the depth in the secondary?

The Colts have one proven cornerback on the roster – Kelvin Hayden.

Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey had nice rookie seasons last year, but are still inexperienced.

After those three, the Colts have nothing.

The team allowed free agent Tim Jennings to sign with the Bears and drafted USC’s Kevin Thomas in the third round as his replacement.

But Thomas badly injured his knee in rookie camp and may miss the 2010 season.

The Colts are also thin at safety.

Last year’s starters Antonie Bethea and Melvin Bullitt are solid, but the only real depth behind them is the always-injured Bob Sanders.

If Sanders can stay healthy the safety position is a strength, but we all know how big an ‘if’ that is.

Will there be a pass rush come playoff time?

In Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, the Colts have arguably the best pass rushing duo in the NFL, so why worry, right?

Well, the last time Freeney and Mathis were both 100 percent healthy in the playoffs was following the 2006 season. That year the Colts won the Super Bowl.

The duo hasn’t been at full strength for a playoff run since. And when the Colts can’t pressure the passer, everything else falls apart defensively.

Polian used the Colts’ first-round draft pick on speed-rusher Jerry Hughes, who he hopes will help keep Freeney (30) and Mathis (29) fresh during the season.

But Hughes is a rookie, so there’s no way to know what he’ll bring to the table. And with Raheem Brock gone, there is no other pass rusher to speak of.

Can special teams ever be a strength?

It’s been a long time since the Colts’ special teams was a strength. Rookie punter Pat McAfee was a highlight last season, but that was about it.

The coverage teams were better, but the Colts were still inept in the return game. They drafted Indiana’s Ray Fisher and Florida’s Brandon James to help jumpstart the position, but whether or not either will be the answer is anyone’s guess.

Kicker is another area of concern for the Colts.

Adam Vinatieri will be 38 this season and was only available for six games last year due to injury. His replacement last season, Matt Stover, is old enough to be my father (slight exaggeration, but you get the point).

Despite the question marks, most consider the Colts a top contender heading into the 2010 season. And if they find the right answers to these questions, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

Advertisements