Posted: Tuesday July 18, 2006 11:47AM; Updated: Wednesday July 19, 2006 12:58AM
Impact player in the making
The Colts selected speedy LSU running back Joseph Addai with the No. 30 overall pick.
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JOSEPH ADDAI, INDIANAPOLIS
Do not count me among those who believe the sky is falling in Indy with Edgerrin James' departure to Arizona during free agency. The Colts won't have the same explosive running attack, but if they fall short again this season, it won't be due to the lack of a dependable rushing threat. The combination of Addai, the team's first-round draft pick out of LSU, and veteran Dominic Rhodes won't replace James, but it will move the chains enough to get the job done. Addai is a versatile back who can find and hit the holes, can catch the ball when need be and knows when to step up in a pass-protection role. Playing on the Colts' dome-field carpet should accentuate his speed and quickness.
Story to watch unfold
Nobody's NFL potential was more hotly debated this draft season than Texas quarterback Vince Young's. By mid-April, everyone but Condoleezza Rice had checked in with an opinion on whether Young could handle running a sophisticated pro-style offense. And this is not a story that's going away anytime soon. Young figures to start the season well behind veteran Billy Volek -- who's getting his first full-time shot at starting -- but before the year is out the Titans will likely find a way to get the rookie on the field for a test drive. Young's 2006 season will be a learning curve, but whatever shape it takes, you can trust it will be well-chronicled and inspire continued debate.
Biggest splash of the offseason
MARIO WILLIAMS, HOUSTON
You could certainly make a case for Tennessee's selection of Young at No. 3 overall, because picking a potential franchise quarterback is always a headline-grabber. But for shock value, the Texans' decision to bypass running back Reggie Bush at No. 1 in favor of the North Carolina State defensive end was as big an eye-opener as any this offseason. Williams has a rare combination of skills and may develop into the next Julius Peppers. But if he's slow to make an impact for Houston's pass rush as a rookie, he's going to be subjected to almost non-stop (and unfair) comparisons to whatever Bush is doing in New Orleans.
Pay no attention to . . .
Kickers are always impact players. And while the notion that the Colts' swapping of Mike Vanderjagt for Adam Vinatieri looks like an even exchange from many angles, it really isn't, because there's absolutely no way to match Vinatieri's record when it comes to making clutch kicks. Vinatieri is known for his successes when the stakes are at their highest. Vanderjagt? While he's the most accurate kicker in NFL history, he hasn't measured up when the games mean the most. With the Colts still chasing their elusive Super Bowl dreams, which veteran kicker do you think will inspire more confidence should a postseason game boil down to a swing of his right leg?
Potential land mine
The Jaguars had one of the softest schedules in the NFL last season, and they took full advantage of it, posting a 12-4 record and qualifying for their first playoff appearance since 1999. But the follow-up is going to be considerably tougher, and it's going to give new life to the notion that the Jags had no business playing .750 ball in 2005.
Jacksonville's first four games this season are against teams expected to be in the playoff hunt: Dallas, Pittsburgh, at Indianapolis, at Washington. That group went 49-22 (.690), including the playoffs, last season, with only the 9-7 Cowboys missing the postseason. And if the Jags survive that first month, they still aren't home free. They've got tough games at Philadelphia in Week 8, at Miami in Week 13, home against Indy in Week 14, home against New England in Week 16 and at Kansas City in the regular-season finale. All told, Jacksonville has nine games against teams that were winners in '05, making a repeat of their 12-4 finish improbable to say the least.