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1 INDIANAPOLIS Colts
Paul Zimmerman
August 28, 2000
Last year they made the most dramatic single-season turnaround in NFL history. Now they're eyeing the next step: the Super Bowl
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August 28, 2000

1 Indianapolis Colts

Last year they made the most dramatic single-season turnaround in NFL history. Now they're eyeing the next step: the Super Bowl

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PROJECTED LINEUP
WITH 1999 STATISTICS

Coach: Jim Mora
Third season with Colts (107-84 in NFL)

Offensive Backs

QB

Peyton Manning

2*

533 att.

331 comp.

62.1%

4,135 yds.

26 TDs

15 int.

90.7 rtg.

RB

Edgerrin James

4*

369 att.

1,553 yds.

4.2 avg.

62 rec.

586 yds.

9.5 avg.

17 TDs

RB

Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar#

241*

143 att.

445 yds.

3.1 avg.

17 rec.

84 yds.

4.9 avg.

2 TDs

FB

Paul Shields

319*

0 att.

Oyds.

no avg.

4 rec.

37 yds.

9.2 avg.

0 TDs

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

WR

Marvin Harrison

9*

115 rec.

1,663 yds.

12 TDs

WR

Terrence Wilkins

60*

42 rec.

565 yds.

4 TDs

WR

Jerome Pathon

134*

14 rec.

163 yds.

0 TDs

TE

Ken Dilger

171*

40 rec.

479 yds.

2 TDs

K

Mike Vanderjagt

125*

43/43 XPs

34/38 FGs

145 pts.

PR

Terrence Wilkins

60*

41 ret.

9.5 avg.

1 TD

KR

Terrence Wilkins

60*

51 ret.

22.2 avg.

1 TD

LT

Tarik Glenn

6'5"

335 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

LG

Steve McKinney

6'4"

302 lbs.

14 games

14 starts

C

Jeff Saturday

6'2"

295 lbs.

11 games

2 starts

RG

Larry Moore

6'2"

312 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

RT

Adam Meadows

6'5"

295 lbs.

16 games

16 starts

Defense

LE

Bernard Holsey#

20 tackles

0 sacks

LT

Bernard Whittington

33 tackles

1 sack

RT

Ellis Johnson

46 tackles

7� sacks

RE

Chad Bratzke

48 tackles

12 sacks

OLB

Cornelius Bennett

102 tackles

5 sacks

MLE

Rob Morris (R)#

77 tackles

6 sacks

OLB

Mike Peterson

105 tackles

3 sacks

CB

Jeff Burris

83 tackles

2 int.

ss

Chad Cota

87 tackles

0 int.

FS

Jason Belser

76 tackles

1 sack

CB

Tyrone Poole

39 tackles

3 int.

P

Hunter Smith

58 punts

42.5 avg.

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)

When he came to Indianapolis in 1998, Colts president Bill Polian had a plan. "First job," he says now, "was to increase the overall team speed and athleticism at every position. Then get the offense in place. No sense getting a fine young quarterback without giving him something to work with. So we drafted for offense in '98, added to it last year while trying to patch the defense through free agency and then drafted for defense this year. Plus we tried to spend our money getting our key veterans signed, long-term, rather than hitting the free-agency market again."

It's a sensible, long-range way of doing things, and the result was a 13-3 record in '99 (up from 3-13 in '98, making it the greatest one-season turnaround in NFL history), an attack that terrorized the league to the tune of 26.4 points a game last year and Polian's fifth executive of the year award. His No. 1 draft choices, Peyton Manning in '98 and Edgerrin James in '99, went to the Pro Bowl last season. Coach Jim Mora has a young team with only one of the 22 projected starters over 30. Oh, yes, this is an outfit on the rise, poised to make a serious run at Super Bowl XXXV.

Manning, 24, is the hottest young quarterback in the AFC. He threw for 26 touchdowns in his rookie season but a league-leading 28 interceptions too. A year later it was a different story. His rating jumped almost 20 points, to 90.7, and his interceptions dropped to 15. He has a terrific thing going with Marvin Harrison, his 115-catch, Pro Bowl wide-out, who worked with Manning prior to this season on a series of optional reads and breakoff patterns that sometimes even puzzles the Colts coaches.

"Sure, I improved last year," Manning says, "but look at what they gave me to work with. I could really spread the ball around. I had three young wideouts, all of whom played, plus Edgerrin. I didn't have to force the ball as I did when I was a rookie. It seemed like someone was always getting open.

"I wasn't happy about the 28 interceptions my rookie year, but even late in the season the coaches were still telling me to be aggressive and calling stuff down the field. I see young quarterbacks just coming into the league, and they're throwing screens and layoffs right away. As funny as this might sound, I really learned a lot by going downfield, even in tight coverage."

If he had to lay it off, though, his bailout receiver was James, who could turn a dump-off into a serious gainer. While the draftniks had predicted Ricky Williams as the Colts' top choice, Indy shocked the world by going for James, Polian's second straight first-pick bull's-eye.

Polian says he picked James for two reasons. "He was better in the passing game," Polian says, "and he had the ability to hit any hole along the line, the perfect fit for our stretch running game."

"This year I'm working on the little things," James says. "Getting downfield for passes, coming out of my breaks faster. I caught 62 balls last year, but I can get a whole lot more."

Harrison is the third part of Indy's big three, reminiscent of the Cowboys' Aikman-Smith-Irvin triumvirate that won three Super Bowls. "We'll flash signals to each other, Peyton and me," Harrison says. "We've taken [offensive coordinator] Tom Moore's system and expanded it. Sometimes we'll go to a pattern on our own, and after there are six points on the board, Tom'll say, 'Great job,' but he'll be scratching his head."

During the dark years of the club, the offensive line was an ever-changing cast, and quarterbacks such as Jeff George were lucky to survive an afternoon. The line is not exactly great now, but it's solid, and it remains virtually intact from '99, a rarity in the era of free agency. The unit gave up only 14 sacks last year, best in the NFL and close to a third of the league average of 40.3.

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