(2 of 2) PREVIOUS 1 | 2
3. The return of S Bob Sanders. This is one that will make fans nervous and skeptical, because considering Sanders’ injury history, there is a general nervousness among Colts fans when it comes to trusting he will be available. Sanders missed 26 games the past two seasons, and has played more than 10 games just twice in six NFL seasons. Still, when Sanders has played in more than six games he has made the Pro Bowl twice and he was the 2007 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year. That’s Sanders’ history, but for the present, he participated in OTAs for the first time in several seasons. Sanders typically has spent the off-season in recent years rehabilitating rather than being able to focus on preparing physically for the season. Sanders had a more optimistic feel during OTAs than he has in recent seasons, and the Colts feel better about his off-season than they have in some time. If he can return and give the Colts something close to a full season, there are few defensive players who potentially can have his impact.
4. The return to health of CB Kelvin Hayden. While Sanders’ troubles with injuries have been well-documented over and over in recent seasons, Hayden has had injury troubles of his own. He appeared on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl player in 2007, when he showed big-time ability to break on the ball and a physical nature in his first season as a starter. He missed six games the following season, and after the Colts extended his contract at a franchise-player level, he played just nine of 16 games last season. Injuries have kept him from reaching his full potential, but if he can stay healthy, he gives Indianapolis a big-time presence on the corner they haven’t had often the last two seasons.
5. The maturation of the defensive tackle position. A year ago, this was a real question area, and many felt the answer to the question would be Ed Johnson, a starter in 2007 who had been re-signed in the 2009 off-season. He entered the season as a starter, but was released in October, after which the Colts got more solid as the season continued. Antonio Johnson started throughout the season, and Dan Muir replaced Ed Johnson in the starting lineup and improved throughout the rest of the season. The duo gave the Colts a physical presence on the interior while maintaining the quickness the Colts want at the position. Indianapolis has improved this area and developed a pair of front-line run defenders from a player signed off the Tennessee practice squad (Johnson) and another acquired off waivers (Muir). If the duo continues to improve, the Colts could have strength on the interior they haven’t had during the Freeney/Mathis era.
(2 of 2) PREVIOUS 1 | 2