Friday, February 22, 2008

Position analysis: Quarterbacks

Peyton Manning in 2007: 515-337-4040-31-14 passing, 20-(-5)-3 rushing

Jim Sorgi in 2007: 36-18-132-1-0 passing, 6-(-4)-0 rushing
Josh Betts in 2007: no stats (1)

Free agents

There's not a lot to say about Manning (6040, 228, 4.87 in 1998) that hasn't already been said, written, memorized and become legend. But let's run it down briefly anyway:

• He is, if not the best quarterback in the NFL, no worse than second
• His quick release and uncanny improvisational skills prevent bad things from happening to the team and himself
• He has missed one single snap due to injury 160 regular-season and 14 playoff games — and that was for a broken frickin' jaw
• He makes players around him better; and not in the hoary old cliché way — he actually forces players to be more disciplined and better prepared
• He's not going to get into trouble with drugs or violence or anything like that
• He is likely to play for the Colts for as long as he can.

So, let's move onto the other guys. Maytag repairman jokes aside, I'm not a big Sorgi guy, never have been, but the Colts have decided that a cap-friendly caretaker is what they want behind Manning. Sorgi (6033/207/4.68 in 2004) is smart enough, knows the offense like the back of his hand and has a good rapport with many of the team's skill players, especially the backups. The flipside of that is that he doesn't put much zip on the ball, takes too long to get rid of it, locks onto his favorite targets and is not very good at avoiding even a modest rush. He can play decently in short stretches, but if the Colts are depending on him, they're in big trouble.

Betts (6013, 215, 4.89 in 2006) is pretty much the opposite of Sorgi. He's a hard-throwing gunslinger who stands tall in the pocket and will deliver the bomb with aplomb. But, he throws into coverage, lacks real improvisation skill or elusivness. He's one of those tools guys, who still needs to learn the NFL game. Since the Colts appear confident keeping just two quarterbacks, Betts only chances of sticking around would be an injury to Sorgi or a really, really great preseason.

What I'd do
In all likelihood, the Colts will go with just Sorgi behind Manning and keep Betts' number on speed dial just in case.

But, as I do every year, I am suggesting the Colts draft a quarterback. Really. Of course, I'd only recommend it be a late second-day pick.(2) I want the Colts to get an athletic, explosive No. 3 guy for a couple of reasons.

The first is that the team is vulnerable to athletic, running quarterbacks and will be playing against Vince Young at least twice a year for what looks like a long, long time. Practicing against that type of player could be a great help.

And the Colts have a very complicated offense that requires intelligent, versatile players. By their nature, college quarterbacks usually have a much better understanding of offenses and know the necessities of all skill positions. An explosive athlete who could line up wide, in the slot, at halfback, at H-back or even as a trick-play quarterback or kick holder, could be a huge boon. If he can help out on special teams, all the better.

There are some great options at the position, like San Diego's Josh Johnson and Oregon's Dennis Dixon, but they will be gone on the first day (3). People will recommend Marshall's Bernard Morris, but he doesn't have the footspeed or athleticism to play any other position, and his big arm will be too tempting for teams to try to play him elsewhere.

A better bet would be someone like Southern Mississippi's Jeremy Young, Lehigh's Sedale Threatt or West Virginia's Adam Bednarik. They are all solid athletes with good speed, intelligence and team-first attitudes.

(1) In the 2007 preseason, Betts went 55-33-356-3-4, but showed some ability to move things.
(2) Okay, more likely a priority undrafted free agent signing
(3) As long as Dixon's healthy enough, otherwise he could be a Ben Utecht-like bargain

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