The new-look Indianapolis Colts finalized their roster over the weekend, hoping they'll be good enough to handle a road trip to take on the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
I'm not sure they will be.
I'm not sure they won't be.
That's what's great about Week 1 in the NFL. For all of the preseason touchdowns, sacks and quarterback controversies, we really don't know much of anything. We have hunches and hints and some good guesses.
Week 1 provides the big reveal. Until Sunday, when the Colts-Bears wrap up, it's all an exercise in speculation. That's OK. I like sports speculation.
Grading the Colts' 53-man roster on the curve – taking into consideration general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano were starting almost from scratch, not comparing them to, say, the Green Bay Packers – I'd say they're in the B+ or A- range.
Here's a look at each unit, with an observation or two:
Quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Drew Stanton, Chandler Harnish):
No unit upgraded more than this one, and of course I'm talking about an upgrade from Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky, not the Buick spokesman who sat out last season. Luck has been as good as advertised. The question is whether the offensive line can keep him upright and out of trouble. Stanton and Harnish are good insurance policies.
Running backs (Donald Brown, Mewelde Moore, Vick Ballard, Delone Carter):
Brown has some nice turbo speed in the open field. His problem is getting to the open field often enough. Ballard could contend for the starting position by the end of the season, or by the end of the first half Sunday. Moore and Carter have been banged up, and probably compete as third-down backs.
Wide receivers (Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, LaVon Brazill, Donnie Avery, T.Y. Hilton, Kris Adams):
I'm still worried about Collie and whether he can or even should return to action after a preseason concussion, but apparently that's the case. Glad to see Adams make the team. He's a tall leaper with great hands. Brazill and Hilton can burn. Wayne, of course, is one of the best still.
Tight ends (Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Dominique Jones):
Allen has emerged as the star of this unit, with Fleener still looking to make the impact expected of the team's second draft pick. Fleener hasn't been horrible, but he's had too many drops and Allen has looked stronger.
Offensive line (Anthony Castonzo, Joe Reitz, Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn, Winston Justice, Mike Person, Seth Olsen, A.Q. Shipley, Jeff Linkenbach):
I spoke to Justice last week and he said the unit is still working on becoming that in-sync unit necessary to move as one. It'll be interesting to see if Person challenges for time after being picked up Saturday. The last two preseason games raised concerns about the line's pass protecting consistency.
Defensive line (Cory Redding, Antonio Johnson, Fili Moala, Ricardo Mathews, Martin Tevaseu, Drake Nevis):
Redding has been too banged up in the preseason to show what he can do. Tevaseu is an unproven late pickup. Consistency, particularly against the run, is a real concern.
Inside linebackers (Kavell Conner, Jerrell Freeman, Mario Harvey, Moise Fokou, Pat Angerer):
Angerer is the best of the bunch, but he's out for up to six weeks. Freeman has made the most of his time in securing a starting spot in Angerer's absence. Harvey brings some nice energy. It looked like Fokou could fly when he was making a tackle last week. I'll have to confirm that.
Outside linebackers (Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney, Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Justin Hickman):
Mathis is the key man in this group. He seems to have taken well to the new 3-4 defense and his new role. Freeney's impact remains to be seen, and that's a nervous deal for the Colts, considering he's the highest-paid player in the NFL this season.
Cornerbacks (Jerraud Powers, Vontae Davis, Cassius Vaughn, Justin King, Josh Gordy):
Powers is a tremendous talent and solid leader in the secondary. Davis, if he has his head on straight, can be a major contributor and playmaker. This is not a deep unit, however.
Safeties (Antoine Bethea, Tom Zbikowski, Joe Lefeged, Sergio Brown):
Bethea is a proven commodity. I like Zbikowski's energy but this is his first season as a true starting strong safety. We'll see if he's up for the challenge, and if he's quick enough. Strength is not an issue for him. Brown, another Notre Dame product, could be a nice acquisition.
Special teams (Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, Matt Overton):
Vinatieri's leg looks stronger than ever. If so, he can be the best field-goal kicker in the game again. McAfee can be the best punter in the game. Overton enters his first season as the long snapper. Return men Brazill and Hilton bring speed and playmaking, but I'll believe the Colts have a return game when I see it.
My hunch is the Colts have assembled just about the best team possible under the circumstances. This fact is revealing: There are 23 rookies, first- or second-year players on the team.
Lessons will be learned. How fast could translate to how many wins. But the Colts were 2-14 last season. There's really only one direction to go.