Halfway through the preseason, here’s what I think they are thinking at the headquarters of the four AFC South teams …
Our offense can be great and our defense has shown growth and progress. We’ve talked of belief before, but it’s at an all-time high. We know outsiders are loaded with doubt because we’ve disappointed them so many times, but we’re for real now and they shall soon see it. We’ve spent the preseason saying we’re not buying any bad news about Peyton Manning. But now that Colts owner Jim Irsay is saying Manning is in doubt for the start of the season, things change. Still, we won’t be counting on getting less than the real Colts on opening day, when we’re going to run all over them just like we did last year.
We stink in the preseason, that’s nothing new. But this time it’s more meaningful, because it’s more likely this is the team that will be playing on opening day. We can heap all sorts of artificial praise on Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. We know it’s hard to believe any of it considering how they’ve played. We’ll be awful without Manning. Heck, we might start poorly with him considering we haven’t shown an ability to stop the run yet. There is a lot of hype about our demise. Talk away. When our quarterback returns, we can still be an elite team. The big questions are when will he be back and who’s playing in the meantime.
We’re making steady progress. Our defense is going to be much improved, and that’s vital considering we don’t yet know who our quarterback will be or what we will get from him. We’ve been super cautious with two crucial players. If Maurice Jones-Drew and Aaron Kampman end up giving us the jolt we expect on both sides of the ball, it will be a real boost. We still need receivers to emerge, but we feel like they will. But that’s not where we’re looking most intently. All eyes inside team headquarters are focused on the same people as all eyes outside. Will it be David Garrard or Blaine Gabbert? Someone needs to start to seize the job this week.
Keep saying it’s a three-team division, please. Keep presuming we’re rebuilding and won’t be a factor. We’ll just be over here, quietly working efficiently. Set the Chris Johnson holdout aside. Even without him, we’ve been making huge strides. There is a new confidence with Mike Munchak at the helm and there isn’t a single doubter in the building about whether we are on the right track. Now belief is a wonderful thing, but you have to have sufficient talent to make it matter. Could we be more talented than people think? You may not put much weight on two preseason performances. But it’s all we’ve got so far, and it’s good.