|Wednesday, October 13
Updated: October 18, 10:55 PM ET
Colts draw three kings
By Dylan Barmmer
Pro Football Weekly
INDIANAPOLIS -- There's no denying it.
Through their first four games, the Colts (2-2) are averaging 29.3 points a contest, the best mark in the AFC. Indianapolis is also averaging 384.3 total yards of offense per game, largely a result of Manning's average of 296.3 passing yards. Manning has thrown 10 TD passes, putting him on pace to throw 40 over a whole season.
"It's all built around Peyton," rookie running back Edgerrin James says. "Peyton, he's the leader. You have to do everything around him, because he's the one that's pulling the trigger."
But while Manning has been the triggerman in the Colts' rapid-fire offense, James and fourth-year wide receiver Marvin Harrison have been two of the most explosive weapons in the league. Indianapolis now has "triplets" who could one day rival Dallas' group of quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin.
"They've surrounded (Manning) with a better supporting cast than what I did in Dallas, quicker," said Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson, who coached the original triplets in Dallas. "Troy really struggled for the first couple of years and really started to come on about his third year. But I think Peyton has come on stronger than what Troy did."
Of the Colts' version of the triplets, right tackle Adam Meadows says, "As long as those three guys are in the huddle -- or any of those three guys (is) in the huddle -- any play that we call has a chance to be a touchdown."
Those close to the Colts have known as much since before this season began. It's just now that the entire NFL is starting to take notice.
During the final days of September, the once hapless Colts found themselves awash in awards. Just three days after Manning's club-record 404 passing yards in a 27-19 win at San Diego in Week 3 earned him the second AFC Offensive Player of the Week award of his career, both James and Harrison received even more impressive accolades. James was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month on the strength of 75 carries for 276 yards and two touchdowns, while Harrison received AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors after torching opposing defenses for 28 catches for 422 yards and six touchdowns.
"I think it's well-deserved," Colts coach Jim Mora said of the honors. "But these guys have gotten some honors (before)."
While James and Harrison both enjoyed stellar college careers, and Harrison averaged 65 catches for 826 yards and seven touchdowns through his first three NFL seasons, what the two have done so far this season has eclipsed anything they might have done in the past.
Not to mention make Manning's demanding job that much easier.
"Sometimes, I just want to take a game off and watch the guy run," tight end Marcus Pollard says. "He's absolutely amazing at making people miss and getting the extra yards. He's a special runner."
In addition to his quick feet and cutback abilities, the 6-foot, 216-pound James possesses the strength to run inside that Faulk seemed to lack. The lean-looking James' strength is such that it has caught some teammates -- and opponents -- by surprise.
"He's a powerful guy," Manning says. "I think a lot of guys don't realize how strong he is in his upper and lower body. So I think a lot of these defensive backs come in, and he stones them pretty good."
Says Colts wide receiver Jerome Pathon: "There's nothing you can take away from Marshall, because Marshall was a Pro Bowl back last year, and he's been a Pro Bowl back in the last few years. But I think Edgerrin is the type of back where he can finesse you or he can run you over."
In addition to that rare blend of size and speed, James possesses maturity, selflessness and perspective well beyond his 21 years. That is also a welcome change from the moody Faulk, who at times alienated teammates with his aloof demeanor.
"I've seen guys who get their 100 yards and think they're the greatest running back in the league," veteran backup quarterback Steve Walsh says. "(James) knows that it comes from hard work, and it comes from a team effort."
James has taken his early honors the way he takes everything else -- in stride.
"It doesn't mean that much to me personally," James says. "It just means that I've been playing pretty well. But you have to keep it up. You want to keep it going on and on. I hate that I fumbled and a few other things, but I learned a lot from (the first) month."
"There's a lot of really good receivers in this league, but I think he's in that group," Mora says of Harrison. "I don't think there's any question about that."
Says James: "Marvin is just super. He makes it look pretty easy, and that's one thing that kind of takes a lot of pressure off of myself and also Peyton. A defense has to build its game plan around trying to stop Marvin, because if they don't, they'll get hit pretty quick."
Harrison has teamed with Manning to produce a lethal combination from the beginning. Manning's first preseason scoring strike came on a 31-yard pass to Harrison, and the two have connected for an amazing 14 touchdowns in 16 career regular-season games together.
"He's played really well," Manning says of his favorite target. "I think it's kind of been an attitude with Marvin. He came into this season excited and kind of frustrated about being hurt last season. He's really wanted the ball. He's made some big catches -- catches that he probably shouldn't have made. Marvin is without a doubt one of the top receivers in the league, and he probably hasn't gotten enough attention."
Harrison was on his way to a career year in '98 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in a Week 12 loss at Baltimore. He finished with 59 catches for 776 yards and seven touchdowns. He has returned with the vengeance Manning mentioned.
"I wanted to go out and finish strong last year, but unfortunately, I wasn't able to because of injury," Harrison says. "I've got a lot of making up and a lot of catching up to do. I think I'm picking up where I left off last year."
With Manning looking as polished as any second-year quarterback ever to take a snap in the NFL, and Harrison and James on their way to big seasons themselves, the sky would seem to be the limit for the young Colts offense.
"I think if you look around the league over the past years, there's always been a combination of quarterback, receiver and running back," Harrison says. "I think we have that here."
Adds James: "We go out there, and I run hard, and they try to stop the run. And that makes it easier for Marvin to do his job. And vice versa, if they back up and try to cover Marvin, that makes it easier for myself. And with Peyton knowing exactly what's going on and everybody on the same page, it makes it easier for us as a team.
"And that's gonna keep improving as the games go on."
Material from Pro Football Weekly.