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By Jason Grassi SportsTicker Staff Writer INDIANAPOLIS COLTS Biggest changes: In the secondary and interior of the offensive line. Selected physical cornerback Marlin Jackson in the first round of the 2005 draft. He brings aggressiveness and attitude to a position lacking in those areas. Took cornerbak Kelvin Hayden in the second round. Lost last year's starting guards Rick DeMulling and Tupe Peko from a line which yielded just 14 sacks. Second-year players Jake Scott and Ryan Lilja likely will start at the guard spots.
Positives: An offense that led the NFL in scoring with 32.6 points per game, tied for first for fewest sacks allowed (14) and turned the ball over only 15 times. Peyton Manning is coming off arguably the greatest regular season for a quarterback in NFL history, setting a record with 49 TD passes and completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 4,557 yards. Receivers Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley each had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Edgerrin James signed his franchise tender after rushing for 1,548 yards last season. Defensive end Dwight Freeney is the NFL's premier pass rusher, recording 16 sacks last season. Backup end Robert Mathis also reached double figures in sacks with 10 1/2.
Negatives: A defense which ranked 29th, yielding 370 yards per game. The linebackers are fast but undersized. Gary Brackett and Rob Morris have not proven to be strong against the run at middle linebacker. Strong safety Mike Doss was suspended for the first two games of the season under the league's personal conduct policy after he was arrested on gun charges.
On the spot: Coach Tony Dungy was hired to impact the defense and leave the offense to coordinator Tom Moore. Now in his fourth year as coach, Dungy helped the Colts record 45 sacks and 36 takeaways last season. However, the Colts allowed 22 points per game and ranked 29th in total defense. Prediction: Manning will pass for 42 touchdowns and the Colts will win the AFC South with a 13-3 record. The losses will come at Baltimore (September 11), New England (November 7) and Cincinnati (November 20). Tidbit: The Colts' total of 522 points in 2004 was the fourth highest in single-season history behind Minnesota (556 in 1998), Washington (541 in 1983) and St. Louis (540) in 2000.