Indianapolis Colts: Is Luck-Richardson New Manning-James But Better?

By Eric Smith

The Indianapolis Colts made a mega trade Wednesday night in getting running back Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for just a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The trade to me is a sign of panic in Colts owner Jim Irsay as he wasn’t happy with his team’s performance to start the season.

In the offseason, the Colts signed over 10 new guys, many of them in mega deals bringing in star power to this team. After Indy went 11-5 in year one of a rebuilding mode last season, hopes were high for the team in 2013.

After two disappointing performances and injuries mounting up, the front office thought this was time to make a blockbuster deal. Now, many are saying the Colts are better now than they were before.

Richardson was the third pick in the 2012 draft, being drafted after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. It now gives the Colts two players in the first three picks of the ’12 draft. That’s rare.

Richardson rushed for 950 yards and had 11 touchdowns on the ground on 267 carries. He also had another 367 yards and a touchdown on 51 receptions as he broke many of Jim Brown‘s rushing records as a rookie with Cleveland. Many tabbed Richardson as a top-five back in the league and the next star out of the backfield.

With him now on the Colts, comparisons to the Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James days have risen. Manning was the top pick of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Colts as the team went 3-13 in his rookie season. After that, the team drafted James with the fourth pick in the 1999 draft as the duo went 13-3 in their first year together.

They would go 77-35 in regular season competition together as they made the playoffs in six of the seven years James played in Indy. Now many are asking, can we expect the same if not better with Luck and Richardson?

The answer isn’t known yet, but it very well could be.

Think about it, the Colts have way more young talent on this team than they ever had in Manning’s days. Yes, I understand the Colts had Manning, James, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley in his heyday, but the Colts have another group coming up with potentially just as much talent.

The Colts now have Luck, Richardson, Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and Vick Ballard. Now I’m aware the last two are out for the season, but they will be back just as good as they ever were next year. Six of those guys were all drafted in the ’12 class, and will be with the Colts now for a long time. Mix in Wayne and Heyward-Bey’s veteran presence and talent, and this team is on a path to a new dynasty.

You have to ask yourself, is this new group a better version of the previous regime?

Another factor is how good the defense is going to be. Yes, they have struggled in the first two games, but it will get better. They have star power on that side of the ball, too, which lacked in the Manning era.

Indianapolis has Cory Redding, Robert Mathis, Ricky Jean-Francois, Erik Walden, Jerrell Freeman, Pat Angerer, Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry as big time playmakers on that side of the ball. These guys will gel better and get the Colts offense more opportunities.

Can you image Manning having this talent around him on both sides of the ball in his era?

I have to believe this combination and trade was a move to put the Colts over the edge, no pun intended.

Eric Smith is the Colts Beat Writer for Rant Sports. He’s covered the team the past four seasons and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru.

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