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 Dungy: Colts better than ever

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PostSubject: Dungy: Colts better than ever   Sun Sep 07, 2008 5:58 pm

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Dungy: Colts better than ever

Coach says talent best he's ever had with Indianapolis

12:47 AM CDT on Sunday, September 7, 2008

One by one the Indianapolis Pro Bowlers returned to the field this summer. First came wide receiver Marvin Harrison on the opening day of training camp July 24.

Then came defensive end Dwight Freeney on Aug. 18 and safety Bob Sanders on Aug. 22. Finally, quarterback Peyton Manning hit the field Aug. 26 for the first time this summer.

Only Harrison played in the preseason as the Big Four of the Colts were working their way back from injuries a foot by Freeney, knees by Harrison and Manning and a shoulder by Sanders.

With all four finally in uniform together, Colts coach Tony Dungy could visualize his team in 2008. And he likes what he sees.

"This should be our most talented team we've had here," Dungy said.

And that's saying a lot. The Colts were the best team in the NFL in 2006, winning their first Super Bowl since moving to Indianapolis in 1984. The Colts have won at least 12 games in an NFL-record five consecutive seasons. They've been to the playoffs an NFL-best six consecutive seasons.
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And this is Indy's best team yet?

The Colts finished 13-3 last season despite losing an NFL runner-up 81 games by starters because of injury. Harrison missed 11 of those games and Freeney seven. A return to health will make the Colts better in 2008. So will an extra year of experience on defense.

Indianapolis finished a surprising third in the NFL in defense last season despite lining up four first-time starters: tackle Ed Johnson, linebacker Freddie Keiaho and cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson.

"All four of them played better than we expected," Dungy said. "They are so much more comfortable and confident now playing with each other.

"I see them talking more, communicating better. They are able to think more about what the other team is doing. Last year, it was a matter of thinking about their assignments and not making mistakes. I think we have a chance to be really good on defense this season."

The Colts have always been able to win games despite their defense. In the Super Bowl season, the Colts overcame the NFL's 21st-ranked defense with the firepower of the league's third-best offense.

The 2007 season marked the first time a Dungy defense had finished in the top five in his six seasons in Indianapolis. That ranking probably would have been higher had the Colts not finished 15th in run defense.
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Tony Dungy's Colts have gone 73-23 in his six seasons as head coach.
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Dungy believes health will translate into improvement there as well. His defensive front seven missed a combined 24 starts because of injuries last season. Pittsburgh's No. 1-ranked unit missed 11 games total on the entire defense.

The Colts have always been able to win games on offense. There's a belief growing in Indianapolis that they can win games on defense now as well.

"I know these guys feel that way," Dungy said.

The New York Giants may be the defending NFL champion and the New England Patriots the defending AFC champion. But don't dismiss the Colts in 2008.

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