Although the Colts fell short of reaching their goal of returning to the Super Bowl for a second consecutive season, there were several positives that came out of the 2010 campaign. Indianapolis captured its ninth straight playoff berth despite placing a league-high 17 players on injured reserve.
And in the absence of star-caliber players, including Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, young guys gained tremendous experience by being thrown into the fire.
"WR Blair White played a lot of football," Peyton Manning's father, Archie, told PFW last week. "Jacob Tamme caught more balls than the guys that went to the Pro Bowl. Those two guys really stepped up and should feel really good about what they accomplished. I think it just gives the coaches a lot more confidence going into next season."
Not only is the coaching staff more confident; White, Tamme and Peyton Manning are, too, after putting in many extra hours together throughout the week.
"I think a quarterback can give some comfort to a young player by just saying, 'Hey don't worry about this, don't try and do too much,' and he's out there with him," Archie Manning said. "You tell a guy one thing in the classroom during the week but you can also tell him on the sideline and in the huddle and it's even more meaningful. …"
White, 23, hauled in 36 receptions this past season and proved to be a valuable red-zone target, with five TDs. He could loom large in the offense next season given the uncertainty surrounding Collie's health.
Tamme was outstanding once Clark was placed on I.R. in October. In the final 10 games, the 25-year-old reeled in 67 catches and four scores. He was Manning's most dependable third-down receiver.
"You look at what the Patriots did with those two rookie tight ends (Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) last year," Archie Manning added. "The Colts could do a lot of that next year. The way Tamme played, you have to play him — you have to get him in the lineup."
The idea of putting Clark and Tamme on the field together is a frightening one for opposing defenses, as both players can get open down the seam and create mismatches with slower linebackers.