2018 NFL Season Preview- Indianapolis Colts
For the third year in a row, the Colts tripped over themselves.
Indianapolis finished 4-12 on the year and third in the AFC South thanks to sweeping their series with Houston. The team finished with their first losing record since 2011 and finished with 17 players on injured reserve.
Quarterback Andrew Luck was sidelined the entire season while he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. Scott Tolzien was an embarrassment in his only start of the season. The team traded for Jacoby Brissett just before the regular season, starting the final 15 games and improving as the year went on. Running back Frank Gore had another solid year and finished just short of his second 1,000 yard season with the Colts. Robert Turbin dealt with an elbow injury that sidelined him for much of the season. Tight end Jack Doyle rebounded from a slow start to end up leading the team with 80 receptions. It took time for wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to build timing with Brissett but he still led the team with 966 receiving yards. Donte Moncrief dealt with nagging injuries and inconsistent play in the final year of his contract. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo had one of his best seasons after coming off a poor 2016. Jack Mewhort and Ryan Kelly were in and out of the lineup before landing on IR and Joe Haeg never found a home at guard or tackle.
The defensive line was one of the most improved aspects of this team. Al Woods and Johnathan Hankins proved to be big steals in free agency. The linebackers also improved thanks to offseason additions. Jabaal Sheard led the team with 5.5 sacks, Barkevious Mingo was solid, and John Simon was looking to have a breakout year before landing on injured reserve. Indianapolis has a nice collection of young talent in the secondary. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin stepped up to be the team's top cover corner after Vontae Davis was released midseason.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri led the team in scoring once again and accounted for 41% of ye team's points. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez proved to be a suitable replacement for Pat McAfee averaging 44.8 yards per punt.
Even with all the struggles, the Colts still produced two Pro Bowlers in T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle.
The rookie class dealt with injuries but still offers hope for the future. Safety Malik Hooker finished with the team lead with three interceptions despite dealing with a knee injury. Cornerback Quincy Wilson didn't play much until late in the year but has a lot of talent the team likes. Linebacker Tarell Basham got better as a pass rusher as the year went on. Tackle Zach Banner proved he couldn't keep his weight under control and was released before the season. Running back Marlon Mack has big play ability as a runner and receiver which would allow the team to part ways with Frank Gore.
Colts 2017 Rankings
Opposing Passing YPG
Opposing Rushing YPG
After the disappointing season, head coach Chuck Pagano was fired. On February 5, The Colts announced that they had agreed to terms with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. However, one day later, McDaniels unexpectedly withdrew from the agreement in principle to become the Colts' head coach. On February 11, 2018, after interviewing multiple candidates, the Colts announced the hiring of former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as the new head coach. Reich also spent 14 seasons as a backup quarterback and most famously orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history in the 1992 AFC Wildcard.
With a new head coach comes a new staff. Former Los Angeles Chargers wide receivers coach Nick Sirianni was named the new offensive coordinator replacing Rob Chudzinski. While former Dallas Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus was named the new defensive coordinator replacing Ted Monachino.
Notable Additions- WR James Wright, WR Ryan Grant, TE Eric Ebron
Notable Departures- RB Frank Gore, WR Donte Moncrief, WR Kamar Aiken, G Jack Mewhort, DT Johnathan Hankins, LB Barkevious Mingo, LB Jon Bostic, CB Darius Butler, CB Rashaan Melvin
Colts 2017 Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
Thanks to a coin flip, the Colts were awarded the third overall pick in the draft. Indianapolis has to make upgrades at running back, edge rusher, and middle linebacker.
Frank Gore is going to close out his Hall of Fame career in Miami and Marlon Mack is still developing. The Colts needs a versatile back they haven't had since Edgerrin James.
Jabaal Sheard totaled a team high 5.5 sacks and Tarell Basham is promising, but the team needs a consistent pass rusher like they had with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
The team like Antonio Morrison and Anthony Walker, but the position needs a playmaker in passing situations.
Prior to draft day, Indianapolis traded their third overall pick to the New York Jets in exchange for the Jets' sixth overall pick, two second-round selections, and the their second-round selection in 2019. When it came time for them to pick, the Colts selected Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth overall pick. Nelson was viewed as the top guard prospect in draft and a can't miss talent, but does have inconsistent get off quickness.
Indianapolis also notably drafted Auburn guard Braden Smith and Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis in the second round, and Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain in the sixth. Smith is the top pulling guard this year and has the frame to play anywhere on the offensive line, but struggles with hand placement and footwork. Lewis is technically sound as any defensive end, but lacks burst to get around tackles quickly. Cain has elite level athleticism for a wide receiver, but has struggled with focus drops in the past. Unfortunately, Cain tore his ACL in the team's first preseason game and will be out for the rest of the year.
Deon Cain Highlights
What to Expect
All things considered, this team was a healthy roster from an above .500 record last year.
Andrew Luck is expected to be back by the time the season starts and just having him back will almost guarantee the team more wins. The big question is at running back. Robert Turbin has been in this league awhile but that's mostly been as a backup. Christine Michael has never lived up to his hype and Marlon Mack is still pretty raw in a lot of ways. I think eventually it will be Mack's job, but right now I see it as a running back by committee. Outside of T.Y. Hilton, I don't know what to expect from the receiving corps. Deon Cain might be a steal in year two once he's recovered from a torn ACL and Ryan Grant is a quality player but he won't fill out the stat sheet. The most improved part of this team should be the offensive line. The ideal line for me would be Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Braden Smith, and Joe Haeg from left to right.
Going from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme will force the outside linebacker to move to defensive ends which will help Jabaal Sheard and John Simon because I think that's their natural position. The big concern with this defense is at linebacker. Antonio Morrison and Anthony Walker have the team's trust, but the weak and strong side linebackers remain an enigma. The team expects Quincy Wilson to take a big step forward now that Rashaan Melvin is gone. Malik Hooker has the potential to be an Ed Reed type playmaker at free safety if he can stay healthy.
Given the level of talent in Tennessee and Jacksonville, I don't see Indianapolis stealing the AFC South crown anytime soon, but I do think it will be a fight with Houston for third in the division again.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 7-9