2019 NFL Season Preview- Indianapolis Colts
In a year where they projected to be one of the worst teams in football, the Colts turned an above average season.
After starting the season 1-5, Indianapolis rebounded to win nine of their final 10 games and became the third team in NFL history to make the playoffs after that start. In the wildcard round, the Colts upset division rival Houston 21-7, but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the divisional round 31-13.
Running back Marlon Mack overcame some injuries to finish with four 100 yard rushing games in his first year as the fulltime starter and finished with 908 yards and 10 total touchdowns. Tight end Jack Doyle was unable to replicate his 2017 Pro Bowl form as he missed five games with a hip injury then suffered a season ending kidney injury which required surgery. Doyle brings great value to the offense as a receiver and blocker as the team was 5-1 when he played. Wide receiver TY Hilton fought through a sore ankle and finished wit a league best 951 receiving yards over the final eight games. Dontrelle Inman was signed mid October and emerged as the number two receiver. Ryan Grant was ineffective as a free agent signing while Charles Rogers and Zach Pascal dropped too many balls. The offensive line was the most improved unit in the league and gave up the fewest sacks in the league with 18 while not allowing a sack on 239 consecutive pass attempts. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo missed five games with a nagging hamstring but he greatly helped the pass protection when he was healthy. Center Ryan Kelly was playing the best football of his career before being slowed by knee and neck injuries. Right guard Matt Slauson was reliable, but his backup in Mark Glowinski might be the future starter.
The defense was one of the most improved in the NFL. Defensive tackle Denico Autry overcame injuries to become the team's best pass rusher with nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard was okay with 14 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Nose tackle Margus Hunt excelled as the fulltime starter for the first ime in his sixth season. Middle linebacker Anthony Walker took a big step forward after a rough rookie year with 105 tackles. Safety Malik Hooker didn't make many big plays as he was still recovering from knee surgery that ended his rookie season. Cornerback Kenny Moore led the team with three interceptions and Clayton Geathers finished third on the team with 89 tackles but dealt with multiple injuries.
46 year old kicker Adam Vinatieri became the league's all time leading scorer with 2,600 points and set the record for most field goals made. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez finished tied for third in net punting yardage and had 59 touchback on kickoffs. The special teams coverage unit were reliable as they did not allow a touchdown.
The team had three Pro Bowlers in quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Eric Ebron, and guard Quenton Nelson. Luck played for the first time since 2016 and set career bests with a 67.3 completion percentage, 430 completions, and a 98.7 passer rating. He also tied an NFL record with touchdown passes to 13 different players and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Ebron led all tight ends with 13 touchdowns and also ran for a score in his first year in Indianapolis.
The rookie class saw a lot of playing time. Left guard Quenton Nelson didn't miss a snap and brought a tenacity to the offensive line as a Pro Bowl rookie. Linebacker Darius Leonard set a franchise record and led the league with 163 total tackles and was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Tackle Braden Smith made the successful switch from guard and found a home at right tackle. Defensive end Kemoko Turay finished four sacks but was benched due to a lack of intensity. Defensive end Tyquan Lewis missed the first half of the season with a toe injury, but could be the fulltime starter going forward. Running back Nyheim Hines finished third on the team with 63 receptions and had four total touchdowns. Running back Jordan Wilkins averaged 5.6 yards per carry while also being a capable receiver and blocker. Wide receiver Deon Cain was looking like a star in training camp before being lost for the year with a knee injury after the first preseason game. Linebackers Matthew Adams and Zaire Franklin got more playing time than expected and could battle out for the starting job opposite Darius Leonard.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
With the surprising 10-6 season. Head coach Frank Reich has the team moving in the right direction and general manager Chris Ballard will have the most money in cap space than any other team gong into the 2019 season.
Notable Additions- QB Chad Kelly, RB Spencer Ware, RB D'Onta Foreman, WR Devin Funchess, DE Justin Houston, S Derrick Kindred,
Notable Departures- QB Andrew Luck WR Ryan Grant, G Matt Slauson, DT Al Woods, LB Najee Goode, S Mike Mitchell, S JJ Wilcox
Colts 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Going into the draft with the 26th overall pick, the Colts have to bolster the roster in order to continue to make deep playoff runs. Mostly at positions like wide receiver, defensive tackle, and cornerback.
The receiving corps struggled with drops when TY Hilton was injured. With Dontrelle Inman now in New England, the offense needs a solid No. 2 option.
Margus Hunt and Denico Autry showed promise on the inside, but the depth behind them needs built up.
The secondary struggled in man coverage and relied too much on soft zone schemes. A true shutdown cornerback would be an ideal upgrade.
On the opening night of the draft, Indianapolis traded back to the second round with Washington so the Redskins could draft Montez Sweat. So with their three picks in the second round, the Colts selected Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, TCU linebacker Ben Banogu, and Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell. Ya-Sin was praised for being aggressive when the balls in the air, but is a bit stiff when changing direction due to poor footwork. Banogu knows how to squeeze through holes and find the ball carrier, but lacks experience in coverage. Campbell has electrifying track star speed, but doesn't have versatility in his route tree.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford- No nonsense playing style, average instincts
Khari Willis, S, Michigan State- Good quickness and balance, no catch up speed
Marvell Tell III, S USC- Rare height for a safety, struggles to find the ball in the akr
EJ Speed, LB, Tarleton State- Above average speed and range, maturity issues
Gerri Green, DE, Mississippi State- Solid closing burst, poor play strength
Jackson Barton, T, Utah- Massive wingspan, needs a mean streak
Javon Patterson, C, Ole Miss- Smooth feet and hips, lacks girth
Parris Campbell Highlights
What To Expect
Based on the way the Colts finished last season, a lot will be expected of them.
With the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett goes in to the season opener as the starter, but Chad Kelly could challenge him down the line. Marlon Mack has shown he can be a solid starter when healthy while D'Onta Foreman, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins offer a lot of versatility. Assuming Jack Doyle returns healthy, he and Eric Ebron can form one of the top tight ends tandems in football with Doyle having added value as a blocker. TY Hilton is a proven receiver in this league and Devin Funchess is better suited as the number two receiver. The key will be for guys like Deon Cain and Parris Campbell to find a role in the offense. The offensive line should remain solid with Mark Glowinski taking over at right guard.
The defensive line has a nice foundation, but the team needs more production from Jabaal Sheard and Tyquan Lewis. Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker are se in their starter roles, but Matthew Adams, Zaire Franklin, and Ben Banogu will be competing for the starting stronside linebacker spot. The secondary needs to come up with more big plays and that can happen if Malik Hooker stays healthy.
Given Luck's retirement, I can't see the Colts as the favorite in the AFC South anyone. They seem to be a middle of the road team now while Houston and Tennessee compete for the playoff spots
Best Record They Can Hope For: 9-7