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Early Look at the 2015 Indianapolis Colts
Deflated balls or not, the Colts were not ready for the Patriots in the AFC Championship. They were thoroughly embarrassed and have had all off season to think about it. General Manager Ryan Grigson is doing what he can to make sure that his team is equipped with the talent to take the next step towards their goal of becoming Super Bowl champions. The Colts are looking really good, especially on the offensive side of the ball, on paper. However, the game isn’t played on paper, and if the Colts want to make their fans happy, they need to make some progress. I don’t think that they need to make it to the Super Bowl, but they need to actually show up against the Patriots this year. Since Andrew Luck has been the signal caller for the Colts, they have played the Patriots four times, losing by a combined 189-73. Have the Colts done enough this offseason to improve? I guess only time will tell.
Who is going to be on the field?
The biggest difference for the Colts’ roster this year is not having number 87. Reggie Wayne will not be back with the team this season after management decided against signing him for one last year. Instead they went and got Andre Johnson, a veteran but slightly younger version of Wayne. He has put up incredible numbers over the course of his career, and he hasn’t had a competent quarterback throwing him the ball. Now he has one of the best in the game, I expect his numbers to be great this year.
To go along with Johnson in the passing game, the Colts have a few young and talented receiving options. TY Hilton is the number one guy that everyone looks at, as he has had back to back thousand yard seasons. Not only is Hilton explosive and a threat to take the top off on every play, but he is a solid route runner and can get open across the middle of the field. Donte Moncrief is a second year player out of Ole Miss who had a pretty solid rookie year with 32 catches, 444 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He is likely going to get a good amount of snaps and is very capable. The Colts also drafted another speedster in the first round, and he is a playmaker. I look to see him get the ball on reverses and screen passes a lot, as well as extending the defensive, and allowing Johnson and the tight ends to roam the middle of the field with much more space.
The Colts have what may be the best tight end combination in the league, with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Last year, both third year players, they combined for over a thousand yards receiving and sixteen touchdowns. They are both ultra-athletic big men, who can split out in the slot to be match up nightmares for the defense.
Frank Gore is the next great thing to happen to the Colts offense this offseason. Even though Frank Gore is getting older (32), especially for a running back, he has still shown to be a solid performer. Gore has rushed for over a thousand yards eight of the ten years he has been in the league. Where I think Gore might rush for a thousand yards again this year, I think it is more likely that he will help contribute to a 1200-1500 yard running back corps. His presence in the locker room should really help the young and talented Boom Herron.
However, a running back isn’t the only one responsible for the running game. The Colts have had severe issues on the offensive line. They haven’t had a 1000 yard rusher since Joseph Addai in 2007. The team has made some pretty big changes on the line in the off season, including signing a solid piece in Todd Herremans and releasing Godser Cherilus who was good at times, but far too inconsistent. Hopefully they have righted their wrongs and can give Gore and Herron some space to run, as well as give Luck some time to throw the ball. We will learn a lot more about the offensive line once the Colts get a couple of preseason games under their belt.
Even though Andrew Luck had a very good year last year, there were plenty of mistakes that I’m sure he has reviewed and have helped him learn. He threw for a league high 40 touchdown passes last year, but he also had 24 total turnovers (16 interceptions, 8 fumbles). Hopefully the offensive line has improved and he will have more time to make the right decision. Luck falls into an issue of being too good at times. He is too strong for one man to bring him down, and a lot of the time he tries to make plays while he has someone draped all over him. He has said a few times this season that he needs to take the sack and let the best punter in football do his job.
The Colts return both Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri to their special teams unit this year. McAfee aka Boom Stick is coming off one his best seasons and his first Pro Bowl season. I look to him to do much of the same this year. Vinatieri is back from one of his better statistical seasons as well, also a Pro Bowler. The Special Teams Unit should be extremely strong this year again, and will likely play a large role in the team’s success.
The Defense also made a few splashes in free agency this offseason. Grigson brought in Trent Cole as another outside linebacker and pass rush specialist. This should prove to be very helpful as the Colts struggled at times to get to the quarterback last year without Robert Mathis. Mathis is due back in October this year after suffering an Achilles injury last year. With Mathis coming back during the early part of the season and Cole, the pass rush should be significantly better than it was last year. In the middle of the field, both of the inside linebackers are back, D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman. Jackson is coming off 140 tackles to go with four sacks last year. Where Freeman had 94 tackles and one and half sacks (in just twelve games).
The major problem for the Colts in the past has been the ability to stop the run. They did some work in free agency and hopefully are finding a way to improve. Head Coach, Chuck Pagaono, has been reported to be spending a lot more time helping out the defense this year than the last couple years. Remember, he came to Indianapolis after spending many years helping the Baltimore Ravens become one of the best defensive teams in the league. They are returning Arthur Jones and Josh Chapman, but they signed Kendall Langford from the St. Louis Rams. Langford will be a key part in helping the Colts stuff the run.
Maybe the most important signing of the offseason was the resigning of Vonte Davis. He is the heart and soul of that secondary, and has proven time and time again that he can cover anyone in the league. Across from him is Greg Toller who is also an above average cornerback and together they make up one of the better cornerback duos in the league. The Colts also resigned veteran Safety Mike Adams. Adams had a very good year with the Colts last year, and I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t have another. The Colts also drafted a talented Safety out of Central Florida, Clayton Geathers. Mike Wells, the Colts reporter for ESPN, has said that Geathers could end up being a starter over Veteran Dwight Lowery, who the Colts acquired over Free Agency.
How will they do?
The Colts won't have much of an issue winning the AFC South again. It’s still a pretty weak division. Saying that, I do think that the division as a whole is getting better and the Colts will not go unscathed through the division this year. I think they end 5-1 in the division, losing to Houston in Houston. That game comes before the highly anticipated AFC Championship rematch versus the Patriots. Overall, I think the Colts will finish 13-3 and I think they will have a first round bye in the playoffs, and likely the number one seed.