Mike Fanelli | Aug 18th, 2019
Coming off a very disappointing 2017 season, where franchise quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t take a single snap as he recovered from a complex shoulder injury, the Indianapolis Colts’ started the 2018 season 1-6, including an overtime loss to the Houston Texans. However, Luck shook off the year long rust and the defense picked it’s game up around Defensive Rookie of the Year, Darius Leonard. The Colts to won nine of their last 10 games, including a win over the Tennessee Titans on the final night of the regular season. With a 10-6 record, the Colts got the final wild-card spot in the AFC and defeated the Texans 21-7 in the first round of the playoffs, but fell to the Kansas City Chiefs the next weekend, losing 31-13.
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After finishing the 2018 season strong and with plenty of cap space, many expected the Colts to be aggressive in the free-agent market; they were not. They re-signed starting guard Mark Glowinski after he had a career year. They signed former Carolina Panthers’ wide receiver Devin Funchess to a one year deal worth up to $13 million dollars with incentives. After the Chiefs released Justin Houston, the Colts became aggressive in free agency, recruiting him hard to join their young pass rush group. Houston signed a two-year deal with $24 million dollars and should take the Colts’ defense to the next level. Recently they claimed former Texans’ running back D’Onta Foreman off waivers but he will have an uphill fight to make the final 53 man roster.
While the Colts did very little in free agency, they were extremely active in the draft. They had an extra second-round pick (34th overall) thanks to the trade the Colts made with the Jets last year so they could select Sam Darnold. With that pick, they selected cornerback Rock Ya-Sin out of Temple. Ya-Sin was the Colts’ first pick in the draft as they traded their first-round selection the night before to the Washington Redskins for a second-round pick in 2019 and 2020. In addition to taking Ya-Sin in the second round, the Colts grabbed wide receiver Parris Campbell and defensive end Ben Banogu with their other two second-round picks. Starting what looks like to be a very promising draft class.
On paper, the Colts’ don’t have a lot of star power on offense, but they have a great number of productive, smart players and guys with plenty of upside. However, this offense will go as far as Luck’s health takes it. Currently, Luck is dealing with a calf/ankle issue that has bothered him for months. The team believes they have found the cause of his pain and that he doesn’t need surgery. While that sounds like good news, the Colts don’t know if he will be ready for week one and even if they did, no one should trust them. Back in 2017 when Luck was dealing with the shoulder injury, the Colts said he would be ready for week one, then, later on, said he would only miss a few games. Luck ended up missing the entire 2017 season.
Assuming Luck is under center, the Colts’ have plenty of options for him to throw to. T.Y. Hilton is a great top wide receiver, while Eric Ebron is coming off a breakout year during his first season with the Colts. Marlon Mack leads a good set of running backs that include second-year pass-catching specialist Nyheim Hines. Along with Campbell, Hines will be used on special teams and gadget plays to open up the offense. While the skill players get all the love, the Colts’ had the best offensive line in football last year and return all five starters. Quenton Nelson might already be the best guard in the NFL not named Zack Martin and he sets the tone for the Colts’ upfront.
Entering last season no one expected much from the Colts’ defense and in the first seven weeks of the season, the defense wasn’t very good. However, during the nine of 10 game winning streak, they gave up only 16.4 points per game and three times held their opponent to under a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Colts gave up 34 or more points in four of their first six games, getting their only win during that span against the Washington Redskins.
While Leonard was a key part of the defenses’ turnaround as he led the league with 163 total tackles and was second on the Colts with seven sacks. However, he wasn’t the only one who played a role in the improved defense. Kenny Moore went from a waiver wire claim to arguably one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the league. Quincy Wilson and Pierre Desire stepped up as starters, while the rookie duo of Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis had six combined sacks. Many of the key players on the Colts’ defense will be back, and with the addition of Houston and the rookies, this defense could be even better in 2019.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
Assuming Luck is ready to go week one, the Colts will only keep two quarterbacks. Brissett is viewed by many around the league as the best back up quarterback and the Colts love him. If Luck’s week one status is in doubt either Phillip Walker or Chad Kelly will make the roster. However, both guys could be practice squad candidates as well.
Despite all their cap space and plenty of draft picks, the Colts didn’t add a running back this offseason till they claimed Foreman off waivers recently. However, they like their young core of Mack, Hines, and Wilkins. Williams has gotten plenty of work in the preseason and seems to be the favorite for the fourth running back spot but Foreman will challenge his roster spot.
This is a young group led by the veteran Hilton. Funchess will have the other starting spot after getting an expensive deal in free agency. Campbell and Rogers will split time in the slot while Cain is having a great preseason after tearing his ACL around this time last year. Pascal is the special team’s ace and roster spot is now secured with Daurice Fountains‘ ankle fracture injury. Fountain will spend the season on injured reserve while guys like Penny Hart and Ashton Dulin are practice squad candidates.
No surprised here as all three tight ends play a role in the offense. Ebron and Doyle might be the best duo in the league at their position, while Alie-Cox is a coaching staff favorite. Travis Ross could squeeze onto the roster but more likely will end up on the practice squad should he clear waivers.
The starting five of Castonzo, Nelson, Kelly, Glowinski, and Smith might be the best in the league. Haeg and Clark are valued backups who can play tackle or guard in a pinch while Boehm is the main backup at all their interior spots. While the Colts would like to keep nine guys here, the roster bubble forces 2019 seventh-round pick Jackson Barton to the practice squad.
Another group with no real surprises. The Colts like their depth and rotation of Autry, Lewis, Hunt, and Ward. Reid will have to fight off 2017 fourth-round pick Grover Stewart for a roster spot and hope the Colts decide to keep five defensive tackles instead of four.
This might be the Colts’ deepest position. Houston and Sheard are the clear starters but the top five guys will all get meaningful snaps. Green is a sixth-round pick and might end up on the practice squad if the Colts need to squeeze out a roster spot for a third quarterback. Banogu has impressed in camp and will get some snaps at linebacker as well.
Outside of Leonard, Walker, and Okereke, this group is very fluid. Adams, Speed, and Moore all could end up starting or being released. Speed was a fifth-round pick so his roster spot is probably the safest. With Banogu getting some snaps at linebacker, the Colts could end up keeping just five linebackers. The team has high hopes for Okerek to take on a bigger role as the season goes on.
To the average NFL fan, the Colts’ cornerback group might seem disappointing, but they have some depth here. Moore is the best nickel corner that no one has heard of. Desire, Wilson, and Ya-Sin have plenty of size and strength to give outside wide receivers trouble at the line of scrimmage and beyond. Hairston and Tell give the team two more bigger corners who contribute on special teams as well.
The top three spots are locked in stone. Hooker and Geathers are the starters, while the Colts expect Hooker to have a breakout season. Kindred could have his roster spot challenged by George Odum, but if Odum doesn’t make the roster, he could be a practice squad candidate.
No surprised here. Sanchez signed an extension this offseason and is a top-five paid punter in the league. Even at 46 years old, Vinatieri came back to kick for another year. Rhodes has been the team’s long snapper since 2016 and there is no one on the roster to challenge him.
After the great end to the 2018 season, the Colts have Super Bowl expectations in 2019. However, all that depends on the health of Luck. If he is ready to go week one, the Colts have the roster, coaching staff, and quarterback to make a Super Bowl run. However, if Luck misses week one and more, the season could quickly turn towards a top 10 draft pick. It’s obvious that the quarterback position is more important than any other in any sport, but for the Colts, if they don’t have Luck, they don’t have a chance at sniffing the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl.
Season Prediction: 11-5 and potentially a Super Bowl appearance if Luck is healthy.
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