Byron Jewell | May 23rd, 2020
The Colts 2019 season was a wild one of sorts. From replacing Andrew Luck two weeks before the season, to starting 5-2 out the gate with Jacoby Brissett, to eventually miss the playoffs at 7-9 overall. Now with a new makeup on offense, along with some key players added on defense as well, this team is ready to make a strong push in the third-year under head coach Frank Reich.
Make sure to check out all of our other team bold predictions here.
The Colts will have a top-five rushing attack for the second year in a row
Reich has said since his first day in Indianapolis that he wants to be a top-five rushing team. “If you’re a top-10 rushing team, you gotta much better (chance to win)” he said. Well the Colts were fifth last year in rushing yards per game and are set up perfectly for that goal this season. With the selection of former Wisconsin great, Jonathon Taylor, the team took it’s rushing attack to a new level. Taylor is supremely productive and ran for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns in his three-year career for Wisconsin. He looks to be an instant impact player with his freaky athletic ability — 4.39 40 yard dash at the NFL combine.
Marlon Mack had a pretty good season himself last year rushing for over 1,000 yards for the first time with a total of eight touchdowns. The Colts have said they look at Taylor and Mack more as a 1-1 punch rather than a 1-2 and will use all of their running backs, including Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins accordingly.
The Colts will have two players with at least 10 sacks
Only three teams in the NFL had a duo achieve this last season — the Steelers, Rams, and Packers. The Colts will do so this year. In what was a major liability for Indianapolis just a few years ago, the defensive line is one of the stronger groups on the team. The addition of All-Pro caliber talent DeForest Buckner, just 26-years-old, totally reinvents this unit. Buckner and Denico Autry (nine sacks in 2018) up the middle will be a force to be reckoned with, along with Grover Stewart and Sheldon Day as depth pieces.
On the edge, the ageless wonder, Justin Houston, recorded 11 sacks last year, and with less focus on him next season, I think he can manage to get around 10-11 sacks again. On the other side of the line, we have a young duo who’s on the verge of a breakout. Kemoko Turay and Ben Banogu — two second-round selections by general manager Chris Ballard.
Turay last season, was graded as PFFs best pass rusher up until his injury in week four and was really coming along. Banogu was only a rookie last year, but with the second year of focus on just rushing the passer, I expect a big step up in his game as well. So whether it Houston, Buckner, Turay, Autry, or Banogu, I predict two guys out of the bunch to emerge and have a big season.
Jack Doyle will have at least 50 catches, 500 yards, and five touchdowns
This really isn’t that bold of a take, but considering Doyle has only done this once in his seven-year career is enough for me. Eric Ebron is now playing in “Steel City” and that leaves the door open for Doyle, who is one of the most underrated tight ends in the league. If you don’t know by now, Philip Rivers loves his tight ends. Rivers and Antonio Gates were one of the best duos in the league and in fact, the Gates-Rivers tandem has combined for the most touchdowns of any quarterback/tight end combo in league history. Hunter Henry achieved this stat line last season with Rivers and was also only five catches and a touchdown away from doing it two years ago. I expect Doyle, even with the addition of Trey Burton in free agency, to have one of the best seasons of his career.
Nyheim Hines will have at least 80 catches
Hines is one of the most versatile players on the Colts roster. He can play receiver, running back, and return kicks. Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni says that he envisions Hines as a Danny Woodhead type of player. Woodhead, played for the Chargers the same time as when Reich and Sirianni spent time coaching there (2013-2015). He caught 80 passes for 755 yards and six touchdowns during Reich’s last season as offensive coordinator in San Diego. Rivers has always loved dual-threat running backs — specifically Woodhead, Darren Sproles, and most recently Austin Ekeler. Ekeler, had a receiving stat line of 92-993-8 last year and with Hines, who had more targets last season than carries, set to play most obvious passing downs, I expect a breakout season from the speedy third-year back.
The Colts will go to the AFC Championship game
I’m not saying the Colts will be a one seed but I do think they have a real chance to make some noise in the playoffs. This team is complete — offense, defense, special teams, coaching, it has it all now. Most importantly, the Colts upgraded at the most important position on offense. Rivers had some of his best years playing under Reich and Sirianni, and now he has an elite offensive line, a wide range of weapons, a supreme running attack, and a strong defense. It will be a tough task if Baltimore or Kansas City are in the way, but this Colts team is ready to contend.
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