Saturday, July 15, 2017

Offseason Review Series: Day 11: The Indianapolis Colts


Indianapolis Colts

Division: AFC South

2016 Record: 8-8 (3-3 Div)

Division: 3rd

/r/Colts

2016 Summary and 2017 Intro

The 2016 Colts were largely disappointing after finishing with an 8-8 record for the second straight year, but there were several bright spots throughout the season. Frank Gore gave us our first 100 rusher in a game since 2012 and our first 1k rusher in a season since 2007. The offensive line started to come together late in the season and gives us high hopes going into 2017. T.Y. Hilton led the NFL in receiving yards and remains our biggest threat on offense outside of Luck. The Colts had the second most total snaps by rookies in the league with 3300 and continued with the trend of getting younger in the offseason. The 2017 Colts are going to look a lot different, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Only 6 defensive starters return this season so how well they work together will be a huge factor in terms of Success for Indy. These changes were orchestrated by GM Chris Ballard, the newest addition to the Colts front office.

2016 stat rankings.

The stats speak for themselves. Top 10 offense with a bottom 10 Defense won't win you a lot of games. Keep in mind the Andrew Luck led Colts are 23-0 when the defense allows 17 points or less. Last year, they gave up an average of 24.5 points a game.

Statistical Category League Rank
Offensive Scoring 8
Defensive Scoring 22
Offensive Yards 10
Defensive Yards 30
Offensive Passing Yards 5
Defensive Passing Yards 27
Rushing Yards/Attempt (offensive) 22
Rushing Yards/Attempt (Defensive) 30

Coaching Changes:

Sanjay Lal - WR Coach

Robert Mathis - Sack Instructor

No major coaching changes this year for the Colts. Our previous WR coach, Lee Hull, had only been with the team for a year and Sanjay Lal brings ten years of NFL coaching experience after spending time with Oakland, NYJ, and Buffalo. Recently retired OLB Robert Mathis has also been sticking around and signed on as a "Sack Instructor" at least through training camp. His presence is both a morale booster and an instructional one as the future Hall of Famer attempts to teach the young guys his specialty.

Front Office Changes

The hiring of Chris Ballard is the biggest change to the Colts organization this offseason. He replaces Ryan Grigson, now with the Browns, who spent 5 seasons with the Colts and was largely hated by both the locker room and the fan base. Grigs had a few good moves, he landed TY, Luck, and Kelly, but he also traded a 1st for Trent Richardson, drafted Bjorn Werner and Dorsett in the first round in back to back years, and spent a hell of a lot of money bringing in over the hill vets every year. Having him on the team was said to cause a lot of negative energy in our locker room and he is better off gone. Chis Ballard, or 'Big Dick Ballard' to fans on /r/Colts, brings in a positive light to our office that we haven't felt since the Polian era. His mission has been simple and similar to the plan used in KC, get younger, get faster, bolster the defense, and do away with Grigson's mistakes. He seems to be largely successful in this mission thus far. Free Agency and the draft went better than planned and the team looks to have improved on paper.


Free Agency

Players Lost/Cut:

Name Position 2017 Team
Trent Cole OLB TBD
Erik Walden OLB TBD
Mike Adams S Panthers
Jordan Todman RB TBD
Chris Carter OLB Redskins
Hugh Thornton G Falcons
Josh McNary ILB Jaguars
Zach Kerr DT Broncos
Arthur Jones DT TBD
D'Qwell Jackson ILB TBD
Patrick Robinson CB Eagles
Austin Blythe C Rams
Matt Overton LS TBD
Alex Bazzie OLB Cardinals
Dwayne Allen TE Patriots(trade)

Ballard began making his changes in Free Agency by cutting older and unproductive players. Cole, Walden, Adams, and Jackson were all over 30 years old and far past their prime. Erik Walden led the team in sacks with 11 la st year, but he was never the consistent pressure that we desperately needed. Mike Adams was a fan favorite and although old, he was a pretty good interception machine in our secondary grabbing 12 in 3 season with us, but father time is catching up to him as well. Arthur Jones was a compete disappointment with the Colts spending more time injured than playing. His departure frees up a lot of much needed cap space. Patrick Robinson was another Grigson signing that ended as a bust with us, After one injury filled season he was released. Dwayne Allen was traded to the Patriots for a 4th round pick (which we turned into T Zach Banner). With the rise of Jack Doyle and the inconsistent hands and frequent injuries, it was time to do away with Allen as well.

Retired:

Name Position
Pat McAfee P
Robert Mathis OLB
Joe Reitz OG

Pat McAfee retiring came out of nowhere. He was easily the best Punter in the league and one of the most popular players on the team. I had initially thought his retirement was just a joke at the time when he announced it as part of a Barstool Sports skit. His numerous surgeries on his knees drove him to retire and he stated that he wanted to still be able to walk later in his life. Jeff Locke, our new punter, has big shoes to fill in place of McAfee. Robert Mathis' retirement was more expected. He had played all 13 years of his career in Indy and had been a consistent player since day one. He has decided to stick around the team, signing a contract as a "Sack Instructor" and will be mentoring young pass rushers during the upcoming season.

Players Signed/Resigned:

Name Position 2016 Team Length Salary (Guaranteed)
Jonathan Hankins DT Giants 3 Years $30M ($15.9M)
Jack Doyle TE Colts 3 Years $18.9M ($7.5M)
Barkevious Mingo OLB Patriots 1 Year $2M ($500K
Jeff Locke P Vikings 2 years $3.45M ($1.725M)
John Simon OLB Texans 3 Years $13.5M ($5.5M)
Jabaal Sheard DE Patriots 3 Years $25.5M ($12.5M)
Robert Turbin RB Colts 2 Years $2.7M ($500K)
Margus Hunt DE Bengals 2 Years $4.1M ($500K)
Brian Schwenke C Titans 1 Year $1.3M ($300K)
Al Woods DT Titans 2 Years $5M
Darius Butler S Colts 1 Year $3M ($2.5M)
Sean Spence ILB Ttans 1 year $2.5M ($750K)
Brandon Williams TE Seahawks 1 Year $855K ($40K)
Kamar Aiken WR Ravens 1 Year $2.6M ($1.5M)
Joe Fortunato LS N/A 3 Years $1.655M

Key Re-signs: Bringing back Jack Doyle was a great move for the Colts. He's young and one of the most consistent TEs we've had in recent memory. Last year, he caught 80% of passes thrown his way, most among active TEs in the NFL. Look for Doyle to have a breakout year this year, he won't blow the roof off a coverage, but he has great hands and a good work ethic. Butler has played mostly CB with us over the past few years, but now moves to safety as more of a necessary move with nobody better on the roster. Turbin played well last season and will see time behind an older Gore. His carried might drop this year with rookie RB Marlon Mack on the roster as well.

Key FA Signings: Ballard signed the most Free Agents in Indianapolis Colts history in an effort to rebuild the defense and infuse some youth into the team. Jonathan Hankins is the best defensive signing of the year. He was great with the Giants and the unlucky victim of the salary cap era. He will hopefully be the anchor of our defense for years to come and he has already started to be the voice of it. Simon, Sheard, Mingo, and Spence will bring an entirely new LB corps to the defense this year, a much younger one being the most important part. Sheard will be the main Edge rushing threat as he had 13 sacks with NE in the past 2 years. Perhaps the biggest sleeper of the group of new players might be Kamar Aiken. He was a depth player in Baltimore that showed great promise when thrust into a starting role two years ago due to other injuries on the team. He could possibly end the season as the #3 receiver on the team if Dorsett doesn't show improvement. Jeff Locke joins us to start at Punter and has pretty big shoes to fill with McAfee gone.


Draft

Round Pick Name Position College
1 15 Malik Hooker S Ohio State
2 46 Quincy Wilson CB Florida
3 80 Tarell Basham DE Ohio
4 137 Zach Banner OT USC
4 143 Marlon Mack RB USF
4 144 Grover Stewart DT ALBS
5 158 Nate Hairston CB Temple
5 161 Anthony Walker Jr LB Northwest

R1P15 - Malik Hooker - Pags and Ballard must have been freaking out like little school girls when Hooker dropped to us. Some had him going top 10 or even top 5. A lot of people have compared him to Ed Reed and he brings a ball hawk tendency that we haven't had in a long time. He is a former baksetball player and could have gone pro in the NBA, but he made the choice to go to Ohio State as a Safety. He is a turnover machine, grabbing 7 last year, but does need to work on his tackling. Hooker should be a day 1 starter and difference maker on our defense. grade: A+

R2P46 - Quincy Wilson - Wilson is a big, physical, confident corner that will fit well into Pagano's defense. He is a little raw in his coverage ability but has the skills to be a good starting corner and is an aggressive tackler. We expect him to start opposite Vontae this year and hopefully Pagano, the DB whisperer, can get him in shape quickly. Grade: B+

R3P80 - Tarell Basham - Basham was drafted as a DE but will most likely move to Edge rusher during his NFL career with the Colts. He has the skills and was awarded as the Mid-American Conference's Defensive Player of the Year after recording 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss last season. He can sometimes be a one trick pony and needs to learn more technique, but that's why Robert Mathis is still around, to teach these young pass rushers the NFL game. Grade: B

R4P137 - Zach Banner - The Incredible Hulk. This guy is BIG coming in at 6'8", 353 pounds. He played both tackle spots during his college career and will provide depth until he's ready to start. He can be stiff at times and definitely needs work, but he has that rare size and strength that is very appealing in an offensive lineman. Grade: B

R4P143 - Marlon Mack - USFs all time leading rusher joins the Colts to help out with a rather weak running game. He brings an explosiveness to our backfield, but he needs to learn patience and discipline if he wants to success. If you watch his highlight videos you'll notice he bumps nearly every run to the outside and that kind of play will not work in the NFL like it did in college. He has a good mentor in Frank Gore to learn the pro game this year and probably won't see a ton of playing time. Grade: B

R4P144 - Grover Stewart - Stewart is an interior pass rushing threat that will play more of a rotational role on the line. Raw player but has potential. Grade: C-

R5P158 - Nate Hairston - Another big CB, but lacks experience. In college he was only targeted 36 times when playing corner (He's a converted WR). Another pick that's raw, but has a high ceiling. Grade: C

R5P161 - Anthony Walker Jr. - Walker is a big ILB that hit over 100 tackles twice in college. He is large, so much so that his muscle mass . He does miss a lot of tackles and will be a project player. With our thin LB corps he could see playing time this season but will mainly be a depth/competition player. Grade: C+


Storylines going into 2017

  • Will Luck be ready after his shoulder injury? - Luck underwent shoulder surgery to fix a torn labrum at the beginning of the offseason and he has yet to start throwing or practicing at the time of writing this post. Different reports are saying he should be ready and the Colts are just being cautious with him, but there is still a chance he could miss some time. Either way, the star QB is about 10 pounds lighter than last season at this point which has worried some.

  • Has the O-line improved to a serviceable unit? Outside of 4th round pick Zach Banner and Joe Reitz retiring, the Oline is virtually unchanged going into 2017. The line showed improvement last season with the additions of rookies Ryan Kelly, Le'Rven Clark, and Joe Haeg, and they seemed to come together late in the season, but this line needs to show they can keep Luck off his back and compete to help the running game throughout the entire season.

  • Will this be Chuck Pagano's last season with the Colts? People have been calling for Pagaono's head the past few years. He's had some questionable play calling issues and brought in arguably the worst play in NFL history. Most fans thought he would be leaving the same time as Grigson, but Irsay decided to keep the coach for at least another season. A lot of his issues could have been from the rosters provided by Ryan Grigson and with Ballard at the helm we will hopefully see some improvement. If we do end this season with a losing record, I don't see Pags staying too much longer in Indy.


Projected Starting Lineup

Offense

QB - Andrew Luck

RB - Frank Gore

WR1 - TY Hilton

WR2 - Donte Moncrief

TE - Jack Doyle

LT - Anthony Castonzo

LG - Jack Mewhort

C - Ryan Kelly

RT - Le'Raven Clark

RG - Joe Haeg

Defense

DE1 - Kendall Langford

NT - Johnathan Hankins

DE2 - Henry Anderson

EDGE1 - Jabaal Sheard

EDGE 2 - John Simon

ILB1 - Sean Spence

ILB2 - Antonio Morrison

CB1 - Vontae Davis

CB2 - Quincy Wilson

FS - Malik Hooker

SS - Darius Butler

Special Teams

K - Adam Vinatieri

P - Jeff Locke

KR - Quan Bray

PR - Chester Rogers

Offense Overview: The offense remains virtually unchanged from last season. Jack Doyle replaces Dwayne Allen, who was traded to New England, as the starting TE which will hopefully mean less drops and more clutch play from the position. Kamar Aiken adds depth and competition in the receiving corps and could even replace Moncrief later in the season if he shows the consistency that Moncrief sometimes lacks. The offensive line retains the group that went together so well late last season and should show some improvement with more experience, 3 of the Offensive linemen were rookies last year so they will be more experienced overall.

Defense Overview: The defense will largely be an entirely different unit this year and will hopefully be one of the most improved defenses in the league. Only six starters from 2016 return for the 2017 season. Jonathan Hankins brings beef to the defensive line and will be the starting NT on the team for the foreseeable future. Henry Anderson is returning from a knee injury, but could be a force against the run if he comes back 100%. Jabaal Sheard and John Simon were both brought in to be the edge rushing threat that we haven't had since Mathis put up 19 sacks in 2014. ILB Antonio Morrison started 4 games last season and will hopefully start all 16 in 2017 next to Sean Spence. Darius Bulter will move to safety full time and the secondary should be much improved with the rookie additions of Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson. Hooker brings a ball hawk tendency that should be able to force some turnovers and Wilson will hopefully be a solid #2 CB on the other side of Davis. This isn't an elite unit yet, but they have the tools to really bring the heat when it counts and will hopefully be ranked around 17th in the league next season.

Special Teams Overview: Adam Vinatieri enters his 22nd season as the 3rd all time points leader in NFL history. He would need 167 points to take #1 and although he's never gotten there in a single season, he only needs 56 to reach #2. Last season he netted 125 total points so #2 should be pretty easy this season barring injury. Jeff Locke enters as the new starting Punter and has big shoes to fill after McAfee's retirement. Our punting has been extremely dependable with McAfee over the years and this year we have some uncertainty, but high expectations with Locke. Jordan Todman handled the majority of our kick returns last season and with him gone Quan Bray has the most experience on the team. Chester Rogers started last year as the Punt Returner and expect him to do the same this year.


Season Predictions

Week Opponent Home/Away Recap Result Record
1 Los Angelas Rams Away Last time the Colts and Rams played Tavon Austin blew us away with 138 yards and 2 TDs. This time should be different. They aren't much improved from last year and should be a fairly easy game. 28-14 1-0
2 Arizona Cardinals Home The Cardinals worry me. I feel like we can keep up with them and our offense is better than their defense, but I also feel like David Johnson will run all over us. 28-32 1-1
3 Cleveland Browns Home The Browns are the Browns. They're a little better this year, but not spooky yet. 32-17 2-1
4 Seattle Seahawks Away Seattle's defense will be our undoing. Without a consistent running game and their strong secondary, Seattle should get the best of us. 7-17 2-2
5 San Francisco 49ers Home Expect Frank Gore to go off on his old team. Should be an easy win on the day we unveil the Peyton Manning Statue. 42-17 3-2
6 Tennessee Titans Away The Titans are a much better team this year and are getting on that spooky level. I think we split the series this year. 21-23 3-3
7 Jacksonville Jaguars Home Unless Bortles becomes competent or Forsett becomes the next Elliott, I think we roll the Jags 31-20 4-3
8 Cincinnati Bengals Away Last time we played the Bengals we shut them out. This time their offense should be more explosive, but I think we still have what it takes to pull off a win here. 24-17 5-3
9 Houston Texans Away Watson should have established himself as the Texans QB by this point and with a healthy Watt/Clowney, but Texans get the win at home. 14-22 5-4
10 Pittsburgh Steelers Home We have not matched up well against the Steelers the past few years and this year won't be any different unless Rothlisberger is injured. Will most likely be a blowout 28-42 5-5
11 BYE
12 Tennessee Titans Home This is our only other multiple game homestand throughout the 17 season and I think we come out angry after the Pittsburgh loss. The Titans are now a tough opponent, but we win this one. 27-21 6-5
13 Jacksonville Jaguars Away Next season is not the year the Jags get things together, although they are close. The Jags are the only division opponent we sweep on the year 33-22 7-5
14 Buffalo Bills Away Last time we played the Bills had all the answers to our offense and we never could get going. I don't see that happening again and our defense is also stronger this time around. 22-17 8-5
15 Denver Broncos Home This is going to be a physical game and it really depends on who brings it for the day. I think the Denver D is just too much for us again. 17-21 8-6
16 Baltimore Ravens Away We usually have good success against the Ravens and I think this year will be similar. Luck spreads the Baltimore D too much and it ends in a blowout. 42-20 9-6
17 Houston Texans Home The last game of the season is a contest that has division implications. The Texans beat us earlier in the year, but we win at home this time. 21-14 10-6

Season in Summary

The 2 biggest factors going into this season are the Offensive line and the Defense. The offensive line showed improvement near the end of last season and if they continue that play and improve then it leads to longer drives, larger time of possession, and more points. Three players are going into their Sophomore season and have more experience than last year. The other factor is our defense. Over half the unit was replaced during the offseason and we have no idea how they will do together. It might even take a few games to come together as a unit. There are also a lot of question marks around our LB corps and edge rushers. Sheard will be our main pass rushing threat, but how will he do with that much responsibility? Both Simon and Ming seem like good pickups, but neither of them were complete starters either, though they did show flashes of talent. Our Secondary contains 2 starting rookies and S that just converted from CB. The Defensive unit for the Colts has a lot of potential and it will be interesting to see how they work together. If they can be at least a middle of the pack Defense and our OLine can keep Luck upright, this team could be dangerous. I predict 10 wins with our schedule, but that might not even be enough for playoffs this year. Both the Texans and Titans are 10 win teams and will be challenging us for division champion every year.



Submitted July 15, 2017 at 08:56AM by TheAFCfinalist
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