Indianapolis Colts 2014 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

In 2 seasons in the league, Andrew Luck is 14-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less, 15-2 if you include a one point comeback home win over the Chiefs in last year’s playoffs, before the Colts got demolished in Foxboro the following week. The Colts have won 22 regular season games over the past 2 seasons. 14 of them have come by 7 points or fewer. That’s not sustainable. The Colts once again significantly exceeded their Pythagorean Expectation by winning 11 games last year.

In 2012, their point differential suggested that they should have won about 7.2 games. In 2013, they were better, but their point differential suggested that they should have won about 9.4 games. They were clearly a better team in 2013 as they had a better Pythagorean Expectation despite a harder schedule (32nd ranked schedule in terms of DVOA in 2012, 23rd in 2013) and despite more injuries (31st in adjusted games lost in 2013, 30th in 2012).

The Colts should have fewer injuries this season and they play in arguably the weakest division in the NFL so their schedule might not get any harder. In fact, it could get easier as they swap out the AFC and NFC West for the NFC East and the AFC North. However, they can’t consistently count on eking out close victories. If they want to win 11 or more games this season and if they want to advance deeper into the post-season, they’ll have to be a better team.

Easily the biggest reason that the Colts were an improved team in 2013, as opposed to 2012, was Andrew Luck’s improved play. In 2012, Luck relied on close victories against bad opponents, rather than his own strong play to win games, as he completed 54.1% of his passes for an average of 6.98 YPA, 23 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. In 2013, he became a much improved quarterback, completing 60.2% of his passes for an average of 6.71 YPA, 23 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He also improved as a runner going from 255 yards and 5 touchdowns on 62 carries in 2012 (4.11 YPA) to 377 yards and 4 touchdowns on 63 carries in 2013 (5.98 YPA).

Luck was Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked quarterback, though much of that was because he was their 3rd ranked quarterback in terms of running grade, behind only Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. In terms of pure passing grade, he was actually 20th, though that was up from 2012 when he was 24th in that aspect. Luck did this despite losing significant players around him to serious injuries. He had a slightly improved offensive line as compared to 2012, when they were horrible, but most of his improvement can be attributed to Luck himself. He should continue to improve going into his 3rd year in the league.

Luck’s play was a big part of the reason why the Colts finished 14th in rate of moving the chains, moving them 72.21% offensively. They still finished 14th in differential at 0.70%, 2nd worst among playoff teams, but that was more because their defense ranked 17th, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 71.52% rate. If they’re going to improve from being the roughly league average team they were last season and become a team that can go on a long playoff run, they’ll need better play on the defensive side of the ball.

Grade: B

Offensive Line

I mentioned the Colts had an improved offensive line in 2013. That’s true, but it’s really only by default. After ranking 31st on Pro Football Focus in terms of team pass blocking grade and 24th in team run blocking grade in 2012, the Colts improved to 25th and 23rd in those two measures. They still had serious issues up front, especially on the interior of their offensive line. One of the problems is they lost Donald Thomas to an injury. Thomas was signed to a 4-year, 14 million dollar deal before last season to shore up a problem position at left guard, but he lasted 72 snaps before going down for the season with injury.

Having a healthy Thomas back should help this offensive line. In Thomas’ absence, the 3rd round rookie Hugh Thornton had to take over as the starter and he ended up grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 69th ranked guard out of 81 eligible. Thomas flashed on those 72 snaps and also has a history of some success. He graded out above average as a starter in Miami in 2009, barely played from 2010-2011 and then found playing time as an injury replacement in New England in 2012, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 20th ranked guard on 614 snaps. No one graded out higher and played fewer snaps. As long as he’s healthy this season, he should be a much needed asset for them on the interior of their offensive line.

Thornton could still be a starter this season, but only because the Colts “lost” Mike McGlynn this off-season. I put “lost” in quotation marks because McGlynn was horrible over the past 2 seasons as a starter in Indianapolis, grading out 73rd out of 81 eligible guards in 2013 and dead last out of 81 eligible guards in 2012. Losing him is a good thing even if it means Thornton has to become a starter. Thornton, as bad as he was last year, was still better than McGlynn and he could be improved going into his 2nd year in the league. The Colts also drafted Zach Mewhort in the 2nd round to compete with Thornton for the right guard job and to provide depth at every position except center if he can’t lock down a starting job.

Another player the Colts “lost” is Jeff Linkenbach, who has served as a utility offensive lineman over the past few seasons, often making starts at both guard and tackle. He’s struggled mightily in that role though, including last year, when he graded out 57th out of 81 eligible guards, despite playing just 368 snaps. On top of that, the Colts “lost” starting center Samson Satele, when they cut the underachieving starter. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 31st ranked center out of 35 eligible last season. He’ll be replaced in the starting lineup by 2013 4th round pick Khaled Holmes, who played 13 snaps as a rookie. He could still be an upgrade, though there’s obviously no guarantee with an inexperienced former mid-round pick like him. Either way, the interior offensive line should better this year, even if it’s only by default.

While things were bad on the interior of the offensive line last season, things were pretty solid at tackle for the Colts, with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus essentially playing every snap at left and right tackle respectively (Cherilus played 1092 and Castonzo played 1088 out of 1093 possible). They graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 27th and 25th ranked offensive tackles respectively, both well above average. Castonzo was a 2011 1st round pick and is now going into his 4th year in the league. The Colts picked up his 5th year option for 2015 this off-season. He’s graded out above average in all 3 years he’s been in the league, improved every year, and has missed a combined 5 snaps over the past 2 seasons combined.

Cherilus is also a former 1st round pick, going in the first round in 2008, drafted by the Lions, and then signing a 5-year, 34 million dollar deal with the Colts last off-season. Cherilus earned that deal by grading out above average in every season from 2009 on and having the best season of his career in his contract year in 2012, grading out 8th. It’s always risky giving a ton of money to a guy coming off of the best year of his career and he was just 37th among offensive tackles in 2011. There was also concern about Cherilus’ history of knee problems, even though he rarely missed games. It’s still very possible that 2012 will be easily the best year of Cherilus’ career, as he heads into his age 30 season, but he’s still an asset on the right side for the Colts.

Grade: C+

Running Backs

I mentioned how much the Colts struggled run blocking last season. That’s part of the reason why Trent Richardson struggled so much once the Colts acquired him from the Browns for a first round pick. The 3rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Richardson averaged 2.92 yards per carry and scored 3 touchdowns on 157 carries in 14 games with the Colts. However, he averaged 1.90 yards per carry after contact and broke 47 tackles on 185 touches (he also added 28 catches for 265 yards and a touchdown), giving him the 10th highest elusive rating in the NFL. As a result, even though he struggled mightily on the stat sheet, he wasn’t Pro Football Focus’ worst running back last season (he was 10th worst, and 3rd worst in pure run grade, but still).

Donald Brown had a lot of success last season, rushing for 537 yards and 6 touchdowns on 102 carries, an average of 5.26 yards per carry, but he too had to rush for a lot of yards after contact and break a lot of tackles. Brown broke 29 tackles on 129 touches and averaged 3.28 yards per carry after contact, giving him the highest elusive rating in the NFL. Richardson has shown the ability to break tackles and pick up yards after contact dating back to his days in Cleveland, starting in 2012.

Richardson rushed for 3.56 yards per carry in 2012, but he ranked 16th in elusive rating, breaking 59 tackles on 318 touches and averaging 2.09 yards per carry after contact. In 2013 with the Browns, he rushed for 3.39 yards per carry. However, he rushed for 2.42 yards after contact and broke 16 tackles on 38 touches, giving the Cleveland version of him an elusive rating even higher than Donald Brown’s. Much of Richardson’s struggles last season had to do with the Colts’ offensive line and he ran better than his numbers suggested.

However, much of it also had to do with Richardson himself. Richardson showed poor vision and burst, which is part of why there were so few “blocked” yards from him to pick up. He wasn’t hitting the hole hard enough or in the right location, two things he’s had issues with since being drafted. He blamed a lot of it on not knowing the playbook fully, which would explain why he struggled even more upon his arrival in Indianapolis. That issue should be corrected this off-season and the offensive line should be better as well.

The 3rd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, there’s still time for him to turn it around, going into only his age 23 season and his 3rd year in the league. Richardson drew a lot of comparisons to Marshawn Lynch in the pre-draft process for his size, physicality, and violent running style. Lynch averaged 3.92 yards per carry in his first 4 seasons in the NFL, but he’s averaged 4.50 yards per carry over the previous 3 seasons. Richardson can still breakout as that type of running back.

Richardson will get competition from Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw with Donald Brown gone. Both Ballard and Bradshaw are coming off of season ending injuries. Ballard rushed for 63 yards on 13 carries in one game last season before tearing his ACL. A mediocre runner, Ballard was a 5th round pick in 2012 and rushed for 814 yards and 2 touchdowns on 211 carries as a rookie, an average of 3.86 yards per carry, grading out about average on Pro Football Focus.

Bradshaw, meanwhile, rushed for 186 yards and 2 touchdowns on 41 carries in 3 games last season before going down with a serious neck injury. Bradshaw is now going into his age 28 season, which is like 33 for running backs, with a significant injury history, missing 19 games with various injuries over the past 3 seasons and being limited in many others. However, he’s a tough running back who has averaged 4.59 yards per carry on 962 career carries, so he could be an asset this season if he stays on the field. Overall though, the Colts are going to need Richardson to improve this season if the Colts are going to average 4.26 yards per carry again, as Donald Brown is gone. We’ll see if he can do that.

Grade: C+

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

I mentioned that the Colts lost two running backs and an offensive lineman early in the season to injury, as they were one of the most injury riddled teams in the NFL. They also lost a wide receiver and a tight end to season ending injuries fairly early in the season. That wide receiver was Reggie Wayne, who tore his ACL in the Colts’ 7th game of the season, after 38 catches for 503 yards and 2 touchdowns in 7 games and on 255 routes run, an average of 1.97 yards per route run.

Wayne was the Colts’ most reliable player prior to his injury, not missing a game since his rookie season in 2001 and catching 1006 passes for 13,566 yards and 80 touchdowns in his career. Those 13,566 career yards are 11th all-time and he could easily be Hall-of-Fame bound when it’s all said and done, but he’s going into his age 36 season now and coming off of that serious injury. Even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. Wayne showed some signs of decline last season and there’s no guarantee that he can be anything close to what the Colts are used to from him this year. He’s owed 4 million in the final season of his contract and this could easily be the final year of his career.

The Colts signed Hakeem Nicks to a one-year deal this off-season. Nicks, a 2009 1st round pick, looked like one of the best young receivers in the NFL from 2009-2011. He averaged 2.30 yards per route run in 2009 on 344 routes run and 2.32 yards per route run in 2010 on 453 routes run. In 2011, he “only” averaged 2.08 yards per route run on 572 routes run, thanks to the development of Victor Cruz opposite him, but he was still a big part of the Giants’ Super Bowl team. His development seems to have stagnated over the past 2 seasons though thanks to a variety of lower body injuries and he’s never played all 16 games in a season, missing 10 games over the past 5 seasons and being limited in many others.

Nicks averaged 1.74 yards per route run on 398 routes run in 2012 and 1.70 yards per route run on 527 routes run in 2013. Last year was especially bad as he didn’t score all season and struggled with his chemistry with Eli Manning. 7 passes thrown to him were picked off and Manning’s quarterback rating when throwing to him was 57.0, 7th worst among eligible wide receivers. All that being said, he still has plenty of talent, which still flashes, and even his down years weren’t awful. He’s only going into his age 26 season, so he could be an asset for the Colts in the passing game. At the very least, he’ll be the Colts’ #3 wide receiver this year, but he could start over Reggie Wayne.

Nicks will also be an upgrade over Darrius Heyward-Bey who struggled mightily on a one-year deal last season. Losing him will be addition by subtraction. He caught 29 passes for 309 yards and a touchdown on 58 targets (50.0%) on 382 routes run (0.81 yards per route run). He also dropped 9 passes and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th worst ranked wide receiver overall, including 2nd worst in pure pass catching grade. Donte Moncrief was the Colts’ 3rd round pick, but the raw height/weight/speed wideout is unlikely to have an impact as a rookie as the 4th receiver. He’ll get his chance at playing time going in 2015, as Nicks and Wayne will both be free agents this off-season.

One positive of Reggie Wayne’s injury last season was that it allowed TY Hilton to have a breakout year as the #1 receiver in his absence. Hilton caught 82 passes for 1083 yards and 5 touchdowns on 533 routes run, an average of 2.03 yards per route run. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 29th ranked wide receiver. He’s no longer just a deep threat reliant on big plays to make an impact, as he was as a rookie when he caught 50 passes for 861 yards and 7 touchdowns on 479 routes run, an average of 1.80 yards per routes. Now going into his 3rd year in the league, a common breakout year for wide receivers, Hilton could be even better. The 2012 3rd round pick is going into only his age 25 season. He was dominant in the post-season, catching 17 passes for 327 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2 games. He’ll once again be the Colts’ #1 receiver in 2014.

The other Colts’ pass catcher who went down with a season ending injury was Dwayne Allen, who went down with a hip injury 30 snaps into week 1, after just 1 catch for 20 yards. That was a bigger loss than most people realize because of how good Allen was as a rookie in 2012. The 2012 3rd round pick only caught 45 passes for 521 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he did so on 64 targets, meaning he caught 70.3% of targets, and on 368 routes run, meaning he averaged 1.42 yards per route run. He was Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked tight end in pass catching grade, but where he really excelled was as a blocker, both a run and pass blocker, and he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked tight end as a result. Essentially a younger version of Heath Miller, Allen could be a big boost to the Colts upon his return this year, going into his 3rd year in the league.

In Allen’s absence, Coby Fleener led Colts’ tight ends in snaps played with 834. Fleener was a 2nd round pick in 2012, going before Allen, but he’s not nearly as good as Allen, grading out only slightly above average in each of his first 2 years in the league. Fleener caught 52 passes for 608 yards and 4 touchdowns on 482 routes run, an average of 1.26 yards per route run. He caught 52 of 84 targets (61.9%) and only dropped one pass all season. He wasn’t much of a blocker though.

He’ll become the #2 tight end this season and work primarily as a move tight end with Allen working as an every down in-line tight end. The Colts rarely ran two-tight end sets last year after Allen went down as, after Fleener, the tight end who played the 2nd most snaps was Jack Doyle, who struggled on 198 snaps. They ran a lot of three wide receiver sets with TY Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and a combination of Da’Rick Rodgers, LaVon Brazill, and Griff Whalen last season, an underwhelming bunch.

They’ll run a lot more two-tight end sets this season and they won’t be afraid to pass out of them. Adding tight end guru Rob Chudzinski as an offensive assistant will also help. Getting Wayne and Allen back from injury, as well as the addition of Hakeem Nicks, will give Andrew Luck more weapons to work with and make this offense better. The Colts will also get guys back from injury at running back and offensive line that will help them on this side of the ball.

Grade: A-

Defensive Line

The Colts also need to get better on the defensive side of the ball and they can’t rely on getting guys back from injury to help them improve. They did sign Arthur Jones from Baltimore though, on a 5-year, 33 million dollar deal. A 2010 5th round pick, Arthur Jones developed from a solid reserve in 2011 on 255 snaps to a solid starter on 536 snaps to a breakout player in 2013 on 530 snaps, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked 3-4 defensive end.

He was overpaid though, getting 33 million over 5 years with 16 million guaranteed. At his best, he’s worth that kind of money, but he’s still just a one year wonder at this point in his career. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue to be this good. He’s never played more than 536 snaps in a season and he’s never been the key cog on Baltimore’s defensive line, rotating often and playing alongside Haloti Ngata. He’ll be counted on for a bigger role in Indianapolis and he’ll instantly become the top player on their defensive line, which could be too much for them, though he will be reunited with one-time Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who is the head coach in Indianapolis.

The Colts made a big splash in free agency the previous off-season as well, signing Ricky Jean-Francois from San Francisco on a 4-year, 22 million dollar deal. It was a weird deal because Jean-Francois was a 2009 7th round pick who had played just 715 snaps in 4 seasons. He definitely flashed as a reserve in San Francisco, but he didn’t seem to be worth that kind of money. Jean-Francois played just 405 snaps in his first year in Indianapolis, missing 5 games with injury. He played pretty well when on the field, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 25th ranked 3-4 defensive end, playing well against the run, but unspectacularly as a pass rusher. He’ll have the biggest role of his career this season, assuming he stays healthy. We’ll see if he can handle it.

Jones and Jean-Francois will work in rotation with veteran Cory Redding. Redding had a vintage year last year, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 10th ranked 3-4 defensive end, including 7th in run stopping grade, but he’s going into his age 34 season so it’s unclear if he can continue that. It’s also definitely worth mentioning that he graded out 29th out of 34 eligible 3-4 defensive ends in 2012. Jones, Jean-Francois, and Redding will play the vast majority of snaps at 3-4 defensive end and play inside in sub packages and rush the passer. This is because the Colts lost mediocre reserves Fili Moala and Ricardo Matthews, who played 513 and 437 snaps respectively in 2013, this off-season.

The Colts also lost the mediocre Aubrayo Franklin this off-season. He played 340 snaps as a two-down nose tackle last season. That role is all Josh Chapman’s now. The 2012 5th round pick didn’t play a snap as a rookie, but he played 242 snaps last season and fared decently. He offered absolutely no pass rush, with 2 hurries on 114 pass rush snaps, but he played the run well and graded out about average. He’ll see probably 400-500 snaps in a base package nose tackle role this season.

Grade: B

Linebackers

The Colts’ top edge rusher last season was Robert Mathis, who tied for the NFL lead with 19 sacks last season. He’s a very talented player, but I’m going to pick him apart a little bit. While he had 19 sacks last year, he only had 5 hits and 39 hurries to go with those 19 sacks on 484 snaps, a rate of 13.0%. That’s impressive, but not nearly as good as someone like Robert Quinn, who also had 19 sacks, but totaled 21 hits and 54 hurries on 514 pass rush snaps, a rate of 18.3% which is much more impressive. It’s for that reason that I didn’t think Mathis deserved Defensive Player of the Year consideration.

Still, Mathis was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 3-4 outside linebacker last season. However, he’s going into his age 33 season so he’s at the point where his age is something to take into consideration. That’s especially true when you consider that Mathis actually graded out below average in 2012. He graded out above average in every season from 2007-2011, so 2012 is the outlier, but it’s a concern that he had a season like that recently when you consider his age. He’s unlikely to play as well in 2014 at his age as he did in 2013, in what was one of the best years of his career. On top of that, Mathis is suspended for the first 4 games of the season for performance enhancing drugs, which will not only cost him 4 games, but could really put him behind the 8-ball this season.

Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden will have to play bigger roles in Mathis’ absence this season and both will play significant rotational roles even upon Mathis’ return. Walden was signed to a 4-year, 16 million dollar deal by the Colts last off-season even though he was awful in Green Bay in 2011 and 2012, grading out as easily Pro Football Focus’ worst 3-4 outside linebacker in both seasons. He wasn’t as bad in 2013, but he didn’t live up to his contract, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 31st ranked 3-4 outside linebacker out of 42 eligible.

Colts fans hoping that 2013 1st round pick Bjoern Werner would step up into a bigger role in his 2nd year in the league and turn Walden into a backup had to be extremely disappointed when they found out about Mathis’ suspension. Werner himself struggled last season, grading out 35th among 42 eligible 3-4 outside linebackers on just 312 snaps. The 24th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Werner could be better in his 2nd year in the league, but there are no guarantees. He will have a bigger role either way though.

Another big free agent acquisition was D’Qwell Jackson, who the Colts signed to a 4-year, 22 million dollar deal. He’ll play every down inside at middle linebacker. The issue is he’s simply not worth that kind of money. D’Qwell Jackson was Pro Football Focus’ 42nd ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible last season and 41st out of 53 eligible in 2012. Going into his age 31 season, Jackson is unlikely to get any better this season. Jerrell Freeman will continue to play every down inside and line up next to Jackson. Freeman has been a solid starter over the last 2 seasons since coming over from Canada, grading out 22nd among middle linebackers in 2012 and 17th among middle linebackers in 2013, while not missing a single game. The Colts should expect more of the same from him this season.

Grade: B-

Secondary

The biggest financial investment the Colts made this off-season was easily re-signing top cornerback Vontae Davis to a 4-year, 39 million dollar deal. That might not pan out though, as Davis has an inconsistent past. Vontae Davis had a dominant contract year last year, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked cornerback and 2nd in terms of coverage grade. However, the Colts are overpaying him based on his contract year. That type of move doesn’t usually end well.

Davis was a 1st round pick in 2009 by Miami and he’s never been able to consistently put it all together. He had a solid rookie year on 709 snaps, grading out 26th among cornerbacks, and then looked like one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in 2010, grading out 12th. However, he missed 4 games with injury in 2011, fell down to 37th, and then fell out of favor with the coaching staff when Joe Philbin came in, getting benched in the pre-season before 2012 for being out of shape. The Dolphins were able to trade him to the Colts for a 2nd and 6th round pick and it looked like the Colts got hosed in that trade, as he missed 6 more games in 2012 and graded out 74th. He put it all together for his contract year, but who is to say he won’t coast and get out of shape again now that he has 20 million guaranteed?

Greg Toler is penciled in as the other starting cornerback, but that’s assuming he can stay healthy, something he’s been unable to do his entire career. In 5 years in the league, he’s never played all 16 games, missing 33 games in 5 seasons, including 7 games last season. Toler also struggled last year when he was on the field, grading out below average, though he’s been better in the past, grading out above average in 2009 and 2012 and below average in 2010 (he didn’t play a snap in 2011 thanks to injury). He could be a decent starter if he stays healthy, but that’s a massive if.

Darius Butler is the 3rd cornerback and slot specialist. He’s only supposed to be a part-time player, but he played 704 snaps and made 7 starts last season because of the injury to Toler. Butler flashed on 380 snaps in 2012, which got him a 2-year, 4 million dollar deal, but he also graded out below average in 2 of 3 years from 2009-2011, after getting drafted in the 2nd round in 2009, maxing out at 497 snaps over that time period. There’s a reason he was available mid-season for the Colts in 2012.

Butler regressed a little bit last season from 2012, grading out slightly below average. He’s settled in as a marginal cornerback who can play the slot and start if needed. Josh Gordy, meanwhile, is the 4th cornerback and will see action if someone gets hurt, as someone probably will (Toler and/or Davis most likely). Butler had been decent over the past 2 seasons on a combined 401 snaps, but he struggled mightily in his one season of significant action in 2011, grading out 97th out of 109 eligible cornerbacks on 631 snaps.

The Colts also have issues at safety, as they lost decent starting safety and long-time veteran Antoine Bethea to free agency this off-season and didn’t really replace him. Right now it’s essentially a 3-way battle for the starting job between Sergio Brown, Delano Howell, and Mike Adams and none of them are really impressive. Howell has been unspectacular on 212 snaps in 2 seasons since going undrafted in 2012. Brown went undrafted in 2010 and has played 63 snaps over the past 2 seasons combined and 506 snaps in 4 seasons combined.

Mike Adams is the proven veteran one of the bunch, but he’s going into his age 33 season. Adams lost his starting job to the unspectacular Duke Ihenacho last pre-season with Denver. He still played 703 snaps as an injury replacement, but graded out slightly below average. He was previously a solid starter, grading out slightly above average in both 2011 and 2012, but it’s very likely those days are behind him now. It took him until June to get signed. He’s probably the best of the trio though. We’ll see if he wins the job.

LaRon Landry is locked in as the other safety. He’s a decent veteran, but he’s missed 21 games in the last 4 seasons combined. He graded out above average in both 2010 and 2011, but he missed 17 games in those 2 seasons combined and that seems to have taken a toll on him as he’s graded out below average in each of the last 2 seasons. The Colts overpaid him on a 4-year, 24 million dollar deal last off-season. He’s their best safety, but only by default and he’s going into his age 30 season now so he’s not getting any better.

Grade: C+

Conclusion

The Colts have won 11 games in each of the last 2 seasons, but if they want to win that many again this season, they’ll have to become a better team as they can’t keep relying on winning close games. They’ve gone 14-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less over the past 2 seasons, but that’s not sustainable. Offensively, they should be better this year. Andrew Luck will only get better as he goes into his 3rd year in the league and the Colts are getting significant players back from injury around him. Trent Richardson is the wild card, but they can become a better offense this season even if Richardson continues to struggle a little bit.

Defensively though, it’s going to be hard for them to be better this season, even after the off-season additions of Arthur Jones and D’Qwell Jackson. Jones is still a one-year wonder, while Jackson is overrated and was overpaid. They aren’t getting any significant players back from injury and they didn’t have an excessive amount of injuries last season. On top of that, their three best defensive players last season were Cory Redding, Robert Mathis, and Vontae Davis. The former two are getting up there in age and could easily decline this year, especially since Mathis will miss 4 games with suspension. The latter, meanwhile, has an inconsistent past.

I don’t think this team has 11 win talent. I think in terms of overall talent, they are actually slightly below average, though a strong season from Andrew Luck can buoy them up and mask some of their issues, as good quarterback performances usually do. On top of that, they play in arguably the easiest division in football where, not only will 9 games probably win the division, but they get 6 games against the likes of Houston, Jacksonville, and Tennessee, which will make it pretty easy to get to that 9 win threshold. I don’t like their chances of advancing deep into the playoffs until they fix that defense though. I’ll have an official win prediction after I do all of the previews.

Prediction: 10-6 1st in AFC North

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