The Indianapolis Colts are a team accustomed to playing in the NFL postseason. For 2015, many picked them as one of the favorites to win the AFC and make a Super Bowl appearance. That hope was all ended as the injury bug devastated the Colts roster.
Last year was a down year for the Colts, even though they finished with an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs by only one game behind the Houston Texans. This time around as we head into week two of the preseason, the Colts are healthy again and are looking to make a return to the playoffs. The division as a whole has gotten much better, but the Colts are still confident they can return to the postseason.
The Offense Last year was a forgettable year for Andrew Luck and the offense. The previous season, the team survived without a consistent rushing attack, but this was due in part to Luck’s stellar play at quarterback. Fresh off the largest contract in NFL history, Andrew Luck and the Colts offense looks to return to the top form shown for much of the 2014 season: And it all starts with the guys up front.
Indianapolis drafted center Ryan Kelly from Alabama with its first round pick to help solve the offensive line issue and returned the rest of the guys up front, including star left tackle Anthony Castonzo. The resulting combination could make for Luck’s best offensive line since he was drafted in 2012.
Rob Chudzinski returns as the primary play caller and will use a three-receiver set to spread the field for his speedy receivers while also opening up running lanes for Frank Gore and company. This will take pressure off Luck and allow him to cut down on his turnovers, as he will not be under pressure as often as years past.
The running game has been a question mark for the Colts for some time, with the team’s last 1000-yard rusher in 2007. Gore came close last year with 967 yards, but wasn’t nearly as effective. This year Indy adds Jordan Todman and Robert Turbin from free agency plus undrafted free agent Josh Ferguson, who is expected to have role in the running game after an impressive training camp. With all these RBs on board, the Colts look to have a successful season on the ground to help take pressure off of their franchise QB.
The Colts bring back a nice core of young speedy receivers. Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton leads the group. Phillip Dorsett has amazing potential if but he has to stay on the field and healthy for his talents to be utilized to the fullest. Donte Moncrief proved a more reliable receiving option during his second year. Tight end Dwayne Allen will have all the attention in 2016, as he was re-signed while Coby Fleener departed for the New Orleans Saints; Allen will have a majority of the snaps to produce as he did two seasons ago.
The Defense. The Colts defense has been the biggest problem for the Colts over the past few seasons. With the addition of Ted Monachino as defensive coordinator, the Colts are expected to run a 3-4 base defense.
The heart and soul of this D, Robert Mathis, was injured for much of 2015 but returns at the age of 35 to provide a much-needed pass rush. Opposite Mathis is pass rusher Trent Cole, who had a down year but is looking to rebound – even taking a pay cut to come back with the team. Along with these two in the middle are D’Qwell Jackson, the NFL’s tackling leader in 2015, and linebacker Nate Irving, who replaces Jerrell Freeman, now of the Chicago Bears.
The key to the defense is the ability to stop the run. Up front, the Colts return Arthur Jones (who has not played much since his big contract in 2014), Kendall Langford, Hassan Ridgeway and Henry Anderson. The group as whole was relatively weak during the 2015 season, but with a year under their belts and a healthy Jones, this unit looks to rebound and have a productive year.
In the secondary, the Colts return star cornerback Vontae Davis nearing his prime and newly-signed free agent Patrick Robinson to slow down outside receivers. At the safety position, Indianapolis returns veteran Mike Adams and newly drafted rookie T.J. Green to provide run and pass support as the literal last line of defense.
The Special Teams. Adam Vinatieri is still one of the best kickers in the NFL and even at the age of 43 the colts extended his contract two more years. Last year, Vinatieri made 25-of-27 field goals, including four of 50 yards or more. Punter Pat McAfee is one of the best in the league at his position, and he’s consistently great at his job; McAfee had surgery on his non-kicking leg in the offseason but is fully expected to be ready for the beginning of the regular season.
Long snapper Matt Overton was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 2015 season after a terrific season. Expect more of the same in ’16. The kick return and punt return duties are all but Quan Bray’s job to lose. The Colts are confident he will hold onto this job going into the season.
Division finish: 1st
Playoff Prediction: Loss in AFC Divisional round
Off. Ranking: 6th overall
Def. Ranking: 18th
Offensive MVP: Andrew Luck
Defensive MVP: Vontae Davis
Pro Bowlers: Luck, Hilton, Canstonzo, Davis, Vinatieri, Mcafee, Overton