2018 Season Recap: Indianapolis Colts

2018 SEASON RECAP: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

10-6 (4-2) 2nd in AFC South

Welcome to the recap of the most unknown team in the league before this season. I said it before, at the preseason preview, that this team was entirely unknowns. There were 22 rookies on the 90 man roster, and really, we just had to have some luck happen (heh…) in order for it to pan out. Well, turns out Chris Ballard and his scouting department know what they’re doing, because it panned out *way* better than we could have possibly expected. So join me, on a tour through the mystical land of what the heck happened last year.

Storylines

Luck

Coming into the season, the number one storyline of the year was "is Andrew Luck dead". Every single time you heard anything about the NFL, the coming season, predicting how teams will play... Every single time, it came with the caveat "if Luck plays." Turns out having major reconstructive surgery in the offseason raises questions. Well, let's check out how Luck did. 430/639 (67.3%), 4593 yards (287.1/game), 39 TD, 15 INT. That's definitely not bad. I think he’s back. Shockingly, all those saying he was definitely done disappeared once it was clear he wasn’t.

Rebuilding

Two years ago, Ryan Grigson was finally canned as the General Manager. Last year, Chuck Pagano was relieved of his coaching duties. The team just finished a Luck-less 4-12 season showcasing just how poorly staffed the team was. The only position not listed as a team need in the offseason were Left Tackle and Center, and even those were seen as positions that could be improved. These were dark times. Enter Chris Ballard, the man hired to guide the team back into the light of winning seasons and deep playoff runs. Alright, I know I just wrote that while seemingly giving Ballard a little too much credit as the savior of the team. But really, that's about where we were. And Ballard gave himself a 3-year rebuild timeline. This year has been the first of the "real" rebuild years. In his first season, Ballard was hired on January 29, the week before the Super Bowl that year. The college football season was already over, scouts had their reports in, and Grigson's staff had done their homework according to his specifications and with a focus on his players. While Ballard tried to put his touch on the draft that year, he was using someone else's staff, notes, and scouting strategy. It was also Pagano's lame duck year, the year we all knew he was going to be ousted as coach. With all that in mind, that first offseason wasn't a part of Ballard's 3-year plan. As the first time with his own staff and a new coach, Ballard's rebuild finally began to take shape. Meanwhile, Chuck Pagano was relieved of his coaching duties following the last game of the season, in a move everybody knew was coming. Josh McDaniels was initially selected to be the next head coach, but backed out to remain in New England, a story in itself. Instead, Frank Reich was brought in to fill the void. After his time coaching the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, Reich came home to Indianapolis, where he first started as Peyton Manning's QB coach. Between Ballard and Reich, this team has a very different look. It's refreshing and it's been going much better than we expected so far.

Reconstructing the Roster

Right, so the Colts are a team with a ton of cap space and they had a ton of draft picks in the last draft. Right now, they're projected to have nearly $120 million to spend this offseason and last year, they had 11 draft picks. As of now, the Colts are guaranteed picks in all 7 rounds, plus the Jets 2nd round pick. We’ve gotten a compensatory 4th round pick for Moncrief. So we're looking at 9 draft picks to start the 2019 draft. That's 20 draft picks in 2 seasons, and I just want to remind everybody, you only get to have 53 players on a team. We're looking at a very real possibility that almost 40% of this team is rookies or second-year players that were drafted by Ballard. That's how you rebuild a team. Plus the other 14 free agents on the roster that Ballard has brought in, along with the other 7 from Ballard's first draft... That's a gigantic chuck of the team. Compared to the 2016 team, only 3 players on the defense are even still on the roster (Geathers, Farley, and Ridgeway). Only 17 out of those 53 are still on the team at all. In two years, 36 players have been turned over on the roster, and I wouldn't be surprised to see another 3 or 4 of those 2016 holdovers not be here next year. No matter how you slice it, that 2016 team was bad, and this 2018 team has so much hope it's incredible. This team is "officially" the 8th youngest in the league, but if you take out Vinatieri's agelessness, it drops down to an average age of 25.3, second behind only the Bengals. It's a very young team with tons of potential and building for the future. Watching this team grow is incredible.

Coaching Changes

Chuck Pagano is no longer the Colts head coach. At long last, we've got a new director in town. We have the new guy! Josh McDan… Nevermind, he backed out at the last second, after some of the assistants he had chosen had already been hired and moved. So we went with Frank Reich, former Offensive Coordinator of the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles. A lot of people are questioning the “2nd pick”, but honestly, these guys are being chosen to be the head coach of a multi-million dollar franchise. Homework gets done and these guys get checked thoroughly. Anyway, Reich brings on to the staff an offensive mindset and just came off the Super Bowl. He was in Indianapolis back when Tony Dungy was coaching as Peyton’s QB coach for two years in 2009 and 2010. The Chargers made him an OC in 2014 and Philip Rivers had a “second breakout” when that happened. We really have a sense of why, seeing how different the Colts have looked with Reich's quick-focused, up-tempo offense. Screens, short dump-offs, and checkdowns abound, and Luck is hitting numbers he hasn't seen for years. It's looking great. His decision-making could use a little bit of work and we've been watching it improve over the season. Let's just keep in mind, this is his first ever head-coaching job. There will be some growing pains.

Nick Sirianni and Matt Eberflus have combined to create a very dangerous front indeed. Dave DeGuglielmo, who I had some questions about before this season, has done a great job of revamping this offensive line. I will freely admit, I was wrong about the DeGuglielmo hiring. Mark Glowinski is the perfect example of his changes. Last year, Glowinski was a part of one of the worst offensive lines in the league. This year, he's made PFF's team of the week. Thank you coaches. Tom Rathman has helped Sirianni and DeGuglielmo to make the RBs and the offensive line look better than ever. Seriously, this entire coaching staff has been amazing. WRs could use some work and DBs need some more development, but really, we're still early in all of their careers. Still, those two are spots to keep an eye on. Of note: Guglielmo was fired at the end of the season, with Reich citing the desire to bring in his own guy. He brought in Colts legend Howard Mudd, the guy who discovered Jeff Saturday, and Chris Strausser, who tapped into Mudd’s wisdom in his retirement while coaching at Washington.

Coach Role
Frank Reich Head Coach  
Nick Sirianni Offensive Coordinator
Matt Eberflus Defensive Coordinator
Bubba Vetrone Special Teams Coordinator
Tom Rathman Running Backs Coach
Alan Williams Secondary Coach
Dave Borgonzi Linebackers Coach
Dave DeGuglielmo Offensive Line Coach (Fired)
Howard Mudd Offensive Assistant
Chris Strausser Offensive Line
Bobby Johnson Assistant Offensive Line Coach (Fired)
Klayton Adams Assistant Offensive Line Coach
Jonathan Gannon Defensive Backs/Cornerbacks Coach
Jason Michaels Tight Ends Coach
Dave Overstreet II Defensive Quality Control
Gunnard Twynner Offensive Quality Control
Kevin Patullo Wide Receivers Coach
Mike Phair Defensive Line Coach
Frank Ross Assistant Special Teams Coach
Marcus Brady Assistant QB Coach
Richard Howell Head of Strength and Conditioning
Rusty Jones Director of Sports Performance
Doug McKenney Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Ryan Podell Sports Science/Conditioning Coach
Robert Mathis Pass Rush Consultant
Reggie Wayne Wide Receivers Consultant
Cato June Linebackers Assistant (Intern)

Free Agency

Free Agents Lost Last Season

Name New Team Position Cap Hit
Donte Moncrief Jaguars WR $9.6 million
Rashan Melvin Raiders CB $5.3 million
Frank Gore Dolphins RB $1.1 million
Johnathan Hankins Raiders DT $3 million
Barkevious Mingo Seahawks OLB $2.5 million ($4.4 2019)

Yeah... That's it for free agents of any importance that are currently on another team. Moncrief probably won't get brought back to Jacksonville next year. Melvin and Hankins are both not terrible, but the Raiders are. Frank Gore is finally getting that sunset in Miami he always wanted (edit: nevermind), and Barkevious Mingo is having a decent season, but really not great. I don't really miss any of them, honestly. How about the new guys, though?

Free Agents brought in Last Season

Name Old Team Position Cap Hit
Matt Slauson Chargers RG $2.1 million
Denico Autry Raiders DE $7 million ($5 2019, $5.8 2020)
Eric Ebron Lions TE $6.75 million ($6.75 2019)
Ryan Grant Redskins WR $5 million
Dontrelle Inman Free Agent WR $400,000

These are the only ones brought in from outside worth bringing up at this point. Inman got brought in late but was balling out. Autry and Ebron have been playing far above their paychecks, with Ebron leading the league in TE touchdowns. Slauson was doing a great job on the offensive line until he hit IR, but Mark Glowinski's play has definitely rendered him replaceable. He then proceeded to retire. Ryan Grant has also been alright, but he looks like he belongs as a WR3, which is conveniently about the money the Colts are paying him.

Pending Free Agents:

Name Position Age Status
Ryan Grant WR 28 UFA
Matt Slauson OG 33 Retired
Pierre Desir CB 28 Re-signed
Dontrelle Inman WR 30 UFA
Clayton Geathers SS 27 UFA
Chester Rogers WR 25 RFA (Tendered)
Matthias Farley S 27 RFA (Tendered)

Right now, there are technically 23 free agents on the Colts’ Roster. Very few of them are going to command a whole lot of money. Of those listed, Geathers is the only one drafted by the Colts. Geathers, Farley, Desir, and Inman are the only ones that actually performed last season. Desir has done a great job of proving himself over the last two seasons.

The 2018 Draft

  • Round 1, pick 6: Quenton Nelson, LG, Notre Dame 589. 24. 3.9 941. 49. 4.7. And, most importantly, 1. These are all Nelson's numbers. He's played 1136 snaps, every offensive snap this season, the only offensive lineman on the team to do so. He allowed only 23 pressures all season, which led to 2 sacks, 4 hits, and 17 hurries. There were 730 non-rushing snaps. Quenton Nelson allowed pressure on just over 3% of the passing attempts he's been on the field. The Colts running backs, running behind a completely revitalized offensive line, have picked 111 per game. More impressive, though, is the 96 rushing first downs that they have picked up. Nelson hasn't quite been the absolutely unbeatable brick wall that he was touted as before the season, but you can count his major mistakes on one hand. That's right, that last number, Nelson allowed only two single sacks this season. As he keeps gelling with the rest of this offensive line and gets used to seeing defensive stunts, prepare for him to get better and better.
  • Round 2, pick 36: Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State Oh my. Oooohhhhh my. I remember giving this pick a B+ in the offseason and thinking I was being generous. Coming out of an FCS school, only having one breakout game against Clemson. We were skeptical. Well, I will gladly be the first one to admit that I was wrong. The dude had 163 tackles, 111 solo. But more importantly, he missed three tackles before the bye. He was making almost 97% of his tackles. Leonard has 7 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, and 12 tackles for loss, plus 2 INTs. He’s the Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he's actually playing as one of the best LB in the league right now. He's got nowhere to go but up, and he's already playing at a pretty elite level.
  • Round 2, pick 37: Braden Smith, RG, Auburn I'd be lying if I said I expected this pick at the beginning. We knew Mewhort was contemplating retirement, and if I'd actually talked to my sources (guys, I have sources! I feel so important...) I would have learned that he'd actually done training camp assuming he was going to retire. It was basically "if it doesn't hurt that bad, I'll stay, but otherwise I'm done." Well, the front office obviously had a sense of this and planned for his replacement. Between Mewhort's impending retirement and Vujnovich's absolutely awful showing last year, there was strong need for a new guard. Enter Braden Smith, Auburn's monster mauler. Interestingly, all of his draft knocks came against his speed, but Smith has done more than fill in admirably at the RT position with Webb, Haeg, and Good all out. He's actually cemented himself as the starter in the role. Supposedly, Ballard and co. had a 1st round grade on him, so getting him at the top of the second was a huge boon for them and it turns out this pick, too, has worked out perfectly. In 520 passing snaps, Smith allowed a total of 28 pressures. That shakes out to about 5%.
  • Round 2, pick 52: Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers In the offseason, I called Turay a B+ pick with the potential to turn into an A. Today, I stand by that assessment. He's got an insane upside and has 25 pressures in only a fraction of the snaps of most other pass rushers in the league. 284 snaps and 25 pressures, The league average for a team is about 30%. Turay himself is at about 9% of all of his snaps, without factoring out passing vs rushing plays. He's also gotten himself 3.0 sacks and 12 tackles. Neither of those numbers are incredibly impressive, but Turay is a rotational player, part of the long-term plan for Reich to be able to use different matchups throughout a game to wear down an offensive line. As the season has gone on, Turay has continued to improve and it's only a matter of time before he starts actually making it home.
  • Round 2, pick 64: Tyquan Lewis, DL, Ohio State Tyquan Lewis, sadly, missed the first half of the season. After trading back into the last pick of the second round, the Colts picked up Tyquan Lewis out of Ohio State to play that "tweener" role, switching between a 3T and a DE. Lewis is another high, high upside guy and the team has said he has "Leonard-like" potential. After being placed on IR with a preseason injury, he was brought back for week 10. When he came back, he showed up in a huge way. Yeah, he wasn't blowing up the stat sheet, but he was making himself known as a major quantity on that defensive line.
  • Round 4, pick 104: Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State Hines was not the NCState player Colts fans were clamoring for before the draft, but since, he has shown us that Ballard didn't make a bad pick here. For too many years, Colts fans have been haunted by Darren Sproles. I personally still have nightmares of Sproles and the Chargers hanging a few hundred rushing yards on us. Well, Hines has shown himself to be a shifty, speedy back with (relatively) sure hands. There was a point this season, I believe it was week 3 or 4, where Hines was actually the team leader in receptions. He's almost a bigger threat as a receiver than as a RB, but having that kind of dual threat does wonders for an offense, especially one with three tight ends. 52 rushes, 238 yards, 4.6 ypc. 32 receptions, 187 yards, 5.5 ypc. Running or catching, he's being used extensively and to great success at both.
  • Round 5, pick 159: Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa Fountain is the first of our draft picks to "bust". As of right now, he's still sitting on the practice squad with Steve Ishmael getting elevated over him. However, apparently Fountain has been dealing with some deaths in the family and been excused from practice. No matter how you slice it, though, a 5th round WR should be able to beat out a couple of UDFAs for a spot on the roster. He needed some work on his route running and he struggled to keep hold of the ball in the preseason, but he has potential as a high-upside athlete. Hopefully, after some time on the practice squad, Fountain has learned his routes and can put it all together soon. He saw a few plays in the AFCCG AFC Divisional Game, but... didn't end well.
  • Round 5, pick 169: Jordan Wilkins, RB, Ole Miss Wilkins looked like he might have been our feature back when Mack was out. However, he's seen a decrease in his usage with the arrival and huge upside on Mack. But, by the middle of the season, Wilkins had 52 carries, 235 yards, with 4.5 ypc. Unlike Hines, Wilkins only has 10 receptions. He really featured best as a between-the-tackles kind of runner, allowing blocks to form and slipping through holes. I'd absolutely love to see him get a little more utilization with the offensive line looking as good as it does right now, but he did pick up a case of the fumbles and was being taught a lesson about that.
  • Round 6, pick 185: Deon Cain, WR, Clemson Cain tore his ACL in the preseason and didn't see the field this year. This is incredibly unfortunate because the guy looked like the real deal while he was at Clemson and had some huge plays in the preseason, seeming to specialize in making plays and jump balls. He also had some times where he completely disappeared, but hopefully, he's been watching this team from the sideline and getting a better sence for what his role will need to be. At 6'2 and 200 lbs, Cain is a bigger receiver someone with speed and athleticism, but also size (something the group is severely lacking). Hopefully he can recover from the ACL tear in time for next year.
  • Round 7, pick 221: Matthew Adams, LB, Houston Adams is a guy NFL.com didn't even expect to get drafted, but he's showed up for the Colts. He's been a useful role player and an acceptable backup at the LB position, managing a fumble recovery against Oakland, for example. However, he has to be pulled off the field in passing situations. I don't really know what to make of him, I honestly haven't really noticed him. Seems like he's been great on Special Teams so far, though. Through week 6, he had 6 solo special teams stops.
  • Round 7, pick 235: Zaire Franklin, LB, Syracuse Franklin is another guy who projected a very high NFL upside when he was drafted. Franklin and Adams find themselves in similar boats: playing backup to much better LBs and trying to make names for themselves on special teams. While Franklin has gotten slightly more snaps on defense and thus more tackles, he has fewer special teams stops. Both are about what you'd expect taking a guy in the 7th round from smaller schools and weaker programs.

On the whole, Ballard knocked this draft out of the park. 11 picks, of which only 3 haven't contributed, 2 of which were due to injury. Leaving aside Lewis, it wasn't until the 5th round, his 6th pick, that Ballard found a player that hasn't played a significant, if not starting, role. That's absolutely incredible and that's how you turn a franchise around.

The 2019 Draft

The Colts have 9 picks in the draft this year. The 7 original, the Jets’ second round pick, and a compensatory 4th.

Looking at where the team stands today, there is a very clear biggest need at Edge rusher. Because they run a 4-3, it doesn’t need to be a great coverage OLB, just for the record. However, there is also a lot of discussion about adding a WR early in the draft because offensively speaking, the Colts are a very complete team. They’re 1-2 WRs away from a top offense in the league, and it’s easy to see how huge of an impact that player would have. But Chris Ballard’s philosophy is to build through the trenches first and make sure the core group is put together before putting skill players into the mix. Interior defensive line is also a huge need. Margus Hunt is the starting 1T, but Grover Stewart behind him is not enough. While Desir did get re-signed, we’re still hurting for a fast CB who can cover people like Hill. Geathers may or may not be re-signed, and until that happens, SS will also be a slight need. After that, it’s really just depth. This team is in good shape. So, in list form:

  • Edge
  • IDL (1T especially)
  • CB
  • WR
  • SS
  • Depth

To put specific players in the list, I like Dexter Lawrence in the first, Jaylon Ferguson or a first round faller at the Jets’ pick, Trayvon Mullen or Amani Hooker later in the second, Myles Boykin, Isaiah Buggs, or Chase Winnovich in the third (depending on the board), Michael Jordan and Ugo Amandi in the fourth, Stanley Morgan Jr. in the fifth, Tyree St. Louis or Trysten Hill in the sixth, and Lil’Jordan Humphries in the seventh. Note that these are just ideas, I’m not super attached to them. But the Colts are looking to be in decent shape for this year’s draft.

Weekly Game Recaps

It was a painful start to the season, but ended up being far better than I had expected. I initially suggested that this team would probably be 6-10. Boy, was I wrong.

It was so close... The defense that we had all expected to be absolutely awful had done a fantastic job of containing Andy Dalton and Joe Mixon. On 17 rushes, Mixon had only 95 yards and Margus Hunt had broken out with 2.0 sacks. Meanwhile, the Colts also only allowed 2 sacks and the game was still within reach, until the 4th quarter, when Andrew Luck threw a checkdown to Jack Doyle, who turned and ran to the 1st down marker and... took a hit from Fedeljus (or whatever his name is) and dropped the ball, which the Bengals turned around and ran all the way back for that last 7. Instead of being 30-27, like it should have been, the game wound up at 34-23, looking far worse than it actually was.

Ah, redemption. This was Leonard's first breakout game, the one where he managed to pick up 15 tackles and a sack, showing up everywhere. Jihad Ward and Jabaal Sheard also got home and the defensive line held Adrian Peterson to 20 yards and a measly 1.8 ypc. He was only positive because of a long run of 14 yards that day. Jamison Crowder was their leading rusher after a pair of successful jet sweeps. The defense absolutely carried this team to victory. The offense just looked out of it, with Luck throwing 21/31 and 2 INTs. Still, we managed to hang 100 rushing yards against one of the top run defenses in the league. This was where we saw what this team was capable of.

This one hurt more than any other loss so far. Neither team looked like they wanted to win it and Carson Wentz looked incredibly mortal in his first game back from injury. But so did Luck, throwing 25/40 and only 1 TD. He was our leading rusher with his 33 yard scramble as Hines and Wilkins just couldn't get it going against the stout Eagles DL. Leonard managed 2 sacks, though, and as a whole the team got to Wentz 4 times, also managing an interception. It was definitely a hard-fought defensive battle and it won the respect of Eagles fans for a defense that, oddly enough, looked like a top one. Fletcher Cox was held to a measly half sack as the Eagles only made it to Luck twice. Another game that showed our huge potential and just needed a little bit more development for the rookies to get it going.

This one came back to bite us... This was where the injuries and the drops started. Luck was 40/62 with 4 TDs and 0 INTs. He tried to carry this team to victory against their will and the receivers were struggling to hold on. It was going to be a hell of a ride with a huge 4th quarter and overtime comeback... Until Chester Rogers dropped the 4th down conversion attempt in overtime and the Texans managed a single play to get into field goal range. This was also the game where the Colts secondary began to truly get exposed as Watson threw 29 completions for 375 yards and 2 TDs. A game that was within our grasp, but we just let it get away. At the time, we were simply watching a team look really good, but with next to no chance of getting anywhere, so we were pretty optimistic about the fact that our coach wanted to actually try to win instead of settle for a tie. That gift-wrapped victory for the Texans turned into them winning the AFCS.

Yikes. This was the one where we were missing 12 starters. There was no hope from the beginning in many of our hearts, but the team managed to pull through, despite our expectations to the contrary. Except the WRs. With TY and Doyle out, the pass catchers could do anything except... catch passes. It hurt to watch. Meanwhile, the defense started to come back to earth, allowing Brady to throw for 340 yards and Michel to run for 98. Still, on the whole, it looked a lot better than we had initially expected, given how many people we were missing. Just so we’re clear. There are 53 players on an NFL team, 46 dress each week. The Colts had to dress 44 because of injury. 40 players finished the game.

Lots of high scoring games, including 3 in a row allowing the opponents to hit 35. The defense was still missing its steps, allowing Sam Darnold to have the best game of his rookie career. The second half in particular, though, was a thing of beauty. For the first time this season, Reich kept the offense balanced and the run game started to show its strengths, carried on the back of the offensive line. The streak they started in the Patriots game of not allowing a sack (after the first drive) continued, and the Colts managed to pick up 5.5 yards per carry. The secondary really showed its vulnerability, although that was also the game with 4 safeties and 4 CBs on the injury report. It was another game that gave us some hope.

This was the first time we saw this team start to put it all together. I will freely admit that this was against the Bills, though. They’re not exactly the NFL’s elite. But still, Luck put up a gigantic… 156 yards? That’s right, this offensive drubbing was led by the offensive line and the running backs. Mack made his first 100 yard game ever and the Colts as a whole had their first 200 yard game in a long while. Hines and Wilkins combined for nearly another 100 yards (47 and 46 yards, respectively). The defense didn’t have their best ever showing, although the fact that they were playing the Derek Anderson-led Bills certainly made it easier. 3 interceptions and 2 sacks, with Leonard having another 12 tackle game. Really, though, the big story was the offense coming together and chipping away at the clock with the run game. This was the offense we knew was coming.

This one started as a pretty ugly game… 13-14 at halftime and it looked like Oakland was starting to take control. It didn’t look out of reach, it just didn’t look great. But in the second half, the team really came alive and started clicking. Luck finished 22/31 with 239 yards while the offense managed to pick up another 200 yard rushing game. This was the first back-to-back 200 yard rushing game since 1985 for the Colts. It was a big deal. Mack got himself 130 yards, Hines picked up 78, and Wilkins made it to 14 on 2 runs. Leaving out the Colts’ two kneel downs to end the game, the worst running back of the game averaged over 5 ypc. That’s incredible for a team that has had struggles in the running game for… Well, since Edgerrin James was there. Leonard’s 9 combined tackles tied for his weakest performance of the season. But somehow, the defense managed 0 sacks and 0 INTs. Carr threw for 21/28 and 244 yards, almost 12 yards per attempt. The Raiders only managed 103 rushing yards on the opposite side, though. But still, the Raiders made it to 28 points. It was a poor defensive showing and we really, really started to see the holes in the secondary show.

The Jaguars were in free fall. The Colts were getting hot. It looked like an easy one. Donte Moncrief had his first good game of the season against his old team with an 80 yard TD in the first quarter. But this really was the game that exposed just how dysfunctional the Jaguars were. Ebron scored 3 TDs, one of which he was completely unguarded for. Jags defense looked bad, but as always, the Colts made Blake Bortles look like Drew Brees. Still, they managed to pull out the win with a stop in the 4th.

Well, this one was a little painful for the Titans. Dean Pees left before kickoff to go to the hospital. At halftime, it was 24-3 and the Colts were marching up and down the field at will. It was 38-3 in the 4th quarter. Just to make this abundantly clear, the Titans did not return a punt. The Colts punted 3 times. Jacoby Brissett got to play for a little bit. This game was not at all close. It showed just how good this Colts team could be if they were all clicking at the same time.

This was actually a really good game. Luck threw 2 picks (back to back) to Xavien Howard. This was also the game where the Colts lost the sack streak. It was a 3 yard sack, too… It was a great game, lots of back and forth, then… the Colts defense remembered what they were there to do. Once again, there was some flipping going on between relying on the offense and relying on the defense. Still, came out of Miami with the W.

sigh If there’s a game I want to forget, it’s this one. The defense did an amazing job shutting down the… Cody Kessler - led Jaguars. There were 476 total yards in the game. Andrew Luck threw the ball 52 times. The Jags won, we’re moving on.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the owner of the of NRG Stadium in Houston, TY Hilton! 9 catches, 199 yards, playing hurt. I’m now certain that if TY Hilton were rolled out in Houston in a wheelchair, he’d still break 75 yards in the game. This was another one where the team was firing on all cylinders for a chunk, then faded. Happened a lot this year. Deshaun Watson was sacked a whopping 5 times. The Colts won and it wasn’t nearly as close as the score makes it look.

This was a great game for Colts fans. A shutout of the Cowboys on national television, while people were all talking about how dangerous the Cowboys were and simultaneously saying the Colts were far worse than their record, along with a head-to-head of the two best rookie linebackers in the league (which, by the way, Leonard crushed). They punted… once. Full disclosure, this shouldn’t have been a shutout, the Cowboys blew a couple of scoring opportunities. But still, the Colts defense played amazingly and Dallas had no answer.

This was not a great game for the Colts. They came in from shutting out the Cowboys and were probably a little bit overconfident. The Giants led the entire game. With 55 seconds left in the 4th quarter, Chester Rogers caught a TD from Andrew Luck and Adam Vinatieri’s extra point once again sealed the game. It was a heck of a game and incredibly stressful to watch, but this was the first time all season the Colts could hang on enough to actually win the game.

This game became the last Sunday Night Football game of the season. Winner went to the playoffs. Guess who won? That’s right, the Colts. Andrew Luck still has never lost to the Titans.

This was a fun game, it was played in TY Hilton stadium. For some reason, whenever the Colts play in Houston, TY always goes off. His worst game in Houston was in 2016, when he managed only 49 yards. His second worst game was his rookie year, 3 catches for 78 yards. The Texans had been boasting the best rushing defense in yards allowed in the league, having not allowed a single 100-yard rusher. Marlon Mack ran for 148 yards. It looked like a game where the team may have taken their foot off the gas early and given Houston a chance to come back, but the Texans just looked lost. The offensive line allowed a single TFL- a -1 yard run in the 1st quarter. And then the second half happened and the Colts forgot how to offense. A couple of 3 and outs and then some rushes from Mack to finish the game, but the lack of offense would carry into the Chiefs game and ultimately spell doom.

Looking at it at the time, we knew this game was going to be a long shot. The second Malik Hooker was declared out, we knew we were probably going to lose. The Colts’ secondary just didn’t have the speed to compete with KC’s explosive receiving threats and the offensive line struggled in its greatest test of the year. Really, the problem was that the offense just wasn’t clicking. They went 3 and out the first 4 drives of the game, Vinny missed a field goal, and it was halftime. Then it went punt, punt, fumble, punt, touchdown, game. After leading the league in 3rd down efficiency during the regular season, the Colts went 0-9 on 3rd down. This was the game that showed the world what this offense could be if it had just one more reliable weapon. But it hurt to watch.

Positional Breakdowns: Offense

QB

Andrew Luck is back. There can be no doubt about it. He’s at over 4500 yards and 39 TDs with only 15 INTs with a completion percentage of 67.3%. One of his best seasons ever, and this should have answered every single question anybody had about his shoulder and his return. He’s absolutely back and, most importantly of all, none of these games have rested squarely on his shoulders. He’s had help from either the defense or the running game. After the little episode of the drops in the middle there, he’s also got more faith in his wide receivers again. Meanwhile, Jacoby Brissett has come in for one hail mary that he accidentally threw out the back of the end zone. That guy has a canon. We are so lucky with the QB situation we have in Indy right now, having two starting-quality QBs on the team. One is definitely top-10 in the league and the other is in the top 25. This offseason, they will be joined once again by Phillip Walker, the man who was cut and re-signed to the practice squad 11 times.

RB

The offensive line is really probably more than a little bit responsible for the resurgence of the running back group this season, but let's be honest, those RBs have been looking pretty impressive, too. Robert Turbin was looking like he could take over as RB1 in the preseason. Then he was suspended for PEDs, injured after only 3 carries, and finally released in November. Jordan Wilkins landed 3 starts with 60 carries, 336 yards, and 5.6 yards per carry. However, he also developed a little bit of butterfingers. 2 fumbles got his workload reduced significantly. Nyheim Hines has been an absolute stud out there. He's playing at the level you'd expect of a late 2nd or 3rd round pick. 85 carries, 314 yards, but most importantly, 63 receptions and 425 yards. At one point, he was top 2 on the team in receptions. But both of those pale in comparison to Marlon Mack's incredible resurgence. While he hasn't been making every single mindblowing play we'd expected of him, he's been rock-solid this year. 195 carries, 908 yards, 4.7 yards per carry. Remember how it had been years since we had a 100-yard rusher? Mack managed that 4 times, 5 if you include the Houston postseason game. No, it’s not the most electric RB group in the league. But it’s definitely not as weak as those who want us to bring in Le’Veon Bell would have you believe. Could competition be added? Absolutely. And Jonathan Williams showed up on the roster to provide some semblance of it. But really, the biggest need for this group is a true power back, like what Turbin had been when he was healthy.

TE

Well... Let's just say the Colts might have the best Tight End group in the NFL. No, they don't have the best TE in the league. But Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope, Ryan Hewitt*, and Mo Alie-Cox have combined in ways we couldn't even have imagined. Doyle's blocking was something that we sorely missed while he was out with injury and before we figured out that Offensive Line combination. He has since has hip surgery and will miss a lot of the spring training. He should be back for training camp. Ebron lead the league in TE touchdowns. 13 TDs (a season record for him), 750 yards, 66 catches. He became Luck's checkdown target when he wanted to actually throw past the line. Swoope and Alie-Cox have been bouncing back and forth off the practice squad and each has made some great plays. They’re both former basketball players, with some incredible athleticism. No, we don't have the best TE in the league. But we have 4 TEs that could be on any team's rotation. Let's not forget, for the first time in NFL history, 3 touchdowns were thrown to TEs in a game last time the Colts played. Ross Travis went to IR before the season started, but the front office has high hopes for him. Gabe Holmes and Billy Brown** were brought in for the offseason 90, but I very highly doubt they’ll crack in. Just as a fun fact, in case anyone was wondering, do you know how many of these TEs were drafted in the first 3 rounds? 1. Eric Ebron. The rest of them? None of them were drafted. I don’t know how, but they’ve got some serious TE whisperers in Indy.

WR

Yeah, this is the offensive weak spot. I feel like I need to just lead off with this... TY Hilton is without question the best WR on the team. It's not even a close conversation. It's not even worth mentioning anyone else in the same sentence. TY has 1270 yards and missed two games. Dontrelle Inman was the second best receiver on the team, and he only showed up halfway through the season. 28 catches, 304 yards, and 3 TDs, but most importantly, he was the only WR on the team with a catch rate over 70%. That’s not an exaggeration. Chester Rogers and Ryan Grant entered the season in theory competing for the WR2 position. In reality, after seeing them on the field, neither has earned themselves that spot. If anything, they earned themselves the boot. Grant looked decent for the most part, 35 catches for 334 yards, but only 1 TD. On a one-year prove-it deal, not shocked. We had hopes, but they didn’t really pan out. The problem is that he disappears on the field for very long stretches at a time. Rogers, meanwhile, was featured heavily in the drop compilation, almost to the point where it could have been a video about Rogers. He's tried to make up for it with his 53 catches for 485 yards, but only 2 TDs. He's certainly not bad, but I think he's also shown that his ceiling is useful WR3. Zach Pascal has made a name for himself this season with that eye catching touchdown against the Texans. He’s actually a pretty amazing blocking WR. Otherwise, he's been just another body. But 27 catches for 268 yards in 4 starts is pretty good for a depth guy. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the high ceiling a true WR2 needs. Marcus Johnson is... on the roster and has 6 catches for 102 yards. Or rather, he was, until he went to IR. Krishawn Hogan appeared for a little while, recorded a FF on special teams, but not much else. Steve Ishmael bounced on and off the practice squad but never actually played. Daurice Fountain was drafted and spent most of his time on the practice squad, but got a chance in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, he didn’t record a single meaningful stat and dropped a TD pass in the end zone. Here’s hoping Fountain continues to develop. James Wright and Deon Cain both hit IR before the regular season started, so we don’t really know what we got. In case you weren’t sure, WR is the biggest offensive offseason need for the team. If the Colts pick up a good WR2, this could be the another incredibly explosive offense.

OL

I called it at the start of the season. I said if everything worked out, this unit could compete for the best in the league. The one thing I didn't predict was the composition. Joe Webb went on IR after the first game and probably won’t be back. Joe Haeg followed him shortly after, then returned week 15. Anthony Castonzo missed the first quarter of the season and Le'Raven Clark was an... adequate... replacement, but Castonzo's return has shored up that LT position. I wouldn’t be surprised if Clark wasn’t on the roster next year. Castonzo is definitely criminally underrated by many, including Colts fans. The guy has been consistently a top 10 LT in the league and we keep forgetting about him, the last of the pre-Grigson draft picks. Quenton Nelson has been amazing, as I mentioned above. First team all-pro as a rookie, didn’t miss a single snap. He single-handedly made O-Line highlight videos cool again. Ryan Kelly has made a case for being one of the best Cs in the league, though he spends a lot of time injured. And let's not forget the sheer quantity of work he puts into preparing for the next game with the OL coach, RB coach, and OC. For the uninitiated, Kelly and those 3 coaches literally sat down a week in advance to begin working on the plan for the next game, not even the one they were about to play. When he was injured, Evan Boehm was another pretty good replacement, but watching the product on the field, it was clear that Kelly is the more complete package. Matt Slauson was absolutely amazing, until he also showed up on IR after risking paralysis protecting Luck. He has since retired. Denzelle Good's brother was tragically murdered in a drive-by shooting this season and he missed a few weeks for completely understandable reasons. After a disagreement with OL coach DeGuglielmo, Good was cut late in the season. With Haeg out, Braden Smith played a position he only started at once before in college. And he performed so admirably that they left him starting there, where he allowed only 3 sacks all season. And with Smith playing tackle and Slauson on IR, it was up to Mark Glowinski to fill in at Guard, which did far better than we could have ever imagined. The Colts went through 10 offensive linemen through the first half of the season (technically 11, for the 1 play that Boehm came in for Kelly during an evaluation). They also broke the franchise record for consecutive plays without allowing a sack this season. After over 50 sacks last season, they allowed fewer than 20 this season. Seriously, I called them being one of the best. I didn’t expect them to be that amazing. Josh Andrews was brought on for some depth toward the end of the season. William Poehls, De’Ondre Wesley, and Antonio Garcia were brought in for the full 90.

Positional Breakdowns: Defense

DL

This defensive line was far more impressive to start the year. Not to say that they are bad now, but they started the year with 17 sacks in the first 5 weeks. They ended the season with 38, which was good, but in the weeks leading up to the bye, they managed 4 in 4 games. Margus Hunt was poised for a breakout season after leading the league in TFL and being top 5 in sacks after two weeks, but he fell off with some nagging injuries. He finished the season with 5 sacks, 13 TFL, 6 QB hits, and 2 passes defensed. The guy is 31 and will be 32 next season, though. Jabaal Sheard has gotten himself 5.5 sacks and 50 tackles as he continues to essentially anchor that side of the defensive line. He added 4 passes defensed, 14 TFL, and 13 QB hits. Jihad Ward has landed himself 3 impressive sacks, though he's also only got 4 total tackles, however 3 were TFL. He wound up on IR after 6 games, but he definitely proved himself worthy of another contract. Al-Quadin Muhammad (I'm sorry, putting their names next to each other wasn't optional) has only made himself 28 tackles, but really has made some plays to get his name up there. Weirdly, now that I’m looking at his stats, I don’t really know what they were. At only 23, he has some time to develop some more. Speaking of flashing potential, Kemoko Turay has landed 15 tackles, 4 sacks, and a forced fumble. Most importantly, he’s got 13 QB hits. He needs to work a little bit on getting home, but some improvements on the secondary to give him a half a second to finish would be helpful. I like the guy’s potential. Carroll Phillips got bumped up from the practice squad and has performed... adequately. 6 games, 5 tackles. Al Woods has continued being a pretty good run stuffer and eating up blocks in the middle. He's nabbed himself 24 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 QB hits. However, he’s also 32 and a free agent. Grover Stewart has continued to develop as a DT. As a 4th round pick, he's performed almost exactly to the mark a 4th round pick would be expected. As long as he keeps improving, Stewart can be an adequate member of the defensive rotation. I don’t like the idea of him being the starter next year, but as a rotational guy, he can continue to develop. Hassan Ridgeway, selected in the 4th round the year before him, is another absolutely adequate player. He's also been developing, but he too needs to keep working. I don’t think he’ll be here much longer. Denico Autry has been playing the DT/DE rotational role, bouncing inside and outside as needed. With 37 tackles and 9 sacks, Autry is no stranger to the backfield and has been better than the Raiders seemed to have thought he would. He also figured out the secret to blocking FGs (turns out if you get up faster than the guy across from you, the way is clear) and got himself 2 blocked kicks on the season. Tyquan Lewis spent the first half of the season on IR, but came back and flashed much more than was expected. He’s playing an Autry-like role, bouncing inside and outside. In his 8 games, he racked up 2 sacks, 13 tackles, and 8 QB hits. This is a guy with serious potential, and having Autry there to learn from will help him more than just about anything. Geneo Grissom was… on the roster and didn’t appear. Anthony Winbush and DeShawn Williams will both be on the offseason 90.

LB

The linebacker group on this team is looking thin, but deadly. Najee Goode was brought in to be a veteran presence in the LB room, and by all accounts, it paid off in a huge way. He averaged less than 1 tackle per game, but he also has an interception of Tom Brady. By the end of the season, he was seeing his playing time shrinking more and more. Zaire Franklin and Matthew Adams have both gotten a substantial number of special teams snaps and filled in for Goode. Neither has really broken out, but also neither has really been that bad. Let's see them continue to develop. Franklin got talked up a bit more around the draft, but he was a 7th rounder for a reason. Adams in particular began to make a name for himself as a bit of an enforcer and began to work himself into the starting SAM position. As a seventh rounder, he’s got a lot of development to do, but Adams looks bright. Anthony Walker Jr. took a gigantic leap beyond what was expected of him after last season. 105 tackles, 1 sack, 4 passes defended, and 1 interception have been a great benchmark for the improvement to his performance last season. However, he needs to continue working on his tackling ability. At one point, he was second in the league with the most missed tackles. Darius Leonard won the Defensive Rookie of the Year and made First Team All-Pro. There’s really no other way to say it, Leonard is a star for the defense to build around in the future. 163 tackles, 111 solo, 2 INTs, 8 passes defensed, 7.0 sacks, 8 QB hits, 12 TFL, and 4 forced fumbles. Just a reminder, this was in only 15 games. From an FCS Rookie. I don’t really know what else to to say about him besides that if he keeps it up, he will be an all-time great linebacker. Skai Moore was a highly touted prospect that ended up going undrafted. He only played in 9 games and had 4 tackles before finishing the season on IR. Ahmad Thomas was promoted to the active roster, appeared in 2 games, and had a single tackle.

CB

Yeah, this group needs help. It needs lots of help. Quincy Wilson, Arthur Maulet, Kenny Moore, Pierre Desir, Chris Milton, and Nate Hairston did, admittedly, do a great job not allowing big plays this season. Kenny Moore has absolutely looked like the best of the bunch with 3 interceptions, 11 Passes defensed, and 1 forced fumble. He only allowed a 73.3 passer rating, good for 6th in the NFL. He’s also carved himself out a niche in blitzing from the slot, landing 2 QB Hits and 4 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks. Moore also broke the franchise record for sacks in a single postseason with 3. Desir's 2 forced fumbles and interception look good on paper, and he managed to effectively shadow and shut down DeAndre Hopkins. But as a pending free agent, I think Desir has proven himself to be worth a real contract. We’ll see what happens. Wilson has been disappointing with the receptions he's allowed, although he hasn't been quite as bad as some seem to think. Not great, but certainly not living up to the hype we had last year. He only had 1 interception and 2 passes defended. Last year, we had lots of questions about his maturity. Wilson himself credits Mike Mitchell with helping him to mature and learn the position in the NFL. And, to be fair, looking at just week 1 vs week 7, you can see Wilson learning as a player. I still think he has upside, but he’s not the player they need him to be yet. Nate Hairston found himself bumping down the depth chart this year as Moore broke out in a big way and the rest of the secondary carved out roles for themselves. He spent most of the season on special teams and coming in to relieve injured players. 30 tackles, 1 pass defensed were the extent of his stat line. Chris Milton is a guy most of you haven’t heard of, but he’s definitely a guy the Colts want back next year. He appeared in 15 games as a special teams player and is the team’s primary gunner. He’s downed a handful of punts inside the 5 yard line and recovered a muffed punt against the Titans. Milton himself has embraced the role, and he’s really really good at it. Finally, Arthur Maulet technically played for the Colts this year, but appeared in 5 games on special teams and got cut in November before being picked up by the Saints for the practice squad (who then released him, he’s now with the Jets). Lenzy Pipkins was traded to the Colts, and he bounced off and on the practice squad until the Browns, then the Packers picked him up. Jalen Collins and DJ Killings are both going to be a part of the offseason 90.

S

Mike Mitchell has been an amazing mid-season pickup, far better than we would have expected. In 8 games, he had 1 interception, 1 pass defended, and 28 tackles, not to mention the humongous impact a veteran in the secondary has. Combining him with Malik Hooker has probably been the best thing the Colts could have done. Hooker can shut down half the field, recording 4 passes defended and 2 interceptions, and Mitchell can come in like a freight train. According to PFF, Hooker played 131 snaps in coverage per reception he allowed. In the first 9 games, he was targeted 4 times. Remember, Hooker missed the second half of last season with a torn ACL. George Odum has been an admirable backup with Matthias Farley on IR and has made himself a great little niche on special teams. Farley played 5 games before a hamstring injury ended his season, but Colts fans got to know him last year as part of the 3 man rotation in the Safety position with the injuries to the position group.In those 5 games, though, Farley generated an interception and a fumble. Clayton Geathers plays like a slightly larger, slightly less fragile Bob Sanders and it's beautiful to see on the field. In his 12 games, he managed 89 tackles, 2 QB hits, and a TFL. Unfortunately, we don't see him on the field a whole lot due to the injuries. As a pending free agent, Geathers is one that the front office will take a long, hard look at about re-signing. He and Farley are the only players currently on the defense that were on the roster in the 2016 season. Finally, we have Corey Moore, who rotates into the field and has managed an interception but otherwise really not done much of note. JJ Wilcox was signed in December but saw a grand total of 4 tackles. Rolan Milligan bounced between the practice squad and roster but never saw game action. Isaiah Johnson will be a part of the offseason roster. Ronald Martin went to IR in the preseason and missed the entire regular season.

Positional Breakdowns: Special Teams

K

Adam Vinatieri has scored the most points out of any player in NFL history. Need I say more? Yeah, that last game in KC was rough, but he’s back next year to keep going. 44-47 on extra points in the regular season and 23-27 for field goals, perfect inside 30 yards, banged in a 54 yarder. Dude’s 46 and still kicking like he was 26. He’s re-signed for next year, and Father Time is still watching him kick.

P

Rigoberto Sanchez has showed up his impressive rookie season by continuing the impressive punting. Boomstick was amazing at the coffin corner punts and getting some ridiculous distances. Sanchez has a different specialty- hangtime.On 57 punts, he landed 24 inside the 20 with only 8 touchbacks. His net yards per punt was over 42, good for 4th in the league. Only 21 of those 57 punts were even returned. Sadly, the actual number isn’t available, but Sanchez had a goal for an average hangtime of 4.75 seconds per punt. He may have actually hit that mark.

LS

Hey, we can't go without mentioning the most important member of the roster, Luke Rhodes, the long snapper. Talk about an unsung hero. He hasn’t screwed up… I think ever?

Returns

This is the only weak link of the Colts Special Teams unit. GOAT Kicker, underrated punter, good long snapper. But outside their 21 punt returns, Chester Rogers, the main return man, called for 18 fair catches… The longest return of the season was a measly 15 yards. Even on kickoffs, with the long of 47 yards, they still averaged only 22 yards per return. Kick returner is a low-key need for the Colts, but a couple of younger players showed some flashes of potential in the preseason last year.