The Indianapolis Colts are next up on our NFL 32 Team Preview. Indy has made the Playoffs 12 out of the last 14 seasons. Their newly appointed Head Coach in 2012, Chuck Pagano, missed a majority of the season fighting cancer. He is in remission and eager to get his first full year going. The Colts held an 11-5 record, making the Playoffs, but lost the Wild Card round for the 2nd time in as many appearances. Pagano’s main challenge this upcoming season will be improving the 26th ranked Defense as he is known for specializing on that side of the ball.
Offense: Andrew Luck was brought in to replace Peyton Manning at Quarterback, during the 2012 Draft, and started off filling big shoes well by leading his team to the Playoffs. Indianapolis placed 10th in Total Offense last year with Luck leading the team to 7th in passing. Luck had stellar numbers for a player who was sacked 41 times in his rookie campaign. He totaled 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions, leading to a Pro Bowl selection. The advantage of Andrew as a mobile Quarterback is huge for Indianapolis due to their poor Offensive Line. Anthony Castonzo starts at Left Tackle and was chosen with the 22nd pick in the 2011 Draft. He played decently last year but will need to strive forward after allowing 11 sacks. Indy brought in Gosder Cherilus to try and sure up Right Tackle. Cherilus only let 5 sacks occur in 2012, while he played all but one snap for the Detroit Lions. Donald Thomas was also acquired in Free Agency. He has started 21 games in his 5-year career and will be starting Left Guard. Right will be a battle between rookie Hugh Thornton and Mike McGlynn. The spot should go to Thornton since McGlynn played very poorly last year. Samson Satele should begin the season as Indy’s Center unless the 121st overall pick, Khaled Holmes, starts for show reliability during practices. They’ll need to be sure Luck has time to throw the football, as well as open holes for a rushing offensive that ranked 22nd the past year. Ahmad Bradshaw was huge addition for Indianapolis in the Offseason, bringing along a 4.6 career yard per carry average with 35 total career touchdowns. He and Vick Ballard will handle the main workload. Ballard perform nicely in his rookie season, gaining 814 yards on the ground. Donald Brown and Delone Carter are notable names that will be fighting to keep their jobs on the roster during Training Camp. Dwayne Allen was consistent for the team in his rookie year at Tight End. He ended with 521 yards and 3 touchdowns, while other rookie Coby Fleener accounted for 281 yards with 2 scores. They’ll both be vital players for Luck in 2013, however, not as vital as Reggie Wayne. Wayne was back to his old ways for Indy last season with 106 receptions (22 for 20+ yards), 1,355 yards, including 5 touchdowns. Reggie needs 135 catches for 1,518 yards to pass Marvin Harrison as the All-Time leader in those categories. T.Y. Hilton is the other main option for Luck and had a stellar rookie season with 50 catches for 861 yards, including 7 touchdowns. Darrius Heyward-Bey was added to try and solidify the group. Heyward-Bey is thought of as a bust selection after the reach Oakland made on him in the 2009 Draft, but has been a lot more consistent the past few seasons. Tallying 9 touchdowns in his last few seasons with the Raiders, Darrius will be key for the Colts when they’re not coming out in 2 Tight End formations. If Bradshaw can bring to Indianapolis’s Offense that he did New York’s, the Colts will be a serious contender in the AFC.
Defense: Indianapolis finished 21st against the pass and 29th versus the run last season. Their Secondary is steady group of guys that start with Antoine Betha at Free Safety. He’s had 696 total tackles in his 7-year career, with 12 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles. Betha will be paired with a Strong Safety who pass-catchers fear when going across the field. LaRon Landry is one of the strongest hitters in the league and signed a four-year deal with the team in the Offseason. He’ll immediately make an impact with his presence alone. Darius Butler will get starting Cornerback duties along with Vontae Davis. Butler intercepted 4 passes, a career high, while Davis took away 3. Both need to tighten up their tackling but might have found a home in Miami. The 5-year vets are hoping to produce, at least, the same numbers as they had in 2012. A great addition to the Cornerback group was Greg Toler. Toler has fought injuries in his 4 years at Arizona, and was one of the most sought after Defensive Backs while Free Agency was going on. Toler, in his career, has a total of 5 interceptions. During Free Agency, the Colts signed Ricky Jean-Francois from San Francisco to play Defensive End. He’ll be a solid addition against the run and should be an impact quickly. Cory Redding is going into his 2nd season with the franchise and looking to prove age is not catching up to him after registering only 2 sacks last year. Aubrayo Franklin is another player trying to show he still has it after 11 years and will be the anchor for the Defense at Nose Tackle. Franklin hasn’t quite returned to his San Francisco playing form over the past few seasons. He’s been on four teams over as many years now, and this might be the last stop for Franklin if he can’t prove to play steady. Indy selected Montori Hughes in the 4th round of the Draft in case Franklin doesn’t hold up. To rush the Quarterback off the edges, Bjoern Werner and Robert Mathis will be the starting Outside Linebackers. Werner is a rookie out of Florida State with a big motor that I compare to Ryan Kerrigan of the Washington Redskins. He mainly played D-End in college but should be fine rushing the passer and playing the run in 2013. Mathis is the longest tenured player on this Defense, putting up 91.5 sacks over his 10-year career, and also made the Pro Bowl last season. Erik Walden was brought in be in the rotation with these players and has 3 sacks in each of the last 3 years with Green Bay. Opinions are Indianapolis overpaid for this player, so he’s going to have to prove his worth by applying Quarterback stress. After bouncing around the NFL and CFL for a while, Jerrell Freeman found a home in Indy last season. He led the team with 145 total tackles (team high 6 for loss), 2 sacks, and an interception. Freeman will be starting at Middle Linebacker with either Kelvin Sheppard or Pat Angerer. Angerer was looking to be one of the more promising young Linebackers in the league until his injury plagued 2012. Sheppard was brought over in case Angerer isn’t ready for the season or plays poorly, and I was very intrigued by him when he entered the 2011 NFL Draft. He started all but 1 game for Buffalo last season and should be reliable if the team needs to call on him. The Defense is going to need to hold up throughout the year for this team to be very successful in the upcoming campaign. They have all to tools to compete well against the pass, but will need to hold steady to stop the run.
End Result: I think the Colts are going to be very much in the mix of things in the AFC, finishing with a record of 10-6.