Can Indy Take The Next Step?
The Colts had various holes to fill on both sides of the ball in order to take the next step for their franchise. Pressing needs for the Indy included offensive line, running back, defensive line and their secondary. The beginning of the NFL Free Agency was the first stop they made.
Losing center Sam Satele and running back Donald Brown left some holes on the offensive side of the ball. But the biggest signing, one could argue, was the deal former Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to a one-year contract. He has solid speed, great hands, good route running ability and he can be physical. The biggest knock on Nicks is his frailty. Having never played a full season, he has a penchant for getting nicked up over the course of 16 games.
As of late, the injury-prone bug has slowly but surely removed itself from his reputation. He played in 15 games last season and although he had no touchdowns, he fought through injuries, so Colts nation would hope that he continues to get healthy and start putting up productive numbers again.
In addition to Nicks, the Colts re-signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw, in hopes that they can get more out of the two-time Super Bowl champion running back.They also signed free agent center Phil Costa to a one-year deal. The bigger problems, however, are on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensively, the Colts were average. Not pretty at times, but they got the job done. Although they were 9th in points allowed and 13th in passing yards allowed (a particular part of the defense that the Colts have been hanging their hat on for the last seven years), they were 26th in running defense and 21st in scoring percentage. The defense lacked firepower and big play ability outside of 1st Team All Pro defensive end Robert Mathis, (coming off of a career year with 19.5 sacks and 11 forced fumbles) and recently departed safety Antoine Bethea, who signed with the 49ers.
To remedy these deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, they made multiple signings: former Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson inked a four-year, $22 million contract ($11 million guaranteed) and former Ravens DE Arthur Jones signed a five-year, $33 million contract ($10 million guaranteed).
The Colts also re-signed linebacker Justin Hickman to a one-year contract extension and cornerback Vontae Davis to a four-year, $39 million dollar contract. For Davis to receive that kind of money, it would seem that the Colts see him becoming their top cornerback for years to come. I think he is slightly overpaid. However, with the high demand for good corners in the league, not to mention the high priority need in the secondary for the Colts, Davis can ask for a little more. On the positive side, he is young and is a solid cornerback with good speed and can be disruptive.
Time will tell if he lives up to the contract, but it is a nice investment and could really pay off if he can stay on front of opposing wide receivers and dictate the pace more often than not.
Since the loss of Bethea, Brown and some key O-Lineman, the Colts have done what they can to fill in the gaps and have addressed some of the holes throughout the team. Andrew Luck has another weapon in Hakeem Nicks and the Colts can become dangerous in the passing attack, pending any injuries to any of the skill players.
However, the Jaguars and the Texans have been tenacious in free agency and both teams are poised to make solid selections at key positions with very favorable standings in the draft. The Colts can take the next step if they can address the issues at O-Line, TE and D-Line in the draft to help with the running game and run defense.