Have The Gambling Indianapolis Colts Improved?
By Joaquin Ruiz
The standards have been high for the Indianapolis Colts thanks to the past success of Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy. Since then, the Colts have made two playoff appearances, with one playoff win in the last two years. Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano have done a good job so far in making the most of their time together the last two seasons. Going into the 2014-2015 campaign, can the Colts live up to the mounting expectations?
Why to Believe in The Colts:
Head coach Chuck Pagano has shown that he is capable and qualified to lead this Indianapolis Colts team. He is a solid motivator and is capable of convincing all of his players, both young and old, to buy in. Pagano has done a good job of grooming Luck into the franchise quarterback that many expect him to be as his career progresses. Luck’s potential has continued to shine in tight games and he has gotten better in his first two seasons in the NFL.
His arm and mobility has been his bread and butter, making him one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. The group of receivers has also gotten a boost with Reggie Wayne coming back from his knee injury. In addition, the Colts have signed Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief, joining wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Coby Fleener.
On the defensive side of the ball, the resigning of cornerback Vontae Davis was a priority in order to keep their secondary somewhat intact. He has shown flashes of being a solid cornerback and will be a mainstay in the Colts secondary for years to come. The core of the Colts defense has undoubtedly been outside linebacker Robert Mathis. Even without the presence of Dwight Freeney, he has been a great player for the Colts and has flourished with them, becoming a force for their defensive pass rush. To further aid Mathis in the front seven, the Colts made two big signings in linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and defensive end Arthur Jones, mainly to help against the run. The top of Indy's roster is filled with young and veteran talent. However, there are many holes on both sides of the ball that could doom them early against the top-end of the NFL.
Starting with the Colts defense, the lack of impact in the front seven was apparent, even with the presence of Mathis, Davis and Antoine Bethea. Unfortunately, the Colts lost Bethea to the 49ers after he became a free agent this offseason.
The Colts have failed to land any safety worthy of mention to replace him, which puts a lot of pressure on the secondary, especially Davis. The front seven has improved, but the defensive tackle position and the nose tackle position leave much to be desired in terms of consistency. There is unproven talent scattered around impact players on defense that have shown potential, but have yet to show off their talents, including second year defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois.
The loss of Robert Mathis for the first four games to suspension will take away some of the teeth of that defense on the pass rush. The Colts defense will miss their leader in the early goings, which will put pressure on Arthur Jones and D’Qwell Jackson to perform early. On offense, the offensive line continues to be an issue for the Colts, with many of their players either retiring or leaving via free agency. The running game was a mess last year with the Colts constantly switching between Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Donald Brown. Brown was the guy for them down stretch, but he was never resigned by the Colts this offseason.
It seems that the Colts are going be putting their faith into Richardson and Bradshaw, who have yet to prove much of anything for the Colts running game. The Colts resigned Bradshaw and traded a 2014 first round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Richardson in hopes that he would be the guy that had potential coming out of Alabama. They seem to be gambling at some positions with their young talent in hopes that they can string together some wins and continue to make the playoffs.
The luck of the Colts may not as be strong for them this year as it was last year when the Tennessee Titans fell victim to many injuries on both sides of the ball, as well as the Houston Texans collapse. All three teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, have improved their roster via the draft and free agency.
The Indianapolis Colts kept some of their best players, but some have either left for other teams or have retired, and they didn’t do much of anything to improve their roster overall. I’m surmising that the Colts will probably take a step back this year. All three teams have improved this year and they cannot count on the Titans and Texans to fold early again this season. The lack of draft picks and a secondary presence outside of Vontae Davis, as well as a depleted OL and shaky DL, should be their downfall. The Colts have talent, but their toughness is an issue down the middle on both sides of the ball where they need it most to take this team to the next level.