The Indianapolis Colts and their fans are thinking “Super Bowl or bust” for every single season in which Andrew Luck is the starting quarterback. Although one can’t blame them for taking that simplistic route to elevate their expectations, there has to be a dose of reality sprinkled in here and there, just to “level the playing field” – so to speak. The Colts play in a division that they win by default (in a worse case scenario, they split games with the Texans and sweep the Jaguars and Titans) and they have one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Andrew Luck.
Luck has been money for the Colts since day one. Last season he lit up the scoreboard with forty touchdown passes and threw for over 4,700 yards. His sixteen interceptions may look like a high amount but if you look at his work as a whole, it’s amazing it’s only sixteen. The Colts defense usually lets down Luck enough times that he has to throw from behind and the run attack has never complimented Luck well. Add to the fact he threw 616 times last season – to only come out of that with sixteen interceptions is impressive.
The Colts hope to have balance this year in their offense with the additional help coming from veteran Frank Gore in the backfield. The former 49er is working with easily the best quarterback he’s ever been on the field with and brings with him a workhorse work ethic. Gore has kept himself healthy the last few years and it’s key that he does that again before the likes of Boom Herron and Zurlon Tipton start getting carries. If that happens, this offense is back to square one.
The Colts found a strong offensive linemen in the second-round of last year’s draft in Jack Mewhort. He was impressive enough at left guard that he is being promoted to right tackle this season. That gives the Colts a nice combo at the tackle spots where left tackle Anthony Castonzo protects Luck’s blindside. The Colts scout team took things to new levels by signing the number-one-overall pick in the 2012 Draft. . . the 2012 Canadian Football Draft, but it’s a number-one-overall pick regardless. Ben Heenan left the CFL to join the Colts and is expected to pick things up quickly and help fill a much needed void at their guard position.
TY Hilton has proven he was steal in the third-round of the 2012 NFL Draft and was rewarded for his efforts this off-season with a five-year, $65 million deal. TY is one of those non-prototypical number-one wide receivers, similar to a DeSean Jackson – both small in stature but speedy and aggressive. Hilton is a competitor and along with Andrew Luck, has helped to form one of the better quarterback/receiver threats in the league. The Colts signed veteran Andre Johnson in the off-season, which gives Johnson his opportunity to take his greatness to another level now playing with Luck. Unfortunate thing for Johnson is that he is more on the downside than the upside of his career – but don’t tell him that. The Texans were a mess at the quarterback position and he still had eighty-five receptions. Donte Moncrief has the potential to be a good receiver in this league but he’ll be fighting off first-round pick Phillip Dorset to be number-three on the depth chart.
This 3-4 defense will need all the help from their linebackers while the front three get it together during the season. Josh Chapman returns to play mediocre nose tackle and he’ll be joined by new defensive end Kendall Langford who the Colts are hoping will bring some of the intensity from the St. Louis Rams’ attack with him.
Adding Trent Cole in the off-season was a “big-get” and will help their pass rushing immediately. Some thought the Colts paid too much for veteran D’Qwell Jackson last season, but he continued to be a tackling machine, racking up 138 last year. Robert Mathis is expected back by mid-season which means the youngster Bjoern Werner and Johathan Newsome will get their chances to show what they got. Werner was a former first-round selection in 2013 and Newsome was a fifth-round pick out of Ball State who surprised many and found himself out on the field a lot.
Safety Mike Adams is more of a ball-hawking safety than an aggressor but did the job well enough to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl last season. The star of the secondary though is Vontae Davis who had four interception and nineteen passes deflected last year. Greg Toler hasn’t stood out as anything more than “another guy in the secondary” but he is in a contract year, so if he is ever going to make any noise, now would be the time.
The Colts added some veteran help in the two former Miami Hurricanes Frank Gore and Andre Johnson but did not do much to shore up this defense. Head coach Chuck Pagano has to show that he is a good head coach that can rely on more than his quarterback bailing him out, week to week. Getting into the playoffs should be relatively easy, but the playoffs will be another story.
Predicted Record: 10-6
Predicted Pro Bowlers: Andrew Luck, TY Hilton, Jack Mewhort, D’Qwell Jackson