The Colts are poised for a great season, and are certainly Super Bowl contenders. There has been a ton of hype surrounding this year’s team with many TV personalities making the Colts their picks to not only win the AFC, but also become world champions. The roster, coaching staff, and culture of this team certainly warrant that hype, but in the NFL nothing is certain. If the Colts are to have the season many believe they can have, these three things will be at the forefront of that success.
3) The Offensive Line
After years of having one of the worst o-lines in the NFL, the line is finally at a place where Colts fans can feel comfortable about who is protecting Andrew Luck. Last year the offensive line allowed the least sacks in the NFL, so we know they are a good pass protecting unit, but what I want to see this year is better production on the ground. The first quarter of the preseason game against the Bills was not a good sign for this. Nyheim Hines had six carries for one yard, and it wasn’t his fault. He was constantly being touched by a defender before reaching the line of scrimmage. Yes, the Colts were without two of their best linemen in C Ryan Kelly and LT Anthony Castonzo, but LG Quenton Nelson, RG Mark Glowinski, and RT Braden Smith all played and looked lousy. Nelson had a holding called against him on the very first play, then was pushed back toward the passer resulting in a batted pass on the second play. On the same drive, Braden Smith got burned for a sack. In addition to all of this, the run game looked putrid. This was a terrifying start to the season, and I just hope that this was merely rust being knocked off and not a sign of things to come.
Injuries are inevitable. There are a few players (Andrew Luck, TY Hilton, and maybe Darius Leonard) who are irreplaceable play-makers for the Colts, but for the rest of the team, the pain that is felt from an injury depends on who is behind the player injured. When I look at each position on this team, I see some good depth and some bad depth. Although Brissett is one of the best backups in the league, Luck is not a player that can be replaced with good depth, and I’ll get to this more in a minute. Positions where I feel we have adequate depth include WR and TE (guys like Funchess and Ebron can be replaced by the likes of Cain, Campbell, and Doyle), DT (Lewis and Muhammed are solid backups), LB (Okereke looks like a future high-level starter, and there are a few veterans behind him), and S (Odum, Willis, and Farley are all quality players). Where I feel injuries would hurt most are at RB (no one on the roster can produce a quality rushing attack like Marlon Mack), OL (I have little faith in backups Clark and Haeg), DE (the drop off from Houston and Sheard to Turay and Banogu is massive), and CB (though we have 4 quality cornerbacks, we often play three on the field, so if two guys go down that third spot will be a glaring hole in the defense). You never want to wish injuries upon players, but I certainly hope that the injuries we do incur this season are in the positions where there are quality players to fill the void.
1) Andrew Luck
Yes, this is obvious, but Luck’s importance to this team cannot be understated. He is one of the five best QB’s in the NFL. Only people who follow the Colts closely truly understand just how good Luck is. The calf injury Luck is currently fighting is at the forefront of every Colts fan’s mind. Sure Brissett is a solid player, but this team cannot make the playoffs if Luck misses the whole season. The good news, however, is that Brissett can keep the team afloat if Luck misses a few games. And in more good news, if Luck misses the first couple games, the teams we play also might have major absences. In Week 1 we face the Chargers who look like they will be without star RB Melvin Gordon, and in Week 2 we face the Titans who will be without one of their best players in LT Taylor Lewan. Neither of these games will be easy especially without Luck, but the absences the opposition may have would certainly help. Please get well soon Andrew.