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2013 NFL Team Previews, AFC South: Indianapolis Colts - 2nd

by Shasky Clarke on Aug. 14, 2013

 

2013 NFL Team Previews, AFC South: Indianapolis Colts - 2nd 

 

OFFENSE

 

Quarterback:

The Colts have their long term franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. Big and athletic with all the tools, Luck is tough standing in the pockey and throwing downfield while taking a hit, excellent at extending the play, and shows superb accuracy when his footwork is right. Nonetheless, Luck only had four games all year where he completed 60% or more of his passes. A lot of that was due to the offense's focus on challenging defenses vertically as well as playing behind a very poor offensive line. But Luck will need to be more efficient overall. Though he has shown good durability even while enduring 44 sacks in 17 games last year, the Colts hope that Matt Hasselbeck can be an adequate fill-in should something happen to Luck.

 

Running Back:

Indianapolis had one of the worst running games in the league in 2012. The offensive line didn't help, but the running backs also lacked big play pop when they had their opportunities. New signee Ahmad Bradshaw is a super shifty and an effective veteran. He will combine with physical downhill runner Vick Ballard, under-appreciated and sneaky athletic Donald Brown and rookie speedster Kerwynn Williams to try and piecemeal a more explosive rushing attack this year. Fullback Stanley Havili also provides a versatile pass catching weapon to the backfield.

 

Wide Receiver:

The Colts had easily the shortest group of receivers last year, led by 6'0” Reggie Wayne and 5'10” T.Y. Hilton. Wayne had one of his best years in 2012, catching 106 balls and showcasing premier route running and top notch ball skills. Hilton broke out as one of the league's most dangerous deep threats as a rookie. Hilton may drop some balls but he is sudden and remarkably elusive. Projected to start opposite Wayne is free agent signee Darrius Heyward-Bey, a prototypically sized speedster. Though he has struggled with nagging injuries, he has shown steady improvement over the course of his career and only adds to the team's big play firepower. Finally, the Colts hope that the speedy LaVon Brazill and the super shifty and polished Griff Whalen can produce some at the back end of the group.

 

Tight End:

Drafting Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen early in the 2012 draft, the Colts clearly wanted to make the two tight end personnel group an important staple of the offense. Fleener is a long, fast and a true match-up nightmare pass catcher capable of being among the NFL's elite. But it was Allen who was the more productive player as a rookie. Allen isn't as physically gifted and won't stretch the seam, but has good hands and is an excellent blocker who will play a fullback role at times.

 

Offensive Line:

Indianapolis was home to maybe the worst offensive line in the league. Outside of Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, the line was replete with liabilities. In comes left guard Donald Thomas and right tackle Gosder Cherilus. Thomas is an average NFL starter with average size and athleticism. More enticing is the addition of Cherilus, who replaces possibly the worst starting right tackle in the league Winston Justice. With Castonzo and Cherilus as bookends, Luck should enjoy more comfort in the pocket. At center and right guard are Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn. While Satele is a significant liability at center, often seemingly a push-over, McGlynn should be adequate. The hope is that rookies Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton can eventually push for starting jobs at these positions. No, the Colts do not have a very good offensive line. But it is better.

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Best Offensive Rookie – G Hugh Thornton

Best Offensive Second-Year Player – QB Andrew Luck

2014 Draft Offensive Position of Need – Center

2014 Draft Offensive Suggestion – C Travis Swanson, Arkansas

 

DEFENSE

 

Defensive Line:

The defensive line had to improve after struggling to hold up consistently versus running games. In their scheme, the linemen's roles are to hold up blocks and take on double teams, allowing other defenders to flow to the ball more freely. First, the Colts added 32 year-old run plugger Aubrayo Franklin and drafted massive Montori Hughes to play nose tackle. Josh Chapman has also turned heads as a fire hydrant in the middle, enjoying double teams. These guys however, won't necessarily get to the passer (Franklin hasn't had a sack since 2009).

The Colts also signed fifth-year Ricky Jean-Francois, a former 49ers backup. It is unclear that he should start over disruptive, playmaking Drake Nevis or even a Lawrence Guy or Fili Moala, but the team likely believes Jean-Francois is a better fit for the scheme. On the other side, physical, longtime versatile starter Cory Redding is a positive with the ideal frame and skills for the 3-4 end spot. 

 

Outside Linebacker:

For the first time in years, the Colts enter a season without #93 rushing off the edge. Though Dwight Freeney only amassed five sacks in his first year in the 3-4 defense, it is hard to argue that the pass rush improves without him. Of course, the team will have speedy Pro Bowler Robert Mathis. The team also signed Erik Walden and drafted unique pass rusher Bjoern Werner, who will start off behind Mathis on the depth chart. The Colts will likely have to rely on the blitz to get pressure on the quarterback.

 

Inside Linebacker:

Inside, Indianapolis has more depth and talent. Leading the pack is Pat Angerer, a tough tackler with great range and reaction skills who has suffered from some injuries. When healthy, he has the potential to be a top ten player at his position. Next to him is break out starter Jerrell Freeman, an athletic former small-school safety. Behind those guys are the experienced and assertive Kavell Conner as well as Kelvin Sheppard, the former Bill who came over in the trading of Jerry Hughes.

 

Cornerback:

The Colts put a lot of pressure on their cornerbacks to play press man coverage, often on an island. This shouldn't change, considering the fact they'll probably need to blitz to get pressure as well as bring a safety in the box to help versus the run. The team can depend on the talented, if too often penalized Vontae Davis, a fast and super physical playmaker. The hole opposite him left by the departed Jerraud Powers is the issue. Slated to start is new signee Greg Toler. But ideally, Darius Butler should have the spot. Toler is burned too often and Butler is one of the most dangerous and underrated ball hawks in the game. Behind those guys, Cassius Vaughn gained a lot of starting experience in 2012 and could be valuable as a third of fourth guy.

 

Safety:

Gone is Tom Zbikowski and entering is the terrifically built LaRon Landry. Landry brings much more physicality to the team's secondary and will be an asset as an eight man in the box, as a cover guy versus tight ends, and as a blitzer off the edge. Next to him is longtime Colt Antoine Bethea. While he is always a high volume tackler, he has failed to grab an interception in the past couple years. 

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Best Defensive Rookie – OLB Bjorn Werner

Best Defensive Second-Year Player – NT Josh Chapman

2014 Draft Defensive Position of Need – Outside Linebacker

2014 Draft Defensive SuggestionJeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech