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On the eve of the 2013 NFL football season, it’s time to look at the 7 Indianapolis Colts who must have big years in 2013. Now a “big year” means different things to different people. I’ll explain the who’s and why’s as we go through each person.
- Coby Fleener. Fleener caught 26 passes for 281 yards last season including 2 touchdowns. Those numbers are disappointing for a starting tight end. Those numbers are also disappointing from your second round draft pick (34th pick overall). In fact, the tight end who was drafted in the 3rd round (#64 overall) and who was supposed to be the “blocking” tight end, almost doubled those numbers as Dwayne Allen finished the year with 45 receptions for 521 yards and 3 touchdowns. But this goes beyond stats. Fleener was only active for 3/4 of the games last year, and started just 10 games due to a bum shoulder. He looked brittle out on the field. This carried over into the preseason where he sustained a knee injury and then a concussion. He also looked…..well…..goofy. He dropped passes, fumbled balls and, on one indescribable play, was hit in the back with a pass. Fleener is owed just over 3.15M in 2014 and 2015. Only $1.16M is guaranteed. If Fleener does not have a good season (i.e. 50-75 catches for 500-750 yards), I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts considered cutting him loose. Right now, he just doesn’t look like an NFL player. The potential is still there, but right now, it’s only potential.
- Donald Brown. I think it’s safe to say that this is Donald Brown’s last year with the Colts. The former 1st round draft pick never materialized into the lead back the Colts thought he could be. In fairness, we haven’t had the best offensive line during Brown’s tenure. Still, we can make every excuse possible – we expected more from Brown. Brown has been active for 50 out of a possible 64 games. Incredibly, he has started just 15 games. He has been injury prone which has limited him to an average of only 112 carries per season. This is a big year for Brown to show that he can be a tough NFL running back and someone that a team will want as a #1 running back or at least an important piece of a team using a running back by committee.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey. DHB has a great opportunity. He is the #2 receiver on a team that features a very good quarterback. He is being looked to for his size , strength and speed. This guy was the 7th overall pick in the 2009 draft and was considered a bust in Oakland. Second chances don’t come along often and DHB must take advantage of this chance if he wants to be a star receiver. He will be given every chance by the Colts who signed him to a low risk, 1 year deal worth $2.5M. If he has a big year, teams including the Colts will look to give him a big multi-year deal. He should have all the incentive he needs to break out. If not, he may have to look at another 1 year deal possibly from another team.
- Samson Satele. I give Satele a hard time and in my mind, rightfully so. I thought Satale was a nice signing by the Colts last season, but after consistently being pushed backwards thus allowing complete breakdowns along the line, and after the injuries that cost him 5 games last year, I have lost my patience. Satele appears to be (maybe) an average center. Some would argue that A.Q. Shipley was a better fit for the Colts last year (I may agree – but would be told I’m showing Penn State favoritism). I think Satele has to show a lot more early in the year. If not, I’m ready to give 4th round pick Khaled Holmes every opportunity at center. I’m not convinced he’s worse than Satele and he may be better. He is also less expensive. Satele would count close to $5M against next year’s cap, but could be released and count just $1M towards our cap. I think we definitely need to figure out what Holmes can do regardless of Satele’s performance – either way, let’s keep Satele on a short leash.
- Pat Angerer. Things aren’t starting out well for Pat Angerer as he will not play on Sunday. After a 148 tackle season in 2011, injuries cost him most of the 2012 season. He’s again starting out injured this year. Some argue that Angerer doesn’t really fit our hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. Perhaps Jerrell Freeman fits it better (148 tackles last season). Angerer is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. I think it’s highly unlikely he returns as a Colt. Either way, he’s playing for a new contract and wants to impress. We’ll see if he can stay on the field long enough to make an impact.
- Vontae Davis. Davis is in the final year of his contract. The Colts want a shut down defense and Davis has the potential to be a big contributor this season and in the years ahead. If he performs to his capability, he is likely to get a big long-term deal from the Colts or be franchised if a deal can’t be worked out. If he doesn’t perform, he won’t be re-signed. Out of everyone on this list, I am really pulling for Davis. I think the combination of Davis and Toler along with Landry and Bethea could be the best secondary in the league. I want Davis to stay with us for a number of years. Bethea may not be back, but if we can return 3/4 of our secondary next season, I would be happy.
- Chuck Pagano. Yes, I’ll say it. It’s like the freak’in elephant in the room. I’m not sure if Pagano is a good head coach. Some will blast me and talk about his battle with leukemia last year and my opinion of his coaching has nothing to do with his battle last year. I just don’t know if he manages a game well. I’ve called him conservative in the past while also questioning his ability to fire up his players (something Bruce Arians did very well). I want Pagano to succeed, I truly do. I just don’t know if he is a great x’s and o’s guy. By the way, Pep Hamilton is highly regarded in NFL circles and will be a head coaching candidate some day. If Pagano falters (maybe not this year, but perhaps as early as after next season), I wouldn’t be shocked if the Colts pulled the trigger.
It’s almost game time! Go COLTS!