The Indianapolis Colts wrapped up the preseason last night with another disappointing loss. While the Colts have never particularly cared about the preseason in terms of wins and losses, it hasn’t boded well for the team’s success going forward.
When the Colts go winless in the preseason, they’ve never won a playoff game (since moving to Indy). Winning just one game has gotten them to the Super Bowl twice. While this means nothing in reality, there are some disturbing trends with this team.
There are plenty of reasons to be happy with this team, and some equally concerning problems that could derail the season.
Three Reasons to be Excited
- Andrew Luck. The Colts are loaded on offense, at least as far as the passing game is concerned. Luck is poised for another jump in his development, and it looks like the team is willing to play to its strengths instead of forcing the run over and over. The past two years have seen the Colts run a system that basically hamstrings the offense and plays away from its strengths. What we’ve seen from camp and in the preseason is an offense that is built around Luck and passing the ball. The scheme, natural progression, and improved weapons will see Luck joining the elite QBs in the NFL.
- Andrew Luck’s Bag of Weapons. The Colts have a very talented receiver corps with Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, and Hakeem Nicks. All three have been a team’s leading receiver at some point in their careers. The Colts also have two very talented tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Luck won’t be forcing passes to players who can’t get open, like he did in the second half of last season.
- Defensive Front Seven. The Colts made strides to get better at the heart of the defense. The Colts have talent and depth at linebacker and across the defensive line. This includes rookies Henoc Muamba and Zach Kerr. The additions of DE Arthur Jones and ILB D’Qwell Jackson should help bolster the pass rush and run defense, respectively. Bjoern Werner has looked much better in camp and during the preseason as well. And finally, Robert Mathis will return and with a vengeance.
Three Reasons to Lose Sleep
- Safety. The position was a mess after the departure of Antoine Bethea and hasn’t gotten any better. LaRon Landry is average at best, and none of the other options on the roster are viable starters. With the NFL being a predominantly passing league, safety is a vital position and unless one of the young players explodes onto the scene, expect the Colts to give up a lot of big plays. Hopefully Ryan Grigson placed a call Chris Clemons‘ agent after his release over the weekend.
- Mounting Injuries. The Colts already have 12 players on Injured Reserve. They are annually among the most injured team’s in the NFL and there is no reason to believe this trend won’t continue. While they have yet to lose a critical player, its always a possibility. Losing Donald Thomas and Vick Ballard damaged the depth of the Colts roster and forces them to start an inferior player at guard.
- Offensive Line. While the Colts are set at tackle, the interior three spots are huge question marks. Right now it appears the team will start a rookie and second year player at guard, and perennial backup at center. Luck needs to stay upright or the season is lost. Continuity is important for any line and the Colts won’t have anything resembling that for the season opener. Having questions across the interior of the line will also have a negative impact on the rushing attack and Trent Richardson will be lucky to average 2.9 yards per carry if the line doesn’t gel.
Perhaps the biggest reason for fans to have faith in this team is the schedule. It is awfully soft. The Colts happen to be in the weakest division in the NFL, the AFC South, and get to play the second weakest division in the league, the NFC East. There is no doubt that this team should win 10-plus games.
There is no doubt that the Colts will and should win the division. They’ll need to take a relatively healthy team and an improved defense into the playoffs to make any noise this season.