For the third straight year, the Indianapolis Colts finished the season with an 11-5 record. They also won their second straight AFC South title and made it a step further in the playoffs.
At the same time, the Colts were unceremoniously dropped from the playoffs by the New England Patriots again and struggled to defeat teams with a pulse.
While in some ways 2014 seems like a wash, the team did improve in nearly every measurable way possible.
The biggest jump was of course seen in Andrew Luck. With an improved offensive philosophy and better weapons, Luck led the league in touchdown passes and was top three in yardage.
The problem is that the Colts are still largely dependent on Luck being brilliant in order for the team to be successful. Ever since Jim Irsay talked about having more balance, this team has become that much more dependent on a single player. You could even argue that the Colts rely more on Luck than they ever did on Peyton Manning.
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While efficiency numbers didn’t really like the Colts offense this season, its hard to deny the fact that the offense improved this season. It wasn’t just the maturation of Luck either, it was an evolution of the team’s philosophy.
The shift was seen late last season and continued into 2014. The Colts played more to their strengths and passed the ball nearly 100 times more than in 2013.
Neither team could run the ball very well, but the Colts didn’t force the run this season like they tried to in 2013. But it does look like they will finally be letting Trent Richardson go before next season.
The issue this year was thinking that Richardson was a starting caliber running back. In 2013, he had 514 snaps with the Colts over 14 games. This year, he had 495 in 15 games. He’s had roughly the same number of carries each year, and still doesn’t have over 1,000 yards rushing with the Colts.
The simple shift in philosophy shows that the coaching staff is getting smarter. Pep Hamilton was given more freedoms in 2014 and it helped Luck reach new career bests. Its very likely that Hamilton will be a head coach somewhere in 2016 but they’ll have Rob Chudzinski to take over when he leaves.
The offense definitely improved in 2014 and there’s little reason to believe they won’t rank in the top of the league in 2015.
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There is a bad mix of poor game planning and lack of talent on the roster with the Colts right now. Most of the free agents signings on this side of the ball haven’t panned out and the defensive players drafted have largely failed to produce.
The defense this year feasted on inferior opponents and mediocre quarterbacks. It wasn’t until the playoffs that the Colts managed to knock off a decent QB and even then Manning wasn’t anything near 100-percent healthy.
The Colts made moderate improvements, as seen above, but they benefitted from a fairly easy schedule as well. They gave up 27-plus points per game six times this year (seven if you include the playoffs).
The big improvement this year was that the Colts were able to easily defeat the teams they were supposed to beat. A perfect record against the AFC South and five more games against mediocre to bad quarterbacks tends to help an awful lot.
While it seems like this unit is improving, they still have a lot of holes to fill. They essentially need an upgrade at talent nearly across the board if the Colts are to make it further in the playoffs.