Expectations for the 2016 Indianapolis Colts

Aug 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) calls a play during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sport
Aug 27, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) calls a play during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sport /

The Indianapolis Colts head into the season without any fanfare and nearly half of their starters out multiple weeks to start out the year. What can fans really expect from this 2016 teams?

2015 was an absolute mess. A dumpster fire with approximately all of the possible injuries to go along with in-fighting between head coach and GM, yet still there was a chance of winning the division.

The team that was once a Super Bowl favorite (thanks to heavy spending in free agency) is now flying under the radar. Considering how rough Andrew Luck‘s 2015 year was, it is no wonder that there is skepticism about Indianapolis this year. Some believe that Luck is a turnover machine while others are convinced that he is now injury prone and destined to miss games.

To prevent this, the Colts spent half of their draft picks on offensive linemen, with varying degrees of success. We really haven’t seen the Colts field what should be their true starting line this preseason due to injury. But last Week 3 against the Eagles didn’t paint a pretty picture.

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Make no mistake, this year is completely reliant on Luck being brilliant. If he can replicate 2014, the Colts should be a lock for the postseason. But the preseason hasn’t given fans many reasons to be optimistic about the line holding up and keeping Luck healthy.

Even a slight improvement in protection (and run blocking) could vault this offense to the top of the NFL. Luck certainly has that ability, and the weapons, to pick apart any defense in the NFL.

Even assuming the protection is better, and Luck is brilliant, it might not matter because the defense is being held together with duct tape and toradol.

Who’s going to start at cornerback? Let’s rephrase that: who is good and going to start at cornerback? Vontae Davis is going to be out for a few games at least, and with an injury that is likely to linger into the season. Patrick Robinson has been dealing with a groin injury and missed a fair amount of practice. Darius Butler left the Eagles game early with an ankle sprain. And last night Tevin Mitchel, who had a great opportunity with all the injuries, left early with a sore hamstring.

Here’s hoping that Antonio Cromartie can pretend every opponent he faces are the Colts. Seriously, he has five interceptions vs the Colts in seven games (including the playoffs) to go along with his 47-yard kickoff return in 2010 that set up the Jets game winning drive that bounced the Colts from the playoffs (Peyton Manning‘s last game as a Colt). Don’t pin your hopes on Cromartie, he ranked 84th out of all cornerbacks in the NFL last season (he actually graded higher as a pass rusher than corner).

The corners will have to be good since the Colts pass rush wasn’t addressed in the offseason and currently rests on the shoulders of a 35-year old with a surgically repaired achilles. Robert Mathis played well last season, but he’s lost some of his explosiveness and hearing that he “feels as good as he did in 2013” should sound alarm bells since he was busted for PEDs after the season.

The lone bright point on the defense? The stunning depth along the defensive line…hopefully. Henry Anderson is still recovering from his torn ACL, but should be ready in the coming weeks. Art Jones will serve a four game suspension, if he makes the final roster. Kendall Langford had his knee scoped, and promised to be ready for Week 1 but, considering the Colts injury luck, probably won’t return until October.

T.Y. McGill has shined this preseason (nearly murdering the Bengals QB last night), and rookie Hassan Ridgeway has shown flashes as well. At full strength, this is easily the deepest and most talented spot on the roster. There is a real chance that the Colts actually manage to generate some pass rush from this unit.

Running up the gut on the Colts will be an issue for opponents once Anderson comes back, but it won’t matter since they can hit the edges with ease. Or just pick the secondary apart with slants and crossing routes.

Game planning is going to be crucial for coach Chuck Pagano and his newly revamped coaching staff. Unfortunately that has never been a trademark of Captain Slow Starts teams. The Colts have looked more dynamic the past two seasons in camp, but then hit the field and revert to the same boring offenses that struggle to score. That is until they take the handcuffs off Luck and play to the strengths of the roster.

Expectations are dropping with every injury update this preseason. But if they somehow manage to get healthy, and Luck returns to form, this will once again be a 10-win team. That’s likely enough to get them into the playoffs and once there, anything can happen.