The Colts’ young talent is there; what they need are a few veteran pieces to truly aid to the development of key positions.
The Colts’ roster is one of the youngest in the NFL. They currently have only 5 starters over 30 years old: Jabaal Sheard (30), Justin Houston (30), T.Y. Hilton (30), Anthony Castonzo (31), and Adam Vinatieri (47). Add in Dontrelle Inman (30), Margus Hunt (32), and Brian Hoyer (34), and those 8 players finalize the list of players over 30 years old on the entire 52-man roster.
With the majority of players in the primes of their careers, or yet to enter at all, the team is truly built on the development of youth from the draft to have a contending team for a while. The Colts’ front office truly believes in this, and by all means, they should. The young talent on this team is what drove them to new heights in 2018 and provided a blueprint for the future. However, there comes a point where veteran leadership is needed, even more than what the Colts have now.
Let’s look at the Kansas City Chiefs, this year’s Super Bowl Champions. They too have a very young core that is developing as the season progresses. Similar to the Colts, their young talent is at the forefront of the team and are their best players.
However, their position groups are littered with veterans in key spots. Their running backs group, led by undrafted 27-year-old Damien Williams, are bolstered by 31-year-olds Anthony Sherman and LeSean McCoy. They have played large roles in helping Williams develop into the best player he can be while still letting him become the number one running back for the benefit of the team. To cap it all off, Williams scored two touchdowns and nearly won Super Bowl MVP.
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Indianapolis does have veteran leadership in some parts of the roster. The front seven is led by Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard, both veteran players with a fair share of playoff experience. It’s safe to say that they, paired with the young linebacking trio led by Darius Leonard, have led that front seven to a positive future.
They have been in the top-7 in total rush defense in both 2018 and 2019; the combination of veteran leadership and young talent is going to carry the Colts’ run defense near the top of the NFL for a while.
Anthony Castonzo has been the Colts’ most consistent offensive lineman at age 31 and has been a key cog next to Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly to bring the team’s offensive lineman to the top of the NFL for years to come.
With the success of this veteran leadership in position groups, it’s obvious that the team needs to bring in veteran leadership in other parts of the lineup, most notably in the secondary. The secondary is easily the weakest part of the roster; it doesn’t have a player over 30 and the oldest player on the back end is Pierre Desir at 29.
The young players will take longer to develop, and it is something that Ballard needs to address quickly. Most of the rookies and other young players have developed extremely quickly, which is the reason for Ballard’s lack of veterans on the roster (they just don’t need any in most places). However, the secondary needs a surefire veteran talent that can both lead the group and provide consistent performances throughout every game of the season.
Players like Tennessee’s Logan Ryan and Houston’s Bradley Roby could be two free agents that Ballard might consider this offseason. Ryan had a 113 tackle, 5 sack, 4 interception season with the Titans. He also has a multitude of playoff experience with New England, winning a Super Bowl in 2015.
Similar to him, Roby is a veteran with a Super Bowl under his belt while with the Broncos in 2016. He appeared in only 10 games this past season with the Texans but had a decent season of 38 tackles and 2 interceptions. Those two are both players that can come in immediately and start for the Colts with major impact along with the youth at cornerback.
If Ballard does want to bring in a veteran to provide leadership amongst the secondary but doesn’t want to risk limiting playing time for his young players, someone like Aqib Talib could join the team as a player who provides everything above: playoff experience and veteran leadership. If Talib is the move for the Colts, it’s likely he wouldn’t play a ton in the starting lineup but would do exactly what the team needs in terms of developing their young secondary to be as effective as possible as starters.