3 biggest X-factors for the Colts in 2022
By Jerry Trotta
The Indianapolis Colts are one of the NFL’s most interesting teams after their statement offseason. While they are finally favored to supplant the Titans as the AFC South champs, the fact they reside in the AFC hurts their Super Bowl chances.
Regardless, though, a roster as talented as this is firmly in the championship conversation, especially with the dependable Matt Ryan taking the reins of the offense from Carson Wentz, whose performance in the final two weeks of last season is largely to blame for Indy failing to make the playoffs.
While Ryan should represent a significant improvement at quarterback, he doesn’t qualify as an X-factor for the Colts. The success of any team hinges on the play of its QB and we largely know what Ryan offers at the position.
With that said, the rest of Indy’s roster is full of potential X-factors. If some of these players live up to or exceed expectations, the Colts will likely do the same. If said players struggle, though, Indy could fall short in becoming one of the AFC’s elite; a mark that’s eluded them thus far in Frank Reich’s tenure as head coach.
With that in mind, here are the Colts’ three biggest X-factors for 2022.
Who are the Colts’ biggest X-factors for next season?
3. Kwity Paye
The ceiling of Indy’s defense isn’t riding on Paye’s shoulders, but his potential emergence as an elite pass rusher in Year 2 could see Gus Bradley’s unit enter the elite conversation next season. The arrival of Yannick Ngakoue gives Paye something he didn’t have as a rookie: a proper running mate.
Despite a glaring lack of support, Paye impressed as a first-year player. Through 10 weeks, the Michigan product was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded rookie defender and finished the year with a respectable 71.3 pass-rush grade after logging four sacks, 10 QB hits, 28 hurries and 39 pressures.
With Ngakoue and DeForest Buckner expected to command most of the attention from opposing offenses, Paye should have plenty of one-on-one matchups. That should play right into Paye’s strengths (elite burst and athleticism). If he takes advantage of these opportunities, he could produce double-digit sacks as the de facto third option – maybe fourth behind Grover Stewart – on the Colts’ defensive front.
The Michigan product is far from a finished product at this stage of his career (he won’t turn 24 until November), but if he can tap into more of his potential in 2022, Indy’s defense will make serious noise in the loaded AFC.