Colts best offseason acquisition may ultimately be good health

Oct 2, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA;  Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) runs
Oct 2, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53) runs / Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts made several key acquisitions this offseason but their best acquisition may just end up being good health.

The 2022 season was a nightmare for the Indianapolis Colts. Despite entering the year with high expectations, Indy finished with an abysmal 4-12-1 record and too many embarrassing moments to remember. That led to the firing of Frank Reich and the release of Matt Ryan, and the Colts attacked the offseason to improve their roster.

Making several acquisitions, Indy’s offseason moves were headlined by the hiring of Shane Steichen as head coach and the drafting of quarterback Anthony Richardson. Between the draft and free agency, Indianapolis made quite a few acquisitions. However, the team’s best acquisition may just end up being good health.

Colts will be much better with a healthy roster

Every team deals with major injuries but Indianapolis’ two best players were battling injuries last season. With Jonathan Taylor dealing with an ankle injury and Shaquille Leonard dealing with the nerve/back/ankle injury, the Colts were forced to navigate a challenging season, mostly, without their best players. Both Taylor and Leonard are the kind of talents that can have a multiple-win difference.

Taylor played in only 11 games last season, being sidelined multiple times with the ankle injury that required surgery this offseason. Of those 11 games, Taylor only ran for over 100 yards twice— Indy didn’t lose either game. In Jonathan Taylor’s young three-year career, he has played in 43 games for the Colts, and rushed for 100 or more yards in 15 of them. In those games, Indy is 13-1-1.

Jonathan Taylor’s value to Indianapolis is clear, and once he returns healthy, Indy’s offense will be better. The same goes for the Colts as a whole with Leonard, especially defensively.

It may be easy to overlook Leonard’s absence since Zaire Franklin, Bobby Okereke, and Indianapolis’ defense played so well last season. But, with all respect to Franklin and Okereke, who are both tremendous linebackers, they’re not Shaquille Leonard. When Leonard is healthy, he is the best linebacker in football, and forces turnovers at a rate that no one else does.

Anyone who watches football understands how important the turnover battle is and the difference it makes in wins and losses. In 2021, when Leonard played 16 games, he forced a league-high eight fumbles, recorded four interceptions, and recovered three fumbles. The Colts had the second-most turnovers in the NFL that season with 33, trailing the Dallas Cowboys by one.

In 2022, with Leonard missing the majority of the season, Indianapolis only had 21 turnovers, 19th most in the NFL. One of those was an interception by Leonard, despite the fact that he only played 74 snaps over three games. He’s simply a ball magnet that impacts games at the highest level.

Both Leonard and Taylor have had surgeries to address their injuries and have been spending the offseason getting healthy. If they are both 100% and ready to roll when Week 1 arrives, the Colts will benefit from the return of two of the league’s best players.