Know Your Enemy rolls on with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts were a disappointing 8-8 in 2015 after three straight playoff appearances from 2012-2014. Chuck Pagano will coach his 5th season in Indianapolis after surviving the coaching purge. The Colts changed most of their coaching staff including their offensive and defensive coordinator after 2015. Rob Chudzinski is the new offensive coordinator replacing Clyde Christensen and Ted Monachino will run the defense for the Colts after Greg Manusky was fired. Pagano is a defensive specialist head coach and will keep the 3-4 defense in Indianapolis for 2016. The Colts have high expectations after a mediocre 2015.
Andrew Luck is a franchise QB and is now the highest paid franchise QB. Despite his 74.9 season QB rating in 2015, the Colts gave Andrew Luck a monster contract (5 years 122 million extension). The Colts only scored 20.8 PPG which was 24th in the league.
Luck only completed 55% of his passes with 15 TDs and 12 interceptions on only 293 attempts due to injury. The Colts and Luck want to forget 2015 and build on 2012-2014. The Colt’s franchise had plenty of weapons but not much run gam (3.6 YPC) or protection (40.2% pressure on Luck). Indianapolis hopes Luck can return to his 40 TD, 96 QB rating season from 2014 after his monster deal.
Matt Hasselbeck retired after being beaten behind a poor offensive line. Scott Tolzien replaces Hassebeck after signing a free agent contract this offseason. Tolzien was a Packers backup the last two seasons including the top backup in 2015.
Run Game and Protection
The Colts may still lack a run game in 2016. Frank Gore returns after 3.7 YPC on 260 carries with 6 TDs in 2015. Gore is older (33) but still a workhorse for the Colts. The Colts lack some RB depth with rookie Josh Ferguson (Illinois), Robert Turbin and Jordan Todman as the backups.
The Colts added to their offensive line in the draft to help the run game and protection. Ryan Kelly was drafted at center in Round 1 and tackle Le’Raven Clark was drafted in Round 3 to play right tackle. Jack Mewhort played well for the Colts at tackle and guard. He can run block and pass block.
Veteran Joe Reitz struggled in run blocking but should be the starting left guard. Former first round pick Anthony Costanzo is a solid pass protector and good run blocker at left tackle. He will protect Luck’s blindside again in 2016. The Colts are relying on two young players to solidify their offensive line in Kelly and Clark. They must run block better and protect Luck much better if they want their offense to stop disappointing. New OC Rob Chudzinski is an experienced coach and should provide a boost in schemes for the Colts. Former Packer OC and Dolphins Head Coach, Joe Philbin, is the new offensive line coach. The Colts hope this experience and better schemes pay dividends for Luck.
Ty Hilton is a number 1 WR in this league. Hilton had 1,124 yards and 5 TD with 16.3 YPC in 2015 despite Luck’s struggles and backup Matt Hasselbeck playing extended playing time. Donte Moncrief stepped up with 733 yards and 6 TDs on 105 targets. These two must produce for Chudzinski and Luck. First round pick from 2015 Phillip Dorsett disappointed in his rookie season on only 39 targets. Dorsett must progress in year 2.
Andre Johnson and Coby Fleener both had down years in 2015 and are not back with the Colts. Fleener was signed by the Saints and Johnson remains on the market. Dwayne Allen was giving a surprisingly big contract to be the top tight end for the Colts. Allen had only 29 targets and 1 TD but did have 521 yard and 3 TD season his rookie year.
The Colts have less weapons for Luck this year but hope Dorsett (Round 1) and Moncrief (Round 3) both improve in year 3 and year 2 of their careers. It will be tough for Luck to reproduce his 2014 magic but he’s got the talent to get close.
The Colts allowed 25.5 PPG which was 25th in the league in 2015. They only had 37 sacks and 4.3 YPC rushing. The Colts allowed an 88 QB rating which was 14th in the league however. Pagano and new DC Ted Monachino have their work cut out for them.
Kendall Langford had a nice year with 7 sacks, 11 hits and 25 hurries with solid run defense. He was a good 3-4 DE. The Colts missed Defensive End Arthur Jones for the entire 2015 season due to an injury. The return of Jones will bolster the defense for the Colts.
Nose tackle David Parry struggled and Hissan Ridgeway was drafted in Round 4 of 2015 to play the nose spot. The Colts have Henry Anderson as a backup DE but he is more of a run stopper than pass rusher. The Colts have more talent with Jones’s return and Ridgeway added but still lack some depth and talent. However, Manchino will have some solid defensive linemen to work with during 2016.
Robert Mathis is still a good OLB even at 35 years old. Mathis notched 7 sacks, 8 hits and 20 hurries in 558 snaps and will return in 2016 for the Colts. Trent Cole is 33 and offered 3 sacks, 6 hits and 23 hurries in 533 snaps in 2015. Erik Walden is the backup but ended up playing the most snaps in 2015 (796 snaps). Walden had 3 sacks, 12 hits and 23 hurries applying average pass rush but poor run defense. Antonio Morrison was drafted in Round 4 out of Florida to round out the depth and Sio Moore could see more playing time after being picked up from Oakland.
The Colts took a hit when stud ILB Jerrell Freeman got paid by the Bears this offseason. Veteran inside linebackers DQwell Jackson and Nate Irving will have to provide run stuffing, coverage and blitzing for the Colts in the middle. Jackson had a down season in 2015 and Irving barely played for the Colts. The defensive line should be better which will help the inside linebackers but Freeman will be tough to replace. Sio Moore or the rookie Morrison could slide inside and play inside linebacker as well if Irving or Jackson struggle.
Vontae Davis is a top 10 cornerback in this league. He will continue to shut down the opponents’ top receiving option. The Colts struggled in the nickel spot and hope Darius Butler can improve on his 2015 performance. Patrick Robinson had a nice 2015 season with the Chargers and will take the spot of Greg Toler. Davis, Butler and Robinson should be a solid trio. Also, 2015 3rd round pick D’Joun Smith could earn playing time in 2016.
The Colts had issues at safety and drafted TJ Green in Round 2 of the 2016 draft (replacing Dwight Lowery). Green will need to play well as a rookie with a low bar set by Lowery in 2015. Mike Adams is solid in run defense but struggled in coverage. The veteran Adams will get another shot to help the Colts on the back end in 2016. Safety Clayton Geathers played 277 snaps but probably won’t beat out Adams in 2016.
The Colts were solid in coverage despite a lack of pass rush in 2015. If they can get a better pass rush, the Colts could become a top 10 coverage unit with the additions of Robinson and Green on top of Davis’s shut down ability. However, the LB coverage may regress with Freeman gone and plenty of age in the LB unit.
The Colts were 4-4 at home and 4-4 on the road in 2015. The Colts host Detroit to open the season and host Chicago in Week 5. The Colts travel to Green Bay in Week 9 and visit Minnesota in Week 15. Indianapolis was a tough team from 2012-2014 but 2015 displayed their flaws. Indianapolis took a step back in 2015 but can return to form if Luck returns to 2013-2014 form.
They have a run game that struggles and have protection issues so we will see if the new offensive coaches can fix that quickly. The Colts have some weapons but Allen and Dorsett must produce more than 2015 after Johnson and Fleener regressed. This will be vital for Luck’s success.
The Colts defense is clearly beatable but they have some talent in Davis, Langford, Cole, Mathis and Jones. The old veterans of Mathis and Cole can provide a pass rush. Jones and Langford are underrated at DE. Jackson and Irving are savvy veterans in the middle. Finally, the Colts secondary had some success last year despite number 2 CB, SS and nickel CB coverage issues. We’ll see if Pagano and Ted Manchino can bring the Colts back into the top 15 on defense for 2016.
All four North teams could beat the Colts or lose to the Colts. It is really a toss-up after the 2015 season showed weakness in their armor. Plenty of talent resides in Indianapolis and never count out Andrew Luck.