Indianapolis Colts (Last Year: 11-5)
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2014 NFL Season Preview:
WR Hakeem Nicks, C Phil Costa, DE/DT Arthur Jones, ILB D'Qwell Jackson, S Mike Adams.
Early Draft Picks:
OT/G Jack Mewhort, WR Donte Moncrief, DE/OLB Jonathan Newsome. Colts Rookie Forecast
RB Donald Brown, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, G Mike McGlynn, G Jeff Linkenbach, C Samson Satele, ILB Kavell Conner, CB Cassius Vaughn, S Antone Bethea.
2014 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
It'll be a huge surprise if Andrew Luck doesn't have a breakout 2014 campaign. Luck has already shown tremendous ability to win in the clutch, but he threw for just 3,822 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013, failing to put many of his opponents away early. That figures to change this upcoming season, thanks to a variety of reasons.
Most simply, Luck is entering his third season, which is when most NFL players, particularly quarterbacks, take off. He already improved his total touchdown-to-turnover ratio from 28:23 as a rookie to 27:11 as a sophomore, while his completion percentage rose by six points. Luck is an exceptional talent, and the sky is the limit for him - especially with an improved supporting cast.
A big reason why Luck didn't generate huge numbers in 2013 was because of a lacking supporting cast. Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen both missed extensive time. Wayne's absence was huge, but he's expected to be back from a torn ACL. Wayne may not be 100 percent because he's a 35-year-old coming off such an injury, but the Colts compensated for that by signing Hakeem Nicks. The former Giant has dealt with various maladies himself over the years, but he can be highly effective when healthy. Wayne, Nicks and the improving T.Y. Hilton could form a fantastic trio if everything works out as planned.
Allen will be back as well. The third-year tight end played in just one game in 2013, thanks to a hip injury. Luck has shown a better rapport with Allen than he has with former college teammate Coby Fleener, oddly enough, so he'll be happy to have his 6-3, 265-pound tight end back in the lineup. Fleener, meanwhile, needs to work on his blocking and hands; he's dropped way too many passes in his career.
Meanwhile, a very weak offensive line didn't help Luck's numbers either. Luck was simply harassed on too many occasions, especially through the interior, so the blocking absolutely had to be improved this offseason. The Colts didn't do very much in that regard, though they did spend their top pick, a second-rounder, on Ohio State's Jack Mewhort, who should be able to challenge for one of the guard spots. Indianapolis will also have Donald Thomas back from a quad injury. Thomas played in just two games this past season, but was solid in his brief action. Ideally, Thomas and Mewhort will be able to start and sandwich 2013 fourth-rounder Khaled Holmes, who is a big question mark.
The Colts are at least fine at tackle. The duo of Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus did OK in 2013, surrendering a combined seven sacks. Cherilus was a bit of a surprise because he was a bust with the Lions. Castonzo, meanwhile, should be better now that he's entering his fourth season.
One player who must improve is Trent Richardson. The former Cleveland back was acquired for what eventually became the 26th-overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he turned out to be a major bust, averaging a pathetic three yards per carry. Richardson claims that he didn't know the play book last year, so he was never able to get assimilated into the offense. Indianapolis better hope that's the case because Donald Brown, who outplayed Richardson by a wide margin, is gone. Ahmad Bradshaw can take over if Richardson continues to struggle, but there's no guarantee Bradshaw will stay healthy.
2014 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
Luck really bailed out Indianapolis' defense in the first-round playoff game against the Chiefs. Because of that amazing comeback, everyone was discussing how great Luck was, rather than how absolutely atrocious Indianapolis' stop unit was in its futile attempts to defend the mediocre Alex Smith. The Kansas City quarterback mercilessly torched the Colts' secondary.
Granted, Vontae Davis was playing injured, but the Colts needed to find help regardless in their defensive backfield. However, they inexplicably failed to do anything with that area. They didn't sign a single free agent or draft anyone to improve the secondary, save for bringing in Mike Adams, a 33-year-old journeyman. This would mean that the same four players would start there, except that safety Antoine Bethea left for San Francisco. Bethea wasn't anything special, but he was a fairly decent player, so he'll be missed a bit. This means one of Adams, Delano Howell or Sergio Brown will have to start next to the constantly banged-up LaRon Landry, which should prove to be a big problem area for the Colts.
The cornerback position is better, but only by default. Davis is a stud, but the Colts don't have anything else there. They even lost some depth with Cassius Vaughn defecting for Detroit. Greg Toler and Darius Butler started across from Davis at various points in 2013, but neither did a very good job.
Indianapolis' front seven will have to carry the atrocious secondary. That's what happened at times in 2013, as Robert Mathis had a tremendous campaign. Playing without Dwight Freeney for the first time in his career, Mathis' sack total inexplicably rose from eight to a whopping 19.5. Well, it was inexplicable until Mathis was popped for four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs. Now that Mathis was caught, it's fair to expect a huge decline in his performance, especially considering that he recently turned 33.
With that in mind, 2013 first-rounder Bjoern Werner will have to step up because the pedestrian Erik Walden won't be able to do much. The problem is that Werner, who was invisible as a rookie, is a poor fit for Indianapolis' 3-4 scheme. Werner would be best as a left end in the 4-3, so it's still puzzling why the Colts spent such a great resource on him.
Fortunately for the Colts, it's not all pessimistic when it comes to the defense. Two key players were added in free agency: D'Qwell Jackson and Arthur Jones. Jackson will be an improvement over what Indianapolis had at inside linebacker, but the problem is that like Werner, he doesn't fit the 3-4 very well either. He'll start next to Jerrell Freeman, who is a fairly mediocre player who struggles in coverage.
Jones should have a big impact. The Colts' defensive line was starved for a pass-rushing threat, and Jones should provide exactly that. Jones, who signed a 5-year, $33 million deal, has 8.5 sacks in the past two seasons, which is a solid number for a five-technique. He'll start alongside elite run-stuffer Cory Redding and third-year Josh Chapman, who did an adequate job as a reserve in 2013.
2014 Indianapolis Colts Schedule and Intangibles:
Andrew Luck has developed the same type of dome homefield advantage that Matt Ryan has enjoyed in Atlanta. He was 7-1 at home in 2012 and then followed that up by going 7-2 as a host in 2013, which included victories over the Seahawks and Broncos.
Adam Vinatieri is still getting the job done. He was 35-of-40 in 2013, including 15-of-17 from 40-49 and 4-of-6 from 50-plus. He's turning 42 right after Christmas, however, so a sharp decline is bound to happen sooner or later.
Punter Pat McAfee is pretty pedestrian; he was 25th in net average and only in the middle of the pack in terms of placing kicks inside the 20.
The Colts need to improve their special teams. They were outgained on punts and kickoffs, and the only touchdown scored came against them.
Indianapolis starts off with the Broncos and Eagles, but its schedule gets much easier after that. The team gets to battle the Jaguars, Titans and Texans twice each, plus the Redskins, Giants, Cowboys and all of the mediocre teams in the AFC North.
2014 Indianapolis Colts Rookies:
Go here for the Colts Rookie Forecast
, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2014 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2014 Indianapolis Colts Analysis:
Thanks to Andrew Luck, the Colts are the best team in the AFC South. It'll be a huge upset if they don't win the division. However, their defense is brutal and will prevent them from taking the next step. Another playoff defeat to the Patriots (or Broncos) is probable.
11-5 (TBA in AFC South)
2014 Fantasy Football Rankings
More 2014 NFL Season Previews
NFL Draft Team Grade: C- Grade
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft:
The Colts don't pick until No. 59, so their resources are limited. They have to bolster their secondary, but that's No. 2 on their list of priorities behind improving Andrew Luck's pass protection. Indianapolis has to shield its franchise player.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments:
The Colts didn't have the resources to do much in the 2014 NFL Draft, thanks to their missing first-round pick from the Trent Richardson trade. They still could have found help on the offensive line and bolstered the secondary. They only managed to accomplish one of those things - and they didn't do enough of it.
Indianapolis picked Jack Mewhort at No. 59. That was a fine choice, but why wasn't another selection used on a center? And why wasn't the defensive backfield improved? Donte Moncrief was a solid value selection in the third round, but he won't help this year. Why not draft a player for the secondary who can?
It's difficult to like what the Colts came away with. This draft class won't improve their roster very much, if at all.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
59. Jack Mewhort, OT/G, Ohio State: B Grade
This is a solid choice. The Colts' No. 1 priority was protecting Andrew Luck, whose offensive line struggled immensely at times. Jack Mewhort fits the range, and he can also play both tackle and guard. Mewhort may eventually move outside, but he'll immediately start at the latter position.
90. Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: B Grade
Donte Moncrief is raw, so he won't be able to play for a while. That's fine, given that the Colts have Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks atop the depth chart. However, Wayne is old and Nicks wasn't signed long-term, so Moncrief might be asked to be a big contributor as early as 2015. This is a nice stash pick for the Colts, who are getting very good value with the Ole Miss product.
166. Jonathan Newsome, DE/OLB, Ball State: C Grade
The Colts didn't have many picks in this draft, so they had to nail all of them. Instead, they chose a seventh-round prospect at a position that's not a huge need. Blegh.
203. Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky: B+ Grade
The Colts are addressing a need this time, and they're doing it with a player who provides some value. Andrew Jackson was viewed as a possible third-round prospect this past summer, but he struggled a bit in 2013. Perhaps the Colts can coach him up and get him back to 2012 form.
232. Ulrick John, OT, Georgia State: C Grade
An undraftable player, but at least the Colts are investing a pick on Andrew Luck's protection. They can't go wrong with that strategy.
Many expected the Colts to regress this season, yet they made strides instead. Andrew Luck won his first divisional title and playoff game, all without the services of Reggie Wayne. Luck's No. 1 wideout will be back next year, so there's plenty for the Indianapolis faithful to be optimistic about.
Colts sign S Mike Adams
Lions sign CB Cassius Vaughn
Steelers sign WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Redskins sign G Mike McGlynn
Colts sign WR Hakeem Nicks
Colts sign C Phil Costa
Chargers sign ILB Kavell Conner
Chiefs sign G Jeff Linkenbach
Colts re-sign CB Vontae Davis
Colts sign DE/DT Arthur Jones
Colts re-sign RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Colts re-sign K Adam Vinatieri
Colts re-sign S Sergio Brown
Chargers sign RB Donald Brown
49ers sign S Antoine Bethea
Colts re-sign DT Fili Moala
Colts re-sign P Pat McAfee
Colts cut C Samson Satele
Colts tender G Joe Reitz
Colts tender CB Josh Gordy
Colts sign ILB D'Qwell Jackson
Colts cut RB Tashard Choice
- Two Cornerbacks: Vontae Davis is Indianapolis' top free agent. One of the needs can be filled by re-signing him. However, another cornerback must be added because the team doesn't have anything else at the position. Re-signed Vontae Davis
- Two Safeties: As you can see, the primary area the Colts have to focus on is the secondary, which should be obvious to anyone who watched Alex Smith torch Indianapolis in the playoffs. Antoine Bethea is a free agent, while LaRon Landry struggled in coverage. Signed Mike Adams
- Right Guard: Jim Irsay took to Twitter early in the season and demanded better protection for Andrew Luck. The weakest link on the front line is right guard Mike McGlynn. Indianapolis could use a second-day selection on a guard, so the position would be completely shored up with Donald Thomas returning from a torn quad.
- Inside Linebacker: The oft-injured Pat Angerer is a free agent. He needs to be upgraded anyway. This is a major position of need, as the Colts were 24th against the run this past season in terms of YPC. Signed D'Qwell Jackson
- Defensive End: Indianapolis must sign a free agent or spend an early pick on this area, as the defensive line failed to generate any pressure on the quarterback. Signed Arthur Jones; re-signed Fili Moala
- Outside Linebacker: Robert Mathis is coming off a career year, but the Colts need someone else to get to the quarterback. First-rounder Bjoern Werner did nothing this past season. He'll be given another chance, but a mid-round insurance pick could be used on another pass-rusher.
- Center: The center position is the other area where Indianapolis' offensive line has to be improved. Signed Phil Costa
- Running Back: Donald Brown is a free agent. Brown easily outplayed Tony Richardson, so the Colts should bring him (or Ahmad Bradshaw) back if the price is right because they can't count on Richardson living up to expectations. Re-signed Ahmad Bradshaw
- Wide Receiver Depth: T.Y. Hilton had a strong finish to his sophomore campaign, proving that he can definitely be a No. 2 receiver in this league. However, depth is needed, just in case Hilton or Reggie Wayne get hurt. Signed Hakeem Nicks
- Kicker: The 41-year-old Adam Vinatieri happens to be a free agent. He's still getting it done though. Re-signed Adam Vinatieri
- Punter: Pat McAfee's contract is also set to expire. Re-signed Pat McAfee
Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
2014 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Arthur Jones, DE/DT, Ravens. Age: 28.
Signed with Colts (5 years, $33 million)
Arthur Jones is coming off an excellent 2013 campaign in which he happened to be one of the league's best 3-4 defensive ends. He's a monstrous run-stuffer and applies decent pressure on the quarterback.
D'Qwell Jackson, ILB, Browns. Age: 30.
Signed with Colts (4 years, $22 million)
D'Qwell Jackson, 31 in September, has struggled in run support over the past few seasons, but has been strong in coverage. He has also applied solid pressure on the quarterback as a blitzer. Jackson can still play all three downs, so he should serve as a decent starter somewhere.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants. Age: 26.
Signed with Colts (1 year)
Hakeem Nicks, who has never played a full 16-game season, has seen his production slip because of injuries and lethargy. He has tons of talent, but time is running out for him to put it together.
Mike Adams, S, Broncos. Age: 33.
Signed with Colts
Mike Adams has been an average starting safety over the years, but his play could decline soon, given that he'll be 33 in March.
- Phil Costa, C, Cowboys. Age: 27. -- Signed with Colts
Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Vontae Davis, CB, Colts. Age: 26.
Re-signed with Colts (4 years, $39 million)
It could be argued that Vontae Davis is the No. 1 free agent cornerback. He's coming off a great 2013 campaign and will be only 26 in May, compared to Brent Grimes, who's in his 30s already and is also recently removed from a torn Achilles. Davis struggled in a playoff victory against the Chiefs, but wasn't healthy.
Pat Angerer, ILB, Colts. Age: 27.
Pat Angerer is a talented linebacker, but he just hasn't been able to stay healthy. He struggled this past season coming off knee surgery, but figures to be better in 2014.
Antoine Bethea, S, Colts. Age: 30.
Signed with 49ers (4 years, $26 million)
Antoine Bethea has been a pretty average starting safety over the past few seasons, but he'll be hitting 30 in July.
Adam Vinatieri, K, Colts. Age: 41.
Re-signed with Colts (2 years)
The ageless Adam Vinatieri is still getting it done. He was 35-of-40 in 2013, including 4-of-6 from 50-plus.
Donald Brown, RB, Colts. Age: 27.
Signed with Chargers (3 years, $10.5 million)
The Trent Richardson trade sparked Donald Brown, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2013. He's a quality pass-catcher.
Pat McAfee, P, Colts. Age: 27.
Re-signed with Colts (5 years)
Pat McAfee had a solid 2012 season, but was just 25th in net average last year.
Fili Moala, DE/DT, Colts. Age: 29.
Re-signed with Colts
Fili Moala is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-nothing type of lineman in the 3-4.
Aubrayo Franklin, NT, Colts. Age: 34.
Turning 34 in August, Aubrayo Franklin is no longer the player he once was. He's still OK at nose tackle, but teams with a need at that position should aim higher.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts. Age: 28.
Re-signed with Colts (1 year)
Ahmad Bradshaw is a quality runner when he's actually on the field, but he's dealt with way too many foot and neck injuries to be relied upon as a starter.
- Samson Satele, C, Colts. Age: 29.
- Mike McGlynn, G, Colts. Age: 29. -- Signed with Redskins
- Kavell Conner, ILB, Colts. Age: 27. -- Signed with Chargers (3 years)
- Cassius Vaughn, CB, Colts. Age: 26. -- Signed with Lions (1 year)
- Joe Reitz (RFA), G, Colts. Age: 29. -- Tendered by Colts
- Jeff Linkenbach, G, Colts. Age: 27. -- Signed with Chiefs
- Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Colts. Age: 27. -- Signed with Steelers
- Josh Gordy (RFA), CB, Colts. Age: 27. -- Tendered by Colts
- Sergio Brown, S, Colts. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Colts
- Lawrence Sidbury, DE/OLB, Colts. Age: 28.
- Scott Lutrus (RFA), ILB, Colts. Age: 26.
- Tashard Choice, RB, Colts. Age: 29.
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