2015 NFL Offseason: Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts (Last Year: 11-5)

2015 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Frank Gore, WR Andre Johnson, G Todd Herremans, DE/DT Kendall Langford, DE/OLB Trent Cole, ILB Nate Irving, S Dwight Lowery.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Phillip Dorsett, CB D’Joun Smith, DE/DT Henry Anderson, S Clayton Geathers, NT David Parry. Colts Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, RB Trent Richardson, WR Reggie Wayne, WR Hakeem Nicks, C A.Q. Shipley, DE/DT Cory Redding, DE/OLB Shaun Phillips, DE/OLB Ricky Jean-Francois, CB Josh Gordy, S Sergio Brown, S LaRon Landry.

2015 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
Andrew Luck has gone a step further in the playoffs each year in his career thus far, so does that mean he’ll be able to lead his team to the Super Bowl following the 2015 regular season? Based on the upgrades the front office has made this offseason, it appears as though Luck could easily have success going the distance.

Luck’s numbers exploded in 2014, as his yardage rose from 3,822 to 4,761, while his passing touchdown total skyrocketed from 23 to 40. His bolstered supporting cast could help improve those stats even more. His receiving corps will definitely be better this upcoming campaign. Rather than throwing to T.Y. Hilton, a decrepit Reggie Wayne and a lethargic Hakeem Nicks, Luck will have an even more experienced Hilton, Andre Johnson and first-round rookie Phillip Dorsett at his disposal. Johnson is also on the down side of his career, but unlike Wayne, he still has a quality season or two left in the tank; he caught 85 balls for 936 yards last year despite the mess Houston had at quarterback. Dorsett, meanwhile, has already thrived at OTAs; Luck even told the media how impressed he was with the rookie wideout.

Luck’s other targets include 2014 third-round receiver Donte Moncrief, who flashed at times as a rookie, as well as tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Fleener is unreliable in terms of drops, while Allen hasn’t been able to contribute much because of injuries during the past two seasons. One of them will have to step up and become consistent for the team to take the final step.

Meanwhile, the backfield has improved as well. The Indianapolis faithful will no longer have to moan and groan as Trent Richardson pushes forward for two yards and falls down flat on his face. The Colts finally have a real running back in Frank Gore. The former 49er is old – he turned 32 this offseason – but he showed no signs of slowing down this past season, rushing for 1,106 yards on a 4.3 yards-per-carry clip. The Colts envision Gore as a workhorse back, but if he can’t carry the complete load, Dan Herron, who impressed a bit down the stretch, will get some touches.

The weak part of Indianapolis’ offense is now the blocking unit. The front office was expected to address the front line this offseason, but neglected it for the most part. Granted, an elite quarterback like Luck doesn’t need the best protection because he can release the ball so quickly, but the blocking can’t be completely worthless either. That’s exactly what it is on the right side, at least. Tackle Gosder Cherilus was brutal last season because he dealt with a knee issue, and yet he was even better than the guards, so the Colts brought in Todd Herremans to provide a potential upgrade. However, Herremans is over the hill and can no longer be a reliable starter. Meanwhile, center Jonotthan Harrison’s play is nearly as poor as the spelling of his first name.

The Colts at least have a solid foundation on the left side of the offensive line. Tackle Anthony Castonzo is the team’s best blocker, and it’s not even close. That’s no saying much, but Castonzo did a great job in 2014, surrendering just two sacks. Guard Jack Mewhort wasn’t as good, but he showed some promise as a rookie last season. He even saw some action at right tackle when Cherilus was out of the lineup.

2015 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
The Colts were blown out in the AFC Championship because their defense had absolutely no chance against Tom Brady and his deflated footballs. Indianapolis quite simply didn’t have the personnel on this side of the ball to compete with an elite offense, so the front office had to make plenty of changes. The mission appears to be accomplished.

General manager Ryan Grigson brought in some big names this offseason, including Trent Cole. The former Eagle was highly productive this past season, but was let go because he simply counted too much against the cap. Cole logged 6.5 sacks in 2014, but he wasn’t an every-down player, as he was in a rotation with Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham. Cole, 33 in October, won’t be able to play most downs for Indianapolis, but he should still be effective in terms of getting to the quarterback when he’s on the field. He’ll perhaps start across from Robert Mathis, who is coming off a torn Achilles. If Mathis can’t make it back, the Colts will use several outside linebackers, including Jonathan Newsome, who flashed toward the end of the 2014 campaign.

Another big signing was Kendall Langford, who will start at defensive end. Langford didn’t play all that well in St. Louis the past couple of seasons, but that’s because he was in the wrong scheme. Langford is a natural 3-4 player, so he did well to find himself a new home where he can thrive. He’ll join Arthur Jones and Josh Chapman on what should be a decent defensive line. Chapman is just an adequate, but unspectacular nose tackle, while Jones was a highly paid acquisition from the previous offseason who did nothing in 2014. However, Jones was battling an ankle injury all season and missed seven games as a consequence. Jones will have to stay healthy and prove that he’s worth the $33 million that Grigson gave him a year ago.

Speaking of players who need to stay healthy, Dwight Lowery is a third player Indianapolis added this offseason who should be able to help. Lowery is a solid safety whose one weakness is his extensive concussion history. He managed to play all 16 games in 2014, but he missed 20 games in the two prior seasons. If Lowery can stay on the field, he’ll provide an upgrade next to Mike Adams, who was spectacular last year. However, Adams turned 34 this offseason, so he could suffer a decline.

The best player in Indianapolis’ secondary is Vontae Davis, one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Colts, they lacked a consistent No. 2 corner across from Davis, and they still have the same issue. They tried Greg Toler as a starter, but he was an abomination in coverage. Perhaps third-round rookie D’Joun Smith will be able to crack the starting lineup and provide an instant upgrade.

Indianapolis’ weakest spot on this side of the ball is at inside linebacker. Grigson signed Nate Irving, but the former Bronco is just a marginal player who will probably serve as a backup. D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman will start, but both struggled last year. Jackson has always played poorly in the 3-4, while Freeman was constantly abused in run support.

2015 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. He was also 7-2 last season, so he’s 21-5 as a host in his career.

Adam Vinatieri is still getting the job done. He was an amazing 30-of-31 in 2014, including 3-of-3 from 50-plus. He’s turning 43 right after Christmas, however, so a sharp decline is bound to happen sooner or later.

Punter Pat McAfee was 25th in net yardage in 2013, but improved that ranking to third this past season.

The Colts’ special teams were dreadful two years ago, but they improved in 2014. No touchdowns were scored for or against, but Indianapolis outgained the opposition on both kickoffs and punts.

Indianapolis has an extremely easy schedule, as its first five opponents didn’t qualify for the playoffs in 2014. In fact, the Colts battle just four postseason teams (Patriots, Panthers, Broncos, Steelers) throughout all of 2015.

2015 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.

2015 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2015 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: Barring an injury to Andrew Luck, the Colts are assured a divisional victory and a home playoff game as a consequence. However, they have greater goals than that. Luck, as mentioned, has taken a step further each year in the playoffs, and it’s a very realistic possibility that he’ll reach the Super Bowl this upcoming season.

Projection: 13-3 (1st in AFC South)

NFL Draft Team Grade: C Grade

Goals Entering the 2015 NFL Draft: The Colts have done a good job of upgrading their roster this offseason, but two areas of concern still remain: the secondary and offensive line. Protecting Andrew Luck is paramount, while being able to actually stop Tom Brady is obviously important as well.

2015 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Indianapolis managed to add to its secondary, but the front office must not have been as concerned about the offensive line. It didn’t address that area until the penultimate pick of the draft when the team took a prospect from the fake Boris College… I mean, Mars Hill.

I don’t understand this. Having a cerebral, mobile quarterback like Andrew Luck allows for some leeway in terms of maintaining the offensive line, but Luck does need some help. Indianapolis could have used its first-round selection on a blocker, but instead chose Phillip Dorsett, who may not be able to contribute this season because of the depth at receiver. The Colts are ready to win now, so stashing a wideout, albeit a talented one, doesn’t seem like the most logical move.

The Colts’ next three choices made sense, as two of them addressed the struggling secondary, while a third bolstered the defensive front line. I also liked the Josh Robinson pick in Round 6. He’ll have a chance to see playing time as a rookie.

Unfortunately, Indianapolis made some other questionable picks on Day 3. A couple were reaches, like David Parry and Amarlo Herrera. It would’ve been one thing had the Colts reached on blockers for Luck, but they curiously neglected that area of their roster.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

29. Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami: C+ Grade
How many receivers can you have? With T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson and Donte Moncrief on the roster, where will Phillip Dorsett fit in? The Colts should’ve nabbed an offensive lineman like Jake Fisher or a defensive back like Damarious Randall or Landon Collins. Dorsett is a fine prospect who fits the range, so I’m not exactly hating on this pick, but I just think the Colts should’ve gone in a different direction.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

65. D’Joun Smith, CB, Florida Atlantic: B+ Grade
This makes sense. D’Joun Smith was a third-round prospect, and Indianapolis had to address the secondary, especially at cornerback across from Vontae Davis. This would be an ordinary “B” grade, but I’m bumping this up to a B+ because the Colts moved down and picked up an extra selection.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

93. Henry Anderson, DE/DT, Stanford: B Grade
I heard during draft week that Henry Anderson might be pushed into the second round, which I thought was a bit early for him. This is the right range. Anderson fits perfectly into Indianapolis’ defense, and he could eventually take over as a starter once the newly acquired Kendall Langford moves on.

109. Clayton Geathers, S, Central Florida: B Grade
LaRon Landry is gone, so the Colts are weak at the safety position. It’s not a surprise that they spent a mid-round choice on some help at that spot, and Clayton Geathers fits the range at the beginning of the fourth frame. Solid choice.

151. David Parry, NT, Stanford: C- Grade
The Colts traded up for… David Parry? Why? They could’ve obtained him at their spot – or perhaps even a better nose tackle. A nose tackle makes sense, but the trade does not.

205. Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State: B+ Grade
I mocked Josh Robinson to the Colts in several updates in the fifth round. The Colts are getting Robinson a round later, so this is solid value. Robinson could challenge for the starting job in a year or two once Frank Gore moves on.

207. Amarlo Herrera, LB, Georgia: C Grade
Fifty picks to go! Amarlo Herrera won’t be able to see the field as a linebacker because of skill limitations, but he should be able to become a solid contributor on special teams. I didn’t have him drafted, but this isn’t a bad pick.

255. Denzell Goode, G, Mars Hill: C Grade
The NFL Network guys weren’t afraid to admit that they never heard of this guy, and neither am I. What in the world is Mars Hill? That sounds like Eric Matthews’ Boris College. Is Mars Hill even real?

Season Summary:
The Colts have taken a step deeper into the playoffs each year, but they haven’t been able to overcome the Patriots just yet. To do that, they’ll need to bolster their porous defense and upgrade the pedestrian offensive line. Andrew Luck can get the team deep into the playoffs by himself, but he needs help to win a Super Bowl.

Offseason Moves:
  • Giants sign CB Josh Gordy
  • Colts sign S Dwight Lowery
  • Colts sign WR Vincent Brown
  • Colts sign ILB Nate Irving
  • Raiders sign RB Trent Richardson
  • Colts waive RB Trent Richardson
  • Cardinals sign C A.Q. Shipley
  • Colts sign WR Andre Johnson
  • Cardinals sign DE/DT Cory Redding
  • Colts re-sign S Mike Adams
  • Colts re-sign S Colt Anderson
  • Colts sign DE/DT Kendall Langford
  • Colts sign DE/OLB Trent Cole
  • Colts re-sign CB Darius Butler
  • Colts sign G Todd Herremans
  • Colts re-sign QB Matt Hasselbeck
  • Redskins sign DE/DT Ricky Jean-Francois
  • Colts cut DE/DT Ricky Jean-Francois
  • Colts cut DE/OLB Shaun Phillips
  • Colts sign WR Duron Carter

    Team Needs:
    1. Two Inside Linebackers: The Colts absolutely need to upgrade the interior of their defense. Both D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman struggled at inside linebacker, as the team failed to cover tight ends all year. One of the team’s first two draft picks should be used on this position unless the front office addresses it in free agency. Signed Nate Irving

    2. Center: Indianapolis has to be desperate in terms of upgrading the offensive line, and it starts at the center position. No one the team used at center was very good. The Colts ultimately settled on Jonotthan Harrison, but he struggled.

    3. Right Guard: Another major problem area on the offensive line. Hugh Thornton has to be upgraded, perhaps with an early-round selection. Signed Todd Herremans

    4. Rush Linebacker: Jonathan Newsome was great as an edge rusher down the stretch, but he was pretty much all the Colts had in terms of getting after the quarterback, as they couldn’t get any pressure on Tom Brady in the AFC Championship. Signed Trent Cole

    5. Two Defensive Ends: The five-technique position will have to be looked at this offseason, especially if Cory Redding leaves via free agency. Even if Redding is re-signed, Indianapolis will have to find another defensive lineman. Signed Kendall Langford

    6. Running Back: Trent Richardson has been a monumental bust, while Ahmad Bradshaw is too injury-prone to trust. Dan Herron was solid down the stretch, but he’s just a change-of-pace back. The Colts could use an early selection on a new running back. Signed Frank Gore

    7. Cornerback: Vontae Davis is one of the league’s top cornerbacks, but Indianapolis needs to think about finding an upgrade across from him, as Greg Toler is inadequate. Re-signed Darius Butler

    8. Right Tackle: Gosder Cherilus has played well in the past, but he was atrocious at right tackle this past season. Indianapolis may have too many needs to upgrade him this offseason, however.

    9. Wide Receiver: T.Y. Hilton has emerged as a star wideout, and Donte Moncrief has shown some promise, but Indianapolis doesn’t have much else at receiver. Hakeem Nicks is a free agent, while Reggie Wayne is nearing retirement. Signed Andre Johnson and Duron Carter

    10. Safety: Both Mike Adams and Sergio Brown are free agents. At least one needs to be re-signed. Signed Dwight Lowery; re-signed Mike Adams

    11. Backup Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck is an impending free agent. He may retire anyway, so the Colts will be in the market for a new backup. Re-signed Matt Hasselbeck

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2015 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Trent Cole, DE/OLB, Eagles. Age: 32.
      Signed with Colts

      Trent Cole can still generate a strong pass rush, and he’s also solid in run support. The problem is that he’ll turn 33 in October, but he’s still a quality starting edge rusher who can play in either the 4-3 or 3-4.

    2. Dwight Lowery, S, Falcons. Age: 29.
      Signed with Colts

      Dwight Lowery is a solid, but unspectacular safety whose one weakness has nothing to do with his ability. Lowery has an extensive concussion history. He managed to play all 16 games in 2014, but he missed 20 games in the two prior seasons.

    3. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers. Age: 32.
      Signed with Colts (3 years, $12 million)

      Frank Gore just had his fourth-consecutive season of 1,100 rushing yards or more, and he averaged 4.3 yards per carry in 2014. Unfortunately, he’ll turn 32 in May, so his days are numbered, especially considering that he now has close to 2,500 carries in his career.

    4. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans. Age: 34.
      Signed with Colts (3 years, $21 million)

      Andre Johnson gave the Texans so many great years of service, but he was dumped for financial reasons, as he was due $21.5 million over the next two seasons. Johnson, 34 in July, can still play, though obviously not as well as he was capable of in the past. He caught 85 passes for 936 yards and three touchdowns in 2014, just one year after accumulating 1,407 receiving yards. Johnson might have one or two more solid years left in the tank, though he’s definitely not a No. 1 receiver anymore.

    5. Kendall Langford, DE/DT, Rams. Age: 29.
      Signed with Colts

      The Rams overpaid for Kendall Langford when they gave him a 4-year, $24 million deal a few offseasons ago. Having said that, Langford is a well-rounded player who can play in both the 4-3 and 3-4.

    6. Nate Irving, ILB, Broncos. Age: 27.
      Signed with Colts (3 years)

      Nate Irving is pretty strong against the run, but proved to be a liability in coverage this past year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He needs to be on the field for only two downs.

    7. Todd Herremans, G, Eagles. Age: 32.
      Signed with Colts (1 year, $3.5 million)

      Todd Herremans used to be a solid starting guard for the Eagles, but he has regressed the past two seasons. He was still a strong run-blocker in 2013, but he completely fell off this past season prior to tearing his biceps. Herremans was slated to earn $4 million in 2015, so cutting him was a no-brainer.

    8. Vincent Brown, WR, Raiders. Age: 26. — Signed with Colts

    Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Cory Redding, DE/DT, Colts. Age: 34.
      Signed with Cardinals (2 years, $6 million)

      Cory Redding was Indianapolis’ most-consistent pass-rusher in 2014. Unfortunately, he could see a decline in his play soon, given that he’ll turn 35 in November.

    2. Mike Adams, S, Colts. Age: 34.
      Re-signed with Colts (2 years)

      Apparently a late bloomer, Mike Adams had an exceptional 2014 campaign after two mediocre years in Denver. Adams is a nice story, but he’s 34 as of March, so he could see a decline next season.

    3. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts. Age: 29.
      One of the most unreliable players in the NFL, Ahmad Bradshaw has missed 19 games the past two seasons. He’s a solid, all-around back who would be ranked much higher than this if he could stay healthy, but his durability is a major issue.

    4. Darius Butler, CB, Colts. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Colts

      Darius Butler is a solid nickel corner. The downside with him is that he’s played all 16 games only once.

    5. Jerrell Freeman (RFA), ILB, Colts. Age: 29.
      Tendered by Colts

      Jerrell Freeman covers very well, but he’s a major liability in run support. He missed four games this season with a hamstring injury.

    6. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Colts. Age: 27.
      What happened to the receiver who caught 79 passes for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014? Nicks hasn’t done crap since the season after that. He’s still just 27 though, so perhaps he can turn his career around.

    7. Sergio Brown, S, Colts. Age: 27.
      A strong special-teamer, Sergio Brown played well when stepping in as a starting safety when LaRon Landry was out of the lineup.

    8. Ricky Jean-Francois, DE/DT, Colts. Age: 28.
      Signed with Redskins (3 years, $9 million)

      Ricky Jean-Francois can be used as a starter, though he’s a below-average one. He doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.

    9. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. Age: 36.
      Reggie Wayne has been outstanding for so many years, so I’m giving him a write-up despite the fact that he looked done in 2014. He was nursing multiple injuries, however, so if he comes back, he’ll be better if he’s healthy. Wayne turns 37 in November, however.

    10. Trent Richardson, RB, Colts. Age: 25. — Signed with Raiders
    11. LaRon Landry, S, Colts. Age: 30.
    12. Colt Anderson, S/ST, Colts. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Colts
    13. A.Q. Shipley (RFA), C, Colts. Age: 29. — Signed with Cardinals
    14. Josh Gordy, CB, Colts. Age: 28. — Signed with Giants
    15. Joe Reitz, G, Colts. Age: 30.
    16. Shaun Phillips, DE/OLB, Colts. Age: 34.
    17. Fili Moala, DE/DT, Colts. Age: 30.
    18. Andy Studebaker, DE/OLB, Colts. Age: 29.
    19. Shaun Phillips, DE/OLB, Colts. Age: 34.
    20. Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Colts. Age: 39. — Re-signed with Colts (1 year, $3 million)
    21. Delano Howell (RFA), S, Colts. Age: 25.


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