2016 NFL Offseason: Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts (Last Year: 8-8)

2016 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Robert Turbin, RB Jordan Todman, CB Patrick Robinson.
Early Draft Picks:
C Ryan Kelly, S T.J. Green, OT Le’Raven Clark, NT Hassan Ridgeway, ILB Antonio Morrison. Colts Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
TE Coby Fleener, ILB Jerrell Freeman, S Dwight Lowery.

2016 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
If there was any doubt that Andrew Luck was unbelievably important to Indianapolis’ success, everyone learned that was certainly the case after what transpired in 2015. Luck played in just seven games and wasn’t effective whatsoever in many of the starts he made because of a shoulder injury. He saw his touchdown-to-interception ratio (40:16 to 15:12), completion percentage(61.7 to 55.3) and YPA (7.7 to 6.4) all drop considerably compared to his 2014 figures. He struggled to maintain drives, and Indianapolis was sluggish offensively as a result.

Given what happened, general manger Ryan Grigson absolutely had to improve Luck’s pass protection. Grigson inexplicably avoided doing so in recent offseasons, so there was some skepticism that he would get the job done this spring. However, Grigson obtained a couple of promising blockers for Luck in the 2016 NFL Draft, most notably center Ryan Kelly. The Alabama product was considered the top player at his position, and a couple of teams selecting in the 20s were hoping that he would fall to them. The Colts wisely chose him, as he projects to be an enormous upgrade over what the team had at center last year.

The other new blocker is third-rounder Le’Raven Clark. It remains to be seen if Clark can emerge as a starter by September, but he’ll have every chance to win the right tackle job. The Colts currently have nothing at the position, as practice squad-caliber scrubs like Denzelle Goode and Kevin Graf were expected to battle for the gig. It’ll be a huge disappointment if Clark isn’t named the starter in the next couple of months. If he is, he’ll start across from Anthony Castonzo, a decent, but unspectacular left tackle.

Rounding out the offensive line, Jack Mewhort and Hugh Thornton are expected to reprise their roles as the starting guards. Thornton needed to be upgraded this offseason, but Mewhort is actually a good player. In fact, he’s Indianapolis’ best blocker.

With Luck back and the offensive front bound to be better, the receivers – particularly T.Y. Hilton – could post career years. Hilton reportedly has taken his workouts to another level this offseason and already looks like he’s in mid-season form at OTAs. He’ll start across from Donte Moncrief, who looked like he would enjoy a brilliant sophomore campaign when he posted a 7-122-1 line against the Jets in Week 2. Luck’s injury derailed Moncrief’s season, so the young wideout could break the 1,000-yard barrier in 2016.

Speaking of young receivers, second-year Phillip Dorsett could have a big season as well. He’ll have more of an opportunity – he caught 18 balls as a rookie – because the Colts will feature fewer two-tight end sets. The Saints overpaid Coby Fleener, leaving Dwayne Allen as the sole prominent tight end on the roster. Allen may not even be able to take the field; the talented, but the injury-prone fifth-year pro has missed 21 games in the past three seasons.

As for the running game, Frank Gore will be back as the lead runner. He missed out on 1,000 rushing yards for the first time since 2010, averaging a career-worst 3.7 yards per carry. Luck being around will open things up for Gore, but there’s also a chance that he could just be done. Gore turned 33 this offseason, so it’s understandable why he would be in severe decline. Robert Turbin was signed for depth, but it won’t be a positive development if he needs to start for a stretch. It’s also worth noting that undrafted rookie Josh Ferguson has made quite the impression at OTAs.

2016 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
Upgrading the offensive line was the Colts’ No. 1 priority this offseason, but multiple adjustments had to be made to the defense as well. The team surrendered 25.5 points per game, with its worst output coming in a Week 14 51-16 defeat at Jacksonville.

Despite this, Indianapolis barely did anything to upgrade its stop unit. In fact, the team lost a valuable member in Jerrell Freeman, who signed with the Bears. Freeman, an excellent inside linebacker who excelled in run support, was one of the best defenders on the roster, and there is going to be a big drop-off with him gone. Nate Irving and D’Qwell Jackson are slated to start at the position, and neither was very good last year. Fourth-round rookie Antonio Morrison might have a chance to unseat one of those two underwhelming players.

There are also issues at outside linebacker. The team’s edge rushers are mediocre at best, with Trent Cole leading the way. Cole used to be a great player for the Eagles, but he’s past his prime; he turns 34 in October, and he recorded just three sacks in 2015. Cole wasn’t as bad as those numbers indicate. He was an OK player, but it’s still an issue that he’s the team’s top edge rusher. He’ll be joined again by the pedestrian Erik Walden and the over-the-hill Robert Mathis.

It’s not all bleak for the Colts. They have some bright spots on the stop unit, including the defensive line. There’s a big void at nose tackle – David Parry sucks – but the end spots are set. Indianapolis has Arthur Jones, Kendall Langford and Henry Anderson there. The latter two played well this past season, and Anderson, a 2015 third-rounder, will only get better. Jones, meanwhile, missed the entire 2015 campaign with an ankle injury. He signed a $33 million contract two offseasons ago, so he’s expected to perform well upon his return.

Another strength is the No. 1 cornerback spot, where Vontae Davis resides. Davis actually had a down 2015 season because he was banged up, yet he still played well compared to many other starting cornerbacks in the NFL. However, Indianapolis had very little at the position outside of Davis. Darius Butler and Greg Toler were atrocious across from Davis, prompting Grigson to sign San Diego’s Patrick Robinson, who had a somewhat decent 2015 campaign.

The safety situation is looking even worse. Michael Adams was once a great player, but at 35, he’s showing major signs of decline. The other starter from last year, Dwight Lowery is gone, so 2015 fourth-rounder Clayton Geathers will have to step up. Geathers saw action last year, but was horrible.

2016 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 in 2014, so he was 21-5 as a host in his career. The 2015 campaign is excluded because he clearly wasn’t himself, due to injury.

Adam Vinatieri is still getting the job done. He was an amazing 25-of-27 in 2014, including 4-of-5 from 50-plus. He’s turning 44 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 in 2014 and fifth this past season.

The Colts have been fine on kickoffs, but their punt coverage has been anemic. They surrendered a whopping three touchdowns on punt returns.

Indianapolis has a chance to get off to a quick start. Five of its first seven games are against the Lions, Chargers, Jaguars, Bears and Titans.

2016 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.

2016 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2016 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: Good news, bad news for the Colts. The good news is Luck will be healthy again, and he’ll have much better protection from his previously anemic offensive line. The bad news is the AFC South won’t be a cake walk anymore. Both the Titans and Jaguars have improved, while the Texans finally have a solid quarterback. That said, the Colts will be back to 2014 form, assuming the improved front keeps Luck clean.

Projection: 12-4 (1st in AFC South)

NFL Draft Team Grade: A- Grade

Goals Entering the 2016 NFL Draft: The Colts’ top priority is an obvious one – Andrew Luck’s pass protection must improve. A repeat of 2015 would be disastrous. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, it also has other dire needs; its defense is a mess, as it needs help at nose tackle, linebacker, cornerback and safety.

2016 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I am utterly shocked right now. Indianapolis obviously needed to improve its offensive line, but general manager Ryan Grigson has shown a complete disregard for that area of the team in the past. I guess after what transpired in 2015, he finally learned his lesson.

Since I’ve criticized Grigson for neglecting the front in previous years, I have to commend him for addressing it this time. Ryan Kelly was a quality choice at No. 18, as he’s exactly what Andrew Luck needed. Le’Raven Clark, taken in the middle of the third round, could easily win the right tackle job as a rookie. Meanwhile, fifth-rounder Joe Haeg might also claim the job. If not, he figures to provide solid depth as a swing tackle.

The Colts also made some decent improvements to their defense. T.J. Green, taken at the end of the second round, could’ve been obtained a bit earlier. The same goes for fourth-rounder Hassan Ridgeway.

Excluding the seventh round, five of the six picks the Colts made earned a B+ or higher. Couple that with key needs being filled, and it seems as though Indianapolis walked away with a great draft class.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

18. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama B+ Grade
This is the definition of a solid pick, which in turn deserves a solid grade. Ryan Kelly received some buzz leading up to the draft, and it was speculated that he would be chosen in the top 20. The Colts made the most sense for him. Indianapolis absolutely needed to upgrade Andrew Luck’s horrific pass protection, and Kelly fills a huge need right in the middle of the offensive line.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

57. T.J. Green, S, Clemson A- Grade
The Colts moved down and obtained a prospect who could’ve been chosen a bit earlier than this selection. I like it. T.J. Green is highly athletic, and it’s possible that he might be able to play cornerback in the NFL. If not, he can settle in at safety, which was also a huge need for the Colts entering this weekend.

82. Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech A- Grade
I wonder if someone sat Ryan Grigson down and explained to him how important it was to protect Andrew Luck. Grigson had shown a complete disregard toward bolstering Luck’s protection prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, but he has obviously changed his strategy. It’s obviously for the best though, as Luck will surely like this pick. Le’Raven Clark could’ve been chosen at the end of the second round, making this a nice value choice.

116. Hassan Ridgeway, NT, Texas B+ Grade
This is the very definition of a boom-or-bust pick. Hassan Ridgeway came out a year too early and didn’t have much production at Texas. He was bothered by injuries, and there was work-ethic concerns as well. Some teams told us they were interested in taking him in the second round before really digging into him. This could pan out for the Colts though; Ridgeway has lots of talent, and nose tackle was a need for sure.

125. Antonio Morrison, ILB, Florida C+ Grade
Antonio Morrison was one of the worst testers at the Combine, showing a severe lack of athleticism. Morrison is also coming off a torn meniscus, so perhaps that had something to do with it. This is a bit early for Morrison, but it’s not an egregious reach. He could potentially fill the need Indianapolis has at inside linebacker.

155. Joe Haeg, OT, North Dakota State A Grade
Joe Haeg went a bit later than expected. Haeg, who protected Carson Wentz’s blind side, has plenty of athleticism and length to be a left tackle, and the ability is certainly there. He didn’t face the toughest competition in school, but he projects as a solid blocker. It wouldn’t surprise me if he started on the right side in the near future, which is a big hole for Indianapolis.

239. Trevor Bates, DE/OLB, Maine C+ Grade
I’m not going to lie: I had absolutely nothing on Trevor Bates. He wasn’t in my top 400, and after looking around, no one had him ranked either. Bates is an edge rusher who tallied four sacks in 2014, so that doesn’t sound too exciting.

247. Austin Blythe, C, Iowa B+ Grade
Is anyone surprised that the Colts selected four offensive linemen after what transpired last season? It’s exactly what they had to do, so Ryan Grigson needs to be commended. At any rate, Austin Blythe is just a middling athlete with short arms, but he should be able to evolve into a solid backup center in the NFL.

Season Summary:
Prior to 2015, the Colts managed to progress one round further into each playoff expidition under Andrew Luck. The pattern stated that Indianapolis would reach the Super Bowl this year, but the team failed to quality for the postseason. Andrew Luck’s injury derailed the squad, proving just how valuable he is.

Offseason Moves:
  • Colts sign CB Patrick Robinson
  • Colts sign RB Jordan Todman
  • Colts sign RB Robert Turbin
  • Colts sign QB Scott Tolzien
  • Colts announce retirement of QB Matt Hasselbeck
  • Colts re-sign K Adam Vinatieri
  • Colts re-sign TE Dwayne Allen
  • Colts cut QB Josh Freeman
  • Colts cut WR Andre Johnson

    Team Needs:
    1. Center: General manager Ryan Grigson has proven himself to be incompetent, failing to upgrade Andrew Luck’s protection, which led to the franchise quarterback sustaining injuries. Two upgrades are needed, with the primary one being at center. This can be addressed in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

    2. Guard: Here’s the second upgrade needed up front. There’s no guard worth taking at No. 18 overall, so this position will have to be addressed in free agency or on Day 2.

    3. Two Inside Linebackers: Jerrell Freeman had a terrific 2015 campaign, but he happens to be an impending free agent. Meanwhile, the rest of the inside linebackers weren’t very good. This position could be addressed in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

    4. Cornerback: Vontae Davis didn’t have his best season last year, yet he was still the top cornerback on Indianapolis’ roster by a long shot. The Colts need a corner. Fortunately for them, there are a ton of talented players available at the position in free agency. Signed Patrick Robinson

    5. Safety: Mike Adams had a great 2014 campaign, but he regressed a bit this past season. He won’t be playing in the NFL much longer. Dwight Lowery, on the other hand, isn’t that good. Help at safety needs to be obtained in free agency or in Rounds 2-4 of the draft.

    6. Rush Linebacker: Trent Cole was a solid signing last offseason, but he won’t be playing on a high level much longer because of his age. Meanwhile, the rest of the edge rushers are pretty pedestrian, so Indianapolis should find a solid one.

    7. Tight End: Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen have disappointed. They’re both free agents as well. At least one will need to be retained. Re-signed Dwayne Allen

    8. Running Back Depth: Frank Gore seemed to wear down as the season progressed. It wouldn’t hurt to add a young running back into the mix.

    9. Backup Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck did a solid job replacing Andrew Luck before he got hurt himself. He’s an impending free agent.

    10. Kicker: Adam Vinatieri might kick forever, but he’ll be doing so for another team if he’s not retained as a free agent. Re-signed Adam Vinatieri

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2016 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Patrick Robinson, CB, Chargers. Age: 28.
      Signed with Colts (3 years, $12 million)

      Patrick Robinson has gone through a roller-coaster career thus far. He was a first-round pick in 2010 and played well at times, but he also struggled enough to get benched in New Orleans. Robinson performed well for the Chargers in 2015.

    2. Jordan Todman, RB, Steelers. Age: 26. — Signed with Colts
    3. Scott Tolzien, QB, Packers. Age: 28. — Signed with Colts (2 years)

    Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Jerrell Freeman, ILB, Colts. Age: 30.
      Signed with Bears (3 years, $12 million)

      I don’t know what Jerrell Freeman did last offseason, but he should repeat whatever his workout regimen was because he improved dramatically in 2015. Freeman was constantly abused in the run game the year before, but he was an absolute force in that regard this past season. He was also solid in coverage.

    2. Adam Vinatieri, K, Colts. Age: 43.
      Re-signed with Colts

      The ageless wonder, Adam Vinatieri was 25-of-27 in 2015 despite turning 43 in December. It’d be awesome if Vinatieri somehow kicked until he was 50.

    3. Coby Fleener, TE, Colts. Age: 27.
      Signed with Saints (5 years, $36 million)

      Coby Fleener has been a big disappointment in the wake of being chosen in the second round a few years ago. He hasn’t been terrible, but his drops have been crushing. If he could put it all together, he could be pretty decent.

    4. Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts. Age: 26.
      Re-signed with Colts (4 years, $29.4 million)

      The Colts had high hopes for Dwayne Allen, and at one point, it even appeared as though he would overtake Coby Fleener as the primary tight end. However, Allen hasn’t been able to stay healthy at all. Still, he’s a great buy-low candidate.

    5. Dwight Lowery, S, Colts. Age: 30. — Signed with Chargers (3 years)
    6. Colt Anderson, S, Colts. Age: 30. — Signed with Bills
    7. Greg Toler, CB, Colts. Age: 31. — Signed with Redskins
    8. Billy Winn, DE/DT, Colts. Age: 27.
    9. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts. Age: 30.
    10. Dan Herron, RB, Colts. Age: 27.
    11. Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Colts. Age: 40. — Announced retirement
    12. Andre Johnson, WR, Colts. Age: 35.
    13. Jalil Brown, CB, Colts. Age: 28.
    14. Jack Doyle (RFA), TE, Colts. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Colts
    15. Josh Freeman, QB, Colts. Age: 28.
    16. Charlie Whitehurst, QB, Colts. Age: 34.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    Top 90 | QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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