Entering last season, not many people were expecting much from the Colts. Questions still remained about quarterback Andrew Luck’s health, and a 1-5 start to the year didn’t help their case either. However, Frank Reich and his squad made a massive turnaround, winning 9 of their final 10 games, finishing the season 10-6 and becoming just the third team since the merger in 1966 to make the playoffs after a 1-5 start. Indianapolis defeated Houston on the road in the AFC Wild Card round before falling to the Chiefs in Kansas City. Entering the offseason, the Colts had the most available cap space out of any team in the league. Without any major glaring needs, they entered free agency looking to upgrade their wide receiver core, re-sign some key players, and improve their overall depth across the board.
Fortunately for Indianapolis, they didn’t lose a whole lot in the offseason. Wide-receivers Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman, both of whom were somewhat notable targets for Andrew Luck, left to sign deals with the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots, respectively. While the Colts’ wide receiver corps was relatively thin, Grant and Inman combined for only 4 touchdown receptions last season, giving Indy peace in letting them walk to other teams. The only other notable loss was that of linebacker Najee Goode, who signed a deal with Jacksonville in the offseason. His blocked punt in the AFC Divisional playoff game against Kansas City led to the Colts’ first score of the game. Despite appearing in 16 games last year, Goode’s involvement wasn’t crucial to the play of the defense, making the loss much less significant.
Despite entering free agency with the most money to spend in the NFL, the Colts’ offseason was more about who they brought back, opposed to the new players that they signed. They re-signed slot corner Kenny Moore to a four-year extension, making him the highest paid in the NFL at his position. Sticking with the secondary, the Colts brought back their top cornerback Pierre Desir and safety Clayton Geathers. Bringing back these 3 key pieces to a secondary that surprised everyone last year should only help them to get even better in 2019, barring any injuries. They also drafted cornerback Rock Ya-Sin from Temple with one of their 2nd round picks. A tough, skilled corner, Ya-Sin should become a solid contributor to the secondary as he improves in zone coverage, something he didn’t run a lot in college.
Another key focus for Indy was upgrading the pass rush. Despite lots of premium pass-rush options on the market, the Colts instead opted to sign veteran linebacker Justin Houston to a cheaper two year deal. Even though Houston is 30 years old and isn’t quite the force he used to be, he will still be Indy’s first legitimate pass-rushing threat since Robert Mathis. However, since the Colts run a 4-3 defensive scheme, Houston will have to adjust to playing defensive end. The Colts also addressed their pass-rush through the draft. Linebackers Ben Banogu and Bobby Okereke have both received high praise from coach Reich, looking poised to produce alongside the other members of a much improved defense.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Colts made a couple of good, low-key additions as well. Their first order of business was to give guard Mark Glowinski, a key piece of the NFL’s best offensive line last year, an extension. Protecting Andrew Luck is essential to the Colts’ success so bringing back Glowinski was a no-brainer. Indy also handed wide receiver Devin Funchess, a former Carolina Panther, a low-risk, high-reward one year deal. If Funchess can take advantage of his size and physical skills, Luck can utilize him as an effective tool in their offense. The Colts also added to their wide receiver depth through the draft, selecting Ohio State product Parris Campbell in the 2nd round. Campbell ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine and, in the Colts’ quick passing offense, he looks to be a key playmaker for Andrew Luck to rely on.
Colts fans have to be happy that Chris Ballard is running their organization right now. With some of the insane contracts that were handed out in free agency, Ballard stayed calm and patient, sticking to his philosophy of not overpaying for any free agent. He addressed all of their minor needs with some solid new additions and used their cap space to bring back their homegrown talent as well. . With very few losses from last year’s roster, the squad entering 2019 looks better prepared to start the season off on the right foot. The Colts’ philosophy since the appointment of Chris Ballard has been to build from the ground-up through the draft and in-house talent. This approach seems to be working very well, and the Colts are firmly heading in the right direction.
After last season’s horrific beginning, the Colts will hope to avoid that and pick up where they left off. In a fairly competitive division, Indy appears to be the strongest squad in the AFC South, but winning the division won’t be particularly easy. Jacksonville added Nick Foles, while the Titans and Texans both finished with win totals last season that were 1 different than the Colts, over and under.
Some key games for the Colts are Week 5 in Kansas City and Week 15 at New Orleans. Going to Arrowhead early in the season won’t be easy, but Luck and the Colts will be looking for some redemption following last years’ playoff exit and they will take down Mahomes on the road. However, facing Drew Brees at home will be too tall of a task, and the Saints will come out on top for Monday Night Football.
For the Colts, their schedule against non-divisional opponents is pretty rough. They have to go on the road to play the Chargers, Chiefs, Steelers, Bucs, and Saints. Winning their divisional games will be critical to their hopes of making the playoffs and winning the division. If they can take care of business in the division, they’ll come out on top in the South.
The Colts will finish with an 11-5 record, one game better than last season. That will be enough to win the AFC South. After a win on Wild Card weekend, the Colts will again fall in the Divisional round to either the Chiefs or Patriots. Although I am predicting a Divisional round exit, don’t be surprised if the Colts can somehow force their way into the conference championship game or even Super Bowl Sunday. They are a talented group with a gifted coaching staff. They shouldn’t be slept on.