Schedule: @JAX, MIN, NYJ, @CHI, @CLE, CIN, BYE, @DET, BAL, @TEN, GB, TEN, @HOU, @LVR, HOU, @PIT, JAX
Additions: DL DeForest Buckner (Trade), QB Philip Rivers (FA), CB Xavier Rhodes (FA), S Tavon Wilson (FA), FB Roosevelt Nix (FA), TE Trey Burton (FA), WR Michael Pittman Jr. (Draft), RB Jonathan Taylor (Draft)
Losses: TE Eric Ebron (FA), CB Pierre Desir (FA), DL Margus Hunt (FA), OL Joe Haeg (FA), WR Chester Rogers (FA)
Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement last year forced the Colts to adjust on the fly. Jacoby Brissett was thrust into a starting role just weeks before the season opener. After a hot start, Brissett and Indy sputtered to a 7-9 record, partially due to the unexpected and rapid decline of Adam Vinatieri.
So, this year, with new faces at both quarterback and kicker and a full offseason to prepare, I have the Colts going… 7-9. I know. It feels wrong. But, I try not to get too caught up in how the team did last year and instead look at the team’s current composition. Based on the roster and schedule, I think Indy is a 7-win team.
After 16 years in San Diego/Los Angeles, Philip Rivers is the Colts’ starting quarterback while Brissett slides back into his natural backup role. 2019 was a rough year for the fertile father. I think he’s a little better than what he showed last year, but decline has clearly set in. Brissett actually played well to start the season before a knee injury and ensuing struggles, so I’m not expecting a huge jump in overall qb play. Same goes for kicker. The favorite to win the job, Chase McLaughlin, hasn’t shown enough to suggest he’ll be a major upgrade, with just 11 career games and a 78% field goal percentage.
Rivers will have the benefit of playing behind possibly the best offensive line in the league, though. Quenton Nelson is so awesome that even casual fans know who he is. That’s a rare feat for a lineman. The rest of the line isn’t quite up to his level, but that’s an impossible standard. All five starters are back after Anthony Castonzo signed a two-year deal this offseason. With no weak link in the group, Rivers might not know how to react to actually having time in the pocket for once.
Indy’s weapons get a lot of talk, and they certainly are intriguing. I think they’re more great than elite, though. Rookie Jonathan Taylor is the future at running back and should take over at some point this season. Until then, Marlon Mack will hold down the fort as a proven and capable starter.
While the receiving corps gets a lot of love, I’m not as sold on them. T.Y. Hilton is a good-not-great WR1 coming off an injury-plagued season. Hopefully 2019 was just a blip in a great career. The Colts spent second-rounders in back-to-back years on Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell. Both will see time and benefit from the attention Hilton draws. With that being said, the hype around Pittman seems to have gotten a little out of control. People seem to forget that he was the eighth receiver drafted and only a rookie. Campbell is a really fun player with potential, but he did almost nothing last year amid injury struggles.
Great tight end has been a staple in Indianapolis play for years. With Eric Ebron leaving for Pittsburgh, Trey Burton was brought in. As I’ve said, I’m not the biggest Ebron guy, so I don’t think this was a huge drop off. Training camp has dealt a blow to the position’s outlook, though. Starter Jack Doyle has been dealing with neck problems while Burton will miss the start of the season with a calf strain.
All in all, I don’t think it’s that great of an offense. Somewhere from just inside the top 10 to slightly below average is my gauge on them. Defensively, it’s a similarly mediocre bunch. Coordinator Matt Eberflus has done a great job maximizing the unit lacking in star power.
DeForest Buckner, as great as he is, can’t play all 11 positions. Outside of Darius Leonard, he’s the only star of the group to me. Justin Houston and Kenny Moore warrant some recognition, too. However, Houston is more really good at his point in his career than anything. Putting a second-year slot corner in that category feels premature, too.
The rest of the defense is a mix of meh, solid, and good. Indy’s d-line falls in the last category, as they were particularly stout against the run (7th in yards and a less impressive 12th on a per carry basis). Kemoko Turay will bring some exciting pass-rush potential once he is fully recovered from last year’s ankle injury. With the addition of Buckner, they’re capable of overwhelming some offensive lines.
While Leonard roams the weak-side, Walker will man the middle linebacker spot. Whenever the Colts deploy three linebackers, Bobby Okereke will join them. The 2019 third-round pick has some intriguing traits and has the coaching staff looking for ways to get him more snaps. With a stud in Leonard and league-wide deemphasis of the position, this is a good linebacker group.
The secondary is where you see a lot of the meh. As a whole, it might even be worse than that. Rock Ya-Sin will take one outside corner spot after an up-and-down rookie season while Indy prays for a time machine at the other. I’m not too keen on betting on an Xavier Rhodes career revival. Safety Malik Hooker had his 5th-year option declined in May. That should tell you all you need to know about how his own team views him. Fourth-round pick Khari Willis will start alongside him after a pleasantly surprising rookie season. Indianapolis struggled against the pass last season and the secondary was a big reason why. There’s a good chance this remains a weakness in 2020.
Indy is pretty much the epitome of average to me. Depending on how the ball bounces, they could go 10-6 or 6-10. They’d probably be in the middle of the pack if I ranked the toughest schedules in the league, too. For consistency’s sake, I’ll give them back-to-back 7-9 seasons with both the quarterback and kicker blowing games.
What’s your record prediction for the Colts? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.