NFL’s Future is counting down the 2012 season opener with its preseason Power Rankings. We provide in-depth team previews and schedule analysis as the NFL season draws near.
28. Indianapolis Colts
As excited as one can be losing a Hall of Fame quarterback, Colts fans should be just that. They literally fell into Luck when they secured the 1st pick of the 2012 NFL Draft and rights to Peyton Manning’s successor, Andrew Luck. The Colts have revamped their coaching staff with the hiring of HC Chuck Pagano who in turn brought in OC Bruce Arians and DC Greg Manusky. The Colts fresh start is helped by a relatively weak schedule and the promise of the Stanford signal caller. All things won’t heal overnight but the Colts would appear to be on the fast track in this post-Peyton rebuild.
I have gushed enough over Andrew Luck throughout the draft process that my readers know of my affinity for the No. 1 pick. Luck has all the makings of an elite quarterback in the league and was helped out in a major way by the drafting of TE’s Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Luck’s former Stanford teammate, Fleener, remains his current teammate giving him a familiar target for year one under Bruce Arians. Fleener and Allen are important targets for Luck as the Colts roll out an unimpressive offensive line and few weapons at the receiver position.
Reggie Wayne is in the tail end of a spectacular career and Austin Collie can’t seem to stay healthy. He was bounced from Sunday night’s preseason contest with the Steelers due to a concussion. The depth behind those two consists of Donnie Avery and two rookies in T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill. The receiver situation in Indy isn’t pretty for Luck.
The run game for the Colts will be imperative to Luck’s growth in year one. Donald Brown and Delone Carter shared carries last season but Carter fell out of favor due to fumbling issues. Brown isn’t exactly the most reliable back which could put rookie Vick Ballard in the spotlight earlier than expected.
Clearly, things are promising for this offensive group but holes on the line and at the skill positions need to be addressed before Andrew Luck and garner the level of success Peyton had in Indy.
The 2011 version of the Indianapolis Colts defense was flat out atrocious. They were near the bottom of the league in most major statistical categories. Chuck Pagano has brought in some familiar faces from his days in Baltimore (Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski, and Brandon McKinney) but I wouldn’t expect much else to have the appearance of the vaunted Raven defense. Pagano will attempt to blend his signature 3-4 defense with the 4-3 personnel on the Indy roster. As time wears on in Indy expect this defense to overhaul the current names with more fitting personnel.
The biggest change on this defense will be seeing Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis standing up when this hybrid defense goes into a 3-4 look. Freeney and Mathis are still two of the most feared pass rushers in the league. Fili Moala, Antonio Johnson, Drake Nevis, Brandon McKinney and rookie Josh Chapman give the Colts a solid DT rotation.
The secondary is going to give Pagano ulcers. In particular the Colts are weak on the corners. Jerraud Powers is, by far, the top CB on the squad but finds himself injured too often. After Powers it looks real bleak for the Colts. Cassius Vaughn, Justin King, Brandon King, and Kevin Thomas apprise the talent behind and Powers and that doesn’t bode well for this defense. The good news for Pagano is that he should be solid at safety with Antoine Bethea and Tom Zbikowski roaming the backend.
The Colts schedule is favorable with a few winnable games and getting Cleveland, Miami, Minnesota, and Jacksonville at home this season.
Sept. 9 – at Chicago Bears
Sept. 16 – Minnesota Vikings
Sept. 23 – Jacksonville Jaguars
Sept. 30 – BYE
Oct. 7 – Green Bay Packers
Oct. 14 – at NY Jets
Oct. 21 – Cleveland Browns
Oct. 28 – at Tennessee Titans
Nov. 4 – Miami Dolphins
Nov. 8 – at Jacksonville Jaguars
Nov. 18. – at New England Patriots
Nov. 25 – Buffalo Bills
Dec. 2 – at Detroit Lions
Dec. 9 – Tennessee Titans
Dec. 16 – at Houston Texans
Dec. 23 – at Kansas City Chiefs
Dec. 30 – Houston Texans
Clearly, the Colts are playoff contenders in year one of the Andrew Luck era. But my guess is that Luck finishes his rookie campaign ahead of Peyton Manning’s three win rookie season. I could easily see the Colts pulling out five or six wins this season which would be a step in the right direction for this franchise on a collision course with rebuilding quickly.