Indianapolis Colts 2019 Season preview
By Anthony Wood
2018 was the rebound campaign Indianapolis Colts fans have been waiting for. After watching Andrew Luck get beaten up by defensive lines league-wide for the past few years, GM Chris Ballard prioritized building a wall in front of Luck for his first full season since 2014.
Pairing what quickly became one of the top three lines in the NFL with Luck’s healthy shoulder and the ever destructive T.Y. Hilton at wide receiver, the Colts’ air raid-esque offense compensated for an at times lackluster pass rush.
They ended up finishing a close second behind the Texans in the AFC South. Only to then walk past their divisional rivals in the Wildcard round. While they were eventually knocked out by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional round, they ended 2018 as one of the league’s most dangerous teams heading into this season, with one of the best coaching staffs to boot.
The Colts arguably had the best offseason in the AFC South. For starters, they did not lose any major players. Their biggest losses were Al Woods and Dontrelle Inman.
Ballard’s focus was on resigning their existing stars. These included defensive backs Clayton Geathers and Pierre Desir, man-mountain defensive tackle Margus Hunt, and the ageless wonder that is former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Then along with these re-signings, they made a couple of solid additions in free agency. Defensive end Justin Houston and wide receiver Devin Funchess coming in complements what was ultimately an excellent draft class.
Why was it so successful? Well, they brought in players who can impact from day one, two of which really stand out.
Wide receiver Parris Campbell has speed to burn. He also adds much-needed depth and variety to their wideout corps. He presence, along with Funchess, will take the pressure and focus off of T.Y. Hilton. Rock Ya-Sin was one of, if not the best cornerback in this year’s draft. A quick riser out of Temple, he’s aggressive, rounded and in my opinion could start from Week 1.
The Colts have easily built one of the NFL’s best offensive line’s, and they’ve done so intelligently. By bringing in so many new faces in such a short space of time, this line can grow and mature together. Hopefully, that means they will remain unchanged for some time as their contracts will keep them with the Colts for the same length of time.
Continuity like this is often underrated. While these guys may not grab the limelight like a Hilton or Luck, they are equally important in getting the most out of their weapons.
Speaking of Hilton, the Colts were smart to bring in more receivers this year. Hilton has long been their primary threat, and therefore always draws the best coverage. However, with the speedster Campbell now threatening to stretch the field opposite him, that will ultimately create more space for Hilton and take the pressure of carrying this offense on his back off of him.
With Jack Doyle returning at tight end alongside Eric Ebron and Mo Ali-Cox they easily have one of the most solid tight end groups in the league. Doyle has often acted as a safety blanket for Luck and will be a welcome return.
The one area I am yet to be convinced about is running back. Marlon Mack is still young and is coming off of a career year in which he recorded 908 yards. He’s shown plenty of promise and has moments where he looks like the real deal. But, he needs to be more consistent. Injuries have hampered his progress so far. If he is to reach his potential he has to take care of his body.
Bringing in Spencer Ware at running back was a good move. He isn’t a flashy back, but a workhorse who will produce when needed. He was good for the Chiefs last season after losing Kareem Hunt and has sparks of shiftyness which will make him a decent backup.
Their defense was the main issue last season. The lack of true pass rushers proved a problem all year. With the addition of Houston, they have begun to address the problem.
They will need to get more production from fellow defensive end Jabaal Sheard if they are to really jump this year. However, he will be helped by rookies E.J. Speed, Bobby Okereke, and Ben Banogu at linebacker, all of whom look like promising young talents.
Speaking of linebackers, second-year stud Darius Leonard will look to continue to dominate for this defense. Hoping to reinforce an incredibly impressive rookie campaign in which he showed maturity beyond his years.
Their secondary remains solid and quite possibly improved. Of course, only time will tell whether or not fourth-rounder Khari Willis will take over from Geathers at safety. However, given that they just resigned Geathers, I suspect they will ease Willis in over time.
Again, Ya-Sin won’t be urgently needed as a starter. However, he has desirable traits for the position and he could easily challenge Kenny Moore or Quincy Wilson for a spot.
Overall, their schedule is tough and they will be facing a few teams who are on track to bounce back from a poor 2018, namely the Buccaneers and Falcons.
The AFC South is going to be one of the toughest divisions in the NFL this year with all four teams having improved already decent squads over the summer.
Houston will remain their main threat in the division, but given that their offensive line and secondary are works in progress and they have a very tough schedule, the Colts should pip them to the title.
Once it comes to the playoffs, it is anybody’s guess. The AFC is extremely strong, and whether or not they make it to, say, the AFC Championship depends entirely on whether they can become more productive on defense this year.
Record Prediction: 11-5
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