Reasons to be Cheerful continue to roll through the AFC South like a relentless barrage of forced happiness sweeping all up in its wake. Next stop, somewhere geographically north, Indianapolis and the Colts.
Andrew Luck (and his shiny new contract)
The quarterback position is impossible for me to be objective about. Andrew Luck is a stud. If the Colts had only done on thing this summer, it was going to be giving him a new deal. It’s the biggest in NFL history, which makes it a mediocre deal in the NBA. No biggie, it’s not like it is the most important position in sports. Oh, wait. I digress. Getting the deal done quickly and smoothly removed a ton of unwanted conjecture and signalled that, despite a lost season, this is the future of the Colts. And he is.
Last season Luck fell off a cliff. He came out of the gate poorly. He was pushing throws to windows that were closed and at the helm of an offence that misfired. Badly. He then suffered a lacerated kidney which meaningfully ended his season.
However, the body of evidence to this point was pointing towards greatness. He threw for 40 touchdowns in 2014 and 23 in each of the previous two seasons. Those totals led a mediocre Colts team to the AFC Championship Game, a Divisional Round and a Wild Card game winning 11 regular season games each season. Not only that but he commands the offence. It is clear he is in control of the huddle and players react when he rallies them. He has 10 fourth quarter comebacks since 2012. That’s the same as Aaron Rogers has since 2005.
The Colts fans had Peyton Manning and then, after a lost season of floating space detritus while 18 rehabbed from his fourth neck surgery, they landed the best consensus QB to come out in years, perhaps since Manning himself. That’s ridiculous.
So, why cheerful? Because a healthy Luck could take five guys of the street and throw to them and still eek out seven wins. If his wide receiver corps develops as they hope, and Dwayne Allen has the focus of targets, Luck could post monster numbers and be a lock for Comeback Player of the Year. He is one of the best in the league and has the potential to be one of the best of all time. That’s not hyperbole. If I was to eulogise then this would be a very different piece!
Last year, the offensive line was not good. It didn’t help that the running game was bad and poor Matt Hasselback played like a 40-year-old dude. Oh, wait, he is! So the line maybe got a rough deal in all this. It’s hard to look good when behind you is a hot mess.
This off-season though, Indy realised that they need to protect Luck (and his shiny new contract) and invested, on and off the field.
First round pick Ryan Kelly was a smart, smart pick. The sort that has marks annoyed and smarks beaming (shout out to wrestling fans). Draft analysts had him going up as high as 14 in the draft and Indy did well to snag him, he could form the sort of relationship with Luck that Manning enjoyed with Jeff Saturday during their run of success.
Across the left of the line you have Anthony Costanzo, a first round pick, who has been better than average at left tackle; second rounder in 2014 Jack Mewhort who received great reviews in his rookie year. The right side is a little more shaky but they have four rookies in relief.
Perhaps the off-field addition of Joe Philbin will prove to be crucial. A long-time O-line coach who perhaps didn’t translate at offensive coordinator or head coach levels, he is back to doing what he did best and this will only benefit the Colts.
All these factors could really compensate for the shaky running game and giving their best player as much time as possible to do his thing.
Better Play across the offence
There are many things you can be cheerful about but actually wanting to turn on the TV and watch your team is certainly something to be happy about. Last year was not fun. The offence was slow at best.
Hasselback gave everything he could, honourably, but was broken at the end of the season. The team and fans couldn’t have asked for anything more, he left it all on the field. But it wasn’t pretty.
The defence isn’t pretty (more on that in the future piece) and so the offence will need to be all-out. I think it will be. Whilst this will make for a bit more of a nail-bitten, frayed nerves, hard-drinking season, surely that is better that what they went through last season?
Overall, the Colts should play some exciting games with a high-octane offence led by Luck and the two dynamic WRs, TY Hilton and (break out star of field and fantasy) Dante Moncrief.
Note – I know this feels like stretching but in a division where the other three teams have all done an awful lot to improve, the Colts feel a little left behind. To be honest, Luck could easily be all three reasons why Colts fans should be cheerful. He can carry the team to nine wins alone and he might well need to.
Gareth Duxbury enjoys football both American and Association. Follows Washington in the former, Sheffield Wednesday in the latter. His love of QB play only topped by his fandom of Inside Linebackers. He tweets from