Those that paid attention may have seen in my ‘reasons to be cheerful’ for the Colts a strong feeling that Andrew Luck and little else is the main reason for them to be cheerful. Partly, that is true. Indy are in a division where all three other teams have made moves, have committed actions. Some better than others but all have done things. In Indy, it feels a little like a sense of undoing, or rectifying. It shouldn’t surprise then, that there are three reasons Colts fans may need to be fearful this season. Well, three that stand out to me.
This is a talent poor defence. It’s pretty old too. Robert Mathis was great but is nearing the end. Arthur Jones is suspended again. Trent Cole was ok last year but is no spring chicken. Mike Adams is around the same age. D’Qwell Jackson ditto.
The biggest name on this defence is Vontae Davis who is a legitimate stud at cornerback. Beyond that, Henry Anderson was a young guy with high hopes but he is injured and can’t be rushed back. Looking at the depth chart, there are lots of college free agents and late round picks but not much in the way of high value guys. Most free agent signings have washed out, big gambles by general manager Ryan Grigson that yielded nothing. They have not been able to pick high on defence in the draft and 2013 first rounder, defensive end Bjoern Werner, was cut this off-season after 6.5 sacks in three seasons. Ouch.
Under investment and missing in the draft coupled with swings and misses in free agency mean there is not a whole heap to get excited about. There is a new defensive coordinator, Ted Monachino, but the thrust of the defensive mentality comes from head coach Chuck Pagano. And he is good at what he does with limited talent. The Colts finished 13th last season in defensive Defence-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). That’s not bad. But with the tide rising around them, it feels like the Colts D is a ship with a rusty hull…
At the end of last season it was generally thought that one or both of the GM and HC would be filling their carton with pens, keepsakes and photos of family and heading out of the hoosier state. Grigson has a spotty, at best, track record in trades, drafts and contracts…that’s kind of everything as a GM. Pagano has led the team forward each year until 2015 but it was the manner of the play, the way the team played that seemed to spell the end. Honestly, Pagano deserves a ton of credit for getting a team without purpose to 8-8, despite the bizarre Griff Whalen play. You know the one I mean!
But a kiss-and-make-up meeting and subsequent press conference announced that the two were staying on. Apparently, the relationship frayed during the tense 2015 season and it makes one wonder how long the two can maintain the façade.
Grigson must be more at risk. They have 14 of 30 draft picks still on the team. When one of those is Andrew Luck, it’s a bit of a gimme. He traded a first round pick to the Browns for Trent Richardson (which did seem sensible at the time but…). Of his picks on defence there are five left, one of those a first rounder. 2015 first rounder, wide receiver Philip Dorsett was a headscratcher at the time and injury and poor play prevented the wider world from seeing if he was worth it.
Pagano meanwhile has led the team to a round better in the post-season each year until last. He did this off the back of a devastating illness which he recovered from. This latter point doesn’t colour why he should stay in post but it accentuates how he stepped right back in after a season missed fighting for his life.
Why worry? If the Colts slip up early, if things don’t hit right, if they are struggling…the first thing that is likely to break is the paper-thin veneer that coats the front-office relationship. If it does, watch for owner Jim Irsay to make some big calls.
Frank Gore has been a fabulous runningback throughout his career. He has surpassed expectations each year. During his run in San Francisco, he had a peak that put him in the elite. But time, tide and carries have taken their toll on ‘The Inconvenient Truth.’ Never really a Hall of Fame kind of guy, Gore was a bruising back you could count on to tote the rock. In 10 seasons by the Bay he had over 2,400 carries whilst chugging for a shade over 11,000 yards. That’s frankly astonishing durability.
But his move to Indy hasn’t worked out to date. Gore apologists might point to what has been discussed in this piece and the previous posts about the Colts, that they played poorly last year and Gore found himself in a milquetoast offence. However, Gore looked like that which he is; a guy who has bust his ass through his career with little tread left on the tyres, gas in the tank, other automobile analogies. His average yards per carry fell to below four yards for the first time in his career, 3.7, and he fumbled four times, his highest number since 2009.
Whilst the offence might well get better, it could be a stretch to hope that Gore can improve along with it. His 12th season as a pro is a remarkable achievement as an RB1 but it feels like his position at the top of the depth chart is more an indictment of the lack of investment in the position by the Colts. Behind him sits Robert Turbin, Jordan Todman and Trey Willams…I know right? Are they real names or are we being trolled? Turbin has some name recongnition but the other two? Yikes.
However, the Colts have been saying good things about rookie free agent Josh Ferguson. The pass-catching back out of Illinois has drew praise from Pagano and Irsay earlier in the off-season. That was in shorts and non-contact practices though. It’s a whole different world once the hits start coming and it is the exception rather than the norm when a guy goes undrafted and makes a big impact ever, let alone as a rookie.
The Colts might not need to lean on the run if they go pass happy with a revived Luck at the helm but you need a viable run game to keep defences honest and the Colts look like they might be very, very limited out the back.
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