2018 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: FRANK REICH (First Season)
RECORD WITH COLTS: 0-0
CAREER RECORD: 0-0
2017 RECORD: 4-12
2017 HOME RECORD: 3-5
2017 CONCFERENCE RECORD: 3-9
2017 DIVISON RECORD: 2-4
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Nick Sirianni
DEFESNIVE COORDINATOR: Matt Eberflus
STADIUM: Lucas Oil Stadium (67,000)
September 9 Cincinnati
September 16 at Washington
September 23 at Philadelphia
September 30 Houston
October 4 at New England
October 14 at New York Jets
October 21 Buffalo
October 28 at Oakland
November 4 BYE
November 11 Jacksonville
November 18 Tennessee
November 25 Miami
December 2 at Jacksonville
December 9 at Houston
December 16 Dallas
December 22/23 NY Giants
December 30 at Tennessee
LA Rams 9 – 46
Arizona 13 – 16 OT
Cleveland 31 – 28
Seattle 18 – 46
San Francisco 26 – 23 OT
Tennessee 22 – 36
Jacksonville 0 – 27
Cincinnati 23 – 24
Houston 20 – 14
Pittsburgh 17 – 20
Tennessee 16 – 20
Jacksonville 10 – 30
Buffalo 7 – 13 OT
Denver 13 – 25
Baltimore 16 – 23
Houston 22 – 13
FIVE – YEAR WINNING TREND: 42 – 38
2013: 11 – 5
2014: 11 – 5
2015: 8 – 8
2016: 8 – 8
2017: 4 – 12
STARTERS RETURNING OFFENSE: 8
STARTERS RETURNING DEFENSE: 8
THIRD DOWN%: 38.2
PUNT RETURNS 6.0
KICK RETURNS: 21.1
TURNOVER MARGIN: +5
2017 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
PASSING: Jacoby Brissett, 276 – 469 –3,098 – 13TD – 7INT
RUSHING: Frank Gore, 261 – 961 – 3.7 – 3TD
RECEIVING: Jack Doyle, 80 – 690 – 8.6 – 4TD
TACKLES: Antonio Morrison, 109
SACKS: Jabaal Sheard, 5.5
INTERCEPTIONS: Rashaan Melvin, Malik Hooker, 3
2018 COLTS DRAFT: B
Round 1 – 6th Overall: Quenton Nelson – OG – Notre Dame
Selection Grade – A+
NFL Comparison- Brandon Scherff
The early run on quarterbacks allowed the Colts to trade back and still nab arguably the best player in the draft. Nelson is a mountain of a man who easily bullies the defender in front of him. He was a team captain at Notre Dame and will help shore up an offensive-line that has held the team back for years.
Round 2 – 36th Overall: Derius Leonard – LB – South Carolina State
Selection Grade – B+
NFL Comparison- Telvin Smith
The Colts bypassed more high-profile players to take Leonard because he fits what they want on defense. The 22-year-old is an off-the-ball, run-and-chase linebacker who brings speed, instincts and the versatility to both rush the passer and cover tight ends/running backs. Leonard is instantly the team’s most talented linebacker.
Round 2 – 37th Overall: Braden Smith – OG – Auburn
Selection Grade – B
NFL Comparison- Richie Incognito
Smith, another team captain, is a mauler who dominates with size, strength and toughness. Though his lack of reactive quickness can be a problem against speed-rushers, Smith’s technique, tenacity and power are enough to win most downs. He joins Nelson and Kelly to give Indianapolis one of the nastiest interior offensive lines in football.
Round 2 – 52nd Overall: Kemoko Turay – DE – Rutgers
Selection Grade – A-
NFL Comparison- Ziggy Ansah
Though incredibly raw, Turay is a high upside pass rusher who explodes off the edge and possesses a freakish combination of length and speed. Whether the Guinea native turns into Von Miller or Barkevious Mingo all depends on his development. Turay will rotate in on passing downs as a rookie.
Round 2 – 64th Overall: Tyquan Lewis – DE – Ohio State
Selection Grade – B
NFL Comparison- Vinny Curry
The effort to upgrade a pass rush that finished with the second-fewest sacks in 2017 (25) continues with the selection of Lewis. The two-time team captain is a power-rusher with solid get-off, good length and the ability to attack the quarterback from the interior on passing downs. He needs to improve versus the run.
Round 4 – 104th Overall: Nyheim Hines – RB – North Carolina State
Selection Grade – B+
NFL Comparison- Darren Sproles
No running back posted a faster 40 time (4.38) than Hines did at this year’s combine. The 5’8” weapon played receiver in college before transitioning to running back and is capable of scoring every time he touches the ball. He brings added value on special teams, returning two kicks and one punt for touchdowns at N.C. State.
Round 5 – 159th Overall: Daurice Fountain – WR – Northern Iowa
Selection Grade – C
NFL Comparison- Chris Conley
Another small-school prospect with impressive physical traits, Fountain’s pro day numbers include a 42.5” vertical jump and a 4.46 40 yard dash. Standing nearly 6’2” tall, Fountain brings size to a receiver corps that lacks jump-ball pass-catchers. Despite a strong work ethic, the former Panthers’ game is extremely unrefined to this point.
Round 5 – 169th Overall: Jordan Wilkins – RB –Mississippi
Selection Grade – B-
NFL Comparison- Chris Carson
Wilkins adds depth and competition to Indy’s running back room and should excel during outside-zone rushes. The 23-year-old uses his spectacular balance, vision and agility to elude defenders. The knock is that he doesn’t run through contact despite weighing 216 lbs. Wilkins could be a solid change-of-pace ‘back as a rookie.
Round 6 – 185th Overall: Deon Cain – WR – Clemson
Selection Grade – A
NFL Comparison- Amari Cooper
If you want to talk about a steal, look no further than Deon Cain. The latest talent from “Wide Receiver University” brings size, speed, agility and route running to Indianapolis. He slid in the draft due to inconsistent play and drops, but Cain has the potential to start from day one.
Round 7 – 221st Overall: Matthew Adams – LB – Houston
Selection Grade – C
NFL Comparison- Najee Goode
A team captain at Houston, Adams is an undersized linebacker who has solid speed and fits the run-and-hit style the Colts are looking for. He’ll be competing for a roster spot this summer and will need to establish himself on special teams in order to make the team.
Round 7 – 235th Overall: Zaire Franklin – LB – Syracuse
Selection Grade – B-
NFL Comparison- Chris Borland
The Colts went with another high-character prospect in Franklin who was a three-time team captain at Syracuse. Franklin has terrific speed and flows to the ball well. The issue comes when blockers get their hands on him, as Franklin struggles to disengage. Like Adams, he brings competition to the linebacker position and will have to battle for a spot on the team.
2018 KEY PLAYER MOVEMENT
CB Kenneth Acker, Kansas City
DE Denico Autry, Oakland
TE Eric Ebron, Detroit
LB Najee Goode, Philadelphia
WR Ryan Grant, Washington
OL Matt Slauson, LA Chargers
DE Henry Anderson, NY Jets
LB Jon Bostic, Pittsburgh
S Darius Butler, free agent
RB Frank Gore, Miami
NT Jonathan Hankins, free agent
CB Rashaan Melvin, Oakland
WR Dante Moncrief, Jacksonville
If there is one team in the NFL that counts on their QB more than any other position it’s the Colts. Andrew Luck is back after missing the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury. The one time “best” team in the AFC South division, hit the bottom of the heap without Luck and GM Chris Ballard was hired to turn this ship around. Ballard knows this season will be a challenge whether Luck is back or not. This is a roster that lacks the talent and depth to dramatically make 2018 a competitive challenge to Jacksonville in the AFC South. But with Luck back, things are looking better. Luck is a rare talent, possessing a high NFL IQ and excellent athleticism. Head coach Frank Reich and his staff have slowly brought the star quarterback along during training camp. Luck has endured a series of serious injuries over the years because of an inept offensive line. Ballard is hoping the Colts have addressed the need for better players upfront by drafting former Notre Dame guard Quentin Nelson, the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Nelson will step in immediately at left guard. Anthony Castonzo returns at left tackle, Ryan Kelly, a former first – round selection, is expected to get the start at center, second – round selection Braden Smith will get a look at right guard, with Joe Haeg, Denzelle Good and Jeremy Vujnovich battling it out for the starting position. Right tackle is a position that is wide open with his many as four possibilities getting a look in training camp as a long – term solution.
Indianapolis saw their offense drop to 31st in total yards and 30th in points scored in 2017. They will look for a more balanced attack this season with Luck back at quarterback and a better running attack led by second – year running back Marlon Mack. Mack will step in for Frank Gore who left via free agency two Miami. Mack showed plenty of promise as a rookie rushing for 358 yards on 93 carries last season. The veteran backup Robert Turbin is also capable of carrying a heavier load, though he’ll have to earn a roster spot after the Colts drafted two running backs including Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins.
When Luck throws the football, he will count on four-time Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton and Pro Bowl TE Jack Doyle. Hilton is the best deep threat with speed and the ability to move the chains. Hilton saw his 1,000 yards streak snapped in 2017, but still averaged 16.9 yards per catch. Doyle led the Colts with 80 catches and four TD’s. The Colts added FA WR Ryan Grant after his caught 45 passes with the Redskins in 2017. TE Eric Ebron was signed as a FA from Detroit and is expected to be a key playmaker this season. Look for Chester Rogers to be at full strength after missing time last season with an ankle injury. Others looking for playing time will be Ross Travis, Randall Telfer, Deon Cain and Daurice Fountain.
When Coach Reich was hired, he made an immediate change to the defensive scheme. The Colts will now run a 4-3 alignment under new DC Matt Eberflus. Eberflus will be calling an NFL defense for the first time in his career.
Eberflus will put an emphasis on speed and getting to the football quicker. The Colts finished 30th in total yards and points allowed and 31st in total sacks.
Indianapolis decided to cut their best defensive player, NT Jonathan Hankins after just one season in a Colts uniform. Hankins wasn’t expected to fit in the new defensive scheme. Linebacker Jon Bostic was also allowed to leave via free agency.
Indianapolis will now look to journeyman DT Al Woods, who is with his fifth team in the last eight seasons. Also upfront will be Hassan Ridgway and Grover Stewart. Jabaal Sheard and John Simon were outside linebacker’s last season and will be moved to defensive end in the new 4-3 scheme. Sheard was one of Ballard’s better free – agent acquisitions in the 2017 season. Tarell Basham is expected to emerge as a pass – rush threat in his second season. Also in the mix up front includes draft picks Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis and Denico Autry. Autry collected 10.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries with Oakland in 56 games.
There are several question marks and linebacker accentuated by the switch to the 4 – 3 defense. Antonio Morrison led the Colts in tackles with 109 last year, but he may lack the sideline – to– sideline speed and is a liability in pass coverage. Anthony Walker, a 2017 fifth – round pick, played in 10 games in 2017, but was unimpressive. Ballard acquired free agent LB Najee Goode from Philadelphia, but his value was more on special teams than on defense. Second – round pick Darius Leonard could see more playing time as a rookie, almost by default.
The secondary may be a work in progress because of their dependency on the front seven getting more pressure on the quarterback. Competition will be at cornerback with Quincy Wilson, Pierre Desir, Kenneth Acker and Kenny Moore battling for the starting spot. Safety Malik Hooker was having a solid rookie season before suffering a season – ending knee injury. The former first – round selection is a playmaker on a defense that does it have very many. Safety Clayton Geathers is another player that has been slowed by injuries, but the Colts believe he is a solid hitter who can improve their pass defense. Others in the mix in the secondary include Nathan Hairston, Matthias Farley and TJ Green.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri turns 46 in December and is still one of the best in the NFL. He made a 29 – of – 34 field goals, including a long of 54 yards in 2017. Accuracy and distance aren’t in issue for the veteran kicker.
Rigoberto Sanchez joined Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent and averaged nearly 45 yards per kick with 28 down the inside the 20 yard line. He is kickoffs resulted in 46 touchbacks which ranked 11th in the NFL.
There will be plenty of competition in camp for the return game, but keep an eye on Chester Rogers as well as fourth – round rookie Nyheim Hines.
Needless to say without Andrew Luck, this team has virtually no chance of posting a winning record in 2018. GM Chris Ballard improved the OL by drafting Quintin Nelson to help protect Luck. A healthy quarterback will give the Colts a chance to be respectable, but the running attack remains uncertain and the defense lacks playmakers, even if the new players are capable of making immediate contributions.
The AFC South is a much tougher division than it used to be, and it appears Jacksonville, Tennessee and a healthy Houston team will make it even more of a challenge for Indianapolis in 2018.
If the Colts show improvement, 8 – 8 may be the best they can do. Colts fans were spoiled during a run in which they made the playoffs 14 times in 16 seasons from 1999 – 2014. Making the playoffs this season may be a long shot.
PREDICTION: Fourth AFC South