2019 NFL PREVIEW: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS FOOTBALL CAPSULE
HEAD COACH: In his first season as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Frank Reich led the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2014 after finishing with a 10-6 record. After starting the season with a 1-5 mark, the Colts won nine of their last 10 games and became just the third team in NFL history to start a season 1-5 and make it to the playoffs. Additionally, Indianapolis was the second team in NFL history to start a season 1-5 and win a playoff game. Reich became just the third head coach in team history to win a playoff game in his first season at the helm. He was named the AFC Coach of the Year for the 2018 season by the NFL 101 Awards. The Colts finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 in offensive points per game (27.1) and defensive points allowed per game (21.5). They were just one of four teams to rank in the top 10 in both categories. Additionally, the offensive line ranked first in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed as quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns while tying an NFL record with touchdown passes to 13 different targets. He was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Indianapolis also ranked seventh in the NFL in net offense (386.2 ypg.) and sixth in passing (278.8 ypg.). Defensively, the Colts were just one of three teams to not allow a 100-yard rusher in the regular season. The unit forced at least one turnover in a league-high 15 regular season games. Indianapolis also ranked second in tackles for loss (91.0) and led the league with four players with 12.0 or more tackles for loss.
2006-2007 Indianapolis Colts Coaching Intern
2008 Indianapolis Colts Offensive Assistant
2009-2010 Indianapolis Colts Quarterbacks
2011 Indianapolis Colts Wide Receivers
2012 Arizona Cardinals Wide Receivers
2013 San Diego Chargers Quarterbacks
2014-2015 San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator
2016-2017 Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Coordinator
2018-2019 Indianapolis Colts Head Coach
COLTS FIVE-YEAR WINNING TREND:
2014: 11 %
2018: 10 %
September 8 at LA Chargers
September 15 at Tennessee
September 22 Atlanta
September 29 Oakland
October 6 at Kansas City
October 13 BYE
October 20 Houston
October 27 Denver
November 3 at Pittsburgh
November 10 Miami
November 17 Jacksonville
November 21 at Houston
December 1 Tennessee
December 8 at Tampa Bay
December 16 at New Orleans
December 22 Carolina
December 29 at Jacksonville
Cincinnati 23 – 34
At Washington 21 – 9
At Philadelphia 16 – 20
Houston 34 – 37 OT
At New England 24 – 38
At NY Jets 34 – 42
Buffalo 37 – 5
At Oakland 42 – 28
Jacksonville 29 – 26
Tennessee 38 – 10
Miami 27 – 24
At Jacksonville 0 – 6
At Houston 24 – 21
Dallas 23 – 0
NY Giants 20 – 27
At Tennessee 33 – 17
At Houston 21 – 7
At Kansas City 13 – 31
2018 TEAM STATS
THIRD DOWN PERCENTAGE: 48.6
PUNT RETURNS: 9.0
KICK RETURNS: 19.8
TURNOVER MARGIN: +2
2018 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
PASSING: Andrew Luck, 430 – 639 – 4,593 – 39TD – 15INT
RUSHING: Marlon Mack, 195 – 908 – 4.7 – 9TD
RECEIVING: TY Hilton, 76 – 1,270 – 16.7 – 6TD
TACKLES: Darius Leonard, 163
SACKS: Denico Autry, 9.0
INTERCEPTIONS: Kenny Moore, 3
NUMBERS TO KNOW
29.5…. Indianapolis scored a touchdown on 29.5% of their drives, fourth in the NFL
15.5…. The Colts defense created turnovers on 15.5% of opponents’ drives, fourth in the NFL
26.3…. Indianapolis was the fastest – paste offense in the NFL averaging a play every 26.3 seconds
KEY PLAYER MOVEMENT
WR Devin Funchess, Carolina
DE Justin Houston, Kansas City
S Derrick Kindred, Cleveland
LB Najee Goode, free agent
WR Ryan Grant, Oakland
WR Dontrelle Inman, free agent
S Mike Mitchell, free agent
DT Hassan Ridgway, Philadelphia
G Matt Slauson, retired
NT Al Woods, free agent
2018 INDIANAPOLIS DRAFT
2nd Round, No. 34 overall (from N.Y. Jets) | Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
Analysis: Ya-Sin is more suited for the outside, physically speaking, than Murphy or Deandre Baker, the 30th overall pick. His ball skills are top-notch.
Instant Grade: B-plus
2nd Round, No. 49 overall (from Cleveland) | Ben Banogu, LB, TCU
Analysis: Banogu will pair well with Darius Leonard if given the opportunity. He was the lifeline for a TCU defense that stood strong, mostly, in the Big 12 over the last two seasons.
Instant Grade: B-plus
2nd Round, No. 59 overall | Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
Analysis: In terms of potential, Campbell is right up there among skill players in this class. I love this pick. He can run, and he’s not just an Urban Meyer slot receiver. He does need some route work, mind you. But the Colts need another difference maker at receiver. He can be it.
Instant Grade: A-minus
3rd Round, No. 89 overall |Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford
Analysis: The Colts like linebackers with instincts, and the undersized Okereke can find the ball. Will his height be an issue? At worst, he will be a helluva special teams player as a rookie.
4th Round, No. 109 overall (from Raiders) | Khari Willis, S, Michigan State
Instant Grade: C-minus
5th Round, No. 144 overall | Marvel Tell III, DB, USC
Instant Grade: C
5th Round, No 164 overall | Indianapolis Colts — E.J. Speed, LB, Tarleton State
Instant Grade: D-minus
6th Round, No. 199 overall | Gerri Green, DE, Mississippi State
Instant Grade: B
7th Round, No. 240 overall | Jackson Barton, T, Utah
Instant Grade: C-plus
7th Round, No. 246 overall | Javon Patterson, G, Ole Miss
INDIANAPOLIS CAMP NEWS
Daurice Fountain Suffers ‘Significant Ankle Injury’ In Final Camp Practice
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Daurice Fountain suffered what head coach Frank Reich said is a “significant ankle injury” during Thursday’s final training camp practice at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind.
Fountain, Reich said, is being treated at a local hospital.
“(He’s) gonna get the best care in the world,” Reich told reporters. “We will do whatever it takes to support him, and he’ll bounce back — he’ll bounce back. Our thoughts and prayers are with Reece.”
Fountain suffered the injury during an 11-on-11 period in Thursday’s second day of joint training camp practices with the Cleveland Browns, going down near the left sideline on a toss play to that side of the field.
The second-year Northern Iowa product was putting together a strong training camp and had worked his way into the mix for a spot on the 53-man roster. He led the Colts with five receptions for 63 yards in last week’s preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.
“He’s had a great camp,” Reich said. “He’s worked extremely hard and looked extremely good.
“You never wanna lose a guy,” Reich continued. “You just don’t want to lose a guy, and then to an injury like this, it’s just unfortunate. But, you know, we’ll just support him in every way we can.”
2019 Colts Preseason Preview: Colts/Browns, Week 2
- Colts lead, 15-14 (2-2 in the playoffs), and have won eight of the last nine matchups. In the preseason, the Colts lead, 6-2.
- Last game — Week 3 of 2017. Colts won, 31-28. The Colts won the last preseason matchup in 2013, 27-6.
- Overall, this was a pretty quiet offseason for the Colts for a change. It was about building onto and shaping the current roster rather than shaking things up or making sweeping changes.
- Former starting receivers Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman both departed in free agency, and veterans Mike Mitchell and Al Woods also were not re-signed by the team. Offensive lineman Matt Slauson retired following a 10-year career.
- The Colts did do two big things through acquisitions, and that was to add dynamic playmaking on offense in the form of wide receivers Parris Campbell and Devin Funchess, and they added a ton of speed on defense with Ben Banogu, Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed.
- The Browns technically moved on from some of their coaching staff during the 2018 season, but the staff was solidified this offseason as Freddie Kitchens put his hires into place. The Browns let go of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley after eight games, as defensive coordinator Gregg Williams filled in as interim head coach and Kitchens took over as offensive coordinator. Kitchens was then hired as the head coach this offseason and brought in Todd Monken and Steve Wilks as his coordinators.
- Cleveland had arguably the NFL’s most noteworthy offseason, bringing in names like wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Kareem Hunt on offense as well as edge defender Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on defense.
- There were some significant player departures as well this offseason, as the Browns dealt edge defender Emmanuel Ogbah, safety Jabrill Peppers and guard Kevin Zeitler in trades.
STORYLINES/THINGS TO WATCH
- Starters vs. Starters —Earlier this week, Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters the team’s starters will play “probably about a quarter” on Saturday. That’s typically the case for most teams in the second preseason game, so we should see many of the Colts’ and Browns’ starters going head to head for the first quarter. As to who all will play or not is anybody’s guess, but there’s a lot you can observe by seeing the closest thing to regular season football as can be for about a quarter during the preseason.
- Colts’ Run Game —The Colts’ offense wasn’t able to get much going on the ground last week against the Buffalo Bills. They ran for 105 yards, but quarterback Chad Kelly accounted for more than half of that in just two carries. Reich mentioned after the Bills game that the run game being something that they need to improve, so we’ll see how the running backs and any designed quarterback runs pan out on Saturday against Cleveland.
- The QB3 Race —With Jacoby Brissett taking all of the first-team reps in Andrew Luck’s absence, there has been quite the battle brewing between Kelly and Phillip Walker to see who can be “the guy” behind Brissett. By the time the regular season rolls around, it could be a battle for a practice squad spot. Walker has been the incumbent, going into his third season with the team, but Kelly has the hype and notoriety. Both players have progressed throughout camp and have clear strengths, so this is likely a battle that goes down to the wire. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni commented on the battle earlier this week: “Yeah, they know they’re in a competition. Philip and Chad know they’re in a competition together. Early in camp we were rotating the periods and felt like Phil had a little advantage. Phil started taking them and now we are back to rotating again. So they’re competing, they’re competing. Chad played a really good game, he really did. Phil knows he wants to play better and Chad played a really good game. He made a lot of plays out there sometimes when they weren’t even available to make. He was good improvising.”
- Colts’ Defensive Rookies —There isn’t a Colts’ defensive rookie draft pick that hasn’t made some noise at some point in camp. Between Ben Banogu, Gerri Green, Bobby Okereke, E.J. Speed, Marvell Tell III, Khari Willis and Rock Ya-Sin — and even undrafted guys like Sterling Shippy and Shakial Taylor — all of them have shown growth and reason for optimism moving forward. The Browns have a very talented offense with plenty of depth, so they’ll have a good opportunity to continue stacking good days when it comes to Saturday’s game.
- Colts’ Wide Receiver Depth —This has been one of the most notable, fun Colts wide receiver battles in recent memory, but it has carried over into the actual preseason games. You have some established vets like Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess making plays along with other dependable veterans in Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal proving their worth, but the younger guys like Deon Cain, Daurice Fountain, Krishawn Hogan and Marcus Johnson have all had an excellent camp and are going to force the coaching staff to make some excruciating decisions come cut-down day. “It’s really a flat line right now. Everybody is literally on the same page because everybody is out there competing and making plays and stuff like that,” Cain said this week. “I don’t really try to buy into it too much because I just have to focus on doing my job. I’m pretty sure everything will fall into place. As of right now, I’m excited with these guys right now. I’ve never been around so much talent with these guys and seeing how these guys come out to practice and work every day – it’s great. It’s a great thing.”
- Colts TEs vs. Browns LBs/Ss —Between Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Mo Alie-Cox and Ross Travis, the Colts tight end room can throw the kitchen sink at opposing defenses. The Browns also have some very talented back seven defenders who can match up with the Colts in Joe Schobert, Christian Kirksey, Mack Wilson, Damarious Randall and Morgan Burnett.
- Colts OTs vs. Browns EDs —Myles Garrett is a physical specimen and can give any NFL offensive tackle the business on any day. However, Olivier Vernon poses his own challenges to an offensive line as well as someone who can rush the passer and defend the run. Anthony Castonzo and Braden Smith get some really good on-the-job training in these matchups.
- Colts Interior OL vs. Browns Interior DL —We’re unlikely to see Quenton Nelson on Saturday as he recovers from an ankle injury, but the likes of Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Josh Andrews get their own tall task against Cleveland’s Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi.
- Colts LBs vs. Browns RBs —The Browns might have the league’s scariest one-two punch at running back in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, so seeing them square off with the Colts’ linebackers (one of the roster’s deepest groups) is going to be an excellent show to watch. It continues as Dontrel Hilliard enters the game for the Browns and the Colts’ depth linebackers get to go after him in the run and passing game.
- Colts CBs vs. Browns WRs —Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Jaelen Strong… from start to finish, the Browns have a talented group of receivers to square up the Colts’ incredibly deep squad of cornerbacks. We’ll get to see if guys like Quincy Wilson, Ya-Sin, Tell III and Taylor can continue building on their already-improved play this summer.
Since official pregame injury reports are not required until the regular season, these are simply players who have been declared to be out indefinitely, for a period of time beyond this game or have missed some practice recently. Whether or not they will play is not yet known.
NOTES AND QUOTES
- Reich on the players finally being able to go against someone else in practice: “No doubt. As you said, not only different bodies but at this point in camp and OTAs, they know what we are doing. We know what they are doing – offense, defense. So you get in a setting like this and it kind of evens out a little bit. I think that adds an air of confidence to it like, ‘Hey, we have our advantage back. We have our advantage back. They don’t know what we are doing. They haven’t seen this 1,000 times like we have going up against each other.’ So it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
- “Probably about a quarter. Probably about a quarter. A little bit more than they played this last time,” Reich said about how long the starters will play Saturday. “Right now, the plan, the general plan, is for everybody to play. There may be an exception to that, we may at the last minute choose to make an exception to that, but for right now, the plan is for everybody to play.” Regarding Nelson’s availability, Reich said, “Right, yeah. I mean, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll play Quenton this week.” Several significant players did not play against the Bills last week. “Yeah, those guys who didn’t play the first game: get them a series or two just to feel it out there in a game situation,” Reich said.
- Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens on Beckham Jr.’s status for Saturday: “Should I evaluate that question or just answer it for you? We have not decided yet. He probably could play, though.”
- Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on the Colts’ defense after the first day of joint practices: “They have some good players. Seeing (Darius) Leonard out there, Malik Hooker, I played him in college. He used me in college. They have good guys. Margus Hunt up front. They have a good scheme. They play really hard. You see the way they practice, they finish every play. It is fun to compete against them.”
FINAL WORD FROM ATHLON SPORTS (Depending on Luck’s health)
Are there any limits on what the resurgent Colts can accomplish? Quarterback Andrew Luck is healthy and happy after a solid 2018 season in which he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. General manager Chris Ballard continues to show that he and his front office staff can find NFL-ready talent in the draft with more key pieces added to the mix. Head coach Frank Reich proved in his first season to be the steady, self-assured leader the Colts needed to stay the course after a 1–5 start and win nine of 10 games to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014, the last time they were Super Bowl contenders and reached the AFC title game.
The Colts are back in the conversation as one of the NFL’s best up-and-coming teams because they have strong leadership in all of the most important areas.
When Luck sat out 2017 due to shoulder surgery, the Colts dipped to 4–12, their worst record since 2–14 in 2011 — a year that gave the team the No. 1 overall pick, which it used on Luck. He drove them to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. Healthy again last year, he took them back there with career highs in pass completion percentage (67.3), passer rating (98.7) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (plus-24).
The playoff loss to the Chiefs did reveal some weaknesses. Luck needed more weapons. While tight end Eric Ebron had a career-best 13 touchdowns in his first season with the Colts, earning his first Pro Bowl nod, the team struggled to generate offense at times when Pro Bowl star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was hurt. That’s why Ballard signed wide receiver Devin Funchess in free agency. It’s just a one-year deal because Funchess has to prove he’s worth big money. But the Colts are confident it will pay off because he’s the kind of big receiver they’ve lacked since the days of Reggie Wayne. Defenses won’t be able to double Funchess because of Ebron and Hilton. Ballard also added speedy rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell in the draft’s second round. His quickness rivals that of Hilton. Expect Campbell to get plenty of opportunities in three-wide receiver sets, which should mean headaches for defenses.
An offensive line bolstered last year by the addition of rookie offensive guard Quenton Nelson, who was named to the AP All-Pro first team, returns intact. Luck wasn’t sacked in a career-best five consecutive games.
The other area in need of improvement is a rushing offense that ranked just 21st in yards per carry but showed promise at times with back-to-back games of more than 200 yards in October. Third-year pro Marlon Mack became the first Colts back with four 100-yard rushing games in a season since Joseph Addai in 2007. Mack added another in the playoff win at Houston. He just needs to stay healthy. He’s missed six games due to injuries.
Put it all together with Reich’s smart play-calling abilities, and an offense that ranked fifth in scoring at 27.1 points per game should improve.
If the Colts are on a path to the Super Bowl, Ballard might look back someday at drafting weak-side linebacker Darius Leonard in the second round in 2018 as his most important decision. Leonard became the defense’s undisputed leader from the outset with an interception of Luck in training camp. He finished with an NFL-best 163 total tackles and also had seven sacks, four forced fumbles, and two interceptions.
While defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus did what he could with what he was given to finish 11th in total defense, the Colts still lacked playmakers, and a deeper defensive investment was the result. Ballard first reconnected with a player he knew well from his days in Kansas City’s front office, pass rusher Justin Houston. The Colts tied for 19th with 38 sacks, so signing a four-time Pro Bowl star for two years is significant. Houston had 18.5 sacks in the last two seasons with the Chiefs and becomes the team’s best pass rusher since franchise sack leader Robert Mathis. His presence will force opposing offenses to scheme for him, which frees up others to make plays.
Ballard also used seven of his first eight draft picks on defensive players. The theme became obvious — fast and tough players like Leonard. Second-round pick Rock Ya-Sin is a physical and smart cornerback. The Colts are optimistic he will start right away alongside Pierre Desir, who was re-signed to a three-year, $22.5-million contract. Second-round defensive end Ben Banogu will need some seasoning to be an every-down player but expect him on the field in pass-rush situations. His quarterback-chasing athleticism is why he was drafted so high. Third-round linebacker Bobby Okereke could force his way into the lineup in the middle or on the strong side because he plays sideline to sideline with an intense motor. Fourth-round safety Khari Willis might not start right away, but he’s a hard-hitting leader with a knack for making plays. Safety Malik Hooker returns as a secondary cornerstone. Safety Clayton Geathers was re-signed for one more year, but Willis should get his share of snaps.
The Colts might end up needing a bit more muscle inside on the defensive line, but defensive tackle/end Margus Hunt was re-signed because of his versatility, and second-year pro Tyquan Lewis shows tremendous promise with that same ability to play inside or out.
Placekicker Adam Vinatieri still has a clutch leg at 46, which earned him another one-year deal to return for his 24th NFL season. Vinatieri made 23-of-27 field goals with a long of 54 last year. He also became the NFL’s all-time leader in field goals and scoring. If a game is on the line, who else would you want than a four-time Super Bowl winner who has made two field goals to decide championships? Third-year punter Rigoberto Sanchez improved his net average to 42.7 yards, third in the league, and has a strong kickoff leg with 59 touchbacks in 88 attempts. Long snapper Luke Rhodes didn’t get noticed, which means he hikes the ball without any botched plays. The Colts have been just so-so in the return game. Wide receivers Zach Pascal and Chester Rogers are expected to handle kickoffs and punts again. They took care of the ball with modest return averages.
The Colts appear to be facing a tougher schedule with a road opener at the Los Angeles Chargers as well as away games at Kansas City, New Orleans and Pittsburgh. That said, this team has showed that it won’t come unhinged when faced with adversity. Reich won over his locker room during the 1–5 start when he gambled unsuccessfully on a fourth down play in his own end, which ended up costing the Colts an overtime home loss to Houston. The players saw how much faith he put in them. Reich might be understated, but he’s confident in his convictions, whether a fourth-down call succeeds or fails. He’s willing to take that shot. And that trust was eventually rewarded by a locker room with character guys who were unselfish and bought into his belief. There’s something to be said for a cohesive unit with players who play for each other. Luck and Leonard personify that attitude in the locker room. Egos don’t enter the equation, which is quite rare in the NFL.
The Colts will undoubtedly be asked about lofty expectations, but as Reich preached last year, they will stay focused on just trying to go 1–0 each week and not overthink anything else. It might sound boring to the outside world, but it works for them. Barring too many major injury setbacks, the Colts should be rather formidable come January, with a chance to advance deep in the playoffs. A Super Bowl berth isn’t out of the question, although it might prove to be at least another year and a few more key pieces away.
Prediction: 1st in AFC South