INDIANAPOLIS – What to make of the Indianapolis Colts?
Oddmakers like what they’ve done thus far. We’re not on board, yet.
We’re barely a month into the NFL’s new league year – and more important, roughly five months from the season opener – and the Colts remain one of the more difficult teams to gauge.
On one hand, they’ve taken major steps to upgrade two of any team’s most influential positions: quarterback and edge rusher. Matt Ryan is expected to mitigate the failed Carson Wentz experience. And Yannick Ngakoue represents a decided boost for the pass rush.
Based on those two trades – probably more so the addition of Ryan – oddsmakers have elevated the Colts to at least co-favorites with the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South. A few have Indy a smidgen in front.
Make of that what you will, but the Colts were clearly considered Titans chasers prior to the Ryan-for-Wentz switch. Pro Football Focus ranks Denver and Indy as being the most improved teams based on offseason personnel moves.
Again: quarterback and edge rusher.
No one has placed the Colts among the upper echelon in a loaded AFC, but that’s irrelevant. All that’s required is wrestling the AFC South away from the Titans, who’ve won two straight division titles.
“It’s a sticking point with me,’’ Jim Irsay said at last week’s owners meetings. “We can talk about the opener means a lot and blah, blah, blah, but this is a bigger deal about Tennessee.
“If you can’t get out of your division, if you have someone who’s dominating you, you’re in big trouble.’’
The trouble we have is while general manager Chris Ballard has addressed the Colts’ two most pressing offseason concerns, red flags dot the rest of the roster. Until more additions are made – through free agency or re-signing their own, not the draft – the Colts are:
The Colts are without three of their top six offensive linemen from a year ago. Left tackle Eric Fisher remains unsigned while starting right guard Mark Glowinski signed with the New York Giants and backup guard Chris Reed is with the Minnesota Vikings. Matt Pryor was reupped and is the projected starting left tackle while 2020 5th-round pick Danny Pinter should be considered the front-runner to replace Glowinski at right guard.
Even if Pryor and Pinter pan out, quality depth – always a Ballard objective – is a concern. The Colts used 10 different starting offensive line combinations last season. Fisher, Glowinski and Reed combined for 35 starts.
Indianapolis is without two of their top three receivers from 2021. That would be T.Y. Hilton, who still is on the market, and Zach Pascal, who has been reunited with Nick Sirianni in Philadelphia. At this point, it’s Michael Pittman Jr. and . . .
Pittman enjoyed a breakout 2021 with 88 receptions, 1,082 yards and six TDs. The other returning wideouts combined for 28 receptions, 387 yards and four TDs.
The Colts are without Jack Doyle as a stabilizing force at tight end for the first time since 2012. His retirement created a void that will be difficult to fill. He was a reliable chain-moving component on offense and an unquestioned leader in the tight ends room. Re-signing Mo Alie-Cox helps, and the team is anticipating Kylen Granson taking a big step in year 2, but the position needs serious help.
Indianapolis is without two of their top outside cornerbacks. The cost of adding Ngakoue was Rock Ya-Sin. We’d make that trade every time; edge rusher trumps proven corner. Also, Xavier Rhodes, who had three interceptions and 19 passes defensed in 29 starts the last two seasons, is unsigned. One of Ballard’s free-agent acquisitions is Brandon Facyson, who follows coordinator Gus Bradley to Indy from Las Vegas. He’s started 13 games in four seasons, including nine with the Raider last season.
The roster still is stocked with top-end talent. But until a handful of additions are made – with vets, not rookies – the veracity of the depth is bothersome.
Ballard continually preaches patience and has never overpaid to add a proven veteran to the roster. Last offseason, he signed Reed April 1, cornerback T.J. Carrie April 18 and Fisher May 12.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.