The Indianapolis Colts report to training camp on July 23rd. That is a mere six days before the players will descend on Anderson, Indiana.
We’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks talking about what to expect and soon we’ll actually see if our predictions hold any water.
Last season, the Colts ranked 13th in DVOA in offense. They were 15th in yardage, 17 in passing, and 20th in rushing. Finally, they averaged 24.4 points per game which ranks 14th in the NFL.
The good news is that they were in the top half of the league with all those numbers. The better news is that the offense is going to get better just by getting healthy.
Adding Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Donald Thomas back into the fold will certainly help. As will the addition wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (I think its impossible for him to be worse than Darrius Heyward-Bey).
But even with the new addition and returning players, there are a few guys who have to step up this season.
He might be the poster child for underperforming right now. And unfortunately he is the starting running back simply due to his health.
He averaged just 2.9 yard per carry and prompted sportswriters to search for a silver lining week in and week out last year. He also only found the endzone four times (and one was a receiving touchdown). Richardson’s stellar playoff performance amounted to four carries for one yard and a lost fumble. Per ProFootballFocus, he actually had better ratings in the passing game than on the ground.
This guy is currently the starter. Remember that.
Richardson has to find the vision that made him a top three pick in 2012. He has all the physical tools to be a very good running back but something is clearly holding him back. Hopefully the extra time in the film room and studying the playbook in the offseason will pay off for him.
If he doesn’t produce early, expect the Colts to plug in Ballard or Bradshaw. If he can stay healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bradshaw winds up as the starter anyway.
Wait, the most important person on the offense and best player needs to step up? Yes, he does.
Luck’s numbers stayed largely static in year two. His turnovers were cut in half and his completion percentage improved (which was largely a product of scheme).
But take a look at Luck’s numbers in the playoffs. He had seven interceptions in two games. Four of them came against a mediocre to bad Patriots defense.
For all the impressive passes and game winning drives, Luck still has to improve his game. He is clearly capable and driven enough to keep improving. With more and better options on the field, expect a nice bump in his stats in year three (especially touchdowns).
Fleener’s role with the team became much more prominent last season when Allen went down with a hip injury. At times, Fleener looked like a a great tight end and he certainly has a lot of potential. What needs to change is the consistency.
It will be interesting to see what his role is once Allen returns to the lineup. I’d expect the Colts the utilize more two tight end sets to get both players on the field. This was a favorite formation of the Manning-era Colts and allows for a lot of creativity.
Fleener finished the season with positive grades, and was surprisingly good at pass blocking. His DVOA put him as the 42nd ranked tight end in the league.
He was a dynamic pass catcher in college, and should have excellent chemistry with former Stanford teammate…Andrew Luck. Eliminating the drops, running sharper routes, and improving his blocking will make Fleener a very valuable asset for the Colts in the comings eason.
It might be tough to say a second year player who saw just 13 snaps last season needs to step up, but its true. Holmes has been taking over center duties for the atrocious Samson Satele (who was mercifully not re-signed).
The Colts really didn’t go after a center, which was surprising. That means they have a lot of faith in Holmes and he has to live up to the pressure, because there really isn’t a plan B.
Thornton was thrust into the lineup as a rookie due to Thomas’ injuries. Thornton was the second worst player on the line, well behind Mike McGlynn, and just ahead of Satele. He was incredibly bad against the pass rush which led to Luck facing the most pressure up the middle in the league.