The speculation, scouting, and player swapping of the NFL offseason is underway! Now, we can judge the performance of the Indianapolis Colts based on their production last season to determine the positions that need to be addressed later in free agency or in the upcoming NFL draft. This article will go through every position group in depth. First up: last year’s offensive starters.
Quarterback: Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer
Review: As most Colts fans know, Jacoby Brissett failed to live up to Andrew Luck’s standard, or even prove himself as an above-average starting quarterback in the league. Starting 15 games, Brissett failed to reach the 3,000 passing yard mark that 25 other starting quarterbacks achieved. He also threw fewer touchdowns than 23 other quarterbacks. Finishing far below the league average in both categories, his production was not adequate. Brissett shined at the beginning of the season–second in touchdown passes at one point–but dropped off the cliff in the last 10 games of the season. From Week 1 to Week 7, Brissett had thrown 14 touchdowns, on pace to throw for around 30 on the year. However, from Week 8 to Week 17, he only threw four touchdowns. This is a large reason the Colts started with a 5-2 record yet ended the year at 7-9.
When Brissett left the Pittsburgh game in Week 9 injured, Brian Hoyer took his place. Throwing three touchdowns (along with a pick-six), Hoyer came up just short of the win when Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal while down by only two. The week after, Hoyer earned the start against the one-win Miami Dolphins. In a completely shocking manner, Hoyer was picked off three times and the Colts lost. The success he exhibited the week before against the Steelers was nowhere to be found.
How To Improve: The Colts have already addressed the quarterback issue early in free agency by signing 38 year-old veteran Philip Rivers, but they should not stop there. Due to Brissett’s costly contract, it was widely believed the Colts would either trade or release him after replacing him with Rivers. So far, they have not. Now, Brissett serves as insurance. The Colts will look for a quarterback in the draft, but if they do not find one they think is their future franchise player, they are safe waiting until next year’s draft with Brissett in the backup spot.
Wide Receiver: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell
Review: The inadequate performance at quarterback is closely tied to the receiver position group. Usually if the passing aspect of the offense is failing, both quarterbacks and receivers are at fault. In the Colts’ case, quarterback play is the primary reason the passing offense could never really settle into rhythm, though the wide receivers were not perfect. Staying healthy proved to be a challenge for all of them. T.Y. Hilton only played in 10 games. Devin Funchess caught three balls in the opener and then missed the rest of the season. Parris Campbell was healthy for just seven games and did not perform as expected.
Out of the top four receivers on the roster, Zach Pascal is the only one who played in more than 10 games. The Colts’ leading receiver, Pascal ranked 66th in the league with 607 receiving yards. Pascal showed he has what it takes to be a second or third receiver alongside Hilton, but the position group would greatly benefit from another solid option.
How To Improve: There have been quite a few receivers already taken off of the free agency market. The Colts may simply look for a receiver in the draft instead of free agency. The team has two second round picks this year, remember. If they find a player they want at one of those spots, he will likely compete for a starting spot on the roster. This year’s wide receiver draft class is so deep, it is rumored to rival 2014’s historic group. The Colts can find a solid receiver in the draft much cheaper than in free agency as well.
Running Back: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Jonathan Williams
Review: Ballard seems very happy with the running back group he has. As a team, the Colts rushed for 2,130 yards, had multiple games with 100-yard rushers (including one game with two players rushing for 100 yards), and Marlon Mack passed the 1,000 yard mark. There’s not much to say about this position group other than the fact that they performed very well. When the offense was moving consistently downfield, it was often due to the fact that they were running the football with success. Mack uses that fantastic offensive line well and hits the holes with patience and elusiveness. Nyheim Hines also flourished, catching 44 passes for 320 yards. Expect Hines to continue to shine in the passing game next season with Rivers as the starting quarterback.
Jordan Wilkins also supported this group by occasionally breaking off a big run. In each of his first two seasons with the Colts, Wilkins has had a run longer than 50 yards. Jonathan Williams stepped in with back-to-back 100-yard games in November against division rivals Jacksonville and Houston before returning to the bench.
How to Improve: There is not a lot to fix with this position group. If the Colts front office is happy with the players they have and they don’t think someone else could do better, then there should not be any changes made to the main core.
Tight End: Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Mo Alie-Cox
Review: In 2018, the Colts had the best tight end duo in the league with Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle. After Luck’s retirement, Ebron did not perform anywhere close to where he had the season before. Doyle regained the number one tight end spot, while Ebron’s playing time diminished. Ebron had tons of drops and eventually had to end his season early due to an ankle injury after playing 11 games. Doyle worked his way to a Pro Bowl by catching four touchdowns with 448 yards receiving as the primary tight end. Mo Alie-Cox, the large-handed former basketball player, had no receiving touchdowns and only eight receptions.
How To Improve: Doyle is a solid tight end, but the Colts frequently utilize two tight end formations. Alie-Cox is a good red zone target but doesn’t have enough football experience or production to take the second tight end spot. Doyle is also 29. Getting closer to 30, who knows how many years he has left. While it is not a priority at the moment, the Colts may want to look into a future replacement for him later in the draft. Almost all available free agent tight ends are injury-riddled veterans. The Colts should look for younger names with high upside in April. Athletic players like Albert Okwuegbunam from Missouri, UCLA’s Devin Asiasi, or the sure-handed Colby Parkinson out of Stanford would be fine replacements to fill the hole Ebron left in the offense.
Offensive Line: Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Braden Smith
Review: The offensive line of the Colts is simply incredible and is the best component of the offense by far. The most impressive of these five studs is second-year left guard Quenton Nelson. Nelson has quickly established himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL. In 2019, he was named First-Team All-Pro for the second year in a row, as well as being voted to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. To his left is an underrated player that has been consistent for years. In fact, Anthony Castonzo has been a constant on the team since 2011. Ryan Kelly continues to impress as he works to become the best center in the league.
Additionally, few could have predicted that Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith would perform as well as they have, except maybe Chris Ballard. Each member of this spectacular offensive line started every single game this season–the only team to achieve such a feat. They were bulldozers while run blocking and walls while pass blocking. A position group like this results in everyone around them playing better.
How to Improve: You can’t improve perfection. Just maintain it. Re-signing Castonzo was crucial and now that they have him, there shouldn’t be any major changes made. It’s possible that the Colts could look for a versatile backup in the draft, but that is all.
In conclusion, these position groups need to be addressed this offseason:
1. Starting wide receiver
2. Quarterback of the future
3. Ebron replacement