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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Off-season Troubleshooting: Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts are a very young team who finished the season with an 11-5 record and a play-off win to their name. On the flip side, they topped a division that in 2013 provided three sub-par outfits for opposition, and they were beaten fairly comprehensively when they made the step up to play the Patriots in the divisional round. With a good amount of money to throw around this off-season, what should the Colts be looking to do to give their young squad the best chances of returning to the post-season? :




Offense:

By the numbers, this is no special offense. Ranked 15th overall, with a lead back struggling to make much headway, the history books may not be kind to this unit. Thankfully for Colts fans, there is a lot more to their attack than that. True, Trent Richardson struggled to make big gains in the run game following his mid-season trade, but a combination of Ahmad Bradshaw (when fit early), Donald Brown and quarterback Andrew Luck were all capable of contributing on the ground. But it was the passing game where this unit really was special. Andrew Luck led his team in late charges to win games more often than they lost, finding great success lobbing the ball to T.Y. Hilton, who broke the thousand-yard marker off 82 receptions. The really impressive stat for Hilton is that, despite a big number of receptions, his average yards per reception was 13.2, outlining his explosive playmaking ability. Admittedly it was harder to get him the ball after Reggie Wayne went down onto injured reserve, but he had a big year. Coby Fleener provided a solid security blanket option at tight end, adding a further six hundred yards in a passing attack that flourished. More will certainly be expected from Richardson next year, as the Colts traded their 2014 first round draft pick to get him. The best way to help him do that will be to improve their selection of linemen, who were faulty at times, needing their quarterback to bail them out too often for his own good. This offense contributed big time in wins over the Forty-Niners, Seahawks and Broncos, and with an improved line, run game and maybe one more dependable receiver, could be one of the top offenses in the league. A lot to be fixed there, though.

Defense:

Again, not a unit that ranked highly, but it was easier to see why here. This was a fairly average defense, sporting a few players who weren’t really up to the required standard. The reason the Colts had to play catch-up in so many games was their defense wasn’t able to stop their opponents often enough. The run defense in particular was poor, giving up over two thousand yards over the course of the regular season. The pass defense was far from spectacular either, but at least they generated turnovers, coming up just under one pick per game in the regular season, Darius Butler leading the way with four picks. Turnovers were a specialty of the Colts defense, generating a further 19 fumbles which contributed to the teams plus 13 record on turnover differential. But doing more of the basic things right for this defense is the most straightforward way for them to improve, and finding someone to generate pass rush alongside Robert Mathis would make this a scary team to play.

Players to target in free agency:

Julian Edelman, WR.
Andre Roberts, WR.
Anthony Collins, OT.
Travelle Wharton, G.
Brian De La Puente, C.
Anthony Spencer, DE.
Alex Carrington, DT.
Brent Grimes, CB.
Sam Shields, CB.

By Andy Halligan

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