It has been a hectic offseason for the Indianapolis Colts this year. As they head into the 2017 season, there are more questions than answers for this team.
The Colts fired their former General Manager, Ryan Grigson, back in January and since then have had a complete overhaul of the roster. Chris Ballard, the Colts new General Manager, has made it a point to make the team younger and to have as much competition as possible. This is expected to come one year after the Colts were 29th oldest team in the league.
The major overhaul came on the defensive side of the ball, as in free agency, the team decided to not re-sign linebackers Erik Walden, Trent Cole and D’Qwell Jackson. They also chose to part ways with veteran Defensive Backs Patrick Robinson and Mike Adams. The Colts went all out when it came to adding depth on the defensive side of the ball by signing Outside Linebacker John Simon from the Houston Texans and Middle Linebacker Barkevious Mingo from the Cleveland Browns. The Colts also added two premier free agents in Defensive End Jabaal Sheard who signed for three years on a $25 million deal and Defensive Tackle Johnathan Hankins from the New York Giants who signed for three years and $27 million.
The overhaul continued in the draft when the Colts used six of their eight draft picks on defensive players. In the first round, they drafted Safety Malik Hooker who was not expected to be on the board at this point in the draft as the Colts had the 15th pick. Many expected him to be a top ten pick including CBS Sports.com.
The Colts are aiming to improve a defense that finished 30th last year in overall defense out of 32 teams. It will be a very different team that takes the field on Sunday, as the Colts will return with only one of the 11 defensive starters from the 2016 opener. That one player is cornerback T.J. Green who just converted from the safety position this offseason.
The other major storyline of the offseason has been the health of Quarterback Andrew Luck. In January of this year he had surgery on his throwing shoulder and now there is no timetable as to when he will be starting this season. Chris Ballard confirmed on Sept. 4 that Luck would not be playing week one against the Los Angeles Rams. This came as no surprise as Andrew Luck hasn’t played a down of football since early January of this year and hasn’t practiced since then either.
So how much trouble are the Colts in without Andrew Luck? A lot.
Scott Tolzien will be the starter for Week One and he is 0-2-1 as a starter in the NFL. When Andrew Luck missed a game due to a concussion last year, Tolzien was forced to start against the Steelers on Thanksgiving and gave the Colts no reason to believe that he could run the offense well. The Colts lost that game 28-7 at home. Tolzien threw for 205 yard and a touchdown but had two interceptions. It is clear that without Andrew Luck the offense just isn’t the same even with Wide Receiver TY Hilton and Frank Gore at Running Back.
On Sept.3, the Colts traded Wide Receiver Phillip Dorsett to the New England Patriots in exchange for quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Brissett started two games for the Patriots last year and won one of them. In the win he was 11 of 19 throwing and most importantly got the Patriots a 27-0 win against the Houston Texans. Brissett won’t be starting Week 1 as he will need time to learn the system and develop chemistry with the other players, but if Tolzien struggles in the first game it is safe to say the Colts will start looking else where for someone to replace Luck in his absence.
The Colts first weeks won’t be a complete disaster though, they get to play the Los Angeles Rams who were 4-12 last season. Week two Tolzien will have a tough matchup against the Arizona Cardinals who will bring back Tyrann Mathieu will be returning from his shoulder tear last year along with Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson returning as their best corner. Their easiest matchup will likely be against the Cleveland Browns as they had a record of 1-15 in last years season. I think they will end up beating the Browns as they are probably the only team in the NFL that has a worse roster then them. My guess is that Luck is only out three weeks and returns to play the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4.
The division is still up for grabs as the three other have many questions about them. The Texans and Titans are the favorites in the division but Houston still has some questions at the Quarterback position and the Titans are still a young team and their defense still has questions about it. The Jaguars have taken steps to improve their defense and shore up their running game, but as long as Blake Bortles is the Quarterback the team is not likely to take the next step. Bortles has thrown 34 interceptions in the last two seasons and was even replaced by Chad Henne as the starter for the third preseason game
The Colts schedule was ranked the easiest schedule in the league by NFL Nation as the winning percentage of their opponents is under .500. Despite that I can not see this team making the playoffs this year. The defense is trying to rebuild and will not be enough even when Luck returns. This is likely the year Colts owner Jim Irsay is forced to fire head coach Chuck Pagano. Ballard will stay because he will only have had one year as General Manager under his belt. The Colts will finish with a record of 8-8.