Colts 2023 Training Camp
Another season in the books for the Colts – another losing season. Unlike in seasons past however, the Colts technically did improve. They improved their win total by one, which may not seem like a lot and that’s because.. it’s not. The Colts continued their woeful performance on the offensive end, but there was a marked improvement in the most import person on the team, Teddy Bridgewater.
The Colts finally moved on from their encumbent coach citing a lack of improvement, but new coach Matt Schaub is inheriting a pretty talented roster. An anemic offense was once again the recipe for disaster for the Colts. Bridgewater seemed to finally turn the corner, but the running and passing game both struggled as the WRs just didn’t seem to be able to get separation which made teams load the box.
Defensively, the Colts have been incredibly strong given their lack of offensive assistance. The defense returns all of their starters save for CB Trae Waynes whom was dealt right before the GZL draft. However, they added to a strong veteran core with draft picks and free agent acquisitions. The Colts continued in their 4-3 defense with good results. The feeling around Indianapolis is with this defense and Teddy improving, that their D should be enough to at the minimum, keep them in most games.
Coach Sutton was removed, finally. The optimism is high going into the season under a new regime as the Front Office and fans alike feel the roster is fairly talented, noting an elite defense, strong OL, and a new stable of WRs.
What are the overall expectations though? We will answer that question at the end of the article. The franchise has to quite frankly, win games and get to the playoffs soon. They went into last season on a positive note and wanted to see that continued success and progression. Fortunately, they did improve the record by one win and were close in many other games, but the time for morale boosting wins is over.
The Indianapolis Colts, again, came into the off-season with a ton of salary cap space available. Much like in years past, they didn’t target multiple free agents, but on signing one stud free agent to fill a big need. They did just that and also was able to add some veteran depth to their roster, as well. The moves were sort of under the radar, with the biggest FA signing coming after the draft, but the Front Office is incredibly optimistic.
In years past, the Colts were known to be very aggressive in Free Agency and made some high profile offers. Offers that brought them incumbent starters like Zach Ertz and like Luke Joeckel, but didn’t necessarily translate into wins like the team had hoped. The high priced SS Mark Barron is off the roster as is the high priced Offensive Tackle Luke Joeckel which allowed the Colts to be fairly aggressive. The offensive line, which was a problem, seemingly progressed last season and they addressed the OT position with their first round draft choice.
The first priority in Free Agency was to bring in some immediate starting caliber players and instant impact players, while not over spending. The Colts new they had an opportunity to upgrade Strong Safety so they went aggressively. They pursued and ultimately landed stud Strong Safety Bernie Freeman. Freeman is very tall for a safety, very fast, and has a proven track record of success. He should start immediately and be a contributor from day one.
There weren’t any major, major needs on the Colts’ roster for the first time in forever. However, the Colts wanted to be more explosive in the passing game. So, they went out after some Wide Receivers via trade and Free Agency. These moves ultimately landed them to coveted guys in Veteran Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. Williams is another tall, fast playmaker that will make Bridgewater’s life a bit easier. The biggest addition was the signing of Wide Receiver Anthony Perez. Perez has the physical tools to be one of the best WRs in the GZL and they are going to lean on him heavily to improve this passing game.
Those were the biggest names this off-season that garnered a lot of attention amongst local media and national media, but those were not the only three players the Colts brought in that excite the coaching staff and front office personnel. The Colts also added the services of Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh in free agency. The Colts are intrigued by his physical attributes and size and he’ll immediately create competition and depth. The Colts were also able to acquire, via trade one of the most prolific and talented HBs in the GZL in Jeremy Hill. Hill has been amongst the most productive HBs in the GZL for quite a time now and should be a big time improvement.
The Colts also, under the radar, signed stud defensive tackle Dontari Poe to a one year contract. Poe is one of the most physically imposing and dominating Defensive Tackles the GZL has ever seen and they’re thrilled to bring him on board. Now, the Colts have a three headed monster at Defensive Tackle and hope that’ll boost their overall defense and depth.
This draft was an easier one then in years past. The draft board pretty much indicated where they were going to go. Rumors heading into the draft had the Colts infatuated with Halfback Joe Mixon. The reality of the situation is the front office personnel, mainly GM Jason Arnold did indeed love Mixon, but was very content with OT Garrett Bolles and had him ranked as one of the best 4-5 players in the draft.
1.06 – DE Garrett Bolles, Utah
2.04 – CB Teez Tabor, Florida
2.23 – DT/De Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
3.2 – OLB Tyus Bowser, Houston
3.6 – DE DeMarcus Walker, Florida State
4.6 – FS Terrance Jackson, Boston College
5.6 – FB Hector Castelo, Kansas
6.6 – OT Owen Klein, Air Force
6.28 – TE Jackson Buchanan, Texas A&M
Conclusion: GM Jason Arnold is incredibly pleased and excited with this draft as a whole. The Colts view Garrett Bolles as a sure fire, immediate starter and big time contributor at the Right Tackle position. He has everything you look for, toughness, athleticism, technique. The Colts, having a pretty strong secondary then nabbed CB Teez Tabor. The Colts understand that Tabor has all the talent in the world, but is raw in technique. They’ll be able to play Tabor at either the nickel or dime position and because of their depth in the secondary will be able to bring him along slowly. Make no mistake, they view Tabor as a long-term, big time cornerback. Tyus Bower has been the pleasant surprise of the Colts. He has the athleticism and I.Q. to play immediately and came out of the draft with a 83 overall ranking. He’ll be used primarily in the base 4-3, but has a chance to be something special, early in his career. Eddie Vanderdoes is another player the Colts view as a day one starter. With a hole at RE he has been moved to that position and will compete with second year DE Mark Cook for the nod. He’ll be the favorite and Cook will have some catching up to do. The rest of the picks were thought of as more of depth players. DeMarcus Walker has a chance to be a good player for this team, but they will also be bringing him along very slowly and he provides depth.
The offense has been working with the group of wide receivers and tight ends. That has been their primary focus, to get them in sync with the tenured, franchise Quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. Hours and Hours have been spent in film study and practicing together to get this right. The Colts are trying to find unique and creative ways to exploit the speed that this WR corps has. The biggest issue the Colts had on offense last season was their inability to exploit their speed at wide receiver and convert big plays. On top of that, they struggled mightily in the red zone. There are many, many new faces at the Wide Receiver and Tight End position so, getting these players to connect with Teddy Bridgewater has taken many hours of reps and reps.
On the offensive line, the main focus has been in pass protection and keeping Bridgewater up-right. The Indianapolis Colts feel they have a strong overall corps of offensive linemen, but many are adjusting to new positions and some are starting for the first time. Left Tackle Thomas Donahue, after a solid season is being moved to the starting RG position. Eaton Petrovic whom was a second round pick and starting LG last season, is moving to the Left Tackle position and will start there. Second year Offensive Guard Dan Feeney was essentially given a redshirt year last year and is now taking over that starting position. And, obviously, rookie Garret Bolles is taking over the Right Tackle position. The talent is obvious, the athleticism is there, now it’s about cohesion and getting that continuity going.
The Colts defense is primarily in tact and has traditionally been the strongest part of the Colts teams in recent memory. The biggest focus right now for the defense seems to be getting acclimated to the few new faces. Star SS Bernie Freeman joined in the off-season and will be making the “calls” for the secondary. So, getting that trust and learning the playbook has been a focus for him especially. Working in one on one drills for Junior Malloy has been a big focus as he’s moving from the nickel to his more natural outside position, given his 6’2 frame. New faces in Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Coty Sensabaugh are veteran stalwarts with many starters under their belt. They will just need to learn the playbook.
The 11 on 11 drills have been fantastic to see what they do on defense. The team is blitzing less and less this season with their numerous additions to the pass rush so, communicating and making sure the right people are in the right spot, at the right time. With the secondary being as deep as it is, there have been quite a lot of battles going on in training camp. The focus is going to be technique and having that intelligence to know how to play your opponent. Learning where to be on zone coverage, trusting your safety help, playing inside for the slants or outside for the comebacks/vertical routes. Situational awareness has been such a big focus that more and more time is being spent in the film room and with coaches. There has been a bit more creativity when the Colts do blitz, they’re sending more guys from different locations and it’s been confusing the offense.
Forcing and creating turnovers has been a big focus. The entire defense, including the defensive line has worked with the jugs machine on catching the ball. The defense is going to be the focus if this Colts team will have a successful season. Any successful defense in the GZL needs to accomplish three things – all of which the Colts think they can achieve. Create turnovers, lessen the amount of points teams score(obviously), and have a consistent pass rush. With the success of the pass rush, the aforementioned creating turnovers becomes increasingly easier. So, with that said, the defensive line has been working one on one in overdrive on techniques to get to the Quarterback. The defensive line is going to focus more on hitting the gaps and attacking the Quarterback as opposed to holding the line of scrimmage against the run.
All in all, the defense has won the majority of the snaps versus the offense in 11 on 11. No one expected anything different as the Colts have four new starters on the offensive line, two new starting WRs, a new starting Tight End, and a new starting Halfback. You would expect the defense to be two steps ahead and they’re right there, which is promising. The biggest standout so far has been Fernando George. He’s taking over the nickel linebacker duties and they’ll be using his speed and instincts to stop the pass and so far, the product has been incredible. Look for him to have a huge season in his new role.
This is tough to gauge, always. The Colts are coming off a season in which they improved. However, they were only able to improve by one win and that number was a measly five wins. The talent level has been increased significantly from the big time acquisitions in the off-season. The draft was a success as the Colts had a plethora of draft picks and they were successfully able to acquire starting caliber, big time contributors as well as solid depth acquisitions. With the way injuries accumulate in the GZL, having those low cost, solid contributing players is a luxury not many teams can possess.
GM Jason Arnold was asked directly what his aspirations and expectations for this years’ Indianapolis Colts was. His response was, “The playoffs. I’m tired of moral victories, I’m tired of top 10 draft choices, I’m tired of answering the same damn question every off-season. We have the talent. A top defense almost routinely every season. A talented offensive line. Teddy has come a long way. We’ve acquired one of the best Halfbacks in the GZL and two new solid wide receivers. There’s absolutely no excuse to not make the playoffs. My job as a GM is to acquire talent that fits our scheme and the coaches want. I did that – It’s on the players and coaches to complete the process.”
That response doesn't entirely answer the question at hand. The general consensus amongst Colts fans is that if Teddy takes another small step and the team stays relatively healthy overall, that the playoffs are not that farfetched. Unlike in years past, this is not a far-fetched fairy tale or something that shouldn’t be expected. This is definitely not only the thought, but also the expectation for the Colts this season.
It all comes down to Quarterback play and health of the Quarterback. The rest of the AFC South has consistent and stable play and development at the Quarterback position. The offense has the talent, the defense is elite, and the Colts were finally able to land Teddy Bridgewater a tandem of Wide Receivers that should help him take this offense to a new level.
Now, to stop beating around the bush and talking about the improvement, it’s time to put a number on the season expectations. While they may seem high, a 10-6 sort of record is probably the standard for the playoffs in the AFC. So, I would say somewhere around there because this should be a playoff caliber team.
(by J_Arnold on 11/02/2017)
Replies - 0 :: Views - 14
Indianapolis Colts TC 2022
Another season in the books for the Colts another losing season. More of the same is an expression you could definitely use to reference the Colts the last few seasons and pretty much Arnold’s tenure with the franchise. The Colts were finally able to have a Wide Receiver separate himself in Bruce Nakamura and Teddy Bridgewater progressed but, it wasn’t enough. The Colts got a bit warm in the middle of the season only to fizzle down the stretch.
Much like seasons past, the Colts held onto their coach Sutton citing slow, but consistent improvement. An anemic offense was once again the recipe for disaster for the Colts. Bridgewater seemed to finally turn the corner, but the offensive line didn’t really come together like expected.
Defensively, the Colts have been incredibly strong given their lack of offensive assistance. The defense returns all of their starters save for OLB Eli Harold. However, they added to a strong veteran core with draft picks and free agent acquisitions. The Colts continued in their 4-3 defense with good results. The feeling with this franchise if Teddy Bridgewater continues his improved play, with this defense, they will hopefully be able to finally win some games.
The real conundrum is how many games do the Colts need to win to save the jobs of not only coach Sutton, but GM Jason Arnold. This tradition of losing has to be a big problem and worrisome for the fans of this franchise.
We will answer that question at the end of the article. The franchise has to quite frankly, win games and get to the playoffs soon. They went into last season on a positive note and wanted to see that continued success and progression. Unfortunately, last season they regressed by a win and that has to be frightening to everyone involved in Indianapolis.
The Indianapolis Colts, again, came into the off-season with a ton of salary cap space available. Much like in years past, they didn’t target multiple free agents, but on signing one stud free agent to fill a big need. They did just that and also was able to add some veteran depth to their roster, as well. The moves were seemingly fantastic and highly praised by the national and local media.
In years past, the Colts were known to be very aggressive in Free Agency and made some high profile offers. Offers that brought them incumbent starters like Zach Ertz and like Luke Joeckel, but didn’t necessarily translate into wins like the team had hoped. While some would say they were aggressive in Free Agency because of the massive contracts they extended to two free agents, they also lost two of their own starters in CB Harrison and OLB Eli Harold, so the team felt that they needed to ensure the services of their primary targets. The defensive and offensive lines were the biggest priority for the Colts. The offensive line couldn’t block last season and the Colts haven’t had a consistent pass rush in .. seemingly forever.
The first priority in Free Agency was to bring in some immediate starting caliber players on the offensive line and the defensive line. The primary, big name target was defensive tackle Ron Green. Green is a former top 10 pick and one of the best all-around defensive tackles in the entire GZL. They made him a gigantic offer that made it virtually impossible for the Carolina Panthers to match the offer. Adding him should make it easier for the Colts defensive ends to get to the quarterback by collapsing the pocket. This will pay dividends for the entire defensive line and most importantly, their pass rush.
Outside of the big time need on the defensive line was obviously their even bigger need on the offensive line. Their biggest target was offensive tackle Thomas Donahue. They missed out on acquiring Donahue during the pre-draft free agency period so, they made up for this mistake by making another large offer in the post-draft free agency period. Ultimately, the Colts were able to secure the services of this highly touted offensive tackle. He will come into the season as the immediate starter at left tackle and will hopefully provide some much needed protection for Teddy Bridgewater and hopefully help to create some running room for Carlos Hyde.
Those were the two big names this off-season that garnered a lot of attention amongst local media and national media, but those were not the only two players the Colts brought in that excite the coaching staff and front office personnel. The Colts also added the services of Cornerback Craig Thomas in free agency. The Colts are intrigued by his physical attributes and size and he’ll immediately create competition and depth. The Colts also traded a second round pick for Cornerback Junior Malloy from the New Orleans Saints. Malloy is 6’2 with excellent speed, another corner with size and speed that intrigues the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts also brought back cornerback Sanders Commings to play another year with the organization.
The Colts signed a veteran linebacker for depth in Bryan Keith. Bryan Keith is a successful veteran. He’s 6’4, 250+ lbs and still has enough speed left to contribute to a winning team. He should, quite frankly, be on par with production wise and athletically with the linebacker he’s replacing, Eli Harold. The final addition worth mentioning is the addition of Strong Safety Jon Walter. Walter is 6’1 with good speed and has five years of experience under his belt so he knows the ins and outs of the GZL.
This draft was an easier one then in years past. The draft board pretty much indicated where they were going to go. Rumors heading into the draft had the Colts infatuated with Offensive Tackle Cam Robinson. The reality of the situation is the front office personnel, mainly GM Jason Arnold were smitten with both of the defensive ends in the draft, Ja’Bar Powers and defensive end Myles Garrett. Both were on the board at their selection, making the decision quite easy for the organization.
1.04 – DE Ja’Bar Powers, Florida State
2.04 – LT Eaton Petrovic, Arizona
3.04 – OG Dan Feeney, Indiana
5.04 – LB Mark McWorter
6.04 – QB Peter Barker, Ohio State
Conclusion: GM Jason Arnold is incredibly pleased and excited with this draft as a whole. The Colts view the drafting of Ja’Bar Powers as a slam dunk, no-doubt about it, stud player and perennial Pro Bowler. The Indianapolis Colts view Eaton Petrovic as a long term starting offensive line, immediately at that. Petrovic is going to be a plug and play starter at Left Guard and the long term plan is to move Petrovic to Left Tackle and when they decide to move on from the aging, veteran RT Luke Joeckel he’ll move to the more important RT position. Dan Feeney is viewed as a long term, starting caliber left guard. He has the athleticism to kick out to tackle, but they love him at offensive guard. He could be an immediate starter, but because of an embarrassment of riches along the offensive line, he’ll be able to sit and be groomed. The rest of their draft class isn’t much outside of a long list of unproven’s, project and developmental players, and depth. The only issue with the Colts’ draft class is the simple fact that the Indianapolis Colts didn’t have a lot of draft picks overall, to use. The class was a much smaller one then normal and they feel the top of their draft class is as deep, loaded, and stockpiled with starters as the Indianapolis Colts have ever had, at least in GM Jason Arnold’s tenure. The excitement around Indianapolis is quite high right now and there’s a lot of reason for optimism.
The offense has been working with the group of wide receivers and tight ends. That has been their primary focus, to get them in sync with the tenured, franchise Quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. Hours and Hours have been spent in film study and practicing together to get this right. The Colts are trying to find unique and creative ways to exploit the speed that this WR corps has. The biggest issue the Colts had on offense last season was their inability to exploit their speed at wide receiver and convert big plays. On top of that, they struggled mightily in the red zone. Zach Ertz is no longer on the team as a cap casualty, so the necessity to be creative is going to be even more important this year than in years past.
On the offensive line, the main focus has been in pass protection and keeping Bridgewater up-right. The Indianapolis Colts feel they are in a very strong position with the talent on their roster to keep the Quarterback healthy and creating running room. The focus is clean up a few technique issues in pass blocking. A strong focus we’ve seen from practice has been on blitz recognition and picking up the interior blitzers. The Indianapolis Colts will be replacing their Center with a young guy they drafted highly last season in Percival Akens. They are going to be leaning on him heavily to point out blitzers which is incredibly valuable on a team and very tough on a young Center.
The Colts defense is primarily in tact and has traditionally been the strongest part of the Colts teams in recent memory. It quite frankly has been quite productive given the ample amount of trouble they have on offense. Given the open, air raid type of offenses that seem to be en vogue and the ample amount of new faces in the secondary(4 to be exact). Communication and technique is going to be of the ever most importance for this team.
The 11 on 11 drills have been fantastic to see what they do on defense. The team is blitzing less and less this season with their numerous additions to the pass rush so, communicating and making sure the right people are in the right spot, at the right time. With the secondary being as deep as it is, there has been a big emphasis on improving the linebackers in coverage and sealing the edge to contain the run. The Colts have worked with their Safeties and Linebackers on jumping the snap count and staying disciplined on blitzing the right gap and filling the right gap on running plays.
Forcing and creating turnovers has been a big focus. The entire defense, including the defensive line has worked with the jugs machine on catching the ball. The defense will need to create some opportunities for a very young and raw offense. They have spent extra time focusing on stripping the ball, holding the ball carrier up and the defense swarming to the ball. Charles Woodson, their defensive coordinator, is one of the best of all time in creating turnovers and the defense is really trying to put that into action this season.
The Colts feel the defense overall should be very strong, but another big area of focus was the Linebackers in coverage drills. We are speaking primarily in zone coverage. The Colts are going to be blitzing significantly less this season because of the improved pass rush so, there is going to be a great importance on improving zone coverage and having players in the right spot, at the right time. Also, keeping the safeties disciplined and not biting on double moves lessening the amount of big plays they are allowing. If this team is going to win, the defense is going to have create turnovers, eliminate big plays, and give the ball back to their offenses.
This is tough to gauge, always. The Colts are coming off of four straight disappointing seasons and really having no tradition of winning and there hasn’t been much room for optimism lately, but this year feels differently.
The Indianapolis Colts are coming off of another losing season. In fact, the best record on the Colts’ resume is a sub .500 season way back in 2016 with a lousy 7-9 record. That mediocre season was followed up three consecutive 3-13 seasons. Losing and losing quite often is the forte of the Colts. Finally, the team has an established defense, a phenomenal offensive line, and a Quarterback that is finally starting to come into his own. That alone gives the local fans and fans everywhere a tremendous sigh of relief, having a Quarterback isn’t something people are used to in Indianapolis.
Long time General Manager Jason Arnold was asked what to expect for the upcoming GZL season.”I always hate to give out expectations because there are so many incredible variables to consider when the season plays out. Obviously, the most important and traumatic variable to consider is injuries. One serious injury, especially at the Quarterback position can derail not just an entire season, but momentum for an entire franchise – especially if the injury carries over to future seasons. I love the talent in our franchise, the raw talent of Teddy Bridgewater, and the continued emergence and upgrading of our defense. With all of this said, we like how we stack up with most teams and our division specifically. It’s the most important thing in this business to take care of the AFC South and your division first. I expect our team to continue to improve and I want us in the playoffs, but nothing is ever guaranteed in this business.”
That response doesn't entirely answer the question at hand. The general consensus amongst Colts fans is that if Teddy takes another small step and the team stays relatively healthy overall, that the playoffs are not that farfetched. Seems quite wishful thinking to some, considering the long, long track record of losing and how poorly they played last season, but – that’s the feeling from talking to those around the franchise and the city itself.
It all comes down to Quarterback play and health of the Quarterback. The rest of the AFC South has consistent and stable play and development at the Quarterback position. The Colts have a third year Quarterback whom still doesn’t have game changing, game breaking wide receiver. But, the biggest difference in Bridgewater will be in the vast improvement and depth along the offensive line an offensive line that’s amazingly athletic and should be amongst the best in the AFC. Despite having a healthy Teddy Bridgewater last season, the Colts had a disappointing season, but the team as a whole feels significantly more athletic and the team has a different vibe to it.
To put a more frank number on this question. I sincerely hope, expect, and strive for nothing less than a 9-7 season. Obviously, everything changes if there’s a serious injury to the Quarterback or at other major, contributing positions.
(by J_Arnold on 02/25/2017)
Replies - 1 :: Views - 17
Colts Wrap Up First 3 Rounds
|The Colts finished the main part of their GZL draft today. They feel ecstatic about the players they were able to obtain.
1.04 - Ja'Bar Powers, DE ... 6'5, 277lbs ... 86 SPD, 79 STR, 80 AGI, 87 ACC ...
Summary: Nothing needs to be said. He should be a stud from day one.
2.04 - Eaton Petrovich, OT ... 6'5, 333 lbs ... 65 SPD, 90 STR, 65 AGI, 80 ACC ...
Summary: The Colts were shocked and thrilled to see Petrovich still there in round two. In their minds, he was a no-brainer round 1 Offensive Tackle. He has the athleticism to overtake Luke Joeckel's job one day at the RT position. His immediate position will be at LG because the Colt's signed OT Thomas Donahue to man the LT position this season.
3.04 - Dan Feeney, OG ... 6'4, 310 lbs ... 62 SPD, 88 STR, 64 AGI, 77 ACC ...
Summary: Another guy there shocked and stoked to see available at this point in the draft. Barring a very poor skew, he should be a long, long time starter in the GZL. Barring a bad skew, he'll compete with Mason Wiessman to be the starting RG. Wiessman, whom had a very good year last year, doesn't possess the raw athleticism Feeney does, if Feeney's skews well, he should definitely get the starting gig.
Rate my draft below!
(by J_Arnold on 02/04/2017)
Replies - 1 :: Views - 26
Colts 2021 TC
Another season in the books for the Colts – another losing season. “More of the same” is an expression you could definitely use to reference the Colts the last few seasons. The Colts added a stud running back in Carlos Hyde that proved to be a great player, but without consistent Wide Receiver or Quarterback play, it wasn’t enough. This season was a bit in reverse. The Colts started off incredibly slow and finished fairly strong, by their standards going 4-4 in their last eight games.
Much like seasons past, the Colts held onto their coach Sutton citing slow, but consistent improvement . An anemic offense lacking playmakers and an inability to score made the job almost impossible on the defense to win them games. Luckily enough, the offense did improve as the season went on with noticeable improvement from the offensive line and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Defensively, the Colts have been incredibly strong given their lack of offensive assistance. The defense returns most of it's starters except for long term star Cornerback in Travis Murphy. However, they added a strong veteran and drafted one. The Colts continued their transition into a 4-3 defense and saw the dramatic effects in the play of Baylor and outside backer George. The feeling inside the clubhouse of the Indianapolis Colts is with continued improvement from their stud linebacking corps as well as a solid core in the secondary and defensive line, the defense will keep them in games.
The ultimate question is the same question we’ve asked several years in a row, how many games do the Colts need to win to save Sutton’s job? Is it even possible, at this point, to save his job?
We will answer that question at the end of the article. However, the Colts' showed that while improvement has been made and the team is very young, there’s still a lot to be done. There’s growing confidence that the speedy wide receivers, ever improving offensive line, and development of Teddy Bridgewater will win them more games and in the future, possible playoff aspirations. Will it come to fruition? Time will tell, but the confidence is there and that’s a start.
Many pundits and media personalities were sure with an excess of $40M in cap space that the Colts would go for a spending spree in the free agent market, given their numerous holes to fill. Well, that was a far cry from reality, this off-season. The Colts filled holes on their team with solid, veteran free agents and let guys like Travis Murphy walk, who was vastly overpaid.
In years past, the Colts were known to be very aggressive in Free Agency and made some high profile offers. Offers that brought them incumbent starters like Zach Ertz and like Luke Joeckel, but didn’t necessarily translate into wins like the team had hoped. They took a vastly different and more strategic approach this off-season. They signed veteran Left Tackle Branden Albert, whom has only allowed five sacks in the last two seasons combined. As well, they brought in effective veteran cornerback Sanders Commings. At 6’2, with decent speed, they expect him to start the season and slow the transition of William Jackson into a starter next season. The last two signings could pay the biggest dividends in Center Fusco and Wide Receiver Leonard Hankerson. Both are high contributing veteran players that expect to play big roles and start for this team. They came at a good bargain on one-year deals, as well.
The first priority in Free Agency was to bring in some play makers, period. The Colts feel strongly that Leonard Hankerson has another strong season in him. He’s been around the league for many years, but he does have four one thousand yard seasons under his belt as well as 1,100 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last season. He has shown time and time again to doubters that he still has some tread on his tires. He’ll get a chance to showcase that in Indy this season.
Outside of the big time need at Wide Receiver, or playmaker, the biggest needs were holes on the offensive line. The Colts drafted some players along the line, but needed immediate, big time contributors. Well, they added Branden Albert whom has quietly been amongst the best tackles in the league. He’s in his twilight years and may have lost some of his mobility, but he’s still highly regarded around the GZL. Last season was a strong season, in fact, he’s coming off of three straight very strong seasons. He has allowed a lousy seven sacks in three seasons combined, which is very good, if we’re not being clear. The other noticeable addition was Center Brandon Fusco. Fusco is an elite level Center who still has plenty of years left on his tires. He has allowed an amazing fourteen sacks in nine seasons in the GZL. Some doubters out there point to the stacked teams in Tampa he has played on, but the Colts feel he’s a top tier Center. He will be pushed by a rookie Center for the starting position, we will talk about that later.
Those were the two big names this off-season that garnered a lot of attention amongst local media and along the offensive line. There were more additions that didn’t get quite the noise, but could have a dramatic effect on the season. I’m speaking specifically about the addition of Cornerback Sanders Commings. People will point to the fact that the Colts lost all-world Cornerback Travis Murphy and replaced him with an aging Commings. Well, it goes well beyond that. The Indianapolis Colts and GM Jason Arnold feel they replaced Murphy with an aging, yet effective Cornerback that not only is half the price(actually even less than that), but allowed them the flexibility and ability to draft and sign William Jackson as well as other contributors like the aforementioned Fusco and Albert.
Sanders Commings was previously a starter at corner back for the Baltimore Ravens and will play the number two Cornerback position here with the Colts. He's a veteran with a lot of experience and still enough speed to keep up with most wide receivers he’ll face and at 6’2 with amazing ball skills and awareness, should be a contributor immediately. He is expected to only be on a one year lease for the team, but that’s all they need him for while they groom William Jackson to be the third Corner back in a young trio of Corners the Colts love(Jackson, Waynes, and Harrison). The Colts are more than happy to fly under the radar in this Free Agency period. It’s easy to look at your cap space and fling around money, but it’s more important to stick to your strategy in the long haul, which is to rely on rookies developing and signing stop-gaps for depth.
This was a hard draft for GM Jason Arnold as he had many holes and many players he liked. He dropped from 1.03 down to 1.07 and still found many players he liked on the board at his pick. He tried and tried to trade back again, but with nothing trade-wise that made sense for the team, stayed at 1.07 and made his selection.
Round 1 – CB William Jackson
Round 2 – FS Keanu Neal
Round 2 – C Percival Akens
Round 2 – DE Mark Cook
Round 3 – WR Davian Manus
Round 4 – SS Malcolm Richards
Round 7 – LB Gabe Nguyen
Conclusion: GM Jason Arnold is incredibly pleased and excited with this draft as a whole. He feels he came out of the draft with five projected starters or big time contributors in the immediate and the future, that’s saying a lot. William Jackson was a controversial selection because the fact they let Travis Murphy go, whom was in the prime of his career. When you factor in the financials, it’s not a half bad pick. The other fact some believe is that the Colts project to be in contention for the Super Bowl, at least in their minds, in the next two or three seasons and at that point, Murphy will begin to regress and his cap cost will hamper the team big time. The Colts want to set themselves up for a run of seasons, not a one time push and collapse. Free Safety Keanu Neal projects as the immediate starter and one can understand why. The kids has everything you want from a safety. He can tackle, he has speed, he can cover, he has great ball skills, and he can catch it. If he’s not a big time contributor and Pro Bowl Safety, many around the Colts would be absolutely shocked.
Center Percival Akens is a guy the Colts are shocked was still around, quite frankly. With the athleticism to play anywhere on the offensive line and big enough frame(300lbs), they plan to keep him at Center but, have not ruled out a potential move to Offensive Tackle if the need becomes glaring. He’s that good all-around and while he may wait a season because of Fusco, he’ll eventually be starting somewhere. Defensive End Mark Cook is built in the same mold of Defensive End Dominique Easley, big, athletic, and mean. The type of Defensive End GM Jason Arnold loves. He can play either Right End of Left End. While he may not have the speed and athleticism to be a 10+ sack a year guy, he has enough athleticism, size, and strength, to push the pocket and force errant throws. Easley was very effective at doing that last season. Davian Manus was a third round pick that came out to be a 81 overall rating. He’s small, 5-10, and not particularly strong. But, what he does bring to the table is explosiveness. He’s very fast and has shown exceptional hands at the combine. He’ll play a role in the slot.
The offense has been working with the group of wide receivers and tight ends. That has been their primary focus, to get them in sync with the new Quarterback. Hours and Hours have been spent in film study and practicing together to get this right. The Colts are trying to find unique and creative ways to get this group of Wide Receivers using their top notch speed for positive impact. It’s one thing to have speed, but it’s another to be able to use it.
On the offensive line, the main focus has been in pass protection and keeping Bridgewater up-right. They feel they’re at a good place with run blocking and it showed last season. This year, they’re working strongly on keeping leverage low, and not getting beat on the edges. A strong focus we’ve seen from practice has been on blitz recognition and picking up the interior blitzers. The addition of Fusco will be felt by the entire line because of his experience and intelligence. It also helps to have a 240 lb running back out there knocking blitzing Line Backers and Safeties on their butts.
The Colts defense has always been very good. With three new faces in the secondary, the Colts have worked extensively on pre-snap communication. The team is making a priority for the newcomers to know when to audible out of a zone/into a zone and who they are supposed to be covering. Safety Josh Evans has went above and beyond by taking no offense to Neal taking his job and has helped him adapt to the speed on the GZL. Another strong focal point is this defensive line getting low, staying low, and using their superior size and strength to collapse the pocket and get their hands up for tips. They are not the fastest Defensive Line in the GZL, but they’re definitely one of the largest and if they can collapse thepocket, that will help mend the wound of having no elite edge rusher.
The 11 on 11 drills have been fantastic to see what they do on defense. Zone blitzing and interior gap blitzing have been a big adjustment for this team. With the secondary being as deep as it is, they feel they can blitz more consistently than in years past. The biggest thing is knowing when to blitz and blitzing effectively. So, the Colts have worked with their Safeties and Linebackers on jumping the snap count and staying disciplined on blitzing the right gap and filling the right gap on running plays. Off-setting the lack of elite pass rusher is a big time priority, it’s pretty evident.
While the defense has been good over the past few years, despite any sort of offensive help, forcing and creating turnovers has been a big focus. The entire defense, including the defensive line has worked with the jugs machine on catching the ball. The defense will need to create some opportunities for a very young and raw offense. They have spent extra time focusing on stripping the ball, holding the ball carrier up and the defense swarming to the ball. There’s a technique to it and they are fortunate enough to get to learn from one of the best ever at forcing turnovers, Charles Woodson.
The Colts feel the defense overall should be very strong, but they’re never ones to settle, that is for sure. Another big area of focus was the Linebackers in coverage drills. We’re speaking primarily in zone coverage. The Indianapolis Colts feel they were beaten too frequently on the dink and dunk passes underneath to tight ends and slot wide receivers. It’s not an athleticism problem as the Colts have some of the biggest, most athletic linebackers there are. It was a discipline problem and not knowing their roles. Too many times they wanted to make the big play, instead of the right play. An excess amount of time has been spent in film study and going over the playbook so they know their roles. If they can clamp down on that, it’ll force teams to have to throw against one of the deepest secondaries in the GZL.
This is tough to gauge. The Colts are coming off of three straight porous seasons and really having no tradition of winning, ever. However, many have mentioned around the league that the talent in Indy is really starting to become evident and the teams’ approach seems more intelligent, with a plan going forward. Not matching Travis Murphy is just one example of that. Another thing that gives fans and analyst’s confidence is the fact the Colts lost a lot of close, close games. They were only truly blown out twice in the regular season and had many, many close calls where that 4 win mark could have easily been 7 or 8. With improved QB play and an overall talent increase, there is some optimism, however misplaced it may be to some.
Long time General Manager Jason Arnold was asked what to expect from this years’ version of the Indianapolis Colts and he said, “I always hate to give out expectations because if we fall short, or someone gets injured and we don’t meet those expectations, I get hung out to dry. We have a set direction every season and off-season and we’re getting there. You can see the talent level increasing yearly and it is showing up on the score sheet, we had a lot of close losses. When I took over this team, we were lousy as could be and didn’t even have a first round draft pick. I’ve had to essentially build this team from scrap and I’m proud to say I like what we have now. Now, for a not-so-political stance on this topic, I still contest with our defense, we should be in contention for the division. We split with the Jags, lost one game to them by two points. Split with the Titans. And split with the Texans. I want to win the division and the rest can take care of itself.”
That response doesn't entirely answer the question at hand. The general consensus amongst Colts fans that I have talked to is they want and expect an improvement over five wins, probably around 7 wins is the most common answer I’ve heard. But, will that satisfy a fan base that has won a total of 11 games in three seasons? I don’t know, but I think it would please many. There is clear evidence, finally, that the Colts are moving strongly in the right direction and that’s all one can really ask for given the scrap pile of a team that was here just five seasons ago.
It all comes down to Quarterback play. The rest of the AFC South has consistent and stable play and development at the Quarterback position. The Colts have a Sophomore QB whom is still going to have to learn on the fly. But, the biggest difference in Bridgewater will be in the vast improvement and depth along the offensive line. Despite having a rookie QB last year, the Colts held their own in the AFC South and with improvements all around, figure to keep that momentum going, or at least that’s the thought and hope. Projections for this team, however unfair it may be, hinge plainly on the shoulders of Teddy Bridgewater and his progression.
To answer the long, drawn out question because I have to, is I expect the Colts to win seven games. The ceiling for me would be nine wins and a playoff birth. Seems overly optimistic perhaps, but there’s definitely talent and speed, it just needs to all come together now.
(by J_Arnold on 07/22/2016)
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2020 Colts Training Camp
You know the old saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” That can be said about the Indianapolis Colts' season last year. The Colts changed up their linebacking core, settled on Pryor as their Quarterback of the future, and even added several new Running backs to their team. What happened was a little too familiar. Starting off 2-1 with a couple of close losses soon to follow and then a downward spiral. The team finally concluded the season with an all-too-familiar 3-13 record. Somehow, head coach Sutton saved his job.
The most likely explanation for Sutton keeping his job is the plethora of reasons the team came up short and their bright spots that leave some room for optimism. Firstly, an anemic offense lacking playmakers lost most of their solid players for long spans of the season. Running back Mario Fannin went down, Wide Receiver Kendall Wright went down, and all-world Tight End Zach Ertz went down. Without those players, the offense just spiraled downhill. The upside is the addition of Carlos Hyde, a new Quarterback who can throw from the pocket accurately, and an improved Wide Receiver corps.
Defensively, the Colts have been incredibly strong given their lack of offensive assistance. The defense returns all of it's starters except for the safety position which lost Ward and welcoming in two new faces to provide depth in Josh Evans and Carlos Brown. The Colts lost one good safety and added two more safeties along with the entrenched starter Robert Lester. The biggest change defensively this off-season is the move from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense. The Colts feel that with up-and-coming stars linebacker Brick Baylor, outside linebackers Eli Harold and Fernando George, as well as first round pick from two years ago, Trae Waynes that if this offense can provide anything, the defense could win games or at least keep them in games.
The ultimate question will come down to how many games can the Colts win, what's the magic number that should save Sutton's job, and what are reasonable expectations for a team that hasn't won in seemingly forever? That's up for debate ultimately.
We will answer that question at the end of the article. However, the Colts' season last year and the uneventful conclusion showed us that the Colts still have a long way to go, that there's too much talent on this team to be this bad, and that changes need to be made after this season if they are not above 3-13. It also showed that despite their record, there is a lot of players on this team to be really, really excited about – especially on the defensive side of the ball. You can easily look at five or six different players on that side of the ball and say to yourself, “that guy can make the Pro Bowl in a couple of years.” and that is a LOT to be excited about in Indy. Stay tuned to see how the year plays out.
Well, you had to figure the Colts would try to be “players” in the Free Agent market. The Indianapolis Colts disappointed some who assumed that, but weren't entirely left out of the fireworks.
In years past, the Colts were known to be very aggressive in Free Agency and made some high profile offers. Offers that brought them players like TJ Ward at the Free Safety position. Landed a franchise Offensive Tackle on a lucrative, max offer to Luke Joeckel. And, made Tight End Zach Ertz one of the highest paid Tight Ends the GZL has ever seen. Those moves haven't necessarily translated into wins, but none of those moves were really busts, either. The team was constantly hampered by atrocious, inconsistent, and down right embarrassing play from the Quarterback position. It was almost like Pryor was trying to sabotage the rest of the team with some of his decisions. A new era in Indy has begun though and brought some new faces and some new schemes.
The first priority in Free Agency was to bring in some play makers, period. They have some talent already on offense with Kendall Wright, Zach Ertz, and Carlos Hyde, but they needed more and went out to get it. The biggest addition was at Wide Receiver where they brought in Edmond Gates. Gates is one of the fastest players in the entire GZL and has spent most of his career as a top option. In Indy, he will be 1B along with Kendall Wright that will provide newcomer Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater with a heck of a speedy tandem. The idea behind bringing in Gates is simple. He'll allow other Wide Receivers to roam freely and hopefully open the middle of the field for Zach Ertz as well as open some more running lanes for Carlos Hyde. In the prior years, it was shut down Wright and play with eight in the box, making the running game very hard to get going.
Outside of the Gates, the obvious hole was at the Quarterback position. The Colts were rumored to have offered Matthew Stafford a two-year max contract offer which the Buffalo Bills eventually beat them out on. The Indianapolis Colts weren't frazzled as they always have a plan A and a plan B. Unfortunately for the organization, if the rumors were true, their plan A didn't pan out. All things considered, they saved themselves a lot of money and cap space for future years.
Those were the two big names this off-season that garnered a lot of attention and scuttlebutt. However, some other additions that could and will play dividends for the Colts were bringing in some veterans and darn good players in their defensive backfield. First was Carlos Brown. Brown is a very tall safety at 6'4 and while he's not a burner, he's fast enough with 87 speed and his overall ball skills and durability make him a welcomed addition to an already talented secondary. The second player they added was Cornerback Jose Bell. Bell was previously a starter at CB and will play the Dime position here with the Colts. He's a veteran with a lot of experience and still enough speed to keep up with most Corners. He probably only has a year or two left, but his experience and talent will work out very well with the Colts and chasing around slot Wide Receivers. The last addition was safety Josh Evans. Evans isn't quite the physical hitter or presence that Brown is, but he's much more athletic and shows the ability to force turnovers a bit more. They will both battle it out for the starting FS position, but the coaches in Indy like to have a lot of depth in the backfield and both will surely get a lot of playing time.
This was a weird draft for GM Jason Arnold. Due to personal circumstances the Colts were actually late on their draft pick and had to have it manually selected for them. Sitting at spot 1.08 and primed to grab a big time, immediate contributor you would find that hard to believe – but, it happened. The rumor on the street was the Colts were targeting Defensive End Joey Bosa for their transition back to a 4-3 defense, but that could never be confirmed by Colts officials. Either way, the Colts had what they consider to be a solid GZL draft and we will go into the details here:
Round 1 - QB Teddy Bridgewater
Round 2 – DT Adolphus Washington
Round 2 – OT Mason Weissmann
Round 3 – OT Parker Jones
Round 3 – WR Bruce Nakamura
Round 6 – WR Jake Hampton
Conclusion: Despite losing out on their first round draft pick, the Colts feel that they made out pretty well overall. Firstly, they were able to land a franchise Quarterback. Whether that is by design or not – they did it. The second round saw them fortify some areas that were needing be secured for the long term, defensive tackle and offensive tackle. Adolphus Washington is a plug and play guy that will start from day one and be a fantastic nose tackle. Mason Weissman was drafted for his good, not great athleticism and massive size. He pegs to be the left tackle this season after they surprisingly released incumbent starter Anthony Collins. Parker Jones is another massive offensive tackle. While not quite as big as Weissman he is more athletic and some think may be the better prospect long term. He'll get some work behind the scenes and be a rotational Offensive Tackle that plans to be the heir apparent at RT when Luke Joeckel either retires or his contract becomes too burdensome.
Outside of those picks, as we discussed – play makers was a big time need, especially at WR. Kendall Wright and Gates are both fantastic speedy Wrs, but neither is getting any younger. Bruce Nakamura is a good all around athlete that is pretty polished as a route runner and figures to be a career slot receiver. The team really likes sixth round pick Jake Hampton. Hampton is very raw and has suspect hands, but if he can correct that, he's going to top out as a 99 speed wide receiver that, at 5'10, will have plenty of height to at least make some plays. He figures to be a starter down the road. The Colts are still lacking that 6'3+ number one wide receiver, but they love the collection of speedsters they have assembled.
The offense has been working with the group of wide receivers and tight ends. That has been their primary focus, to get them in line with the new Quarterback. There has been extensive 7 on 7 drills, film study, and the players have taken it amongst themselves to work outside of the confines of the facility to get that chemistry down. In fact, Bridgewater reached out to each of his Wide Receivers and Tight Ends to get together to work on some timing. He has the work ethic to be a great one.
On the offensive line, the main focus has been in power blocking and pulling guards. The Colts want to really take some pressure off of their new Quarterback and the best way to do that is with an effective, power running attack. The Colts feel that Carlos Hyde has all of the tools to be an elite running back and will plan to feature him prominently while Bridgewater grows into a NFL QB. You will notice in the practices that offensive line spending a lot of time hitting the sleds and working on keeping a lower center of gravity and delivering punishing blocks. This team wants to toughen up in a big way and really get that running attack going.
The Colts defense has always been very good. With the transition to a new scheme, getting the audibles and play calls right has been a huge focus. Team captain, Brick Baylor has been spending a lot of time in the playbook and learning the ins and outs of the scheme. Another big thing this team has really had to adapt to and learn on the fly is how to line up properly. Defensive End Frank Cotton and defensive end Dominique Easley are switching sides on the defensive line as well. Getting both of them comfortable has been a big focus. The thinking here is that Easley can be a bit more of a pass rusher against the right tackles and that Frank Cotton, with his size and power, can seal off the edges on the other side against the run and keep the QB in the pocket effectively. The main way they have worked on this alignment and other issues that come with a new scheme is repetitions in 11 on 11 drills. Every practice you see them becoming more comfortable and we have said this a few times, they have the making of an elite defense.
While the defense has been good over the past few years, despite any sort of offensive help, forcing and creating turnovers has been a big focus. All of the defensive backs have spent extra time with the jugs machine working on their hands. Another way the Colts have tried to get their Defensive Backs comfortable with catching the ball and turning their head defending the deep patterns is by having them practice as both defensive backs and wide receivers. We have noticed in practice the Cbs and Safeties seem to be turning their heads, finding the ball, and more importantly looking comfortable while doing it. The hope is to create more interceptions while also limiting pass interference or illegal contact penalties.
Another area of focus that the defense lacked last season was pass rush. The Colts ran a 3-4 scheme and thus were forced to blitz a lot to create pressure. This season running a 4-3 scheme, the hope is to run less and less blitz packages and allow the defensive line to create pressure. This puts a lot of pressure on the front four to really come together quickly and interrupt a Quarterbacks rhythm. They have been able to establish this by working on their technique(swim moves, power moves, stunts, etc) and working overtime on the sleds as well. Keeping their bodies low and pushing the pocket is more important than elite edge rushing.
This is tough to gauge. The Colts are coming off of back to back 3-13 seasons, but many around the GZL feel there is more talent there. However, without Terrelle Pryor expectations have went up, unfortunately, all they are doing is adding a young, rookie QB to the mix and that often times can be a recipe for disaster. Another concern is the Colts relying on a rookie LT, and two rookie Wide Receivers to really shake up their passing game which can always be a challenge. The AFC South as a division has been at a crossroads for seemingly ever, which gives the fans a glimmer that perhaps they can challenge for the crown or at least exceed expectations. But, where do those begin? It's interesting to get GM Jason Arnold's response when asked that very question.
When the incumbent General Manager Jason Arnold was asked for his expectations he answered with this, “To win. To improve every game. Look, with a rookie Quarterback expectations are always tampered a little bit, but we have way too much talent on this team to only be winning three games in two straight seasons. But, as they say, you are what your record says you are. And, this year, I expect to be way above 3-13. I'm not going to put a number on that question because that's a media trap. What I will say is that we have an elite defense, the offense has more play makers on it than it has in recent years and as long as Teddy can play within his capabilities and not turn the ball over, we should surprise a few teams.”
That response doesn't entirely answer the question at hand. One can reasonably assume the Colts are targeting a bare minimum of six wins but, they could reasonably do way better then that if Teddy can be an improvement on a position that has held this team back for years, Quarterback. You would also have to look around the AFC South and see how the Colts have played them in the years past. Last season, the Colts went 2-0 against the Texans but, were swept by both the Titans and Jaguars. However, the Titans beat the Colts by a combined 6 points in their two losses and while not as competitive, the Jaguars' games were very close, as well. The thinking around the league is that the Titans have the most talent, but that the separation between the teams isn't that extreme. The biggest difference between all of the teams in the division and the Indianapolis Colts is the Quarterbacks other teams possess.
The Titans have Christopher Henderson whom has won a Superbowl and is considered to be one of the best in the business. The Jaguars have Tyler Bray and while his numbers have never matched his talent, he has all the arm talent in the world and has improved from his earlier playing days. And, while he hasn't really elevated the team to new heights, the Texans may have the best QB in the division in Kendall Irving. If the Colts are to compete for the division, Teddy will have to come along quickly and the team must allow the defense and Carlos Hyde to control the game.
For the sake of finishing this article, we'll set the official record prediction at 7-9. Not quite playoff worthy, but much better then previous years and with a new QB in town, a lot to be excited about.
(by J_Arnold on 01/07/2016)
Replies - 0 :: Views - 16
At A Glance