What I would like to see in the 2014 version of the Indianapolis Colts is first and foremost hoisting a Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. Yes, that is the simplest answer that I can provide, but there are many other things I would like to see from this team. We witnessed “ChuckStrong” with the first season of what I refer as the “New Era Colts,” and last year we saw the team grow in many regards and in a lot of ways it was almost a second year as a rookie campaign with the number of players starting anew. Turnover in the coaching staff, Bruce Arians exits to Arizona, enter Pep Hamilton. Also factor Chuck Pagano really learning through the season last year how to be an elite coach. Will I call him elite right now, probably not, but he is on the course to being damn good! Did he have bumps and bruises along the way, of course. It’s really amazing how the team was able to match their win total from the previous season. Here are the little things that I’m awaiting to see.
1. Returning players from injury is at the top of my list.
The biggest name and probably the most discussed is none other than #87, Reggie Wayne. Reggie by all accounts is the heart and soul of this team, and when he went down with injury, the team went into a funk that lingered for many games. At one panicked point last year, I really began to wonder if they could win another game. Coach Pagano and his staff weathered out the storm and found some young players to step up. As well as some of the “young guns” played, they were no Reggie Wayne! Doubters can doubt, but I believe in #87 and expect to see him out there catching those ridiculous catches that only he can make. The offense definitely runs smoother with him in it!
Dwayne Allen, I know most of us are big fans of his game. In fact, last year we were expecting a big breakout year for him. Only one problem, he got injured and the team seemed to be devastated by the loss. Had he not gone down to injury, Grigson may have been less inclined to trade for Trent Richardson. Allen in his rookie season showed why he was the Mackey Award Winner, an all around tight end. The only bright side to injury was the net result that it had on Coby Fleener. Fleener, the team’s second round pick was supposed to be the comfort blanket for Luck, but Allen the third round pick of the same 2012 draft stood out. Fleener stepped up tremendously last year, if he and Allen can stay healthy, there should be plenty of room in the offense for both.
Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw both running backs were lost for the season last year to injuries, and both were getting their share of the load pounding the rock. Vick had a tremendous rookie season, showing both power and vision, while Bradshaw in his limited sample size in Indianapolis showed that he could be the back to exert his will against the opponent. With the loss of Donald Brown to the Chargers, and Trent Richardson likely starting back for the Colts this year, look for both to press each other and even Trent for carries in the game. With the injuries they had, expect them to work in committee and that will be a positive for all. Trent may get the starting title but expect the others to get plenty of touches in the game. If T-Rich starts out slow or doesn’t improve from last year, look for one to get the start.
Donald Thomas was a move that Grigson made to solidify the horrid line that tried to protect Luck in his rookie season. Irsay strongly made it known that Luck was hit too many times and that the team needed to protect him, so in the free agent signing period, Grigson plucked him from New England to shore up the guard position. It seemed to be working until injury forced him out. Question that is now being asked, will he be starting at guard or does someone like the 2014 second round pick Jack Mewhort, or others like: Xavier Nixon and Hugh Thornton win the spot. Guard and more namely the offensive line should be vastly improved from last season. Thomas, if healthy, should have the inside edge; but if issues persist expect one of the names mentioned to win the spot.
Greg Toler was brought in to help Vontae Davis at cornerback last season by Grigson to replace Jerraud Powers, whom management felt was to injury prone in his tenure in Indianapolis. Problem was, so was Toler coming over from Arizona Ironically, Arizona signed Powers to replace Toler and he played well and stayed relatively healthy. However, in Indy, Toler was injured a big portion of the season, and when he was in he didn’t exactly light the NFL on fire. This season he has to play, and when on the field must prove to the coaching staff he can still be a benefit and worth the contract he signed last year. The Colts don’t have much in terms of depth at cornerback. If Toler is injured look to Darius Butler or Josh Gordy to fill in. Toler has to play for this platoon to be successful, Toler can play well when healthy.
Be sure to check out Part 2: The 2014 Additions of my 3 part series!