All the games have been played and a new champion has been crowned. For fans of the “Shoe” another season of promise was dashed with the cold reality of a beatdown in the AFC Championship game, ending Luck and companies’ season. Yet as much as that stung, many positives can be noted from the 2014-2015 campaign.
First and foremost, Andrew Luck is pretty good, alright-he’s down-right sensational. Since coming into the NFL in 2012, the kid has lived up to all the hype that was attached to his Stanford playing days. He finished with 4,761 yards, 40 TD’s, 16 INT’s, 61.7 completion percentage, with a 96.5 QB rating (stats from nfl.com). His numbers show growth each and every year. Look for a mega deal likely to set a new record for salary in the league before the start of the next season.
Along with Luck’s great play, don’t forget his favorite target,
Reggie Wayne T.Y. Hilton. Hilton similar to his quarterback has shown improvement each year he has played with Luck. Hilton matched his receptions from last year with 82, but put up 1,345 yards, 7 TD’s, with 16.5 yards per catch average for the season. Hilton really became the “Go To Guy” when a first down was needed, 62 for the season up from 46 last year-all while playing one less game. Also the pair became one of the league’s deadliest long play combinations.
On the defensive side of the ball, Vontae Davis proved why he was so sought after the previous offseason. There was much discussion about whether or not the team made the right decision to pay him, but Davis left little doubt in the minds of most of his critics this season. The biggest knocks against him were consistency and injuries, and Davis made those seem like non-issues with his Pro Bowl caliber play. He was able to shutdown the best players and make a tackle when called upon.
On the other side we had some negatives. The biggest without a question was Trent Richardson poor performance again. T-Rich finished the season with 159 attempts, 519 yards, 3.3 yards per carry, with 3 TD’s. Not to beat a dead horse, but the trade now looks like a complete disaster and even now the front office seems to have come to the same conclusion by favoring Dan Herron and Zurlon Tipton over him. The Colts owe him around another 3.5 million whether he plays or not with the team next season, ouch! Factor in Vick Ballard’s injury in preseason and Bradshaw’s injury in the regular season, the Colts running back situation once seemed to have too many players, now it seems there are not enough.
The offensive line continued to struggle for most of the season, shuffling players all over the place due to injuries, poor play, and reasons that were never really explained (the switch from AQ Shipley to Harrison, for example). Eleven different configurations throughout the season is never a good sign, yet towards the end of the season and into the playoffs the line began to play well, some might even say better. The team has to get it right this offseason so expect some changes here again.
Like the offensive line, the defense was all over the place this season. At some points they looked dominant, at other times pathetic. The run defense again proved to be their Achilles heal, as most teams were able to run at will against them. The pass rush struggled with the loss of Mathis for the season, Bjoern Werner didn’t live up to the preseason hype surrounding him. The bright spots were Vontae Davis (already mentioned), Mike Adams, D’Qwell Jackson, Jerrell Freeman, and rookie Jonathon Newsome and 6.5 sacks.
Eleven wins, five losses seems to be the Colts pattern after matching their record from the previous two seasons. Two wins in the playoffs (Denver and Cincinnati) and another lopsided loss to New England in the AFC Championship game. Things will only get tougher from this point on. Many rookie contracts will be coming due and how the front office priorizes them will factor in the long-term success for this team. Some will say the team is following a natural maturation process, others are waiving red flags after seeing the team’s flaws. There is probably truth in both mindsets. The 2014 season has concluded, and how you you see the Colts depends on your frame of mind. I see a team full of potential that needs to fix some of it’s flaws in order to make the next step. Questions remain, will Reggie return, can Mathis return to form, will the defense finally come together? All legitimate, and all will be answered in 2015.