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2012 Team Report: Indianapolis Colts

Quarterbacks

Starter: Andrew Luck [R]
Backup(s): Drew Stanton, Chandler Harnish [R], Trevor Vittatoe

Starting QB: Andrew Luck is expected to enter the season as Indianapolis' starting quarterback. He will helm an Indianapolis offense that was in the bottom third of the league in most every meaningful category last season. Much of the drop-off from the Peyton Manning years came from the disastrous quarterback play of Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins, and Dan Orlovsky. The trio combined for a 56.6% completion percentage and a paltry 14 touchdowns to go with 14 interceptions leading to too few scores and too many stalled drives. The road to improving starts with Andrew Luck, the highly ranked prospect from Stanford. While Luck will have to grow in to the role of team leader, his play as a rookie is likely to represent an improvement over the work of the trio of quarterbacks from last season. Lucks's strength in reading defenses and running an offense should lead to easy improvement in completion percentage which should help the offense as a whole. Pessimists point to Luck being a rookie and a number of changes in the Colts personnel, but his tight end from Stanford (Coby Fleener) will be joining him in Indianapolis and the always steady Reggie Wayne (along with Austin Collie) will be lining up at receiver. The personnel surrounding Luck should make his transition to the NFL smoother.

Backup QB: Drew Stanton is a journeyman quarterback that has thrown for a mere five touchdowns against nine interceptions in his four-year career. He has slow feet in the pocket and can best be described as woefully mediocre as an on-field performer. That said, Stanton joined the Detroit Lions when they were the league laughingstock and stayed with the team as they grew in to playoff contenders. His experience, both on the field and off, should be a great help as starter Andrew Luck tries to lead the Colts back to prominence. Chandler Harnish was the last pick of the 2012 draft. He's just as relevant to your fantasy team.

Running Backs

Starter: Donald Brown
Backup(s): Delone Carter, Deji Karim, Vick Ballard [R], Darren Evans
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: After two seasons of unremarkable play in a backup role, Donald Brown finally showed some of the skill that made him a first round pick. Once Joseph Addai suffered his annual injury, Brown split carries with Delone Carter until the latter showed an inability to avoid fumbling. Brown earned at least 10 carries in seven of the Colt's last nine games and finished the season with a 4.8 yards-per-carry average and five touchdowns. Brown's season averages were skewed by a 16-carry, 161-yard performance in Week 14, but those stats count too and can't be dismissed. Regardless, it appears that his career is on the way up after two initially disappointing seasons. Brown's improvement as a pass-blocker and receiver should earn him the bulk of the carries out of the backfield again this season. Even though the Colts will no doubt pass often, their offense should tend more towards the run than it ever did when Peyton Manning was under center, and it should certainly rush more often then 2011 when the team was 29th in rush attempts. Notably, Brown has not fumbled in two seasons which will be of great importance as Indianapolis tries to improve their offense in 2012.

Backup RBs: Delone Carter was given every opportunity to carry the load in Joseph Addai's absence in 2011. Carter's performance was acceptable when he was able to hold on to the ball. After his third lost fumble of the season in week 8, Carter was relegated to backing up Donald Brown for the rest of the season. Carter runs well between the tackles, and his skill-set as a power-runner complements Brown very well. If he can learn to protect the ball better, Carter could be a nice change-of-pace and goalline runner for the Colts when Brown needs a rest or when the team wants to establish a more powerful running presence. Vick Ballard is a tough, downhill runner capable of powering over would-be tacklers. With the lack of elite talent ahead of him, it wouldn't be a surprise if Ballard claims a nice role this season - possibly as a third-down back. Deji Karim was claimed off waivers from the Jaguars. As a rookie in 2010, Karim was thought to have nice play-making potential. His 2.1 yard-per-carry average last year was the last straw, and Jacksonville had seen enough.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie
Backups: Donnie Avery, Ty Hilton, LaVon Brazil, Quan Cosby, Jeremy Ross, Jarred Fayson

Starting WRs: After speculation most of the offseason about his leaving Indianapolis, longtime Colt Reggie Wayne resigned with the team and will offer a steady, veteran presence among the receivers. While Wayne isn't quite as fast as he was in years past, he is still an excellent route runner with fantastic hands. He can be counted on to lead the Colts offense and should make the transition to the pro game easier for Andrew Luck. The Colts are no doubt hoping that improved quarterback play can help Wayne bounce back from his disappointing 75-catch 2011 season. Austin Collie will start opposite Wayne. While his career has been wildly inconsistent from a performance standpoint, Collie is a good route-runner with good speed across the middle and good feet near the sideline. The Colts hope that Collie can emerge from being a 50-60 catch receiver to being a 70-80 catch receiver in an offense that will no doubt continue to be pass-heavy with Andrew Luck under center. Update 8/19/12 - Austin Collie suffered a shot to the head in week two of the preseason against the Steelers and was treated for concussion symptoms and missed the rest of the game. Collie has a history of concussions, which makes this injury more worrisome. He is a risk to draft at his current ADP at this point, because the next big hit to the head, could be career threatening. If you decide to roll the dice on Collie, it's not wise to do so until the 10th round or later in redraft leagues. Rookie wide receiver T.Y. Hilton figures to see more action, if Collie misses time.

Backup WRs: The addition of Donnie Avery to the Colts receiving corps gives Indianapolis a veteran receiver comfortable coming in for specific packages. Avery has good speed and hands and has shown a lot of development in recent seasons. That said, he is best suited as a complementary player although he has an opportunity to be productive if he is matched up with nickel corners or slower safeties. Ty Hilton and Quan Cosby figure to contribute on special teams and as situational receivers when the Colts choose to have four or even five wide receivers on the field.

Tight Ends

Starters: Coby Fleener [R]
Backups: Dwayne Allen [R], Andre Smith, Justin Snow

The Colts only posted 61 receptions from their tight ends in 2011, and much upheaval has occurred since then. Longtime Colts tight end Dallas Clark is gone to Tampa Bay, and Jacob Tamme left Indianapolis for Denver. These departures left a gaping hole at the position for the Colts, so the team took a pair of rookies - Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen - to replenish the position. With these two big bodies, Indianapolis hopes to use them in the mold of the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Coby Fleener was drafted in the second round to provide a familiar security blanket for new quarterback Andrew Luck. Fleener played with Luck at Stanford, and the two have a strong rapport as they head to the NFL. Fleener has underrated speed and good hands and will be expected to step in right away as a receiver between the hashes for the Colts. Dwayne Allen is a more complete tight end, but that's not always a positive in fantasy circles. Allen's ability to block well could keep him out of pass patterns if the offensive line struggles to protect Andrew Luck. If he's able to get down the field, Allen appears comfortable both running routes and when catching the ball. Assuming they make the final roster, Andre Smith and Justin Snow will only see meaningful action if one of the rookies misses time.

Place Kicker

Adam Vinatieri : Although the Colts didn't keep him very busy, kicker Adam Vinatieri was his usual productive self last year. He made 23 of 27 (85.2%) field goals and added 24 PATs. On a minor side note for 2012, he is scheduled to miss one extra point this year. Pat McAfee enters his third year as the Colts punter, holder, and kickoff specialist. They'll be joined by a new long snapper, free agent signing Matt Overton. The Colts have ranked in the bottom third of the league in kicker scoring opportunities in three of the past four years, including 28th last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: T.Y. Hilton [R], Joe Lefeged

The special teams of the 2011 Colts were was anemic as was the offense. So expect changes in 2012 with the drafting of wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to handle kick offs. Hilton, a third round draft pick out of Florida International, has excellent top end speed. Safety Joe Lefeged handled kickoff returns last year but only managed 18.6 yards per return.

Punt Returners: Quan Cosby, T.Y. Hilton [R], Joe Lefeged

The punt return team will also be different in 2012 as the Colts have added wide receiver Quan Cosby to handle punt returns. Cosby was a middle of the road returner last year, but his 10.0 yards per punt return was nearly triple that of the Colts other return men. A training camp battle for the punt returner position is quite possible between Cosby and Hilton.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Jeff Linkenbach, C Samson Satele, RG Mike McGylnn, RT Winston Justice
Key Backups: T Mike Person, G Joe Reitz, G Seth Olsen, C A.Q. Shipley, T George Foster (inj)

UPDATE: Guard Ben Ijalana was waived after another major injury, his fourth surgery in two seasons. Ijalana has talent but it's possible that his career is over. Jeff Linkenbach should do a decent job in his place, but as he was the swing tackle, this hurts the depth of the unit. George Foster becomes the next man up for swing tackle. With this downgrade, the Colts are ranked as the second worst line in pro football. PRESEASON OUTLOOK: Left tackle Anthony Castonzo battled through a tough ankle injury as a rookie and had offseason surgery to correct the problem. Expect Castonzo to return at full strength and be a better blind side protector for Andrew Luck than he was for Curtis Painter and others. Castonzo wasn't bad last year, but it was apparent he was not operating at full capacity. Left guard Joe Reitz is a tall, smart player but will be in competition with Seth Olsen and Mike McGlynn for a starting spot. Reitz was only a serviceable player when in the lineup, and the new coaching staff will give the backups, especially McGlynn, every chance to win that position in preseason. Center Samson Satele is a tough and gritty performer on the inside, but he is undersized and certainly has a tough task replacing Jeff Saturday. Former TCU center Jake Kirkpatrick and A.Q. Shipley will likely battle for a backup center job behind Satele. Right guard Ben Ijalana ended last year on injured reserve with an ACL tear, but he showed hopeful signs before the injury. Right tackle Winston Justice was acquired from the Eagles this offseason and will be asked to hold down the fort and start as the other positions sort themselves out. Justice was famously burned for six sacks in the same game against Osi Umenyiora in his 2007 debut, but he has transformed into a surprisingly good right tackle since that point. Swing tackle Jeff Linkenbach was overmatched in pass protection as a starter last year, but he has some talent as a run blocker and could be counted on to start in case of injury to either tackle. Overall this Colts line has been cobbled together hastily, and their cohesion leaves a lot to be desired. The line could improve with bounce back years from Castonzo and Ijalana, as well as an upgrade at the left guard spot.

Team Defense

The Colts scored three defensive TDs last year and still were among the worst fantasy defense/ST units. Their run defense ranked 29th and only the Bucs and Bills allowed more rushing TDs. Outside of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, the Colts entire defense had just 11 sacks. The Colts "season to forget" of 2011 has led to a major overhaul of coaches, personnel and players. They brought in defensive minded Head Coach, Chuck Pagano, formerly the DC of the Ravens. He will be instilling a base 3-4 defense moving Freeney and Mathis to OLB edge rushers and Antonio Johnson to NT. There will be some growing pains, but having their two main pass rushers is a step in the right direction going forward. ILB Pat Angerer is a tackling machine, who will anchor the middle of the Colts defense and be a key contributor for their run defense, which should be improved in their new 3-4 scheme. Indianapolis only drafted one defensive player in the draft, fifth round pick DT Josh Chapman from Alabama, who will be used at NT. This defensive unit should be improved from last year's team, but only consider the Colts Def/ST as a late round option as a bye week filler.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Cory Redding, DE/DT Antonio Johnson, DT Brandon McKinney
Backups: DT Josh Chapman [R], NT Fili Moala, DE Tyler Brayton, DT Drake Nevis; DE Eric Foster

Starting DL: Cory Redding is a top notch 3-4 DE that, while he's never had more than seven sacks in any of his nine NFL seasons, still knows how to rush the passer. You should expect about 30-12 tackles and four sacks this year, which makes him a serviceable roster player in IDP leagues. Antonio Johnson is not an ideal fit as a 3-4 DE, but might be their best option at this time, although Moala could be inserted there as well. Johnson would have little to no value as an IDP DE. The team signed Brandon McKinney seemingly to insert him immediately as the starting nose tackle, which is the building block of an effective 3-4 defense. McKinney isn't flashy or frankly overly talented, but he's a veteran player.

Backup DL: Rookie Josh Chapman should replace McKinney as DT within a year or two. Before he does, though, he needs to be 100%. He had surgery for a torn ACL in January. FIli Moala could fit in as a DE in the new defensive scheme, although he seems a favorite to be slotted as a DT. However, don't expect much from him in IDP scoring. Drake Nevis flashed some potential in his rookie year and could make an impact at either NT or DE. DE tyler Brayton is an experienced vet who is getting a little old in the tooth, but could end up as the opening day starter.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Dwight Freeney, OLB Robert Mathis, ILB Kavell Conner, ILB Pat Angerer
Backups: OLB Jerry Hughes; ILB Jerrell Freeman; ILB Moise Fokou; ILB Kevin Bentley; OLB Tim Fugger,

Starting LBs: It wasn't long ago that Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis made up the best DE unit in the league. In the Colts new 3-4 defense, though, they're going to be switching from DE to OLB. While much of that change is simply moving back a step off the line and going from having one hand on the ground to both in the air, it will be interesting to see how this transition works. In truth, Pagano has said he plans on using Freeney much the same way he used Terrell Suggs in Baltimore, which is to say a lot of hands on the ground play and allowing Freeney to use his burst to get to the opposing QB. The same can be said of Robert Mathis, as it's expected he'll also spend much of his time rushing the passer. As a playmaker deluxe, Mathis might be more suited for IDP impact, especially since he has a history of getting more tackles than Freeney. Freeney has little IDP value as a LB, but Mathis might surprise. At 31 years old, though, Mathis has seen his best years already, so be wary. On the inside, Pat Angerer will start at one of the spots, at least after he returns to health after a foot injury will cause him to miss the start of the regular season. After a very promising rookie year in 2010, Angerer responded with an even better sophomore campaign. Angerer seemed to be involved with every single tackle last year and finished with 78-70 tackles. The change to a 3-4 should not have an adverse affect on Angerer in 2011. While not an elite talent or IDP, he remains a late LB1 and excellent LB2 as long as he's on the field. Next to Angerer will be Kavell Conner. Conner, was went undrafted in 2009, was another guy on the Colts that seemed to be involved in every tackle. He finished with 50-54 tackles. Conner, though, is not the long term answer at the spot and might not be starting there long this season.

Backup LBs: ILB Jerrell Freeman will compete to start on opening day until Pat Angerer returns. Freeman played the last three seasons in the CFL. Freeman will compete with Moise Fokou for the temporary starting spot. Fokou is a four year veteran acquired via trade from Philadelphia and has started 22 games over the past three years. LB Jerry Hughes is another player that was drafted highly, but unlike Sims he has now shown anything yet. A first round draft pick just two years ago, Hughes finds himself in a pressing situation whereby he must prove himself soon. That's what happens when after two seasons and 24 games, you only have 21 total tackles and one sack. The best hope for Hughes at this point was that he was miscast as a DE because of his size and moving to linebacker will be a blessing.

Defensive Backs

Starters: FS Antoine Bethea, SS Tom Zbikowski, CB Jerraud Powers, CB Chris Rucker
Backups: S David Caldwell, S Joe Lefeged, CB DJ Johnson, CB Cassius Vaughn, CB Justin King, CB Brandon King

Starting DBs: Antoine Bethea is the leader of the defensive backfield and remains only 27 years old. He seems to have improved each year and statistically 2011 was his best. He had a career-best 80-59 tackles and two forced fumbles. While those are DB1-type numbers, he's more of a DB2, but he'll be as consistent as they come with his high number of tackles. Tom Zbikowski was an important acquisition for the Colts and while he's not a flashy player, he'll solidify the spot. He's not the future nor is he an entrenched starter, so don't expect too much from him as an IDP owner. Jerraud Powers will start at one of the corner spots. While a solid player, his number will not overwhelm you. Also, Powers has an unenviable injury history that has caused him to miss at least four games in each of his three seasons in the league. The other corner is a bit up in the air, no pun intended. Kevin Thomas, out of USC, could get the nod. Thomas showed a little flash around midseason but doesn't seem completely ready to step up.

Backup DBs: Chris Rucker will be vying for the starting spot with a host of others. Rucker was a rookie last year and had his moments, at least towards the end of the year. Cassius Vaughn started a few games for Denver and is also in the mix, along with many others. Safety David Caldwell is yet another Colts DB entering his second year. He provides depth and little else. The same can be said for safety Joe Lefeged, who also returns kicks.

Last modified: 2012-09-03 12:04:38

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