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2018 Team Report: Indianapolis Colts

Offensive Philosophy

The Colts will enter the 2018 season with a new coaching staff led by former career backup and offensive coordinator, Frank Reich. This is Reich's first position as a head coach but he served as Offensive Coordinator for the Chargers and most recently the Eagles. While Reich coordinated the offense during the Philadelphia Super Bowl run, it was Doug Pederson who was calling plays and constructing schemes. Mike McCoy had a similar role in his time with the Chargers. It's not fully known exactly the type of offense Reich will use, but perhaps this quote from his mid-February press conference after being named Head Coach will offer a hint. "We will be a multiple attack, up-tempo offense. We will be aggressive. We will change things up. What I mean by multiple is we'll use multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. Being able to run the same things over and over again and disguise it so other teams don't know what we're doing. We'll keep them off balance with run and pass. We'll change the tempo. There will be a strong element of the no-huddle offense." The expectation is that Reich will use some similar plays and schemes that the Eagles used with Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, but also some variations from his days in Buffalo, including the no-huddle offense that was effective during the Bills four-year Super Bowl run in the early 90's with Hall of Fame quarterback, Jim Kelly. Reich named former Los Angeles Chargers quarterback/wide receiver coach, Nick Siranni his Offensive Coordinator for the 2018 season. The two have a coaching history together dating back to their time with the Chargers. It may take some time for this new Colts offense to develop which could result in growing pains for the team as they learn how it is effectively run. The health of quarterback Andrew Luck also plays a factor, which ultimately will be a key reason for why the Colts offense thrives or struggles in 2018.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Andrew Luck
Backup(s): Jacoby Brissett, Brad Kaaya, Phillip Walker

Starting QB: The fate of the Colts 2018 offense rests on the surgically repaired throwing shoulder of Andrew Luck. The Colts offensive leader and signal caller missed all of last season after he suffered a rehab setback in the Summer of 2017 while preparing to return to action in the Fall. It has been one year later and there are still questions relating to his return and the overall effectiveness of his return. The enigmatic and often private Luck does not and has not shared much information on his recovery and rehab, however, he recently mentioned in an early April press conference that he asks his fans for patience, actually a lot of patience. He said his goal is to be 100% by the start of training camp. He started throwing a football in practice in mid-June and appears to be on track to reaching that goal. Even if he does return as expected, how effective will he be? When he's healthy, Luck is a Top 5 quarterback oozing with talent, ability and veteran instincts that have given him four Top 10 finishes in five seasons of starting in the NFL. His place among current fantasy quarterbacks is best left outside the Top 12 for now, but a return to training camp and visible effectiveness could result in a revisit to his ranking as the season approaches.

Backup QB: The Colts have the luxury of having a capable backup quarterback in the mix in Jacoby Brissett. Brissett was acquired in the late Summer of last year once the team learned that Luck's presence wasn't in the cards for the 2017 season. Brissett gained valuable experience in 2017 despite mustering only four wins. He started all 16 games and totaled 3,098 yards passing with 13 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions. He added 64 carries for 260 yards and 4 rushing scores. The Colts negotiated a trade with the New York Jets which gave them a total of four second-round picks which they used to bolster their offensive and defensive lines. If Andrew Luck isn't fully recovered or his return is less than stellar, Brissett will benefit from having an improved offensive line. An improvement in this area will make running the offense an easier task than the year prior that saw Brissett sacked a league-high 52 times. The Colts obviously would like to see Luck under center in 2018, but rest assured, Brissett has the experience and ability to occupy the quarterback role when called upon.

Running Backs

Starter: Marlon Mack
Backup(s): Robert Turbin, Nyheim Hines [R], Jordan Wilkins [R]
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: The departure of long-time veteran running back Frank Gore to Miami opens the door for a new back to emerge in the Colts offense. Marlon Mack looks to be the back who will receive the first crack at the role, however it was learned that Mack played the majority of his 2017 rookie season with a torn labrum in his shoulder. The surgery recovery will likely keep him shelved for the team's Spring and Summer organized activities and minicamps. The thought process is that Mack will be back for training camp. Gore led the team with 261 carries for 961 yards. In 14 games, Mack provided 93 carries for 358 yards. He added 21 receptions for 225 yards finishing with four total touchdowns. He was used as a complementary rushing option, reaching more than 10 carries in a game once. There are whispers that Mack could see an increased role in the 2018 season, which would raise him up the fantasy ranks as the primary rushing threat. His injury recovery and the success of other veteran backs and those new to the team could slow his development as a more involved player in 2018.

Backup RBs: The Colts 2018 rushing outlook is cloudy at this point. Frank Gore moved on to Miami and Marlon Mack is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The position as the Colts lead back is open for the taking. Mack will likely receive the first crack at the main role, but it's entirely possible that we will see a committee approach in Frank Reich's rookie season as the Colts Head Coach. Other backs who could emerge and see increased playing time include veteran short-yardage back Robert Turbin, speedster and fourth-round pick Nyheim Hines and between the tackles grinder and fifth-round pick Jordan Wilkins from Mississippi. It is also possible that Indianapolis could look for a free agent among those available, such as C.J. Anderson, DeMarco Murray or Orleans Darkwa. The league has evolved into a committee approach at running back for many teams. Each back on the roster has a niche role that is worked into a variety of different offensive schemes. In this approach, we could see fantasy value from Mack, Hines and potentially Turbin and the young Wilkins. As of pre-camp, Mack appears to be the main option for the Colts with available options playing a role as well.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: T.Y. Hilton, Chester Rogers
Backups: Ryan Grant, Deon Cain [R], Daurice Fountain [R], Krishawn Hogan, Steve Ishmael [R], Kolby Listenbee, Dres Anderson, Seantavius Jones, DeAndre Smelter

Starting WRs: The Colts receiving corps is led by veteran T.Y. Hilton and their stable of tight end talent in Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron. The two-headed tight end approach may mean the Colts will use a two-wide receiver set as their base offense. Hilton finished in the Top 25 for the sixth time in his career (all six seasons) and finished with 966 yards receiving in 2017 leaving him shy of five consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Hilton is by far the team's biggest receiving threat and he should once again occupy that role in Frank Reich's offense in 2018. The role opposite Hilton as the number two wide receiver in the Colts base offense is likely third-year pro from Grambling, Chester Rogers. Donte Moncrief left for Jacksonville via free agency leaving a void for the number two role. Rogers looks to be the next man up for the Colts based on target shares and experience with the team, however, with a new coaching staff and new offense to learn, anyone could emerge in this role. Rogers may have the upper hand, but he will need to prove his worth in training camp.

Backup WRs: The battle for the Colts number two wide receiver is one worth watching. Chester Rogers has the early lead from experience, but newly signed Ryan Grant, who the Colts handpicked in free agency, could emerge. Grant signed a one year deal that makes him a free agent again in 2019. He'll be looking to build on his success with Washington in hopes of landing a long-term deal. In addition to Grant, the Colts drafted Clemson wide receiver Deon Cain in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft. Clemson receivers have recently had success in the league, most notably DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant - all with over 125 career receptions. Cain is fast (4.43 at the combine) and has proven successful with 20 receiving touchdowns in only three years at Clemson, which is fourth most all-time for the school. One negative to Cain's game is his small hands (8 3/4 inches) which has led to some dropped passes in his career. Aside from that, Cain has a chance to develop into a specific role with the Colts. A perfect scenario for this season is him being named the number two receiver alongside T.Y. Hilton. The team also drafted Daurice Fountain out of Northern Iowa in the fifth round, and while he didn't receive a combine invite, he has the ball skills, athleticism, and production to overcome that oversight.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron
Backups: Erik Swoope

The tight end position has been a key piece to the Colts offense for several years resulting in multiple Top 15 fantasy finishes. The migration of the coaching staff to Frank Reich's crew should maintain this level of consistency at the position, but perhaps not from any one player. Incumbent tight end Jack Doyle, continued to perform well in 2017, catching 80 passes for 690 yards and 4 touchdowns. Last season a knee injury kept tight end number two, Erik Swoope off the field for the entire season. This led to the Colts using Doyle in a one tight end set as their base offense. The Colts added free agent tight end Eric Ebron to the roster in the offseason which offers a hint that the team will use a two-tight end base, similar to what Philadelphia used in 2017 and the Chargers used with Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates. Both Doyle and Ebron are good pass-catching tight ends and the presence of both could result in a cancellation of fantasy production. Either player is capable of making plays on any given week, and while it's possible that Doyle will remain the team's primary tight end threat, Ebron could steal some of that thunder. A high-level aggregate stance shows success at the position with 89 receptions, 956 yards and 8.8 touchdowns on average since 2013. However, the fantasy rankings during that time from the top Colts tight end finished 6, 13, 19, 7, and 14. The new coaching regime could prove differently, but it's difficult to find a Top 6 tight end on teams who share targets from the position. One will likely stand out more than the other, and all indications suggest it will be Doyle again, but even then a finish in the Top 6 isn't a foregone conclusion.

Place Kicker

Adam Vinatieri: Adam Vinatieri actually had his highest field attempt and make numbers in three years in 2017 despite the loss of Andrew Luck. The Colts were also one from the bottom in extra point attempts, which kept Vinatieri at 16th in the league in scoring. He can still bring it from distance, making 5 of 6 from 50+, but even a boost in extra point attempts would likely leave him outside of the top 10 kickers. He's not worth drafting, but is always a good bye/injury fill-in, if only for old time's sake.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Josh Ferguson, Marlon Mack

The Colts lack experience on kickoff returns after specialist Quan Bray left for the Bills. Josh Ferguson and Marlon Mack both saw action in 2017, though Mack's expanded role on offense might impact his opportunities on special teams.

Punt Returners: Chester Rogers

In each of the last two years, the Colts have had an on-and-off relationship with Chester Rogers at punt returner. With fellow hot-and-cold special teamer Quan Bray no longer with the team, in 2018 Rogers figures to be more "on" than "off".

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Quenton Nelson, C Ryan Kelly, RG Matt Slauson, RT Denzelle Good
Key Backups: Jack Mewhort, Joe Haeg, LeRaven Clark, Jeremy Vujunovich

The Colts' offensive line added a big piece in the NFL draft when they selected left guard Quenton Nelson at six overall in the first round. Expectations are high but the Notre Dame product should deliver. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo remains a good option, and center Ryan Kelly has upside when healthy. Right guard Matt Slauson arrived via free agency from the Los Angeles Chargers and will be a solid veteran presence. Right tackle Denzelle Good has the physical gifts but will have to hold off Jack Mewhort, who is recovered from injury. The Colts' offensive line starts the season as a low tier option but certainly they have the talent to change that ranking as the season progresses.

Team Defense

The Colts didn't get Josh McDaniels to be their head coach, but they still got their target at defensive coordinator, former Cowboys linebackers coach and passing game coordinator Matt Eberflus. They will likely switch to a 4-3 defense and could have trouble improving from their bottom five fantasy defense stats. They curiously released their best defensive tackle, Jonathan Hankins, and didn't use their ample cap room to add any impact players on defense. The team has no above average pass rushers outside of possibly Jabaal Sheard, who will move back to defensive end, but they did add top-end athletes Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay to the edge group in the second round of the draft. They also added Darius Leonard, who instantly becomes their most athletic linebacker, and best linebacker in coverage. The return of 2017 first-rounder Malik Hooker in their secondary should help a nondescript corner group that lost their best player, Rashaan Melvin, in free agency. With so many new faces and players transitioning to new positions, the Colts should remain among the least attractive fantasy defense options week in, week out.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Henry Anderson, DE John Simon, DE Jabaal Sheard, NT Al Woods, DT Hassan Ridgeway
Backups: DE Margus Hunt, DE Denico Autry, DE Tyquan Lewis [R], NT Grover Stewart, DT Caraun Reid

Starting DL: Indianapolis' system going from a 3-4 to a 4-3 is going to lead to big personnel turnover on the entire defensive unit. General Manager Chris Ballard has made creating interior pressure a priority, which is likely why Johnathan Hankins was released after playing only one year of his three-year deal with the team. Al Woods and Hassan Ridgeway are the guys that Ballard will count on to carry out that directive. Ballard recently said, "We think Ridgeway has that kind of ability [to get up field and penetrate gaps]. It will be interesting to see when they get in." For the third year running, Henry Anderson ended up injured. He has lost weight in order to be a better fit on this revamped unit. While interviewing about this change, Anderson said, "Having three months where I can really just focus on trying to get stronger, faster, get my body fat down and all that kind of stuff definitely feels good. About 15-20 pounds lighter than I was. We switched the scheme up a little bit so I have to be a little bit quicker and faster. I definitely just feel like I'm moving a lot better because obviously not carrying as much weight so you can kind of move around and be a little more agile." Both Jabaal Sheard and John Simon will move from rush linebacker to defensive end and presumably rotate. Sheard led the team with five and half sacks last year. Simon played as a defensive end at Ohio State in college, so this transition may not be as much of an adjustment for him.

Backup DL: Margus Hunt played very well last season, recording a career high 19 tackles, ten assists, and one sack. He will continue to rotate in, especially on clear running situations. In the second round, the Colts selected Tyquan Lewis. A versatile pass rusher, the Colts expect immediate rotational contributions from the young man. Denico Autry, formerly of the Raiders, has not had much success as a pass rusher in his career, but the Colts are hoping to tap into his potential. Ballard was effusive in his praise of Grover Stewart in a recent press conference, telling the media, "Grover Stewart, one of the reasons I was so attracted to him coming out was he had great get off. For a big man, Grover can really run." Former Detroit and Washington depth option Caraun Reid will serve the same role for this retooling defensive unit.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Anthony Walker, MLB Antonio Morrison, SLB Najee Goode
Backups: WLB Darius Leonard [R], MLB Zaire Franklin [R], SLB/DE Kemoko Turay [R]

Starting LBs: Antonio Morrison had a statistical breakout, registering 109 combined tackles. Anthony Walker was seeing heavy usage as a rookie last year before he was hurt. Yet both Morrison and Walker may not align with the new scheme Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus brought to Indianapolis because it calls for speed, range, and athleticism that neither possess. Najee Goode got four starts with the Eagles Super Bowl team, but most of his contributions were on special teams. The Colts signed him in part because of his familiarity with the system that Head Coach Frank Reich has put into place and there is a real possibility he could be pushed into starting duty because of the lack of depth in this unit.

Backup LBs: The tragic death of Edwin Jackson in a car accident left this already barren unit severely depleted. Fortunately, the Colts had lots of picks with which to work in this draft and took Darius Leonard and Kemoko Turay in the second round. Leonard profiles as a 4-3 outside linebacker who needs to develop his functional upper body strength to NFL standards, but has demonstrated the ability to shed blocks and get the ball carrier at the college level. It's conceivable that that Colts could use Leonard on the inside due to their lack of depth. Kemoko Turay was a favorite of the draft community through the offseason. He is a competent edge defender that also has the propensity to develop his pass rush skills with the right coaching. Seventh-round selection Zaire Franklin was a three-year captain in college and did well in spite of having to learn two different defensive schemes. The Colts will hope Franklin proves to be as much of a leader and as versatile in the pros as he was in college.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Quincy Wilson, CB Kenny Moore, SS Clayton Geathers, FS Malik Hooker
Backups: CB Nate Hairston, CB Chris Milton, FS T.J. Green, SS Matthias Farley

Starting DBs: Starters Vontae Davis and Rashawn Melvin were both jettisoned from the team, leaving big questions as to this unit's ability to be competitive this season. Both Quincy Wilson and Kenny Moore are relatively inexperienced, only in their second year. Wilson admitted to the media that he did not come prepared to play his rookie season, but will dedicate himself to being in better shape this year. Due to a neck injury, Clayton Geathers sat for most of the season before returning to play the last part of it. He will now be paired with 2017 first-round pick Malik Hooker, who played well as a rookie before being shut down due to an injury in week seven.

Backup DBs: Nate Hairston will man the slot corner duties for this team. He showed improvement through his rookie year, but will need to take even bigger steps forward if this unit is to improve from being the worst pass defense in the NFL, as they were last year. Chris Milton signed with the team as an undrafted free agent back in 2016, but has only one start since. Matthias Farley was a nice surprise for the Colts in a down year, filling in after both starting safeties were injured. The Colts could seek to involve Farley more if Clayton Geathers continues to struggle with complications of a neck injury. T.J. Green will remain solely as backup and special teams depth.

Last modified: 2018-06-12 15:04:19