2014 NFL Preview: Indianapolis Colts

2014 NFL Preview: Indianapolis Colts

The 2013 Colts were “supposed” to take a step back. Instead, they went 11-5 for the second straight year and captured the first AFC South crown of the Andrew Luck era. Overcoming a season-ending injury to star receiver Reggie Wayne and a botched trade for running back Trent Richardson were just two of the obstacles the upstart Colts managed to leap. Entering 2014, they will face even more challenges if they are to repeat as division champs. Richardson is still listed atop the depth chart, and reigning sack-leader Robert Mathis will sit out the first four games of the season for violating the league drug policy. Of course the bad news is offset by having Luck under center. Here’s a preview of the 2014 Colts.

Outlook: All three of the other AFC South teams are dealing with quarterback issues, so Indy is and should be the prohibitive favorite to take the division again. Counting on a 35-year-old Wayne coming off ACL surgery is risky, but T.Y. Hilton proved he can be a serviceable number one option down the stretch and in the playoffs. The offensive line is still a work in progress, although second-year center Khaled Holmes should be an upgrade. Mathis will be tough to replace in the opening month, but veteran D’Qwell Jackson is a tackling machine with solid leadership skills.

New arrivals: The aforementioned Jackson fills a need at ILB; while not an All-Pro talent, he is a savvy veteran who rarely makes mental mistakes. Hakeem Nicks is injury-prone and scored only 3 touchdowns in 2012 and 2013. But he does give Luck another capable target besides Wayne and Hilton. Second-round pick Jack Mewhort is a physical guard/tackle who could be starting before season’s end. Rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief is raw, but he brings excellent size and strength (6’3″, 225 lbs) to the position.

Wave goodbye: Donald Brown never lived up to his first-round draft billing, but he was a valuable reserve who salvaged the Colts’ rush attack after Richardson flopped. Now that he’s a Charger, the backup duties fall to Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard. Antoine Bethea started every game at Safety since 2008, but he’s now a 49er. Guard Mike McGlynn was allowed to sign with the Redskins to make room for Donald Thomas, who missed almost all of 2013 with a quad injury. Pat Angerer couldn’t shake the injury bug in his four seasons, so he was released. Bethea’s departure may hurt the most, especially if journeyman Mike Adams can’t hold down his spot.

Over/Under wins – 9.5: Beginning the season against the Broncos and Eagles sans Robert Mathis won’t be easy. Matchups with New England and the AFC North don’t make the schedule any easier. If Richardson is merely average and Dwayne Allen and Nicks stay healthy, the offense will be dynamic. The defense still has concerns in the secondary, so shootouts might become a regular occurrence. In a weak division, Luck’s talent alone should propel the Colts in 10 wins.

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