Every year you hear about it. A rookie player who had a great season is set to have a “sophomore slump”. Is it because these players who find the “slump” get ahead of themselves and try to do too much? Or is it that their ego gets in the way? I’m not sure. Last season, the Colts had their fair share of rookies or 1st year players on the field. Many of them had very successful seasons, but which one may be in the track to the setback? Is it Andrew Luck? Let’s break it down, shall we?
Obviously the spotlight is going to be on Andrew Luck this year in Indy. After a very successful rookie campaign, Colts fans will be looking to him to match last season’s numbers or at least come close to them. Maybe a few less interceptions would be nice? The Colts front office did their part to make it happen for Luck. They brought in his old college offensive coordinator and put him in a system that he is very familiar with. They got another big, speedy target for him to throw to and he still has Reggie. They also brought in another bruising running back to help carry the offensive load. All in all, unless there is some catastrophic breakdown with this offense I can’t see Luck not eclipsing the 4500 yard mark this year with about 25 touchdowns. Conclusion: Better year
As we move forward we will stay in the backfield. Last year, Vick Ballard took this city by storm. With his acrobatic, game winning move in the Tennessee game to his bruising runs all season, he became a fan favorite. Ballard slowly became a weapon for the Colts and finally unseated Donald Brown as the starting running back. He became a workhorse for the offense and to ask a rookie to do so much with a ton of rookies around him is a lot and Ballard answered the call. This year, the Colts added Ahmad Bradshaw to the backfield. This was a huge move for the Colts offense but not so much for Ballard. He ran for just over 800 yards last year and this year, with Bradshaw back there with him, won’t get much more than that. I do see his touchdown totals going up. He only had 2 rushing touchdowns last year. Between Ballard and Bradshaw, we should see the total of rushing touchdowns go up. Conclusion: Same year
T.Y. Hilton was another huge surprise last year. He became a huge playmaker for such a young offense and also on special teams. He showed everyone that size doesn’t matter when you have talent. At only 5’10” and 185 lbs. he played much bigger than that. Hilton became almost the sure thing last year when the ball was in his general area. On special teams, he returned the first punt in over five years for a touchdown and made countless other plays to put his team in the best position possible. This year shouldn’t be any different; other than the fact that he will see most of his time in the slot. With the signing of DHB, Hilton will be able to work in the slot and make the nickel back or a safety cover him which most can’t do. With him being in the slot more that will open the tight ends up a lot more which is great for the kind of offense the Colts plan to run. Hilton should at least match last year’s receiving totals and then some. I don’t think he will hit the 1000 yard mark but wouldn’t surprise me if he did. Conclusion: Better year
The new offense will feature the tight ends more than ever. With the injuries to Coby Fleener last year, Dwayne Allen was able to have a “breakout” year. He was a rock for Andrew Luck most of the season and took the place that most of us thought would have been Fleener’s. Even when Fleener returned to the lineup, Allen saw more balls than him. Allen is the total package. He can make the tough catches and fight for yards after the catch and he is a very good blocker. Unfortunately for him, not only is Luck getting his old offensive coordinator back but so is Fleener. With a system that Fleener already is comfortable with and featured him a lot in college, Allen may be fighting an uphill battle for catches. Allen is a player that should be seeing balls his way and if Fleener doesn’t produce then that’s what will happen. Allen had over 500 yards last year and 3 touchdowns. I don’t think he will match those numbers this year. It is possible, but with Fleener and Luck having a year together and a system they both thrived in before I don’t see him doing it. Conclusion: SLUMP
As to not forget about him, Coby Fleener has a ton to prove this year. Fleener, whose injuries kept him from getting going last year, will have the safety blanket of having an offense that he is very comfortable with and his old friend throwing him the ball. Now, we saw last year that the connection between Luck and Coby didn’t matter at times and Fleener seemed too timid to catch the ball. As I said before, this offense is going to allow both tight ends to be successful with a ton of speed at the wide receiver positions. It will force linebackers to cover Fleener and Allen. Fleener is to quick for a linebacker to cover him so he will have his chances to make the plays we all hope he can provide. As they say, there is no other way to go but up. That rings true for Fleener this year. Conclusion: Better year
Last but no least on my list belongs to Jerrell Freeman. He may have signed with the Titans in 2008 but never saw the field during the regular season. That tells me that last year was his “first” year of playing time. This was the biggest surprise to each and every Colts fans last year. Freeman took us by storm. No one had heard of him and if they said they did, they lied. Freeman came in and took one of the ILB positions in the new 3-4 hybrid defense and never even gave a signal of letting it go. In his first start of his NFL career Freeman picked off Jay Cutler and took it to the house. What better way to start your career than to get your first career interception and touchdown in the same play? He tallied 145 tackles last year and ended being 5th in the entire league. I would say that is an exceptional year, wouldn’t you? This year I see more of the same. He may not finish 5th in the league but I would be willing to bet he will finish in the top 10. Conclusion: Better year
All in all it looks like these 2nd year players should improve. The Colts front office didn’t let down their guard this year and did their best to make this team better on both sides of the ball. That should allow these guys to succeed even more than last year.