The definition of Limbo: “An uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition”, is the best word to describe the state the Colts find themselves in right now. The team has most likely made all the big moves they will this offseason and will presumably use the draft and bring in undrafted free agents to fill out the roster. Until that time, the team will stand incomplete but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The moves that happened should help improve the team greatly and the holes left to fill should give Grigson and his staff the time to properly enact the plan they have in place.
The current state of the wide receiving corps this year looks much stronger than last year. Going into last season there wasn’t much concern other than depth issues. The biggest concern was that either Wayne or Hilton would go down and the team would have DHB step up. Well, those fears came true and the DHB part didn’t work out. The result from Wayne’s injury did however produce young receivers: Rogers, Brazill, and Whalen stepped up and provided Luck with some much needed young but inexperienced talent. Flash forward to now, DHB is gone, Hakeem Nicks is signed on for a one year deal, add in Hilton, a recovering Wayne, and the trio of young receivers; the Colts now have viable options. In fact, if the Colts draft a receiver which is very likely due to a deep receiver class, the problem becomes too many receivers, not enough roster spots. That’s a good problem to have.
The backfield should also be a strength for the team although all three backs come in with some questions. Bradshaw and Ballard coming back from injuries and Richardson coming off a disappointing season after the trade with Browns. Bradshaw was off to a good start until he was injured in an impressive season high 95 yards against one of the NFL’s better defenses. Ballard was also running well until injuring his knee. All three, if healthy, should be effective in the “Power Running” game. Richardson has a lot to prove, both to the team and himself.
Returning players from injuries such as Dwayne Allen and Donald Thomas besides the two returning running backs mentioned before should also be a tremendous boost. Allen coming into his second year was the team’s best Tight End and was on his way to becoming one of the special ones in the game before injury cut short his season. The one good thing coming out of his injury is the role it forced on fellow Tight End Coby Fleener. His first season didn’t live up to his potential due to his second round pick, but Fleener seemed to thrive last season becoming the target for Luck that many thought he would be coming out of Stanford.
Thomas was brought in to help out the struggling line last offseason coming over from rival New England. Although his role in New England was primarily a back up, his time starting in Indy showed to be very positive at guard before going down with injuries. A fully healed Thomas will provide the offensive line with stabilty at guard and along with addition by subtraction (Satele & McGlynn) the line should be much improved. Besides Thomas’ return, the other guard spot should be filled by either Hugh Thorton or Xavier Nixon or Lance Luis. Thorton was thrust into play in his rookie year due to the Thomas injury. He struggled at times but also played decent considering he was not playing his natural spot. This year he will have the inside track for the left guard spot. Add in Khaled Holmes, the likely starting center, and the line will be drastically overhauled.
The re-signings of veterans retained this offseason also will help the team in both play on the field and experience in the locker room. McAfee proved his worth with one of his best seasons, and Vinatieri also had one of his best statistical seasons proving that age means nothing. Vontae Davis cashed in big and some wondered if he was worth it. Davis’ play often resulted in brilliance yet also yielded erratic play from time to time. He could shut down the other team’s best receiver yet could also succumb to some of the elite receivers in the game. I listed Davis as a positive signing because of his age and skill, he just needs to do it on a more consistent basis. Also, to be fair, Davis was playing with back up cornerbacks most of the season due to Toler’s nagging injury.
It’s hard to criticize a team whose overall record the last two years is an identical 11-5 record, with a home playoff win last season yet there are some concerns. Andrew Luck has shown an ability to mask many flaws the team has such as protection from his line and his will to bring his team back way too often by almost sheer will of his own. The defense last year flashed some great games, but far too often the defense couldn’t stop the run or at other times stop the passing game, or sometimes both. Robert Mathis’ impressive 19.5 sacks and 59 tackles was clearly the leader, yet he will need more help by others getting to the other teams’ QBs better than last year if this team wants move up to the next level. Pagano clearly knows that defense must play more consistently than last year. They are running his scheme and if things don’t improve after this season, he most likely will have to make some changes to his staff, which he probably wouldn’t be pleased with.
The draft last year was viewed to be very poor at this point (it’s hard to grade drafts after only one season) but the quick analysis looks as though many of the selections were reaches instead of “Best Available” that was his (Grigson) mantra in 2012. This year’s draft is limited to five selections with first coming in the second round at number 59 overall. The pressure is on take make every pick count, especially since there are needs at center and safety, as well as interest in wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, and corner.
There aren’t too many things uglier than this year’s offseason for the owner and spirit of the team, Jim Irsay. Right now, Irsay is seeking the help that he so badly needs, so the legal process is on hold for the time being. While his absence is not expected to impact the daily operations of the team, once the legal process starts, expect to hear lots of details that will probably not look favorable on the owner. Irsay has done much good in the city, but if things turn sour will he be forced out quicker than he wanted to leave by the league. His daughters are, and will continue to, run the show once he steps aside as he has indicated prior. His impact can’t also be dismissed on the team, he has always seemed to make the right decision at the right time.
Trent Richardson has immense pressure not only from outside the team but from himself. In recent interviews he indicated that he didn’t play the way he is capable and wants to show the naysayers that he was worth the first round pick the team gave up for him to Cleveland. The number 26 pick will have a good player available there which could have been used for many areas of need on the team. All Trent really needs to do is run the ball and block out all the other crap, just hit the holes and don’t look back.
Center was so important going into the 2014 season for the Colts knew that they had to get better, so they cut their much maligned center; Samson Satele this offseason. Grigson then indicated that Khaled Holmes and free agent signing Phil Costa would be in a position battle with one of them emerging. Costa suddenly retired leaving Holmes as the defacto starter at this point. The draft may or may not involve drafting one, or maybe the sign a veteran free agent, or they just decide to go with Holmes and ride out the storm and hope for the best. One thing is for sure, they must figure it out quickly or waste another year of Luck’s time and lower cost contract. Grigson indicated another possibility of moving presumed guard, Donald Thomas to center and have a competition for the starting spot.
The time is drawing closer to some of the questions being answered, while others will have to wait until the start of the season. Play will be the biggest factor, yet intangibles and outright luck are often as important. Soon the draft will be over, followed by OTA’s, mini and training camp, then the preseason, ultimately leading to the regular season. Limbo will not exist anymore, and we will be forced to deal with the present. It just can’t get here fast enough…