The ups and downs of the Colts’ season

Written by: Alex Cotterman and Elisha Deluhery

Listen, we knew not to expect too much from this Colts team. With Andrew Luck sidelined since the beginning of the season, a weak defense, and still no changes to the offensive line the season was already looking bleak. While general manager Chris Ballard was able to inject some notable defensive keys into the system during free agency, a soft secondary, and lackluster linebacker play plagued the entire defense. And the offense wasn’t much better. Even though the offense, seemingly, has more upside than the defense they still finished 31st in the league in total yards. The defense finished 30th. Although they’re hard to find, there were some positives to the season. To conjecture the good with the bad, we’ve highlighted some of the ups and downs of the 2017 season.
Up: Pieces in place
This Colts roster is bad. There is no way to sugarcoat it. There is no talent at some positions and at positions with talent there is nothing resembling depth. That being said, there are still some young, solid players to build around. On offense, Pro-Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has been a mainstay, having a down, but still solid, year in which he racked in 57 catches for 966 yards and four touchdowns. Hometown hero Jack Doyle had a career year in which he recorded 80 catches for 690 yards and four touchdowns. On the offensive line, left tackle Anthony Costanzo had a quiet, but solid campaign. Injuries ruined the seasons of Andrew Luck, Ryan Kelly, Jack Mewhort and Erik Swoope. Defensively, the Colts have notably less than the offense, however young defensive backs Rashaan Melvin, Quincy Wilson, Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers all have talent. Those four combined to miss 19 games this season. Linebacker Jabaal Sheard and defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins are the two best players in the front seven.
Down: Offensive line play
You might be able to still make the argument that former GM Ryan Grigson has completely decimated the offensive line. That being said, talent-wise the pool of lineman to choose from hasn’t really changed since his departure either. The drafting of Ryan Kelly has really been the only upside of the entire offensive line over the last several seasons. While left tackle Anthony Costanzo has been consistent, guard and tackle play outside of his position has been wildly the opposite. The outlier being Jack Mewhort. Who has been great, when he plays. His injuries have really put a black spot on the right side of the line and, in his absence, the overall depth of the Colts’ lineman as well. Where Ballard went all-in on the defense last year during free agency, I fully expect the reversal this year. The injuring of not only Andrew Luck, but quarterbacks for the Colts in general puts an emphasis on assembling an offensive line unit that can put the team in a position to compete consistently throughout the season. And for once, actually protect the best asset the team has. That asset being Andrew Luck.

Down: Total Defense
After Chris Ballard went all-out on the Indianapolis defense last year, a lot was expected out of the new defensive unit. With splashy editions to the front seven in Johnathan Hankins and Jabaal Sheard, an otherwise shaky group was looking to tighten up its efforts. This did not happen, and as this season dwelled on, smaller free agent signings seemed to outplay their contracts. For example, outside linebacker John Simon ended up playing a huge role in the Colts’ defense throughout the year. He was second to only Sheard in sacks. To put it into dollars and cents, Sheard is playing on a three-year, $25.5 million dollar contract while Simon is taking in just $13.5 million for the same amount of time. Outside of the defensive front, which was sadly the best part of the defense, the rest of the system was in shambles. The Colts managed to have near-non-existent middle linebacker play. Between Antonio Morrison, Anthony Walker, Jon Bostic, and Jeremiah George no one seemed to know how to play middle linebacker. Not in the slightest. So now, for the second year in a row, the Colts still need to find a productive middle linebacker. Just to touch base on the secondary… they sucked too. In all honesty, it’s kind of embarrassing to even get into the effort and production put in by the secondary unit because, much like the linebacking core, it was non-existent. Once again an injury-riddled, lack-luster unit left the Colts unguarded deep for a majority of the season. One diamond in the rough would be rookie safety, and first round pick, Malik Hooker who managed to play fairly well during his time on the field. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to injury.
Up: Changing of the Guard
The biggest up of the 2017 season is that it is over. The embarrassing 4-12 campaign is over. Andrew Luck is going to return to the lineup, along with his injured comrades. Chuck Pagano and his ho-hum, hunky-dory attitude are gone, replaced with the young, fiery Josh McDaniels. While McDaniels resume as a head coach is suspect (11-17 in two seasons with the Broncos), a new voice is welcome to a franchise that has won just 20 of its last 48 games. With second year GM Chris Ballard still trying to sculpt a winning roster, there are sure to be growing pains, but the future looks bright in the 317.

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