The anticipation for the upcoming season is intense, with all kinds of speculations already being projected. I've heard many individuals claiming Andrew Luck to be the best thing since sliced bread. He seems to be handling the expectations of a franchise quarterback and first overall pick with the grace of possible future hall-a-fame candidate. The transition from (my personal opinion) the greatest quarterback of all-time to most hyped prospect in over a decade will not happen without scrutinization. Every single mistake he makes will be dissected next year, but it is up to us as fans to remember he's just a rookie. It took time for even the great Peyton Manning to get where he is today, bumps and bruises along the way. Let's not forget the 28 interceptions, 22 sacks and 3-13 season, he had to endure at his welcoming party to the NFL. Is it possible Luck comes out and sets a blaze to this league in a way that's it never seen before? Sure he could, I'm not going to discount that as a possibility. The man has every single tool he needs to accomplish this feat. But, for the time being let's concentrate on the first chapter in this series instead of the entire story. Because if we did things the Back to the Future way and predicted what the future would like today we'd all be driving around in flying cars, riding hover-boards, and missing out on a lot of Jaws sequels.
With that concept in mind, I figured it be fun to consider five realistic outcomes that may come to fruition for the 2012 season. So, in the words of NFL Network's Shame Report host Dave Dameshek - LET IT BEGIN!...
- Austin Collie will become the most productive wide receiver on the team.
Considering the fact Austin Collie's living a few hours away from Stanford University, he's bound to get plenty of workout sessions in with Luck. Those early meeting together should yield a better timing with his QB over the other wideouts on the roster. Austin has proven in the past he's adaptable to lining-up on the outside and still remaining a thread to opposing defenses. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would be wise to game plan each week alternating him as flanker/slot guy to create mismatches. I foresee Reggie Wayne as the only one able to challenge Collie for the title of top dog, but age may prohibit his effectiveness.
- The defense will line-up in less 3-4 formations than any other defensive front.
Last year the Ravens under Chuck Pagano ran a variety of defensive looks. In fact, the team only lined up in a traditional 3-4 set amongst 6% of their total snaps. Knowing the inexperience and current personnel, its doubtful the Colts will dial-up too many of these formations. I could definitely see the defense starting the season off in a 4-3 package and as the year went on inter-grade more fronts as the team became acclimated. So, for those anticipating a full-on conversion by September, you may be in for a longer wait.
- One or more of the current corners on the team will emerge as a capable starter, by NFL standards.
Let me ask you a question...Was this team God awful in pass protection last year? For everyone who answered yes, you were paying attention. The good news is our new head coach has a specialty, its developing great secondaries. Former third rounder Kevin Thomas and 2011 selection Chris Rucker started looking formidable in coverage once Larry Coyer was fired late last year. Its also important to take into account both players were essentially in their first year as starters. Its difficult to base how much they'll improve with another season under their belt. I think the biggest difference we'll see has to be, corners finally locking down their opposing receivers. Gone will be the 10 yard cushions given in the past from playing a weak Tampa-2 Defense.
- Donald Brown will finally shake the 'bust' title associated with his name.
Last year we watched Darren McFadden entered the class of elite running backs, after enduring a few seasons of pedestrian play. My point being, certain running back take longer to come into their own. Now, I'm absolutely not trying to put Donald Brown in the same category as Run DMC. Although, he may open some eyes this fall since the offense implemented plays more to his strengths. One of the main reasons Brown was draft was the Colts wanted to go back to running the stretch play, unfortunately Manning's mobility limited that from happening. Brown's speed didn't fit into the finest style of offense play we've become accustom to seeing. But, there was a reason he ran for 2,083 yards his senior at UConn, their line opened holes and hit them, no thinking, just go. Sounds a lot like what the Colts are expecting out of him after releasing Joseph Addai and making him the starter.
My prediction for him isn't groundbreaking: Slightly under a 1,000 yards rushing, around 300 yards receiving, and between 6-8 touchdowns.
- The Colts will guarantee themselves a top ten selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.
If you believe the Colts are going to the playoff bound this year after a 2-14 season, than I'll tell you what -- I know a Nigerian Prince willing to give you thousands of dollars....you just have to give me your bank account number. This team is young and has a new influx of talent, but needs time to get back to being a contender. Another great draft and some smart acquisitions with the nearly 40 million dollars of cap space available next year should go a long way towards getting back on right path. I feel like this year GM Ryan Grigson had no other choice than to concentrate on surround Luck with the best weapons possible. After what is now being known as the purge, offense became the bigger need. By comparison to merely two years ago, there's less-than a hand full of offense players that are still on this team. The defense can be looked at like a trial run, as if you were putting a puzzle together, you have to determine which pieces fit. We'll find out which stars will shine as this team comes together. It might be rough to endure more losses, but at least this time should be fun to watch.
My prediction: No more than 6 wins.