The coming seasons could be tough for us Colts fans, especially if you just started rooting for the team in 2000. We’ve been spoiled with a decade of success thanks to Peyton Manning and crew. But, Peyton is gone and many great players have decided to follow suit and have hired movers to start fresh with a new franchise.
The two biggest losses on the offense this season are Peyton and Jeff Saturday. Peyton will be missed for the obvious reason that he’s in the conversation for best quarterback of all time, and Saturday because he was the best player and leader on the offensive line for years. But they’re not the only ones who will be missed. Pierre Garcon's departure is huge too. He was the perfect deep threat option to compliment the possession receiver, Reggie Wayne. Joseph Addai was will be missed both in the rushing game and for his ability to catch passes of the backfield. There are a few rookies on the roster but it’s looking like Donald Brown will be the one carrying the load at the running back position this season.
Some teams lose a few a players each year and look to plug in the holes in the draft or by picking up a couple of free-agents, while maintaining the core of the team. The Colts are really going with a complete overhaul now and are prepared to start a new era. After the Colts’ 2-14 finish last year and roster moves, management felt a fresh start was needed.
Coach Chuck Pagano, former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator, is preparing the players and his coaching staff for the upcoming season. Only three assistants from last year’s staff still remain with the team. They hired Bruce Arians as their new offensive coordinator from Pittsburgh and tabbed former Chargers and 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky to fill that role for them. The biggest changes for the upcoming season are as follows:
· Quarterback – Not much to be said here. Andrew Luck will be the starter from day one, the team is prepared to let him play and grow on the field.
· Receivers – Outside of Wayne and the rookie Griff Whalen, all of the receivers are under 6 feet. Tall, physical receivers like Calvin Johnson from the Lions and Andre Johnson from the Texans have been dominating the league and the Colts could use a receiver like that. Terrell Owens is a proven, big time playmaker who is available and looking for one last shot. He’s a receiver that isn’t afraid to go across the middle and he could be a solid piece to make the transition easier for Luck. He's become more humble over the years too. Andre Smith is a big target at Tight End who was recently signed off waivers and could become a nice safety valve for Luck when he’s under pressure, like Clark was for Peyton.
· Defense Back – Terrence Johnson wasn’t drafted when he came out of college a few years ago but he has worked hard to become a contributed on a professional team. He worked his way up from the practice squad to earn playing time and even start a game. With a new coaching staff, most players come in on a level playing field with the opportunity to earn a roster spot. It will be interesting to see if he can make it.
· Defense – The defense will be interesting to watch next year in Lucas Oil. Coach Pagano worked with one of the best defenses in history during his time with the Ravens and he’ll be looking to prove he was a big factor in their strong defense by helping the Colts defense become one of the best.
Many of the important faces on the defense like Antoine Bethea, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are still there. But, they may be in different positions this season. Defensive coordinator Manusky will use Freeney and Mathis as outside linebackers, which will now give quarterbacks nightmares from a different angle. It’ll be strange to see them dropping into pass coverage in certain situations this year. Neither player has recorded an interception during their NFL careers. This set up is similar to the way the Texans used Mario Williams last year with some success.
Rebuilding a football team isn’t an easy process. It takes time and commitment. I think the Colts are taking the right steps by realizing the need to completely overhaul the entire organization from the general manager to the coaching staff down the players on the field. Hopefully the new roster will help the team make up for its less-than-stellar performance last season.