It's really hard to know what you have at the end of preseason, especially if you are the Colts. With a young team and the roster in continual movement, you have to look beyond stats and win-loss records to even begin to guess. Here's what I've picked up from the preseason.
1)The QB position is set. Fans concerns about Luck right now should begin and end with him staying healthy. He's light years ahead of what we had last year and just about every one is raving about what he can do and become. Solid play from both backup positions gives us some insurance against injury.
2) Running for any of the backs is going to be tough sledding but there is some talent here. Donald Brown looks much improved and has even learned how to block, but look for Ballard to be the primary option by midseason barring injury as he shows a toughness and motor that Brown will probably never have.
3)Allen is likely to have the most impact at the TE position. He's been solid in all aspects of his game and his versatility will allow him to see the field more than Fleener. Fleener is far from a bust, but it is obvious that the game is still moving very fast for him and it will probably take some time for him to adjust. He's more likely to be a breakout second year player than an immediate impact player.
4)Look for the WR core to disappoint. There is a lot of talent and potential, but too much inexperience and health concerns. An aging WR, a WR with a history of concussions, an injury plagued WR, and two undersized receivers make up the core of this unit. Hopefully at least one of the vets stays healthy and provides that security option for Luck. I see a lot of inconsistent play out of Hilton, Brazill and Adams, providing electric play one minute and head scratching play the next.
5)The line is what it is. The Front office has strengthened depth, but they seem to have settled on leaving the right side intact for this year anyways. I hate to wish injuries on anyone, but that might be the only chance for improvement as it might give Hicks or Person a chance to show they can be better than McGlynn, Olson, Justice and Linkenbach.
6)Don't expect to see much of a run defense in the first half of the year. Redding has been dinged up, Angerer is out for awhile and we won't see Chapman till mid-season. The Colts will struggle with setting the edge and keeping the garbage away from the LBs early on. Moala, Nevis and Mathews will struggle as poor fits in this system and OLB play will be a weakness in the run game.
7)The pass D should see an improvement throughout the year. Expect a lot of four and five receiver sets this year. There is a big drop off past the first two CBs and other teams are going to look to exploit this. It's important for a 3rd CB to step up or get signed given our weakness and Powers tendency to get hurt. The strength of the pass D is going to rely on how well Freeney and Mathis can get pressure on the CB. I look for Manusky and Pagano to get creative to try and mask holes in personnel. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Zibikowski loose his starting job by the end of the year.
8)Look for a solid special teams this year. They finally get it and will emphasize this unit. I see some big plays and maybe a game or two won because of them this year. There is not enough talent on the roster for a really good unit, but it should be markedly improved over past years.
Finally, the number of wins is more dependent on health than anything. This team has the potential to surprise and be a .500 club, but it all falls down to the health of a thin roster. This year should be a solid step in the right direction before we start wondering where our primary focus should be going into next years draft.