The reason fans should be excited is Luck only seems to be getting better. He's light years ahead of where Peyton Manning was in 2000 when he entered his third season. His command of the offense, his ability to overcome adversity, and his other-worldly playmaking ability make him one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Personally, I'd say he's top 3.
Oh, and speaking of Peyton Manning, Luck is better than him now. Yes, he is. Better arm. Better awareness. Better legs. Better everything.
Unlike last year, the Colts are very deep at the wide receiver position. The signing of free agent Hakeem Nicks and the drafting of Donte Moncrief out of Mississippi infused this area with height, speed, and playmaking ability. Both Nicks and Moncrief impressed onlookers during OTAs and minicamp. Nick seemed to snag anything and everything thrown in his general radius, and Moncrief’s speed was on full display at minicamp. Toss in T.Y. Hilton, and this group looks dangerous.
The only question mark is how effective Reggie Wayne will be when he is finally allowed to practice. Wayne sat out OTAs and minicamp, still recovering from a torn ACL he sustained in Week 7 last year.
Interestingly, Wayne’s recovery is not as critical now as we all thought it would be. If he cannot return his old form, the team has Da’Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill, and Griff Whalen waiting in the wings. Two of those three will be cut in late-August/early-September when the team needs to par its roster down to 53 active players. Look for the Colts to keep Rogers and cut either Brazill or Whalen.
Trent Richardson is a player that’s easy to root for. He’s smart, tough, and works his butt off. All the Colts running backs seem to fit this mold, including recently converted linebacker Mario Harvey, who has looked good playing fullback during OTAs. With Richardson, his entire career seems to come down to this upcoming season. If he runs for 1,200 yards, scores 8 touchdowns, and becomes the difference-maker that Ryan Grigson thinks he is, Richardson will find redemption and silence his critics. If he flops, he’ll be a draft bust, and it will be very hard to take Ryan Grigson seriously as a talent evaluator going forward.
Richardson spent much of the offseason in Indianapolis, participating in offseason training, OTAs, and minicamp. The Colts even brought in his old coach in Cleveland, Rob Chudzinski, to act as a special assistant to Pagano. For the first time in Richardson’s career, he’s entering a season working in the same offense he played in the prior year. All of these factors suggest Richardson should have a great year. If he doesn’t, neither Richardson nor Grigson have any excuses.
Another guy who is looking for a bit of redemption is Ahmad Bradshaw. For the first time in a long while, Bradshaw was able to participate in a team’s OTAs. Injuries preventing him from doing so with the Giants during his years there, and, last year with the Colts, a foot injury kept Bradshaw out of the team’s organized activities. With his feet healed, his neck surgically repaired, and his mind focused, Bradshaw is hoping to "get back to that 49ers game" in terms of his effectiveness as a runner. The game Bradshaw is referring to is Week 3 against San Francisco last season where he ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns in a huge Colts upset. The third back in the equation is Vick Ballard, who is returning from an ACL injury.
If either Ballard or Bradshaw can stay healthy, the Colts are in good shape at this position.
While everyone assumes that the return of Reggie Wayne is a big deal (in reality, it isn’t because the WR corps is so deep), the bigger return is that of tight end Dwayne Allen. Coby Fleener, who was drafted ahead of Allen in 2012, played ‘OK’ in 2013, but didn’t do enough to make people forget Allen. The former Clemson standout is, quite simply, a better blocker, receiver, and all-around player than Fleener. With the Colts so very deep at wide receiver, it’s pointless for them to run many two-TE sets. Why sit Hilton, or Rogers, or Wayne just so Fleener can whiff on a block or drop a key first down?
Allen’s return will provide another match-up problem for defensive coordinators. By all reports, Allen is healthy and fully recovered from hip surgery. He participated in OTAs and is expected to be ready to put on a pads come training camp.