Last year I made the prediction that if the Colts produced a defense that could rank above or near the top 15, they would be on there way to the SB. Unfortunately that hasn't happened in the Luck era yet. However, with all of the free agent moves and pieces added through the draft over that short span I believe the Colts are very close to the bubble. In fact, I think they have enough pieces in place now to be down right dominant. Couple that with the fact that this year's Colts offense should be a major improvement over last year's and this should spell a (dare I say) trip to the big dance: "The Superbowl." I've already been called crazy for this prediction more times than I care to count. Yet the Colts made it into the top 8 teams predicted to make it to the Superbowl this year on Bovada last week (How ya like me now?). I made this prediction after the Colts picked up Arthur Jones from the Ravens, seeing him as a player who could have the same impact on our defense as Charles Haley did for the Cowboys. Jones brings a nastiness that will mix as well as rub off on some of the players we already have on the roster.
For the past 10+ years the Colts D line has been anything but one, ranking at or near the bottom of the league. Not only will the addition of Jones help in that department, but the growth of Josh Chapman should improve the overall strength of the unit as well. Chapman, who started his pro career rehabbing an ACL tear he played through during his last year at Alabama is now finally healthy. Although physically he was 100% last year, from a mental standpoint he still wasn't ready to trust his knee and it showed at times throughout the year. When he did however, Josh showed flashes of being the disruptive force the team envisioned he could be like he was during his collegiate career. Chapman is the prototypical Nose Tackle which is a vital piece in the 3-4 defensive scheme. His willingness and ability to eat up blockers will be key for freeing up Linebackers so they can rush the QB.
A lot has been said about FS Laron Landry, most of it being negative. I'm one of the few who thinks he's been blamed too harshly for the woes of the defense upon his arrival. I think a lot of Colts fans were expecting to get the Probowl version of Laron that played so well for the Jets two years ago. Unfortunately his critics didn't take into account that the Jets defense Landry played for was more than marginally better than that of the Colts. If the Colts defense is as good as they currently look on paper (And I think they will be), we should see a resurgence in his probowl caliber play. I've said this before, a safety's job is not to do that of the front seven. Your safety is supposed to be the last line of defense, hence the term "Safety." All too often Landry was forced to play out of the realm of his position due to the fact the front 7 were not getting their jobs done at the point of attack. The Colts were abysmal at stopping the run and couldn't consistently put pressure on their opponent's QBs either. I don't care how good you want your safety to be, like a jockey on a bad horse he's not going to be very effective if the horses in front of him can't "run," or in the Colts case can't tackle or be where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there. That said, I believe Landry will be more than adequate this year as well as be a vital cog in a defense primed to be one of the best we've seen since 95.
The Colts offense will be a thing of beauty this year. Guess who will be the dime piece of it all? Trent Richardson. Like Landry, Richardson has also been blamed too harshly for the woes of the team's lack of a consistent running game. Any running back needs an O-line that can block in order to put up good numbers. Trent Richardson not only was forced to work without the benefit of an offseason to learn the Colts intricate system, but the offense didn't have much of a line for him to work with either. Reports from training camp have been good regarding Richardson as he has been on record saying he feels more comfortable in the offense now and the difference is like night and day. That should be music to the ears of Colts fans as we approach the 2014 season.
Luck didn't have much to work with at the wr position last year, especially after 87 went down for the year. Still, a few gems were uncovered in his absence. Unheralded rookie Da Rick Rodgers and fan favorite Griff Whalen stepped up to the plate and delivered when given opportunities. Now that Luck has a little more confidence in both, that should pay huge dividends down the stretch. Couple that with the addition of ultra freak Donte Moncrief, Hakeem Nicks, the returns of Dwayne Allen & 87, and the growth of Coby Fleener should field the best WR core Luck has had since becoming the new face of the franchise. I'm sure he's feeling like a kid in a candy store while thanking the "football gods" right about now.
Jonnie and Clyde (Yes "Jonnie")
Coach Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson have been the new "Jonnie and Clyde" tag team with each constructing the roster on opposite sides of the ball. "Pags" has been filling in the blanks on defense while Grigson has been doing the same on the offensive side. Although Grigson makes all of the roster decisions technically, coach Pagano and his staff are the mad scientists who snap the pieces in place in order to build the "Frankenstein." This very well could be the year we see the "Monster." That said, there's really only one thing left to say: "RRRREEELLLEEEAAASSSE THE KKKRRRRAAAAKKKEENNNN!!!!!!!!!