This is an Indianapolis Colts site, so everyone around here knows that the Colts were greatly plagued by injuries this year on the offensive side of the ball. That is one of the main reasons why I have been very supportive of offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton despite some struggles this year. It also makes what Andrew Luck and the Colts offense did this year even more impressive.
The Colts placed 17 players on injured reserve this season, including 9 players who started at least one game. Some of the most significant injuries the Colts suffered this year was the loss of running backs Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw, tight end Dwayne Allen, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
Just how significant were the Colts injuries this year? Pro Football Focus's Peter Damilatis, they were very significant. On his list of the top ten costliest injuries of 2013, three Colts players were named. The only other team to have more than one player on the list was the New England Patriots, who occupied two of the top ten spots (with three players - one of the spots was given to two players at the same position which amounted to a huge loss). Here is what Damilatis wrote about the three Colts on the list - Dwayne Allen, Donald Thomas, and Reggie Wayne:
10. Dwayne Allen, Colts TE
Coby Fleener had a lot to hang his hat on this season, with 728 receiving yards, just one drop in 84 targets, and solid pass protection. While Allen led all tight ends in 2012 with a +11.2 run block grade, Fleener earned a -9.3 in that category in 2013. Considering how much the Indianapolis offensive line struggled to open holes for their running backs, they clearly missed Allen's superior line work.
8. Donald Thomas, Colts LG
Indianapolis had some questionable offseason acquisitions, but Thomas looked like a nice bargain after a quality 2012 campaign with the Patriots. However his Week 2 injury left the starting job to oft-overmatched rookie Hugh Thornton. The third round draft pick earned the fifth-worst pass block grade of any guard in the regular season, but it was his awful run blocking that let the Colts down in their Divisional Round loss to New England.
4. Reggie Wayne, Colts WR
With their third representative on this list, let's just give the Indianapolis fans a moment to shake their heads. Rejuvenated by his new quarterback, Wayne had the fourth-highest wide receiver grade over the last two seasons prior to his injury. T.Y. Hilton did a great job filling Wayne's massive shoes, but no one was there to step into Hilton's. Thanks to the second-worstDrop Rate of any wide receiver with 50 or more targets, Darrius Heyward-Bey was a massive disappointment. Colts fans are left to wonder what could have been with a healthy Wayne and Hilton in the playoffs.
A lot of people forget about Thomas, but he was playing very well before he was injured early in the week two game against the Dolphins. It certainly was a very significant loss for the Colts, especially considering how bad the line continued to do for the remainder of the season. Thomas was much needed.
Obviously, everyone knows about the loss of Reggie Wayne and how big that was. One of the best players on the team and one of the best receivers in the entire NFL, Wayne went down in the huge week seven win over the Broncos with a torn ACL and was done for the season. The impact not having Reggie Wayne had on the offense was clearly noticeable.
If I had to argue with the Colts on the list, I would say that Dwayne Allen should be higher - but I completely understand why he's not and I'm glad to see him on the top 10 at least. Here is what I wrote about the loss of Allen a few weeks ago in my end of season notebook:
Everybody will mention the injury of Reggie Wayne and the impact it had on the Colts offense this season, and there's no doubt that it was huge. But I'd argue that Reggie's injury wasn't the one that hurt the team the most. That one, in my opinion, was the loss of Dwayne Allen. First off, consider that Allen missed about 17.5/18 games, while Reggie missed about 11/18. Both significant, but Reggie at least played about half of the regular season. That's not why I say Allen's was more significant, however. In talking with several people in the know, it became increasingly evident to me even in training camp that Dwayne Allen was going to play a major role in the Colts offense this year. I remember during training camp when Allen was injured and gathering opinions of how much that would affect the Colts, and I've only heard more and more as time has gone on: Dwayne Allen was going to be a big part of the Colts offense this year. As my friend George Bremer of the Anderson Herald Bulletin pointed out the other day, I wonder just how much Allen would have filled some of Stanley Havili's role. He was used as a pass catcher quite a bit for a fullback, and while he did a respectable job, he was no Allen, and it brings up an interesting point as to just how the offense would have looked with the second-year tight end. In his rookie season, Allen was a phenomenal blocker and receiver and was beginning to move toward the upper level of NFL tight ends. It's hard to replace that kind of player, especially when your new offensive coordinator had major plans as to how he would use that player. That is probably the biggest reason I gave Hamilton a pass with the injuries and probably the thing I'm most excited at seeing next year, regardless of who the Colts sign this offseason: the return of Dwayne Allen.
There is no doubt that the loss of Reggie Wayne, Donald Thomas, and Dwayne Allen had a huge impact on the Colts 2013 season, and that brings with it questions of what might have been. But it wasn't just those three that the Colts lost, either. Vick Ballard went down in practice following the first game, and as if the loss of your starting running back isn't enough, that was also the reason the Colts made the trade for Trent Richardson. Ahmad Bradshaw was injured in week three in what was probably the best single game rushing for a Colt running back this year. Not only are those injuries big to the team, but if those players had been healthy the Colts would likely still have their first round pick. Not guaranteed, but likely.
Additionally, starting cornerback Greg Toler missed the second half of the season with a groin injury. Safety Delano Howell - who filled in for LaRon Landry as a starter earlier in the year and was quite possibly played the best at the safety position overall as anyone did this year for the Colts - was also placed on injured reserve mid-season, right after I said he should replace Landry as the starter. That was a loss that won't be talked about much but that also hurt the team.
The bottom line is this: the Colts won 12 games in 2013 despite being heavily injured - so much so that three Colts players were named to PFF's list of the ten costliest injuries of the season. That makes what the Colts accomplished this year all the more impressive and gives even more hope for the future.