As we have done for the past several years leading up to training camp, we are going to be taking a position-by-position look at the Indianapolis Colts' roster, assessing the talent at each position and then offering an early prediction for how the depth chart at the position will shake out. We begin this series today with the easiest positional preview there is when it comes to the Colts: the quarterbacks.
Make no mistake, the quarterback position is by far the most important in football. You don't have to look far to see the impact, as all you have to do is take a look at another AFC South team in the Houston Texans. The Texans are a talented team with the best and most dominant player in football in defensive end J.J. Watt. They managed to win nine games last year, but without a quarterback they missed the playoffs, were swept by the Colts, and lost the division by two games. Entering 2015, the Texans are again a very talented team, but they have questions at quarterback - and, as such, the Colts are nearly unanimous picks to repeat as division champions for the third straight year.
Again, the quarterback position is the most important in football. There's a reason the top two picks in this year's draft were both quarterbacks - teams are desperate for a franchise player at the position. The Colts had one in Peyton Manning, one of the greatest to ever play the game, and he played in Indy for the bulk of his career, from 1998-2011. The team moved on from an injured Manning after the 2011 season, however, mainly because of the fact that they knew who his replacement would be. They drafted Andrew Luck with the first overall pick of the 2012 draft and haven't looked back since.
Simply put, Andrew Luck has exceeded the lofty expectations set for him entering the NFL and has quickly emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the league. In three years, Luck hasn't missed a single game and has completed 58.6% of his passes for 12,957 yards, 86 touchdowns, and 43 interceptions for a passer rating of 86.6, getting off to the most prolific passing start to his career of any quarterback ever through three years. In addition, he has added 905 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground rushing, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He has helped lead the Colts to a 33-15 regular season record, two division titles, three playoff berths, and a 3-3 playoff record, making the AFC Championship game last year. Furthermore, he has made three Pro Bowls and is coming off a very prolific season.
In 2014, Luck took his game to another level as he broke Manning's franchise record for most passing yards in a single season with 4,761 and led the NFL in touchdown passes with 40 (the second-highest total in Colts franchise history behind only Manning's 49 in 2004). Luck became just the eighth player in NFL history to throw for at least 40 touchdowns in a season and became just the seventh to do so while also passing for at least 4,750 yards.
This offseason, with all of the quarterback rankings we've seen, Luck is consistently near the top of the list. Not only is he already among the best quarterbacks in the league, he also figures to just continue to get better - after all, he's only 25 years old. This is good news for the Colts, who have their franchise quarterback for the next decade-plus in Andrew Luck.
In 2015, it's not a stretch at all to think that he could improve his game even more. With a loaded offensive cast that includes T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Donte Moncrief, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and Frank Gore, Luck and the offense have a chance to be the league's best next year, and Luck should garner some serious MVP hype entering the season. This hype won't be unwarranted, either, and the expectations are sky-high for the Colts in 2015 - namely, the Super Bowl. And the reason why the Colts have a real shot at contending? Andrew Luck.
There's no question about this position. There are no doubts, no questions, and definitely no position battles. Andrew Luck is the Colts' starter, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and getting better. But he does have to have a backup in case the worst-case scenario happens, and the Colts brought back Matt Hasselbeck to fill that role for a third straight year. Hasselbeck has helped Luck learn and has served as a sounding board and good friend to the young quarterback, and has shown that he can still play when entering games in relief duty. He has completed 37 of 56 passes (66.1%) for 431 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick with the Colts the past two years, and has had a successful NFL career. He's not a guy that Colts fans want to see in the game at all (unless it is due to a huge lead), but the backup quarterback position is an important one nonetheless and the Colts have a good one in Hasselbeck.
The one change to this position from years past is the third quarterback spot, which was occupied by Chandler Harnish for the last three training camps and preseasons. The Colts moved on from Harnish, who is now with the Cardinals, and instead signed Bryan Bennett as an undrafted free agent. In four seasons at collegiate football at both Oregon and Southeastern Louisiana, Bennett played in 44 games, completing 55.5% of his passes (403 of 726) for 6,102 yards (8.4 yards per attempt), 48 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also added 2,080 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt. The Colts won't be keeping three quarterbacks around on their 53-man roster, but perhaps Bennett could show enough in training camp and preseason to either make another team's roster or stick around with the Colts as their potential replacement to Hasselbeck whenever the veteran decides to retire (or the Colts decide to move on to a cheaper backup).
The Colts are set at the quarterback position for 2015, and it's all because of Andrew Luck. And really, that's the story of the Colts - it's all about Luck. Their success over the past three years? The hope and expectations in Indianapolis this offseason? The goals of making it to and winning the Super Bowl? Andrew Luck is the key to all of it. Because, as we know (and as Colts fans saw in 2011), in the NFL it's about the quarterback. If you don't have one, you'll have a hard time finding success, but if you do have a franchise player at the position, you'll be a contender most seasons. That's exactly where the Colts are entering 2015, and there's not much to worry about at this position for the team for the next decade.
Week One Starter: Andrew Luck; Backup: Matt Hasselbeck; Cut: Bryan Bennett
For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' roster heading into camp, check out Josh Wilson's other position previews:
| QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | OLB | ILB | CB | S | S/T |