Unless the Indianapolis Colts (3-7) make a miraculous run at things following their Week 11 bye, the playoffs aren’t the storyline to look for. Instead, this week I am pointing out several others that I am watching instead.
Return of the Important Pieces
The Colts have lost some close games this season, many of which they should not have. Though their record is 3-7, you could easily make an argument that they should be 7-3. I know this team doesn’t look good enough to be 7-3 — and they’re really not — but that’s legit. Crazy stuff happens in the NFL sometimes.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda out the window, the Colts did lose those games. However, there are a few players that they are getting back late in the season that can help flip those types of close losses. Last Sunday, offensive lineman Denzelle Good made his first appearance since landing on Injured Reserve with a wrist injury in Week 1. He should be getting back a starting role, likely at right guard. He is a much better option than Kyle Kalis.
Tight end Erik Swoope — after blossoming late in 2016 — also landed on IR this summer following a minor knee procedure. He is expected to return in Week 12 against the Titans. He will bring a much-needed downfield pass-catching presence to the tight end group, something that has been lacking with Jack Doyle, Brandon Williams and Darrell Daniels.
The biggest veteran return will be that of dynamic, hard-hitting safety Clayton Geathers. He suffered a season-ending neck injury last year that required surgery this spring. He is expected to make his debut against the Tennessee Titans in Week 12. Geathers plays well in the box and makes those impactful bang-bang hits when the ball gets to a pass-catcher. He can also drop down to linebacker in passing situations, which will be a big boost over Jon Bostic.
Performance of 2018 Free Agents
There are several impending veteran free agents who have done great things for the Colts in the last several years but are unlikely to be re-signed by them in 2018. Guys like Frank Gore and Darius Butler fall under this category.
However, there are other players who aren’t too old and could be worth bringing back if they prove themselves through the end of the season.
Donte Moncrief immediately comes to mind. He’s got great physical tools and has made some huge plays for the Colts during his tenure, but he still hasn’t put everything together to become a consistent performer. Bostic has played nearly 100% of the Colts’ defensive snaps this year but isn’t much different from what the Colts used to have in D’Qwell Jackson.
Guys like Rashaan Melvin, Pierre Desir and Barkevious Mingo have fully exceeded expectations since being unheralded free-agent signings by the Colts. There’s a good chance that they’ve played themselves into new contracts with the team if they keep performing at a high level.
Then, there are players who didn’t get a chance to prove themselves in their contract years because they got hurt and landed on IR. It just so happens that three important players meet this criteria for the Colts: starting guard Jack Mewhort, starting inside linebacker Edwin Jackson (ERFA) and kickoff/punt return specialist Quan Bray (RFA). Mewhort and Bray have been hurt for much of their time with the Colts, so their future with the team will be weighed carefully.
Last, you’ve got your exclusive rights free agents. For these guys, the Colts either let them walk, or they return to the Colts if offered a contract. These players cannot negotiate with other teams unless the Colts elect not to re-sign them. Swoope, offensive lineman Jeremy Vujnovich and long snapper/inside linebacker Luke Rhodes are ones to watch for the Colts.