It’s the bye week and the middle of the season, so it’s the perfect time to write the Colts’ midseason report card! Which group got the highest grade and which got the lowest?
Luck had his issues at the start of the season, which I expected, but in the last couple of weeks, he’s been as good as anyone in the NFL. In the last two games, he’s gone 39 for 53 (73.5%) for 395 yards (7.5 YPA) with 7 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He’s battled the entire season with a depleted receiving corps and several injuries on offense. On paper, this has been arguably his best season in the pros and he’s getting better every week. With Doyle back, he should continue to thrive.
The running game was non-existent at the beginning of the season, but like Luck, it’s thrived in the last few games. Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines are becoming a very formidable duo with Jordan Wilkins and Robert Turbin providing very good depth. This group has been aided a lot by the strong play of the offensive line in recent weeks, but Mack and Hines can create plays anywhere on the field and that’s very encouraging.
This group has struggled throughout the season with drops, poor routes and poor effort. When TY Hilton was down, Chester Rogers had to carry the load and let’s just say he isn’t the type of player who can do that. This group isn’t talented and not deep. They’ve had to go with Zach Pascal and Ryan Grant as the primary receivers as times this season, which is beyond bad. I don’t expect this unit to get much better as the season goes on due to the lack of talent, so they’ll need to rely on TY Hilton to carry the group for the remainder of the year.
The Colts’ tight end group is the best in the NFL. Against the Raiders, they set an NFL record with 3 different tight ends each scoring a touchdown in a single game. Doyle is a great all-around tight end who is a difference maker on the field. Eric Ebron is playing at a high level this season and might sneak onto the 2nd team All-Pro team. Mo Alie-Cox and Erik Swoope are two solid receiving options with high ceilings. This group has the potential to be special moving forward.
When was the last time this group got a grade better than a C+? It’s been awhile, but the Colts offensive line looks great. Ryan Kelly is having as good a season as any center in the NFL. Quenton Nelson and Anthony Castonzo are looking very formidable on the left side. Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith are holding their own on the right side, with both shining at different times this season. If the offensive line can continue to play at a high level, this team can do a lot of damage on offense against any team.
The interior defensive line has been good but not great. They haven’t been able to create much pressure inside, but they’ve done a good job against the run and have been able to clog up the inside gaps. The edge defenders, Margus Hunt, Jabaal Sheard and Kemoko Turay have all been great this season and have been able to generate a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Of the 21 sacks the Colts have recorded this year, 11 have come from those three players. They’ve carried this group and probably will all season.
What can you say about Darius Leonard? Without him, this group probably gets a C. Leonard has changed games and helped seal the game for the Colts last week against the Raiders with an amazing tomahawk chop forced fumble. He can do it all, which makes him a perfect WILL linebacker for the Colts’ 4-3 defense. Anthony Walker has been a good complimentary piece, but those two players seem like the only legitimate starters of the entire linebacker group, which means they’ll need to find a good third player for that group in the offseason. The other players show too much inexperience and lack discipline with their eyes and angles.
It’s been an up and down season for the secondary, but they’ve had their highlights. It’s a young, inexperienced group that has been able to carry their own throughout the season. The safety group has been pretty good for the most part and I find Mike Mitchell has been a very good mid-season signing for the team. The cornerback group is very young and while no one has stood out, no one has been particularly bad, so that’s probably a positive considering the talent level of the group.
Adam Vinatieri, with the exception of one injury-riddled week, has been as consistent and solid as ever. Rigoberto Sanchez has been steady (nothing great but not bad) and the coverage units have been especially good this season not allowing any big gains or returns. The return teams have yet to do damage, but overall the special teams units have been very good.
Depending on how you view the Texans overtime decision, your grade might be higher or lower. Reich came in and took over an inconsistent offensive unit and made them into a legitimate top 10 NFL offense. In the last 5 games, there might not be a better offense than Indianapolis. In the last 5 games, they’ve averaged 34 points per game with some great performances against top defenses, some of them on the road. The team has a balanced identity on offense and they’ve adopted an aggressive mentality in every game. While the Colts’ record isn’t reflective of their play, which is on the coaching staff, I do find this team is going in the right direction, so I give Reich and the coaches credit for that.
Three Highest Grades
1. Tight End (A+)
T-2. Quarterback (A-)
T-2. Offensive Line (A-)
Three Lowest Grades
1. Wide Receiver (C)
2. Secondary (B-)
3. Defensive Line (B)
MVP & Best Offensive Player: Andrew Luck
Best Defensive Player: Darius Leonard
Leonard has been a revelation this season. Not only is he the frontrunner for defensive rookie of the year, but he might even get a couple of top 5 votes for defensive player of the year. He has 88 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss including 4 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles through 7 games (he missed one with an injury). Those numbers might make him an All-Pro candidate. He’s the easy choice for best defensive player on the Colts.
Most Surprising: Kemoko Turay
For the sake of not going with Leonard again, I decided to go with Turay. Out of all the rookies, Turay has the second most amount of quarterback pressures with 25. He has improved each week and it looks like he’ll become a legitimate player and starter in this league.
You would think that with those decent grades and a lot of talented rookies this team would be better than 3-5, but unfortunately they’re not. While that makes them a great bounce-back candidate for a strong second half of the NFL season, it also means they have an uphill climb for the playoffs, but as I wrote two weeks ago, they have a good chance of making the playoffs.