The 2018 NFL regular season has been a special one for the Indianapolis Colts. It is incredible to think that just over a year ago the Colts fan base was left desperately waiting for news that Andrew Luck would return to the football field to participate in 2017. Earlier that year, Chris Ballard took over as a first time NFL general manager with a lame duck coaching staff that was jettisoned as soon as the disastrous season came to an end.
Ballard attempted to hire New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who provided Colts fans with yet another reason to loathe the Patriots when he backed out hours before his flight departed for Indianapolis. Turns out, Ballard and the Colts were better off landing Frank Reich.
Reich took over as a first time head coach with first time coordinators in all three phases: offensive, defensive and special teams. He brought a brand new offensive scheme and a coordinator who required a drastic change on defense. Big names like Johnathan Hankins, Henry Anderson, and John Simon were either traded, waived, or failed to make the final cut. There could be no bigger sign of expected growing pains, no clearer indication to fans that 2018 would be a rebuilding year than these big changes, inexperience at the primary coaching positions, and dumping some of the biggest names from the 2017 roster.
Except, Ballard and his coaching staff had other ideas in mind.
Chris Ballard put together one of the absolute best drafts in Indianapolis Colts history. Fans questioned taking a guard sixth overall but Quenton Nelson played a massive role in the offensive line improving and was named to the Pro Bowl. Small school linebacker Darius Leonard was picked far earlier than a lot of people would have anticipated and was even proclaimed the worst reach in the draft. While the Pro Bowl voting process humorously left him off of their team, he is the front runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
With his third pick, Ballard chose Auburn guard Braden Smith — the presumed long-term starter at right guard. Smith ended up taking over at right tackle early in the season and never looked back. Defensive ends Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis joined the team later in the second round and both have played huge roles for the defense in 2018. Lewis returned from injured reserve to be one of the highest snap count earners on defense.
In the fourth round, Ballard selected hybrid offensive weapon Nyheim Hines. Hines generated over 700 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in his rookie season. He paired Hines with fifth round rookie Jordan Wilkins, who tallied over 400 all-purpose yards and a touchdown himself. The rookies joined 2017 draft pick Marlon Mack as Reich’s running back committee.
Wide receiver Reece Fountain was drafted in the fifth round and was unable to make an impact in his rookie season. Sixth round steal Deon Cain was lighting training camp on fire before he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
Seventh round linebackers Zaire Franklin and Matthew Adams both played rotational roles in the 2018 Colts defense, with Adams working his way into the primary option at strong side linebacker by season end.
These rookies joined a 2018 free agent class including tight end Eric Ebron, defensive tackles Denico Autry and Jihad Ward, offensive linemen Matt Slauson and Mark Glowinski, wide receivers Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman, and H-Back Ryan Hewitt along with 2017 free agent additions defensive tackles Margus Hunt and Al Woods, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and cornerbacks Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir.
At this point, it will almost be surprising if Ballard doesn’t get recognized as NFL Executive of the Year. It is stunning to see how far the team has come in such a short time.
Let’s take a look at the Colts individual and team rankings and records that have piled up in 2018.
ALL-TIME NFL RECORDS
Adam Vinatieri — 1st NFL scoring — 1st made FG — 4th player in history to play a game at age 46 or older — 3rd most games played in NFL history 353 — 4th most field goals from 50+ yards in NFL history
Andrew Luck — Ties all-time record for touchdowns to different receivers in one season 13 — 4th consecutive games with 3 passing TDs 6
Offensive Line — 5th longest streak without a sack allowed in NFL history
Quenton Nelson — First guard in history to be named offensive rookie of the month
Eric Ebron — Tied for 9th most receiving touchdowns/season
3rd team in history to make playoffs after starting a season 1-5
Eric Ebron — 1st receiving touchdowns/season by a TE 13 — 5th receiving touchdowns/season all positions
Darius Leonard — 1st tackles/season 163 — 1st rookie tackles/season 163
Nyheim Hines — 3rd rookie receptions/season 53 (behind Marvin Harrison and Bill Brooks)
Andrew Luck — Third passing yards/season 4,593
Offensive Line — 1st in consecutive snaps without a sack in history 239
Andrew Luck — 1st in passing attempts/season 639 — 1st in completion percentage/season 67.3% — 1st in QBR/season 71.5 — 1st in QB Rating/season 98.7 — 2nd pass yards/season 4593 (4761 in 2014) — 2nd TD passes/season 39 (40 in 2014)
Eric Ebron — 1st receiving yards/season 750
T.Y. Hilton — 1st receiving yards/game 90.7 — catch percent 63.3%
Denico Autry — 1st TKL/season 37 — sacks/season 9 — TFL/season 13 — QB Hits/season 11 — forced fumbles/season 2
Jabaal Sheard — 1st TFL/season 14 — tied 1st passes defensed/season 4 — 2nd QB Hits/season 13
Margus Hunt — 1st TKL/season 30 — 1st sacks/season 5 — 1st TFL/season 13 — tied 1st passes defensed/season 2 — 1st forced fumbles/season 1 — 1st fumble recoveries/season 1
Dontrelle Inman — 1st catch percent 71.8%
Pierre Desir — 1st TKL/season 79 — 1st TFL/season 2 — 1st forced fumbles/season 2 — 1st fumble recoveries/season 1 — 1st passes defensed/season 8 — tied 1st INT/season 1
Chester Rogers — 1st receptions/season 53 — 1st receiving yards/season 485 — 1st receiving touchdowns/season 2 — 1st catch percent 73.6%
NFL SEASON RANKINGS
Offensive Line — 1st Sacks Allowed/Season 2018 NFL
Passing Offense — 6th Passing Yards/Game
3rd Down Offense — 1st Conversion Percentage
Red Zone Offense — 5th Scoring Conversion Percentage
Scoring Offense — 5th Per Game Scoring Average
Total Defense — 11th Yards/Game Allowed (tied best since 2014, 2008)
Run Defense — 8th Yards/Game Allowed (best since 1995)
Pass Defense — 16th Yards/Game Allowed (best since 2014)
Scoring Defense — 10th Points/Game Allowed (best since 2013)
Punt Coverage — 1st Avg Return Yards Allowed/Season